We were in a middle of a tantrum Sunday afternoon when the doorbell rang. Alphonse was hanging to me by my hair, both hands tangled in the mess of my French braid, which he was forcibly removing from my scalp. He had already bitten me once on the head that day, catching hair and some skin in the process. The doorbell rang again and the nannies froze, unsure of what to do next. As we held on to each other like a human link of hair and hands, the doorbell rang repeatedly. One of the nannies ran hurriedly to answer the door. She came back with a letter in her hand.
“Ate, it’s for you. LBC delivery,” she whispered quietly.
“Hide it in the drawer first. I’ll read it later,” I said, still trying to release myself from Alphonse’s clutches. Finally, after being held back by his nannies, his fingers were pried off my head. Looking at his reddened fingers, he shrugged as if nothing happened and ran off.
Later that day, he would attack me and his nannies repeatedly, pulling our hair and wrenching our scalps in different directions. In the most vicious one, angry at not being able to ride the car with his dad again and again, he pulled me by my hair when my back was turned to him. He grabbed me by the tail end of my braid and slammed me, back first, to the ground with such force I heard my neck creak and snap in protest. I could not immediately stand up as nausea and faintness threatened to overwhelm me. When I finally found my bearings, my arms and hands were weak and tingling with painful bursts of electric currents running through them. It took almost five hours for the pain to subside. My hands are still tingling this evening and even just a light touch elicits extreme pain.
We’ve tried to approach this rationally but we still cannot find an antecedent or trigger to his vicious behaviours. We stay constantly vigilant but no amount of alertness could foretell the violence of his next attack. And he is learning too, modifying his attacks by demanding that we remove the bandannas that served as our flimsy protection and unravelling braids that prevented him from getting a handful of our hair. Whenever we protested or insisted on keeping our bandannas on, he would come at us more. Just this afternoon, he threw all our bandannas and hair ties in the trash.
I knew weaning him off Risperidone and shifting him to a new drug would be tough but I had no idea that it would be hell. This is the worst he’s been in almost seven weeks of this relentless siege. There seems to be no way to get through to him; while he is clingy and looks for me, he hardly even recognizes me anymore when I speak to him. His eye contact is almost gone. There is always a faraway look in his eyes. He is suspicious. His obsessions are mounting. His compulsions are unstoppable. He has developed pica again, eating bits of trash- leaves, stones, dirt- that he picks up outside. He does not sit still outside the car. He paces relentlessly, touching corners and specific objects in a ritualistic manner. And as hard as days are, night offers no respite as he explodes over and over again, grabbing at anyone near him and pulling their hair, and kicking and biting anyone who intervenes.
This afternoon, after more violent assaults that seemed to come one after another without provocation, the nannies and I stopped trying to reason with him. We retreated to the safety of the schoolhouse while Alphonse was left outside to pace, scream, and vent his ire on something other than our heads. At that moment, as I looked at him through the security grills of the schoolhouse, I realized that we had finally become his hostages. I am afraid of him. We all are.
And yet, we love him with an ache so deep that just the thought of his pain reduces us to tears.
It has become harder each day to get out of this vicious circle of violence. I have asked for help from so many people and yet with each turn, we have faced more dead ends. There seems to be no end in sight.
We are no longer able to protect ourselves from his fury. We bear with the indignities of being beaten and assaulted by someone we truly, deeply, madly love. Our life is a living hell.
Alphonse, we love you so much. Come back to us, please.