New excerpt from the upcoming book On the Edge.
Sitting in a family counseling session at a Corvallis substance abuse treatment center in 2011, Pat thought her 15-year-old son was making a “Sixth Sense” joke when he said something about seeing dead people.
Long before getting in trouble – first for drinking during the school day as a freshman, then for having a marijuana pipe on school grounds at the start of his sophomore year – Brandon had been a quirky class clown and a wildly imaginative storyteller.
But this time, he wasn’t kidding.
With coaxing from his therapist, he explained to his mom, Pat, an elementary school teacher in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and dad, John, a construction manager, that he saw things that didn’t exist, things he knew weren’t real.
His care team at the in-patient treatment center couldn’t be sure what was causing the hallucinations. They could be a side effect of the Prozac he had started taking because seeking treatment in such a center could cause anxiety and Brandon had never been good at transitions. They could be caused by his lack of sleep or the melatonin he took to help that. Or they could be a separate mental illness.
One thing soon became clear; the rehab center wasn’t the place for Brandon. His hallucinations worsened. The voices told him he wasn’t safe there. He tried to run away multiple times.
Pat and John brought Brandon home. The auditory hallucinations continued with voices telling Brandon to kill himself.
Nights were the worse. Brandon would stay up all night pacing. Sometimes Pat would drive around with him through the darkness. He would say he was a danger to himself and others and needed immediate medical help, so, at his request, his parents would take him to the emergency room, get medication and bring him home again.
The family connected with a psychiatrist who was part of an Early Assessment and Support Team, which works to reduce long-term disability associated with psychosis by providing clinical and community support to young people experiencing psychosis. But before Brandon could settle in to the program, his condition worsened.
He was self-medicating with marijuana, which had at first made his hallucinations go away, but when they returned, they were more graphic than before.
The rest of Brandon and his family’s story will be published in On The Edge, the book, due out soon.