My Name is Brandon

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My Name is Brandon
This is me ….

by Bernadette Moyer and Brandon Sahm

The words below are from our son Brandon not a single word was edited. As a point of reference, just before the holidays this year, I told his father, my husband that I wish I could write about this but out of respect for Brandon it wasn’t my story to share. Oddly, two days later, he called me from yet another hospital crisis admission stay and asked me if I would help him write his story. There is so much more I could say here but I am choosing to keep it in my heart, at least for now.

He was always different but I chose to see the best of him and often chalked it up to him being an artist and an actor. Looking back with hindsight and 20/20 vision he was extremely well supported and loved or he most probably would not have had the successes that he did achieve. His birth mother died when he was born, I got him when he was 87 days old along with his twin sister. His natural father and I raised them together.

After what we lived through these past two years I no longer have that luxury of seeing him how I viewed him before this all began two years ago. I have loved him dearly and deeply. Today I know that I must let go… as difficult as that is for me. I am no longer the answer …it is so much more than what I am built to manage. I just want him happy and to be his best, however he decides to define it.

(You might want to grab a tissue…)

His words, his story, from his own handwritten journal and by his request …

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My Name is Brandon Sahm. I’m an Eagle Scout, a high school graduate, and a young adult who has recently been diagnosed with Autism and mental illness. But before you say anything I want you to know it wasn’t always like this. It’s just the last two years was like going through hell which it was. At 24 I lost my job at Yo Lavie, a frozen yogurt store one that I worked at for 3 ½ years. It was hard because it was a job I worked hard at and one I got on my own. Three-hundred job applications later I started working again at Texas Roadhouse. It was also around that time that I got my driver’s license. However, the job would be very short lived, after seeing the struggle of keeping up in a fast-paced environment my boss decided to let me go. I was devastated, and instead of going straight home to tell my parents I decided (and this was out of anger) to get drunk.

By the summer of 2016 my jump from hospital to hospital began. It started at Franklin Square in Essex. I wasn’t really fond with the care looking back because the groups didn’t talk much about their problems and did nothing but arts and crafts. Also it felt more like a place for people on drugs.

In August of 2016 after fighting with my parents out of impulse and anger, I attempted to end my life and commit suicide. It was raining when it happened. What stopped me was contemplation, I was halfway over the bridge on 695 when I stopped and got down. Soon after that the police came and took me to Saint Joseph Medical Center. There the groups were more active and the staff did care about the patients. After my lengthy stay and release I was an outpatient for 30 days. It was my mother who took me to all those daily appointments. I had many hospitals stays all kinds of diagnosis and according to my mom “more pills than any human body should ever consume” time and time again I called a crisis team and was picked up and readmitted. It wouldn’t take long before I would return for the holidays. On January 13, 2017 I was discharged again with a diagnosis of mental illness and Autism.

I was surprised to hear the word Autism but at the same time I had a sense of clarity and everything I did socially made sense. Because growing up I didn’t have many friends yet I excelled academically. As I said I became an Eagle Scout, made National Honor Society, graduated from high school all before the diagnosis. But of all the people that would tease me, my sister was the biggest bully yet. I remember every year she would make me lie about our report cards, and make me buy food for her at the mall. So at 18 when she left and changed schools I felt free for the first time. It was also our fights that made me think about suicide for the first time. And at that time when I told my mom, she said, “I had no idea.”

Sometimes when I think of suicide I think of how easy it must be to end the pain because to me I’ve always felt like a burden to my family. But now I see I have much to live for and now every time I pass by that bridge I think to myself, “wow I could have end it all but I didn’t.”

Back to the hospitals the next stay would be in Sheppard Pratt. I was there because I had a fight with my dad physically and realized I needed more help especially with my anger. I was there for almost two months and then sent to Harbor House.

I would be coming back to the house a few times including the holiday season. When I left back in December of 2017 I ran away because of the Christmas season, missing my parents, struggling mentally to accept what I can’t change. I hated myself even more for letting it happen, so much my desire for death was intensified. So I ended up spending Christmas in the hospital again and a Christmas day visit from my parents.

I still count myself lucky and grateful to have parents like them. I’m not much for writing but it is helping me express how I feel and it’s therapeutic, just like my art or any form of art for that matter. There are so many things that can influence us and make us into who we are, we just have to embrace it. My mom is like my best friend, we’re thick as thieves and she’s also my cheerleader. She’s known for her writing many of which I enjoy reading. What makes my mom special is that she has always been there for me, even when my sister and I were babies. The same goes for my dad, he could have easily left me and my sister up for adoption but he didn’t. My dad is a hard worker, a quality I picked up from him. He also introduced me to classic rock which I still enjoy today. My dad and I may argue sometimes but he is still my dad and I love him for raising us.

One of my fondest memories is being in boy scouts. One of those memories includes summer camps and getting to spend time with my dad.

