This I Believe

Ashley - Allendale, Michigan
Entered on October 10, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, illness

As a child, Ben was exceptionally quiet yet dangerously adventurous. I recall one fall afternoon, so typically comfortable in that Michigan sort of way, when the sunny weather permitted my family and I to enjoy the outdoors. However, my four year old brother had other – more risqué – plans. I remember my mom’s roaring laughter as she called me and my dad into the bathroom to where my brother was contently stuck in the laundry chute. Ben had secretly secured his bright yellow bicycle helmet onto his tiny head, tied one end of a rope around his waist and the other end to a doorknob, and attempted to lower himself down the chute. But the helmet was too big too fit. There was another time, that same year, when we found Ben squatting in a blue laundry basket at the top of the basement stairs preparing to sail to the bottom – surely an idea that directly resulted from one too many viewings of Home Alone. But at the age of eight, Ben was diagnosed with early-onset rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.

Ben no longer digs holes in the sandbox. Ben no longer rides his bike outside or goes ice-fishing with dad. Perhaps it’s because Ben is a child of the technological era and has discovered the marvels of the Gameboy. Or maybe, like the rest of us do, Ben simply lost his inner-child at an unusually young age. But I believe it’s because Ben has been heavily medicated since his diagnosis. Now at the age of fourteen, Ben has been reminded everyday for the last six years to take his medications – some of which have had such awful side-effects that they have landed him in the hospital. At times, Ben has been given up to six pills varying in size and color along with his breakfast. Ben is now at that age where kids are ridiculed for their lunch visits to the school secretary to obtain their medications. Ben has begun to question the powers of these pills, and his resistance to take them – though reasonably understood – could cause even more harm. Ben’s hormones are taking over and his mood-swings associated with bipolar disorder are intensified. Ben angers easily and his violent “meltdowns” often end with him crying himself to sleep curled up on the floor alongside our cat. Ben has bounced around from school system to school system, and has always struggled making and keeping friends, and he has spent his last six years in monthly sessions with a psychologist. And at this young age of only fourteen, Ben has threatened to take his own life on more than one occasion. But I believe that Ben’s mood will one day stabilize. I believe that Ben will one day conquer this disorder that aggressively throws him into a pool of extreme emotions. I believe that Ben’s heart is full of love and good intentions and that he has a lot to teach others.

I believe in Ben.