“I’m the last piece in a broken puzzle
To a broken puzzle
I’m just sittin’ near the trouble
It’s difficult findin’ air to breathe concealed within a bubble
Death is the only way to keep peace from the struggle”
—Charles Aubrey Rogers
Charles never slept well, even as a toddler. He was “always on, never off”. If that is an official indicator of something to come, I am not aware of it but lack of sleep definitely contributed to all of his issues and his creativity peaked at night.
Sleep is so precious and it broke my heart that he’d be in bed at 11:30pm at age 9 asking us to come back into his room and read him a story. Was it the sleep disorder he was diagnosed with? Or anxiety? I don’t know.
He’d go on sleepovers and keep the other kids up all night. I think now this was the result of not wanting to be all alone at night while everyone slept. He marveled at how others could just go to bed and sleep. And believe me we tried everything known to man from biofeedback to establishing good sleep habits and beyond for decades.
His impulsiveness was frightening. He just didn’t think before he acted. I didn’t see ways of curbing this although I tried and I brought it up with every therapist and doctor we met with.
It was fifth grade when red flags started to show up other than ADHD. A few incidences stand out in my mind.
He loved candy. Everyone who knew him knew he was addicted to sugar. I do remember one time looking in his room for something and running across a wagon load of candy wrappers hidden under his bed. He’d hoarded candy and I assume he ate it late at night because he slept so poorly.
Charles didn’t stay in his room much so that’s the only time I think he would have eaten it. I sat on the bed and cried. It just hit me that he had likely inherited the genetic tendency for addictive disorder and I thought I could change that course. He was young at the time, probably 8 or 9. To be fair, he was not addicted to one thing in particular in the literal sense until the heroin about 4-6 months prior to his death.
I do believe based on Charles’ tendency to “never get enough fun” was the result of a broken reward system.
Yes he did show signs of this early. It was hard to figure out if it was anxiety or ADHD. But by 15, it was obvious.
He showed definite signs in middle school. Being too overwhelmed to be prepared for class, he’d often get called on it which would trigger some form of panic. He’d blow up my phone with calls and texts when he was anxious. He just hated the feeling and it scared him to paranoia at times. It took us a while to identify that it was anxiety he was suffering from. No doctor or screening uncovered it. I did.
This one is trickier. I had no idea it ran in my family but I found out after he died that it does. That’s why we need to talk more about it.
Charles was so funny and so happy as a youngster. He was always outside the box and clearly thought like a creative person. You tend to pigeonhole your children as having a certain personality. And so it was hard to then shift gears and realize that Charles suffered from depression.
He’d admit to anxiety and all else, but vehemently denied depression to us. But he’d tell me stories about it. He told me about friends’ dads who’d tried to die by suicide and about those that lost a parent or sibling this way. As he got older, I heard more of these stories like they were on his radar more.
He was a very deep feeler. That’s why so many loved him. He really carried your pain inside himself. That’s why he gave the world’s best hugs. Hugs so good you felt like you’d won the emotional lottery. I’d give anything for one of those now. Anything.
Signs would include his getting sick all the time. He caught EVERYTHING. There were times when I caught his depression on camera. He’d smile in one of the pictures but I often caught a glimpse of his pain in ones right before the one I kept. (See below)
To this day, I am at a loss as to why he was so stubborn about admitting to depression. Was it that he thought we’d force him on antidepressants? The stigma of antidepressants? The social stigma of depression? Or did he just wish to self medicate and maintain what he thought was control? I think it’s a little bit of all of the above.
One thing is for sure, teenagers are masters at masking their pain and their depression.
If I brought it up, he was a master at making me second guess myself and I never got any support for the diagnosis locally. We did get an official diagnosis when he went to wilderness since he was guaranteed drug free but even then he would not admit to it even to a therapist. That I know of.
If I had one piece of advice, get a good psychological assessment by 5th grade. One that looks for mental health related disorders. And choose that first doctor well.
A lot of valuable time was wasted by not accessing the best care right out of the gate although I did act on a recommendation.