I remember the call from my son’s therapist. Julian had recently turned 19, and had been in residential psychiatric treatment for a month. His therapist was ready to offer us her diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan.
Depression and anxiety had been a part of Julian’s life since the onset of puberty, possibly earlier. He seemed to be experiencing something more than the typical developmental hurdles that most children navigate as they transition into early adulthood. Before he turned 15, the terms “depression” and “anxiety” were already a part of our family’s vocabulary.
The new diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder. His years of cutting, his manic bouts of impulsive behavior, his ability to adore someone one moment and despise them the next (including me, his therapist, his girlfriends), his substance abuse, the stitches along both wrists as a result of earlier suicide attempts, all of that and so much more had led us to BPD. This was now a part of his very thick file.
I knew what BPD meant. I had a Masters in Counseling Psychology, and was in the process of earning my clinical hours towards a license as a psychotherapist when all of this happened to our family. I knew just enough to appreciate that clients presenting with this diagnosis were some of the most challenging and frustrating. There were no easy solutions for these individuals. It took very gifted and patient practitioners to make a difference in their lives.
Without consistent, conscious work on everyone’s part, this diagnosis was a cautionary indicator that Julian might not survive through his 20s. The statistics were not encouraging. But if he could somehow push through to 25, when the frontal lobe (where “reason” resides) is more likely to have achieved full maturity, there was a good chance his prognosis would improve. So for me, there was something magical about the number 25. If we, if he could just…
Today, January 21, 2015, would have been Julian’s 25th birthday. He was a bit of a perfectionist, and horribly impatient. It turns out this can be a deadly combination. He wanted it to be better now. The number 25 did not hold the same promise for him that it did for me.
And so, at the age of 20, he found his (un)easy solution. Happy 25th Birthday Julian. How I wish you were here to celebrate this milestone with us.
P.S. This is my 25th blog post. You can’t plan these things.
“I would have stayed up with you all night / Had I known how to save a life…” – The Fray