Hard memories and emotional impressions came up when I saw this video:
Our son, also a Joey, stopped having meltdowns quite awhile ago. Medication was a big part of that. We’ve eased him off of several meds over the years, but we maintain a dose for aggression control, just in case. Age mellows some of this stuff as well, at least for some kids. We think that’s true of Joey, but we’re not getting rid of the med just the same.
During one terrible explosion of his frustration, it took my wife, our older son and me to pin Joey down and calm him. We were slapped, kicked, scratched and bit in the process.
Another time, Joey lost it because a computer froze. He attacked me with a knotted rope dog toy.
There are also plenty of tales of broken property. He seemed to have a knack for destroying keepsakes when angry.
Anyway, my mind is starting to flood with these ugly memories. As I relate one, others come rushing in. I can feel my breathing change and muscles tensing as I type this. So let me just get to the one I most want to share and then I’ll stop.
A few years ago, Joey had one of his sleepless nights. He still has these, but I’ve downgraded them from menacing to just annoying. He turns on lights and sits up watching movies these days, but a few years ago he would wake up agitated and pound around the house, repeat phrases with great distress in his voice, burst into our bedroom to ask repetitive questions, beat on his chest with an open hand, clap his hands (which in the dead of night hits the ears like a rifle’s report), and generally raise hell.
Melissa and I would take turns staying up with him, although it wasn’t like the partner who stayed in bed got much sleep.
During this particular night, it was my turn to get up. I tried to calm Joey, to connect with him around the things he was saying over and over, to do something, anything, to stop the din of noise and emotion.
Somewhere in the wee hours, my focus shifted. I forgot about helping Joey. I just got angry.
Not a surprise, really. The late actor James Gandolfini advised a group of drama students that one way to prepare to play an angry character or scene is to deprive yourself of sleep. The anger will be plenty authentic when the camera rolls.
I couldn’t yell – I had enough presence of mind to avoid terrifying Melissa out of what little, ragged sleep she might have been getting.
The anger that couldn’t come out in words and volume started flooding my body. I was on the verge of my own meltdown. I perceived Joey as malevolent, as purposely tormenting me.
I was going to slug him.
I think I prayed, not out loud but deep down inside myself. By God’s grace, I went for the phone instead of after Joey. I called 911. I don’t remember what I said, except I got across that I was losing control of a situation at my house and it was heading for violence.
Two Sioux Falls Police officers showed up. I don’t remember what we said to one another. They were quiet enough that Melissa didn’t wake up. The were calm and courteous.
I sat on the couch, eventually fighting a desire to cry instead of a rage to attack. They stuck around – I don’t know how long – until they were sure that things were calm enough for them to leave. Joey finally went back to bed. I sat on the couch in the dark for a long time.
That’s the story. I don’t know why I’m moved to share it except in the hope that someone who reads it will, if in a similar situation, make the choice to call for help. To call for the spouse in the next room like in that video, or to call for first responders like I did. Don’t be ashamed. We all have limits and we all have times, great and small, where we need help.
In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
(Psalm 18:6 ESV)