Drew & Derek- Drew's 18th Birthday Party
I have to confess something first. I didn't always handle situations with Drew, or any of my kids for that matter, in the best way. I'm appealing to the moms out there. I hope you'll understand. Being a mom is HARD! I realize now it was fear, and lack of control that made me respond in anger, screaming, yelling, slamming doors. Pure frustration for so many years, but when they cried, when Drew cried, my heart broke and I cried too. How do we empower them? How do we help them to understand that life is not fair? For Drew, it was unreasonably unfair. He had started out at the early age of 3 in a special preschool which he loved. For 2 years he gained his speech and increased his motor skills. They did an unbelievable job. Then kindergarten came and he remained in special classes with some interaction with the whole class. In first grade they tried mainstreaming him to regular classes, but within 2 weeks he was kicking his teacher and we would cry at the dining room table as we attempted to complete homework assignments. He was put back into special ed. One day Drew asked me, "Mommy, if I'm good, can I be in regular classes?" Wow. This was not his fault. Was it my fault? Had I failed him? Was I not trying hard enough? One question that I have encountered time and time again with all my children is how do we empower them? How do we take their struggles, their weaknesses and give them the tools to learn how to overcome? Derek, my oldest, was born empowered. I know he may not think so, and I don't want to diminish the amount of hard work and perseverance he has had to endure to get where he is today, but Derek is strong. He knows what he wants and he believes it is possible. I love that about him. One of the things that drives him, he told me, was his desire to make enough money, and be successful enough so that he can take care of his brother and give him what he needs. When they were teenagers, one evening Derek was sitting on the front steps, head in his hands. He seemed agitated and at first I was annoyed with him because I thought he was angry with Drew about something. He told me "Mom, I'm not upset with Drew. It just hit me that he will never have a normal life. He won't be able to do things with me that I want to do with my little brother."
Drew & Derek- Maine Vacation
When Drew was finally diagnosed at 15 with paranoid schizophrenia it was like the pieces of the puzzle all came together and so many questions were answered, and then it hit me. Schizophrenia. You've got to be kidding me. He was hospitalized that day, and I went home, after a 13 hour night of going from hospital to hospital until they got him in the right one. I went home, numb, exhausted and scared. I had been holding back the tears so that Drew would not see how scared I was. He sat next to me in a dark room at the first hospital and we listened to the sounds of the adult mentally ill, moaning and crying. We held hands and he told me he was scared. I tried to reassure him but my words lacked the assurance I was searching for myself. I went into the bathroom and looked at my reflection in the plexi-glass mirror. Releasing some of the tears , I went back out to him with the bravest face I could muster and told him it would be ok. I knew it was a lie. That was the first of many hospitalizations.
This was the beginning of Drew's journey , and the beginning of one for me too. I didn't always handle it in the best way, but today I know, I did the best I could.
Derek, Peter, Santa, Alissa, Me & Drew (2001?)