(PLEASE keep Brandon and our entire family in your prayers as we continue to stumble through all of this)

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Two Words – “Autistic Behaviors”

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Two Words – “Autistic Behaviors”
By Bernadette A. Moyer

 

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Our son is different and we always knew it. At home and in familiar places he is fun loving and easy to be around. Yet many times and throughout his 24 years there was a cause for pause, it could have been an anger issue or how easily he was to sway or seem out of it. It could have been the impulsive literally not looking at traffic before he would dodge across the busy street times. Sometimes it was a simple goofy thing that he said.

At the top of his game he would achieve National Junior Honor Society all through middle school and become an Eagle Scout when he turned 18 and a few years later pass the ASVAB and join the United States Navy. He would successfully help run a yogurt shop at the local mall for more than three years until they closed.

But there was always something off, in his words, “why can’t I be normal?” and most recently his declaration of “I always knew that I had something.”

Were we living in denial as his parents when we witnessed his lack of a desire for a driver’s license, his inability to relate to most people his age, his immature temper tantrums and high anxiety? We may have missed it but so did many others. Shouldn’t his teachers have said something? Did they know but were being politically correct when they called about his behaviors but never went “there” there as in “autistic behaviors?” And what about the times we took him to be a therapist and a psychiatrist and they concluded with “he is a very likeable guy.”

I wanted to scream out loud with YES! yes very likeable but could you dig a little deeper! But I didn’t and went along as we continued along with so many of his issues and cries for help. He is an artist and an actor and quite dramatic so we talked to him and continued to counsel him and support him.

According to his therapist he is “very well supported” or he might never have had the many achievements he did achieve. Earlier this year his job of more than 3 and a half years ended abruptly when the shop closed their doors for good, within days this would send him into a severe depression and to the hospital. In the six months that followed he would spend two more hospital stays of five nights each. After the first stay he was diagnosed with “severe depression” and for me it just didn’t square. I knew it was more than that.

At home he was up early and doing things, he always ate with a healthy appetite between the first and second hospital stay he went to two art fairs, the movies, out to lunch, out to breakfast to the mall and sang in a talent contest, he went to the gym, to an Orioles baseball game, he swam and interacted with my husband, his best friend, me our two dogs and our neighbors. Severe depression? It just didn’t add up and two weeks after that diagnosis he ended up back in the hospital.

This time would be different. Because he is a legal adult they never bothered to ask us, his parents about him. It was frustrating. But then a social worker called me and asked if he could talk about our son. I said, “get your pen and paper because I have a lot to say.” With that my voice quivered and I began to cry. It was time to put it all out there, there was no room for shame, the only way he could receive the care he needed was to get an accurate diagnosis.

For the record, before writing this blog I asked his permission to write it and to share it and he was eager to have me do so.

When you have a child that you love so much, it is so hard to watch them struggle and what is even harder is to see kids in school that not only don’t want to be his friend but take joy in teasing him and making fun of him. It breaks your heart.

He was asked when he first thought about suicide and his answer was devastating to us his parents, he replied with, “when my twin sister was mocking me and taunting me and saying and doing things to make me feel bad about myself, I wanted to jump off the bridge in our neighborhood.” We always knew they bickered and that there was a rub but we never knew the depth of his desire to end their relationship nor did we fully understand why.

Things that many young people take for granted he has struggled with, things like eye contact and proper communication, dating skills and passing his driving test. Yet in one day and after 15 failed attempts he would finally secure that driver’s license and the same day secure a new job.

The job wouldn’t last though and within a few weeks he would be fired. More failure for a young guy that would take it so personally and send him in a tailspin and to the hospital. He wanted to quit he wanted to give up he wanted to end his struggles. This time the doctors and his psychiatric team would go deeper and do more tests and acknowledge his impulse disorder, his anxiety and there it was the big one, “autistic behaviors.”

Many times through the years I would think it was “high performing Asperger syndrome” even though today they don’t use that term. Today everything falls on the autism spectrum. When his father and I read his papers there it was “autistic behavior” and my husband immediately said, “you were right!” I knew we all knew. All I felt in that moment was relief. He would have his answers he would receive therapy and medication and we would help him to grow the support team around him.

In the short run, we would lower our expectations on him moving out and stop putting any pressure on him to get a job, we would help him to go back to school. Today we are all more hopeful and healthier as a result of the honest analysis and diagnosis.

Our son is a great young man with a lot to offer this world. I enjoy spending time with him. He is painting more and has started to keep a journal. He has forged a strong relationship with a neighbor who also suffers with depression. He has goals that he wants to achieve in learning to develop more relationships. Recently he has secured a fully funded college scholarship and wants to be a Vet Tech.

What I know for sure is that with proper treatment and the right team supporting him, he is once again on his way and he will decide, now armed with much knowledge what his future will look like, and God willing we will be there with him cheering him on, all along the way.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
New books! Along The Way and Another Way on Amazon and Barnes and Noble