Thursday, January 24, 2008

Coming Home

After spending a couple of days on his own in the outdoors with his friend Brenden, Pierre came home last night exhausted and very down. He said it is the lowest he's ever been, and I do believe him, based on nothing more than his appearance, which was beaten down to say the least. He said he was exhausted because he had been up for two days fighting off mountain lions in the woods behind Brenden's parents' lake house.

Although it sounds incredible, it seems likely that he had very much the experience that he related. The lack of sleep and anxiety he was feeling when he went out to Brenden's may well have contributed to the surreality of this tale, but I don't doubt that he encountered something threating. Though incredulous, seeing his saucer-like eyes and imminent physical breakdown, I accepted his story at face value. I told him to take a warm shower and crawl into bed, but this wasn't what he expected to do. It has been so long since he's slept well, I'm afraid--and so is he--that he doesn't expect to ever sleep well again. It is true, he is suffering from exhaustion due to the lack of sleep, but there are some physical forces from which he is not immune. Of course, the problem is deeper than than the absence of sleep.

This deeper problem is really not about drug use or abuse either, though this has been a frequent lightning rod for our common difficulties, principally because the anxiety he experiences predates his drug use by many years. The 'alone-ness' that he fears so much just closes in on him when the lights are out and he's alone in bed. This happens--and has happened since he was an infant--no matter how close I am because I'm still not 'there' in his head, and, of course, can't really be much closer than the next room. But simply knowing this is not enough to render the fear inert, so it remains his fate to struggle with it after I leave, and mine to wish I could, for even a moment, alleviate his fears and doubts.

Doubts are something else I am not able to address adequately for him, nor should I really, since all I can do is reassure him as to my own feelings of confidence, and these, alas, he does not share. He is, after all, so very much like my father in this regard; he said yesterday he'd never heard the term 'inferiority complex' before, and it occurs to me that he likely has not heard it from me, as I have never wanted to reinforce that stereotype as a description for his condition. Yet this is, after all, an adequate descriptor, and if it helps him come to terms with the anxiety and depression that are the principal symptoms of it then it is good. What isn't good, of course, is the fact that he suffers so, and I am still struggling with ways to help him cope.

This is especially hard for the two of us as I am the source of so much of his anxiety and perhaps the self doubt as well. Certainly I realize now that it is too much to ask him to go find work right now, at his age and in his condition. Most people his age and of his background are in college right now, and it seems to me that this would be the best place for him after all.

He was unsuccessful in his first two semesters, but there are plenty of students, including me, who have struggled in this very way before finding their feet, so to speak, and it is time to give Pierre another chance to pursue this path. After all, it is more than a day care; going to college will expose him to the ideas and history he needs to fashion his own philosophy and help him establish the underpinnings of knowledge that will lead, hopefully, to a sense of self-worth. At the very least, he'll be more qualified to get meaningful work as he progresses, and when he finishes he may well have decided what to do next.

His confusion is certainly understandable at this point, and I clearly haven't given him enough moral support to overcome it by demanding that he go to work. It's time for me to rescind that demand, and in it's place I will put a request that he try again to go to school. Certainly, if he will promise not to hurt himself and do his best to get along with us at home while going to school, he can and should live at home. Effectively, classes don't begin again till the fall, so he can use the intervening months to rest, heal and try to regain sufficient composure to make the best of it when it comes around.

For my part, I will withdraw from the constant oversight, and allow him the privacy of his physical and mental spaces. I also resolve to be more understanding, or, barring that since I cannot 'really' understand the tribulations of his mind and see only the outward manifestations of those often menacing thoughts, I will allow him to talk about those demons without predisposition, interruption or self-relation, since these terms are either unnecessary or irrelevant. Like Maddie's dreamtime, the feelings that he experiences are not only real, but personally significant, and deserve to be treated with respect. His pain is real, and ironically, my inability to help him resolve it is only exacerbated by my love for him and desire to help. a, then, that those efforts have only made things worse of late, but it isn't irreversible.

Better, really, that he seek help from Valery, whose demeanor has remained calm of late when my has boiled; whose love has remained constant and whose support has been unwavering through these many years. It seems cliche, but I think that the kind of healing he requires now is that of a mother. He needs to be fed and clothed and taken care of now, more than ever, when he is so very vulnerable and Valery is just the person to do that. She understands how to be caring without being overbearing; how to be kind with being soft; how to be sensible without being demanding. It is a delicate balance, one that I can only admire and hope to keep from upsetting by simply staying out of the way!

No comments: