My son planned out and carried through with a plan of ending what he thought of as trouble in everyone's life. Himself. My promise to Michael and all other parents and kids out there is that before I go, this Country will know of the serious gaps and restrictions put on the mental health system due to Legislative budget cuts, stigmas that go with having a mental illness, and how no one takes depression in teenagers seriously enough in this Country.
Michael was born on March 22, 1984 in Yuma, Arizona. We lived a long ways out of town so Michael’s first years were spent learning about horses, cows, chickens, etc. He loved animals from the very beginning. Especially the horses. He cut his first tooth on my reins while riding with me one day.
From the very beginning Michael was very eager to please. He acted silly and always tried to make people laugh. Especially me. Things were hard for him, his sister TracyLee and myself but the three of us made a family and we were all we had. It worked. But, he never felt good enough. Never felt like he was doing well enough.
Problems started when he was about 8 ½ years old. He was in the 3rd grade and signs of ADHD started to appear. I had never heard of this but his teacher told me that I should get him checked. And, since mental illness runs in the paternal side of Michael’s family, I thought it couldn’t hurt. There were brain maps, EEG’s and every neurological test they could come up with. They found inconsistencies in Michael’s brain’s ability to process information correctly and in proper order. He would do things backwards a lot and he and I had developed our own “language” so to speak because I was the only one that seemed to understand what he was trying to say or accomplish. He loved the movie “Forrest Gump” and would always tell me “Mama always has a way of saying things so I can understand them”.
There were a lot of problems with school because they didn’t believe that Michael had problems. They put him in an Alternative classroom and that didn’t do anything for the self-esteem he already lacked. He was labeled as a “bad kid”, “trouble maker” and “loser”. Michael tried real hard to shake that but with the school systems, and worse, the over loaded and understaffed mental health system, it was impossible---in his mind. We had many Minor In Possession charges and they eventually put him on probation because Michael smoked cigarettes. His probation officer and that whole system is a whole other story and one Im not at this time at liberty to discuss.
Michael liked to joke a lot and everyone always remembers him as the kid that was always smiling no matter what was going on in his life. He always did whatever he could to bring someone up if they were down. Even if he wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time.
I used to get so mad at him because for such a skinny kid, he ate like a horse. Or at least that’s what I thought. It wasn’t until after he left us that I was told by a lot of kids that they could always come to Michael’s bedroom window at night and he would give them food. He even gave some of them his clothes. If I had only known, well, that’s just one of many “guilt” things that I will live with forever. The screen on that window is still there. It's mangled and ripped but it will always be on that window as a reminder of the giving person my son was even if he knew it was going to get him in trouble.
Michael was bipolar manic-depressive. However, after years of therapy, pills and crap, he could not shake the label of "loser", "worthless" or "trouble maker". Michael was none of these things and everyone that knows him and has come to know him through his foundation knows better. Michael used to say to me and to his friends, "God knows the type of person I am so I don't care what these preppy snobs think". He was right. There were many, many ups and downs for the 8 1/2 years that Michael fought this battle. He felt responsible for everything that went wrong in the world. He always somehow found a way to blame himself for things happening to people he didn't even know.
Michael was also a cutter. He cut himself so deep sometimes that I took him to the hospital and was sent home because their attitude was “He’s just looking for attention”. Well, DUH! I had one Dr. tell me that if Michael were his son he’d take him home and "whoop him". Thank God Michael is my son.
Michael had the bluest eyes. He was the most sincere and insightful kid I had ever had the pleasure of knowing. He could talk to a person for 30 seconds and have them pegged 100%. He loved everyone and everyone loved him, especially the girls! It was really quite comical at times in that area. He loved fishing, playing golf with his dad and adored his dog Cody. His skateboarding skills were up there with the best.
Michael was not a drug addict although we were continually told his tests were dirty. (I have the autopsy report showing Michael had been clean and free of drugs for at least a year). The mental health facility asked Michael if he was doing drugs. What they should have asked him was "what drugs are you doing?" Michael was on Zoloft and in his mind that was a drug. He was sent to ****. That place knew of Michael's mental illness and when THEY asked him if he was smoking pot or doing coke, he replied truthfully "NO". So, he was sent back to the mental health facility. He did this for eleven days. Back and forth, back and forth with no one listening to him. How awful it must have been to know good and well something was wrong and have people telling you there isn't. All of that just reinforced his feelings of being "bad". I often wonder if they ever think about the devastation that their inaction and omissions of information to me have caused. I doubt they even give it a thought. They told him he was just "bad".
