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

What about Brandon?

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What about Brandon?
By Bernadette A Moyer

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Brandon was born into trauma with a birth mother who died just after he came into this world. He arrived 8-weeks pre-mature and with a twin sister. We met when he was 87 days old and along with his father and twin sister we immediately connected, soon after we would become family. I was happy to assume the role of “mother” and later “wife” to his father.

As a little boy he was kind, sweet and polite. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. In some ways he was easy, and yet he had some quirks. When he was a little boy he would literally shriek when it was time to get his hair cut. You would have thought that he was being tortured. It didn’t last. Later as an adult he would initiate his own timetable and keep up with his haircuts on his own.

There was never a child care center or a school when I wasn’t called at some point to come and get him because he was acting out in inappropriate ways. This was from age 3 all the way through high school and beyond.

When he was tested for “early detection for failure” he ranked average and above in intelligence and barely on the charts socially. He always suffered socially. As his mother I couldn’t see it. We easily got along. I found him easy to love. I accepted him as he was and encouraged him to succeed. Brandon always, always did whatever he wanted to do.

In elementary school he was retained, the decision was made to keep him together with his twin, he was not failing. This would be a decision that as his parents we would later regret. All through middle school he would achieve National Junior Honor Society and make the Gifted and Talented Art program. After he achieved honor society he would declare, “well I’m not doing that again, it was a lot of work” and he never again was an “honor student.” It would be his decision.

Throughout the years we would go through periods of calm bookended by one of his “odd behaviors” that would result in calls from his teachers. One time he pulled the fire alarm, he said he wanted to “make sure it worked.” Or something or someone in class would rub him the wrong way and he would have a melt-down, his melt-downs would show themselves in immature behaviors with dramatic language and tears. He would push things too far and then when he was faced with the consequences of his behaviors he would try to plead and say he was sorry. He was impulsive and he would act in immature ways. He knowingly or unknowingly caused a lot of stress in the family. There would be periods of time when he would seem to be okay and then another dramatic immature outburst. The outbursts were always when he wasn’t getting his way.

In elementary school he had a bad bike accident where he broke three bones. Many years later he disclosed that he saw something on an extreme bike show and wanted to try it and therefore it caused the accident. We thought it was a simple accident and were just so thankful he had his bike helmet on at the time.

His twin sister would come home and share with us his odd behaviors and melt downs at school or we would hear about them from his teachers and the school Principal. I connected him with a friend who was a drama teacher and he was in a play at one of the local theaters. His father was the driving steady force in helping him to achieve Eagle Scout.

In high school he became a Red-Cross certified life guard and also a kitchen aid and worked with me at a youth retreat house. He got along with most everyone except his twin sister who worked alongside of him. According to him, he never got along with his sister. He has some quirks seemed to be off in a world of his own and talked to himself incessantly. It wasn’t normal talk either but very dramatic talk although I could never make out what he was saying and when I questioned him he would dismiss me.

Before high school and after numerous phone calls from his teachers I pushed for him to be seen by a mental health doctor who after meeting with him declared; “he is a very likeable guy!” Well I already knew that and bit my tongue when I really wanted to say “could you dig a little deeper?” But I was not the biological mom and was sure I would be viewed as the problem.

It took a lot of support and coaching to get him to do anything tied to achievement. His demeanor was like that of Eeyore and he was slow in motion, everything was on Brandon’s time or Brandon’s way or you could expect a melt-down. I had suspected for years that he was on the autism spectrum with Asperberger’s he didn’t have many friends maybe one or two and no girlfriends. He is a healthy good looking guy and any girl that became interested in him lasted about a minute. Once he opened his mouth and said things that most people couldn’t relate to or showed zero interest in others, relationships never formed for him.

After high school he studied and passed the ASVAB and entered into the Navy. He lasted 5-weeks there before he had a melt-down and was sent home. I will never forget the day he was sworn in and how much I cried. I never thought this was the right place for him but was being a supportive mother. I wrote to him every single day. I will also never forget picking him up at the airport when the Navy released him, and how he ran right into my arms. He always ran right into my arms. (tears streaming now) When he was in pre-k they always had him at the front of the line at dismissal and with the teacher holding his hand and every day they would tell him not to run across the parking lot and yet everyday as soon as he saw me he would run to me. He was always so happy to see me and of course I was thrilled to see him too. Along with his teacher I would tell him not to run and yet he never listened.

