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by Vicki Nelson

A Chicken Soup for the Stepfamily Soul Contribution

“I think we all agree that Blake is in need of hospitalization,” concluded Dr. Barnes from a computer screen. With the only available psychiatrist at another facility thirty miles away, I was interviewed about my son’s aggressive behavior while sitting with him in front of a small, round video camera. Now 10:20 P.M. on Friday night, Blake’s satellite admitting session ended abruptly as the nurse and male technician physically subdued my unstable son.

“Get your feet off the desk, Blake. You’re going to knock down the screen,” warned the tech.

His tense body seethed with defiance as he yelled, “I don’t have to. I can do whatever I want.” That familiar phrase pounded my head as I wished this nightmare would end. This was the third hospitalization for my eight-year-old son who suffers from Bipolar Depression, characterized by severe, unpredictable mood swings and often physical aggression. Blake’s behavior rendered the image of an active volcano with the parental word “no” causing major eruptions. His lava burning an indiscriminate path down Anger Mountain, I was a scorched tree from the ten hours of intermittent rages beginning at his school during lunch.

“Let me take his bag so you can go home, Mrs. Nelson. You need your rest for the baby.” How can I go on like this? How will I provide a safe environment for my other two children in the days, months, and even years to come? I drove home in a daze, thinking of the inevitable phone call to my attorney. It only made sense to give Blake’s dad, my ex-husband, what he petitioned the court for -- custody.

Carrying heavy legal debt and unemployment, my husband and I endured the last year fighting to retain custody of Blake, whose biological father was in denial of his diagnosis. With sad irony, we realized we might not be able to keep him even after spending thousands of dollars in this pursuit.

God, I desperately want to hear You speak again. As I entrust Blake to Your care completely, please show me how before the court hearing on Tuesday. Returning home, midnight’s silent hour collided with a mother’s profound weeping as I grieved for my son.

I called my attorney the next morning, the telephone heavy in my right hand. He and his wife, a former psychiatric nurse, had counseled me many times through the years, but no advice made relinquishing custody of my first-born son easy.

“You’re doing what’s best for your family,” he offered. I instructed him not to inform opposing counsel until Monday morning. I hung up the phone and stared at the empty ceiling, numb to my raw emotions.

I visited Blake on Sunday afternoon for the second time. Clinging to me, he showed me his crayon illustrations. With no explanation, I saw the first picture of a beaming lighthouse shining on two stick-figures named “mom” and “me.” The second picture revealed an oversized heart with a caption that read, “Mother, please come back.” I looked deeply into his downcast eyes and asked, “Blake, were you afraid I wouldn’t come back for you?”

His voice cracking he replied, “I didn’t know if you’d come back for me a second time, Mom.” Instinctively I knew his guilt weighed heavily on him, needing unconditional love.

Holding him tightly, I reassured him and said, “I’ll always come back for you, no matter what, because you’re my son and I love you.” I felt his relief in our embrace as we shared our tears. Glancing down at the first picture, I instantly knew that my precious little boat needed his mother lighthouse to keep shining through his perilous journey until he found calmer waters again.

God divinely spoke to me that day. I would never have guessed I would see God’s answer through my son’s illustrations. With less than twenty-four hours before a final legal decision had to be made, I called my attorney back and confidently told him I changed my mind. Trusting God as my anchor and source of strength for future storms, I thanked Him for moving so profoundly and just in time to meet my needs.

But God didn’t stop there. Later that week after the custody battle ended and Blake returned home, the Holy Spirit revealed a new way of handling his defiant behavior, with the help of my husband. Primarily through vigorous exercise and increased sleep, Blake slowly improved his ability to maintain self-control, making his illness more manageable. His treatment continues with therapy and medication. With perseverance and prayer, we celebrate the small victories.

Despite harrowing circumstances, we welcomed a healthy baby boy seven weeks later. Today I face life’s challenges with strengthened faith and confidence. I know that any situation can turn around for the better when I trust Him completely and see God’s answer.

Vicki and her husband formed a blended family six years ago when her oldest son was four. They added two more children to this union and live near Sacramento, CA. Recognizing that mental illness deeply affects the entire family, Vicki encourages seeking help from organizations such as and