Halloween evening, just a few nights ago, was an extremely important one year marker for my Schizophrenic son Joey. And my big chance to observe his reaction to this years trick-or-treaters in comparison to last years’ shocking reaction.
Last October, Joey was not yet diagnosed with Schizophrenia but with general psychosis and depression. He had just moved back home just two months prior, when I picked him up after his stay at the emergency psychiatric hospital.
Before that day, I hadn’t seen or spoke to him in 3 years. He went missing and did not contact me or anyone. Just days after he moved back home, I knew that he was a very different son, not anything like the son I raised and knew.
I noticed immediately that he had great difficulty being around people, including family. He could hardly speak to any of us. He couldn’t call me mom. Didn’t have much memory of his childhood. And he would withdraw and retreat, anytime family visitors would come over to visit. I felt embarrassed because they specifically came to see him. None of us saw him those three years he went missing, which I learned he was living in the street parks of a city 120 miles away, homeless!
Anyhow, back to last Halloween I’m 2017, I recall feeling happy and thought Joey was going to have a great evening because I asked if he wanted to dress up and wear a mask and he quickly said he would. He curiously watched me get all the candy bags ready for the kids that would be knocking at our door soon. I’m sure I finally saw his first half smile since he’d been home. (This was his first sign of any kind of emotion in months) Then, night fell and everything went upside down.
I answered the door for the first few trick-or-treaters. Since, Joey hadn’t ran upstairs to hide like he usually did when there was a knock on our front door. As the matter of fact he lingered close by in the dining room area just enough to get a glimpse of the kids stopping by so, I asked him if he wanted to hand out candy to the next group of kids. He excitedly nodded his head yes. Sensing a bit of his nervousness, I reminded him that he was wearing a mask and no one would see or judge him.
When the doorbell rang again, I handed him the candy bowl and opened the door to a group of kids and parents. I smiled as Joey stretched his hand out dropped some candy in one little fairy princess girls bag, then he began throwing , then dropping candy everywhere in all directions. I was still standing close by his side and realized he was sort of swaying and he just about fainted right in the doorway! I apologized to the perplexed group of folks, then quickly helped him back inside the house.
I had him hug me as I walked him slowly to the couch, where he sat shaking and crying. Shortly after, he whispered, “They scare me.” I asked, “The kids, the little kids?” He nodded yes. I felt so horrible and confused at the same time. I hugged him and told him he did good and that he didn’t have to hand out anymore candy. He said he didn’t feel well and was tired so I helped him upstairs and into bed for the rest of the night. That was 12 months ago.
Fast forward to this a Halloween. Just days before, I had replayed last year in my head. I felt like this would definitely be a better year since Joey has now been on medication for 14 months now and has been able to sit a little longer and talk with family, doctors, and therapist without passing out. He expressed emotions at appropriate times, at least half of the time. He finally calls me mom again. I was actually a little excited to see what the difference would be.
Another difference this Halloween would be having my other son, 17 year old Noah (diagnosed weeks ago with Schizoaffective Bipolar) Home with us to pass out candy. I had bought the two boys a last minute plastic mask so they could semi dress up with me, the bunny mom. Once Again, like last year, Joey seemed in good spirits as I prepped all the Halloween candy treats for our little visitors to come.
My boys helped me decorate the front entry way this year with green neon spider web, glow in the dark spiders, and bright dangling skeletons. We added a black light and strobe light for fun. Since our new Halloween theme didn’t allow for our walkway to be lit up, we decided to sit outside on our dark, spooky front porch to pass out candy and make sure no one would trip and get hurt.
Just after dark, we went out and sat on the porch, awaiting little characters to come by for candy. I noticed Joey kept going into the house. He would come back out to sit with me and Noah for a bit, then he would go back in the house. In and out and in and out. I asked if he was going to be ok this year. He said he was good.
Then the treaters began approaching, we could hear them before we could see them. Zip__there went Joey, he ran inside the house to hide.
Noah and I handed out candy. I walked inside and invited Joey to come back out to sit with us again outside on the porch. I told him this year was a little different because it was darker and no one could see him really. I told him his brother and I would pass out candy and assured him that he didn’t have to give out candy or talk to anyone, that he could just hang out with us and sit quietly. He came back outside with us for a few more minutes.
Again, when kids were approaching, off he went back in the house before they even got to our porch. I went inside and asked Joey if he was feeling alright and he said, “I’m tired, I just want to go to bed and all of those people are scary.” At that moment, I knew all my hope for a better experience for him was shattered.
I don’t understand this. I’m trying but it’s so hard. I’m sad that no meds he’s tried (and he’s tried many now) can help him live a normal life. I didn’t want him to start fainting and vomiting so I told him it was late and he should rest if he’s tired. I reminded Joey he was safe and that we would be coming inside for the night soon too. So off he went to bed.
Little did I know that night while I was focused on Joey, his brother Noah was having his own troublesome symptoms. I found out days later of course that Noah was seeing a man/ghost spirit pacing our hallway as he was trying to get a snack in the kitchen before and after this candy passing out activity. This will have to be a separate post!