Gumby's Story


Here's a story of impossible questions and tentative answers from Gumby, an Icarus Project member and mother trying to help her son ward off the crash and start putting the pieces back together afterwards:

" This has been the year of watching my son (16) soar and sink. Somehow, I always suspected that his brilliance didn't come without a price.

Last summer, he went "˜bye-bye' for a couple of weeks. I was living in Eugene at the time, he in Portland with Dad. I knew something was up when he started calling to tell me things like, "Mom! I just realized I have only been using one eye my whole life"¦ now I'm using both and the world looks so different!" and, "In school today I could smell every individual in my class"¦ they each had a different scent and I could identify them all without looking at them," and RED FLAG "I don't need any sleep at all! I just wrote ten songs in four hours, and recorded them, all the tracks myself." Then came the crash. By the time I got to Portland, he was nearly catatonic and had forgotten how to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. He was also having lots of conversations with Jimi Hendrix, or grieving inconsolably about women being raped and the earth being destroyed. My cousin (forced hospitalization survivor thru most of her teen years) and I stayed with him, refused the suggestions of "take him to the hospital", and basically talked him out of it for four days. He had "˜lucid' moments, and they got longer and closer together, especially with a guitar in his hands. We took him to his acupuncturist/mentor, and that's when he finally cleared. We didn't know"¦was it a bad acid trip? Or something else? So I packed up, moved to Portland, waited"¦and watched.

Early this summer, a close friend of his committed suicide with methadone. My son withdrew and started to get increasingly irritated and then all-out angry with his dad and me. His dad and I have been in therapy, learning how to co-parent after ten years of divorce. We started taking our son to the therapist, feeling like he needed help dealing with his friend's death. But somewhere inside myself, I saw a train-wreck coming. He had stopped sleeping again, and I just knew. I even scheduled a psych evaluation. There was also something about his music. He had stopped playing the guitar, and was instead up all hours writing "˜raps' that seemed to me incoherent nonsense rhyming (compared to his usually brilliant, cynical lyrics). He didn't make it to the appointment. A week before he was scheduled to go, I got a call from the University of Portland police. They had picked up my son on campus "˜acting strangely' and had taken him to the emergency room where he was on Mental Health Watch. They CT-scanned him, drug-tested him and watched him for four hours. I then took him home. (Thankfully they didn't refuse to let me.) At five the next morning, he woke me up insisting that my house was a meth lab and that he wanted to go to his Dad's. He shoved my out of the way and ran. Next morning he got violent with his dad, punched and slapped him and threatened to leave. At that point I did a desperate thing that could have gone very badly, but ended up not"¦ I called the police and asked them to help us get him safely to the hospital. (Believe me, it's hard to admit, as an anarchist, that I would ever call cops. Mom Panic does strange things to your ideals at times. Forgive me? I have to forgive myself"¦ and considering the outcome, I almost have.)

So here we are, dealing with the Mental Health System, a place I was trying so hard to avoid. And yet, somehow I believed that if we could put a label on what was going on, that we could then figure out how to deal with it. He was in for two and a half weeks, on Ativan, Zyprexa, and then Depakote. And here is my treesitting-at-age-11 son asking, "How can you put me on drugs? Who am I? Crazy Duncan? Or, Not Crazy Duncan on Drugs?" He is struggling trying to concentrate at school, uninspired musically, and understandably mad as hell at his turncoat parents. We have to keep asking my famously impatient son to "be patient, they'll get the dosage right. You don't have to be a zombie. We promise." But can we promise that? Is it going to be either/or? Brilliant and creative or doped? I have to believe there is a balance to be struck.

Gotta go"¦to a psych appt. Again."