20th birthday, surviving teen years

It was a stark moment. The kind that punches the gut and then swings for the head.

The whole mental illness journey was quite new; we were only a few months in. It felt like forever. We sat in the psychiatrist’s office. We were concerned about everything, but it was about to narrow to one thing.

We asked how to help our boy keep up with his schoolwork. We asked about his diet. We wondered if his energy would ever come back. We kept nosing around the periphery, while our son sat there dead-eyed and slumped. Finally the doctor stopped us. He leaned forward and looked in our anxious eyes.

“We are just trying to help him outlive his teens.”

As a way to center us, it could not have been more effective. The swirling worries coalesced into one powerful wind tunnel, sucking the air from our lungs and silencing our questions.

Last week, Nicholas celebrated his 20th birthday. It kind of spread over a few days: laser tag with his brother, chocolate chip pancakes at the diner, steak dinner another day, cake with candles at home on yet another day.

Does reaching 20 mean everything will now be just fine for Nicholas? No, of course not. Two days after his birthday, I had to bring him to urgent care for x-rays on a sprained ankle. When he returns to college in two weeks after a gap year, his first couple weeks will include meetings with a new counselor and accessibility services. Next year, when he turns 21, we won’t be bringing him out for a toast, because he should never drink alcohol with his medications. He has Bipolar Disorder. There are going to be times when his illness will take more care and management.

But, 20.

He did it. We did it. All the people on his care team did it. All the prayer warriors. His extended family.

We’ve been able to pay some attention to things further from center again. Does he need new shoes before school, or pens? How many times can I remind him to eat enough veggies before it’s nagging? (Not that many.) Will he be careful about his sleep habits? It’s all so weirdly normal.

My Bible reading on Nicholas’ birthday landed on this:
“I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.
Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:1-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

For those in a crisis time- God is hanging on to you. Do you need prayer? It would be my honor; please message me.

For those in a weird normal time- try to enjoy it! Spread out the celebration.

For those whose beloved kids did not make the milestone- my heart breaks for you. I know how close we came. You could not have done more or tried harder. I pray God will bring you the comfort only He can provide.