It has taken me a while to want to write this entry. It’s the hardest one. At least to this date anyway.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the turmoil that is our life, that we think things couldn’t possibly get worse. But we are always wrong. Everyone knows that things can absolutely always get worse, and as parents, we take advantage every single day of the time we have with our children, and the opportunity we have to shape their lives. And we fail. Daily. We all do. I am no exception.
On February 26, 2018, I got a call that any parent would consider a worst nightmare.
The 7th grade school counselor called me. It was about 10 or 11 am. I was dressed like a washed out homeless person, no makeup, greasy hair in a ponytail… I actually looked like a person who had already gotten the news that I was about to receive.
She had my daughter in the office with her and asked if I could come there as soon as possible and talk with them, and assured me that my daughter was not in trouble. Of course, out of immediate fear and concern, while tossing my shoes on and freaking out, the counselor mildly filled me in on what’s going on.
So, there I sat with my daughter to my left refusing to make eye contact with me, and the bubbly school counselor across from me. After thanking me for getting there so quickly, she proceeds to tell me that a “friend” of my daughter’s had turned her in out of concern. My daughter had sent them alarming texts describing wanting to cut herself and expressed being suicidal and had ironically said that “today would probably be the day”. After careful conversation with my daughter before I got there, the counselor expressed deep concerns of the seriousness of my daughter’s want to end her life. She explained that normally, when a counselor/therapist/psychologist speaks with someone that is suicidal, the first thing they do, is try to gauge the seriousness of that person and their intentions of ending their lives. She said in my daughter’s case, she was very concerned that she was very serious about her intentions because she had taken a long enough period of time to plan out the ways that she absolutely didn’t want to do it, and the couple of ways she had narrowed it down that she did want to do it. Hearing those words about my daughter made all the background noise begin to fade, and for a moment, there was a loud ringing in my ears. I felt the air leaving my lungs, and flashes of things I had missed for so long with my daughter, began flooding my mind. At the same time, my daughter sat there, emotionless, and anything I asked her, “why didn’t you open up to me all of the times I asked you what was bothering you?” “Why, when I asked you everyday, to please talk to me, did you continue to say that nothing was bothering you, even though I knew that was a lie?” seemed as though it fell on deaf ears.
After full conversation with the counselor, we discussed that I should take my daughter to the Children’s Hospital Emergency room an hour away from where we live, rather than wait for an appointment with a therapist, which could take weeks. This way, my daughter could receive the immediate help she needed. We sent my daughter to gather her belongings in her classroom, and while she was gone, I completely broke down to the counselor, melting into the floor out of complete failure as she sat across from, pretty blonde hair, flawless makeup, assuring me that I was a great mom, and that everything was gonna be ok. And that she thought with the right help, that my daughter was gonna be just fine. She kept wanting me to know what an amazing kid my daughter was, and how intelligent she was. It was as though she was talking, but nothing was coming out of her mouth.
We also spoke of my daughter’s dangerous obsessive behavior. There was one boy whom she had became completely obsessed with, and no matter what he said to her, mean or nice, my daughter had continued to chase after him. Before I had even gotten to the school, the counselor had already arranged for the boy to be moved away from my daughter in every class to sever those ties.
By 1:00 pm, we had left the school, picked my husband up from work, went home and packed bags, and were all three sitting in Children’s Hospital Emergency room, quiet, broken, scared……
They walked us back to this locked unit. They walked us into this room where the tv was all the way up to the ceiling, unreachable, the bed was on the floor, and there was a hard couch. A nurse came in and handed my daughter a pair of paper scrubs. She was told to remove all clothing except her bra and underwear and place them in the clear plastic bag they provided. They then turned to my husband and I and handed us the same clear plastic bags and told us that we would have to relinquish all of our personal items as well. Cell phones, purses, sunglasses, etc. They explained that all of our items would be locked in a locker right outside of the unit, and any time my husband and I needed any of our items, we could get them as long as we were using them outside the unit and return them before reentering the unit.
Several different types of employees came into her room through the night. I’m not really sure who had what title, but somewhere in the mix were several hospital counselors who assessed my daughter, and by the end of the night, their concern was the same for my daughter and they began trying to find a bed for inpatient care for my daughter at either their hospital, or one of the surrounding psychiatric floors at other hospitals. We ended up staying the night in that emergency room. I took the top, very thin cushion off of the couch in my daughter’s room and placed in on the floor next to my daughter’s bed as close as I could get it. And my husband slept on the couch. They gave my daughter 3, 1 miligram melatonins so she would get some good sleep. We have only ever given her 1 miligram at home. It was the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had in my life.
