At 6.30am one morning in 2009 I walked into my 17 year old son’s bedroom and cheerily called out, “Morning honey – how did you sleep?”, as I did each and every morning to encourage the little treasure to drag himself out of bed and head off to school. He was sitting his HSC that year, was a little quieter than his usual fairly quiet self, and hadn’t been doing much socialising. Good for him! I thought.
My very sensible son wasn’t out partying, chasing girls and getting wasted, he was at home with his family, locked away in his bedroom, studying.
He looked at me that morning – his skin pale, eyes furtive, and shakily said: “Actually mum, I haven’t slept all night. I’ve been lying here absolutely terrified – I’m scared shitless.”
Not the answer I was hoping for.
That morning, a number of things clicked into place. His social withdrawal suddenly stopped looking so sensible. His desire to be alone in his room wasn’t about being studious after all. In fact my very bright academic son hadn’t been studying at all.
He’d been cowering.
What followed was lots and lots of appointments and referrals – to GP’s, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, alternative health practitioners, an Asperger’s/Autism specialist – he participated in clinical studies at various institutes and universities… you get the picture. Even though it was my son who was ill it took over my entire life as well, and although I tried really hard to act like it was “business as usual”, it’s had a huge effect on our family life as a whole.
At no time over those next couple of years was the “S” word mentioned to me. Seasoned professionals – doctors, psychologists, social workers etc. – all skirted around it. It took a psychiatrist to casually mention as an aside – “Oh, well that’s typical of schizophrenia, of course…”