The new realities of my life began to hit me in waves as I walked out of the hospital. I noticed, but couldn’t worry about how cold it was and how light my clothes were, how I didn’t know where I had parked the car, how it was three in the afternoon and my coworkers would still be wondering where I was. Some things just shake you enough to make everything else go by the wayside.
It was hours ago, then, that we took our shaking, hysterical daughter into the ER. She came running, falling down the stairs, yelling, “I killed her! Where is she? I killed her!” and we thought she might have still been dreaming, because what in waking life could lead her to do that, to think that? Once she got to the kitchen she fell down crying, and we took her in because her arm was broken—why would I even begin to consider that the broken bone would be the least of her troubles?
They made us wait outside while they fixed up her arm and called the psychiatrist—why does she need a psychiatrist, we wondered, but they wouldn’t tell us, not until he passed me a signed prescription for Risperdal.
She’s having delusions, they said, delusions and hallucinations. They might have been going on for a long time, only usually it takes an episode like this to bring it to the attention of everyone else. The hallucinations seem to be a large part of Phoebe’s life, so the transition to medication will probably be very difficult. It won’t go away, but in time she will be able to lead a normal life.
I called my oldest friend, Marion, hoping that she, of all people, would understand. Her son, one of Phoebe’s best friends, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder years ago. She was floored, but how do you tell someone that your child is schizophrenic without getting that reaction? She came right over to the hospital with some chocolate, saying that it’ll be rough for a while, but hey, at least M&Ms taste good.
I asked her if she ever felt like she had failed somewhere along the way to lead to Luke’s disorder. I feel like that. I know it’s chemical or genetic or something, but I feel like there’s something I could have done to stop it. Marion just sat there, holding my hands, and shook her head. There’s nothing you can do, she said, except make sure she stays on those meds. I don’t have to tell you to be there. You won’t be able to help that.
I can’t take it all in. My daughter has schizophrenia. My only child has a problem that will follow her for the rest of her life. And not even a problem that she has, but a problem that is part of her. I’ve poured so much of myself into her, and now I have to watch her suffer through something that I can’t even imagine. The doctors said that her world isn’t like my world, where I can see something and trust in its reality. Imagine, they said, that someone has just told you that your daughter only exists for you. I know well what it’s like to exist only for her. But the pain of that reversal, the pain of its revelation — the helplessness I feel must be nothing in comparison to her’s.