The next morning, after being awake for a few hours, I was down stairs getting snacks and smoking when my husband called me and told me to get to the room. When I got there, I received the information that they had found a bed for my daughter at another hospital close to there. She was to be transported by ambulance as soon as it arrived. And we would make our own way over there in my car.
It took us a bit longer to get there. When we arrived, we had to sit down stairs and wait to do paperwork for admittance and such. It took about 2 hours. I cried knowing that my daughter was probably upstairs wondering where we were and scared.
When we finally got upstairs outside the locked unit, we were ushered into a family room and was given paperwork/questionnaire to fill out about my daughter. I ended up going back out to where the elevators were to have privacy to fill it out because there was another family there talking and being loud and I was upset and crying. While out there, a nurse came out and got me and my husband. She felt bad for us and said we could go in my daughter’s room to finish filling out the paperwork so we could see her and have privacy.
When we walked into her room, it was like something out of a horror movie. Nothing on the walls, bed on the floor, plastic mattress, a wooden desk facing a blank wall, my daughter sitting with her back to us staring at the wall in her plastic scrubs picking at the food they had given her. She sat in a big, blue, very heavy plastic chair, filled with sand so the patients couldn’t throw them. I remember gazing the room and noticing that her bathroom had a saloon door that swung so she couldn’t shut herself in it, and there was a prison toilet.
She turned and looked at us with tears in her eyes and begged us not to make her stay there. Said she absolutely couldn’t stay there. She began to get angry. She said she would be angry all week if she had to stay there. I think it really freaked her out that she would have nothing in that room. No one to talk to, no tv, nothing.
They had a wreck room down the hall that she was free to go to any time as long as they weren’t on lockdown, which happened every day during shift change, and also not when they were in school or counseling.
Once we explained that freedom to her, she calmed down a bit. We were told that we could see her everyday during visiting hours. 4-6pm.
It came time to leave her, and we were all devastated. We all cried. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, leaving my 13 year old, vulnerable baby there without us. However, I did it. To help her, to try and save her.
I immediately blamed myself for everything, but also became enraged at thinking of all of the years my husband and I had argued, and been terrible, tearing each other to pieces with arguing and screaming, right in front of her.
I had left for a new life from her real father when she was just a little baby to avoid a life of turmoil and pain, and yet, had somehow still managed to screw up so bad and fail her miserably.
Each day, we drove an hour to see her. We were allowed to bring her colors, markers, coloring books, books. She could use the colors and coloring books in the wreck room with the other patients, and keep the paperback books in her room.
On the second night, we brought the game UNO. It became our thing. We couldn’t wait to get there and play UNO every night. And she loved it.
Each day, things seemed to get easier for her, but not for me. I fell deeper and deeper in the hole I had already been in for so long.
Each day, she had school for two hours, and then counseling and lessons. And of course, lunch, freetime, visitation etc.
It came time to schedule her discharge. She was to be discharged on March 6, 2018 at 9:30AM.
That morning, the doctor came into her room to talk to us. I had prepared about 3 pages worth of questions for her before I got there. The rush that the doctor seemed to be in angered me. She seemed like she couldn’t be bothered with my questions as she stood there, yes stood there, with her coffee in hand. She gave us a diagnosis for my daughter that almost made me fall into the floor. After testing all week, counseling, and ink blot testing, they diagnosed my daughter with Autism/Aspergers. I was in shock.
We left there still fuzzy, daughter and items in tow. We were referred to go to outpatient therapy with a therapist tied to the hospital in a little over a week.
My daughter was prescribed multiple medications for depression, anxiety, mood stabilizers, and sleep, and emergency anxiety/agitation medication. By the third day, I had her on only the depression medication and one mood stabilizer in the evening before bed. And of course, I kept the emergency anxiety medication on hand, which I have had to give her several times since being home.
While my daughter was away in the hospital, my husband and I had ripped apart the house cleaning out everything, going through all of my daughter’s things, removing anything dangerous. We threw away what wasn’t needed anymore, and then took the rest, the knives, anything sharp, medicines etc. and they were locked in a closet with a key lock that only my husband and I have a key to.
I can’t even begin to get close to explaining what this has done to my family. I have been completely numbed by it, and never felt more like a failure in my entire life.
But each day, I have to find a strength that didn’t exist before because my daughter needs me.
These types of diagnosis’s are a life changer. Everything has to change. The way you view things, the way you react to things, the way you were planning things, the way you plan every minute of every day, and the way you focus your energy.
Each day I will say, that I am so grateful that someone turned my daughter in, and that I got a second chance, because there are millions of parents out there that don’t get that chance. I have my daughter, and that’s more than I can ask for.