Stronger in Spirit Than I Ever Imagined

–by Donald Craig Peterson

Manager’s note: you can read the original post on Craig’s own blog, Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love. Craig also has a forthcoming memoir, Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, and you can follow his son Andrew’s story by clicking “Like”  on the Facebook page, Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold.


The past month at my house has been rough. More surprises than usual. And not the pleasant variety.

To be honest, I’ve been tired. Somewhat anxious. Distracted. Less motivated. For weeks I haven’t slept through the night and wake around 2:00 am to the sound of a train in the distance.

Something I hadn’t experienced in years.

I thought those days of unpredictability were behind me. Wasn’t raising my six children to adulthood supposed to be enough?

But 18 has proven only to be a number. Challenges remain, as do amazing opportunities.

Desmond Tutu

After a significant rise in my middle son’s paranoia – along with grandiose thinking which bordered on the psychotically absurd, I spent hours in the nearby emergency room.

Earlier that morning his home-based behavior clinician had smiled at him – sending him over the edge.

He now felt commanded  to “make her pay” for the transgression. Yet I blocked his way and took a knee to my chest.

As we waited and waited for mental health care, I then became the convenient target for his wrath.

Merely words that he stated without true intent. Actually the opposite of innermost feelings, because I took time to read between the lines.

My aches would heal, but I couldn’t promise the same for his emotional pain. Most importantly, he was safe.

I was grateful.

Half a day passed. He was finally admitted – only to witness a doctor change his medications without reading the history or consulting with me. His legal guardian. More lithium to damage his kidneys. More anti-depressants to increase his mania.

Two days later during an emergency appointment with his regular psychiatrist, she quickly addressed my concerns and started over.

She didn’t judge. She didn’t blame. Instead she offered alternatives – asking me.

I was grateful.

Yet the insurance company refused to authorize the expense. And for the first time, I was forced to appeal a decision to deny coverage of a relatively new and expensive medication.

Each time I called the doctor with another bureaucratic request, her nurse felt the despair in my voice. Extra paperwork. Detailed directions. Yet she completed the numerous tasks without complaint and went one step further – calling to make sure the right person received the information.

I was grateful.

In the meantime, keeping my son’s mind occupied in a positive way was a daily priority. His brothers didn’t flinch or walk in the other direction. Rather, they stood by his side. One of his fellow Special Olympics athletes also knew that he was hurting. For five hours at an area track competition, she stayed by his side – reminding him of his worth. Listening. Making him laugh.

He made it through the day. Competing after refusing to be involved. Smiling. Even winning a gold medal.

I was grateful.

Twice the police came to my house to avoid a crisis. On the last call, three female officers calmly spoke and asked him to surrender the jagged piece glass rubbing against his arm, next to the scars from previous cuts and two rounds of stitches. My son complied.

Afterwards they shared stories with him about other houses on their beat. Real people. Mental illness. Horrible conditions. No hope.

Suddenly my home didn’t seem like such a rotten place.

I was grateful.

A family friend took my son to lunch. Her strong arms enabled him to freely cry. The following week my brother and his wife invited us to dinner – making my son’s favorites. And sending him home with a large care package.

Although not blood which he states angrily when stressed, he was reminded that his friends and family really do love him.

I was grateful.

Three long weeks after the initial rage, the new medication became available. Finally! Within days he showed more emotional stability than the past two months.

I remain grateful today.

Stay Strong

We had survived as a family.

We were stronger in spirit than I ever imagined.

We never lost hope.  DCP




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