He tried college a few times but never really seemed committed to making it work. It appeared to be something he was doing to “please” us and make us “proud” in his words. I would tell him over and over don’t do it for us, do it for you. He was floundering and really seemed to have no direction and no real passion. He said he wanted to be an “actor” but did nothing to make it happen. He is an artist and I believe is a very talented artist.

The longest stretch of success for him was working full time for over 3 and ½ years in a yogurt store at our local mall. He not only secured the job on his own but was very good at it right up until they closed their doors. A year ago he was working and he seemed happy and fine.

On the day that he lost his job, he posted disturbing video on social media and the police came to our house looking for him. When they found him they took him to a hospital and a psychiatrist would declare him “dramatic” and send him home to us within hours. That was in January and he wouldn’t have another episode until July. From July until October he literally spent between 2 and 3-months in the hospital and in a psych unit. The more “help” he has received the worse off he has been. Not only do they have him heavily medicated but in groups of therapy. He uses language like “I’m having a relapse.” He is not a drug addict or an alcoholic. He never once tried drugs and infrequently drank a beer. He is like a child and very trusting and vulnerable.

Several hospital stays would declare him “depressed” or “severe depression” yet this was not how he presented himself at home. At home he was happy, pleasant and easy to be around. He had a healthy appetite, went to the movies, to events, drew and painted interacted with our dogs, our neighbors his friend Eric and his father and me. Just like when he went to school, I never saw those out-bursts, he didn’t do that at home. I would hear about it, I believed it but I never witnessed it.

Every parent of an adult child has to let go at some point, you have to trust that you did all that you could and that ultimately it is their life. It is their life and therefore it is their choice.

Right now Brandon is back in the hospital and I am sad and angry. I don’t think that since they have been “helping” him that he has gotten better, he actually is more emotional, less stable, more dependent less independent. He lives in a locked down unit with mentally ill patients, I agree with the doctor yes, he is mentally ill but I also believe that the environment is making him sicker and sicker. The medication is not working as he cries more and has more melt downs, he is overly sensitive. Everything you say he turns into a dramatic episode for attention. He has been manipulating everyone.

The hospital and the doctor and social workers are enablers. First they say they don’t want to admit him and then he gets his way and they keep him for two and three weeks at a time. The last time he went in he posted a video on social media right from the admission waiting area and he was calm and seemed to enjoy posting what we was doing and that he was being admitted?

He is a talented artist reduced to painting bird houses and sitting around all day eating a poor and unhealthy hospital diet. Even a healthy person would be depressed in that environment. “Idle time is a devils workshop.”

The social workers in the hospital promised his housing, a group home, they tied him to social programs for money and for food assistance. They are making a fortune off his hospital stays and keeping him heavily medicated. He is worse off than he has ever been under their care and with their “help.”

Last week yet another social worker called me (this must be the 6th or 7th one) and she left me a phone message from a “crisis unit” and stated “he is enjoying himself and having a really good time here. Call me back to chat” she sounded like a high school cheerleader. I say to myself it must be me? How does a person in a “crisis unit” have a really good time and enjoy themselves?

What will happen to Brandon? Do they have the right diagnosis and the right prescription for success for him? Does he want to get better? What does he want? What is the end game?

I’ve talked with so many mental health care providers and read so much, the guy that made the most sense said “read about personality disorders” I really believe it’s a “personality disorder” he said. And yet today that is NOT what he is being treated for a personality disorder is NOT treated with medication but rather with therapy and requires a specialist for personality disorders.

A broken arm or leg would be so much easier, we could tell if it was healing and on the mend, we could see if what the doctor did was working. Sadly the care now being received will have no real marker for what success looks like. I know Brandon probably better than anyone, Brandon will get better if and when he wants to get better and Brandon’s life will look exactly like how and what Brandon is willing to accept for his life.

I never count him out though and am reminded of a summer at the beach. We were up at the boardwalk and he was off playing games. The game he played most had a prize of a $50 bill. I told him to stop wasting his money and only a fool parts with so much money playing those games. As I sat basking in the sun he showed back up and snapped a $50 bill in my face saying “say hello to a fool!”

He is nobody’s fool and if and when he is determined he will do exactly as he pleases just as he has always done. I just hope and pray that he is determined to get up and live.

Today I pray, I pray for Brandon … I miss him and I love him and I want all the best for him and I know that like he has always done, Brandon will continue to do as he alone chooses to do …

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