Michael accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in April, 1999. He rededicated himself to Christ in the summer of 2000. Eight days before he left this world, he asked alot of questions to anyone that would talk to him about God. He was looking for peace and I pray now that he has it.
Michael was also very proud of the Native American heritage in his family. He wanted to learn all he could about all parts of him. His thirst for who he was overwhelmed him at times. One time we were listening to Buffy St. Marie and she was singing about Wounded Knee. He listened and he looked at me with tears in his eyes in total disbelief that people could do that to other people. He was literally shocked and appalled. It was then he started learning everything he could about his Navajo heritage. He was 10 years old at that time.
It was also then that he started fighting for the underdog. That caused problems as well because if there was a kid being picked on, it was Michael that would step in and fight for them. However, he never fought for himself. He held it all in. He had made it to Orange belt in Karate and I think sometimes that is the reason. He could fight if he wanted to but had been disciplined into walking away. But to Michael, if it involved sticking up for another person, he was all into it. I can’t tell you how many times I had gotten called to come pick him up from school because of another fight. And between you and me, I never punished him for doing what he felt was the right thing.
Now, in his name is The Michael S. Wyatt Teen Help Foundation. Its motto is “NO One Should Go Unheard” and the foundation song is “Youth of the Nation” by POD
Our goal is to help teens and young adults build self-confidence and responsibility. We do a lot of community service that no one really knows about. We visit the Veteran’s Hospital in Temple once a month. We spend weekends out on elderly peoples property clearing brush and doing any repairs that they themselves can’t keep up with. At Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter the kids all get together and we prepare a holiday meal for a needy family. Some have even been working with Aids patients after watching their dear friend Matthew Seth die from this horrible disease that no one deserves. They do it in memory of our Seth. We have kids that have gone from the streets into the Armed Forces, gone back to school, are in college and actually for the first time in their lives feel that they are worth it and can accomplish it. Our actions are not limited to anything. These kids come to my house every Tuesday night and we discuss issues that are related to them. They work a lot out by having their peers to talk to because there is always someone that has been there, done that and wants badly to help another person not go down those roads. We’ve aslo set up our own sort of “mentoring” program. We collect toys and stuffed animals for the College Station Police Department for their programs in which children have to be taken from their parents. We do a “coat and blanket” drive every winter and take them to the homeless shelter. Many, many things are done by these kids and they don’t do it to get praise although our Lord knows it wouldn’t hurt them. They do it because it’s good and they feel good. That’s the point. Helping them feel good about themselves in a world that doesn’t see them for the human beings that they are.
To any parents that may be reading this, please, don't ignore your children's quest for answers as to where they come from. There was a side of Michael's family that absolutely refused to acknowledge this and I have a blood stained letter from Michael to this person in my bible showing (by the blood) and trying by words to express the disappointment he felt in not being included in the lives of this side of the family. Parents, divorced or not, you owe it to your children to be part of their lives. It's more important than you think. Take yourselves out of yourself for a while and get to know your son/daughter. It may make more difference than you realize. I am begging, pleading, that any of you kids or parents that are having doubts about yourself in any way, please contact us. There is always someone that will answer your need.
You can contact us by using the link listed below. We have an e-pals group that has been very successful and now spans from America to Canada, England and Australia. It is completely anonymous and when you write, your email will be forwarded to other kids going through (or have gone through) just what you are. You are not alone. I swear you will be listened to without judgment.
Thank you for reading this and letting me share Michael with you. There is so much more to the 16 years 7 months and 3 days God allowed me to be his mother but the pain and guilt still run so deep it's hard to talk about it all.
My aim is to make sure that all teens and young adults get what they need from a system that is so seriously in need of the Legislature to see that the mental health crisis for our young people is a very real and often fatal issue. What is needed are letters, emails and phone calls to our Congress, Legislature and President. I have included some helpful links on the LINKS page for more information on mental health issues, teen suicide and help with both of these subjects.
ConnieLee - Michael's Mom