Trying to navigate a system that is broken is difficult. Trying to navigate that same system while under stress is nearly impossible. How do you explain the behaviours you’re witnessing effectively enough to get someone’s attention?
I know the struggle. I had to navigate a very broken system with my daughter. The avenues, the disregard, the disappointment only added to the overwhelming stress I was under. I was desperately seeking a solution to the self-harm, lack of motivation, emotional outbursts and the non-existent self-esteem my daughter was exhibiting.
I fought for almost 10 years to keep my child this side of the grass. Everyday, was a struggle for me. The more I struggled, the more she struggled. It seemed like there was no end insight.
I would stay awake at night to check on her; was she still here, was she still alive, was she bleeding silently, was she crying herself to sleep again, did I have all the meds locked up, all the knives stored properly? In the morning, completely exhausted from another sleepless night, I would try everything to see a glimpse of a smile, but usually failed.
I was constantly researching her symptoms, behaviours and scanning check-lists. I needed to know what I was dealing with so I could find the help we needed. I joined groups, read forums & blogs. Over the course of those 10 years, we saw about 30 different professionals. Every time, it was the same old thing – “…she is not bad enough to meet our criteria for services. Please keep us in mind should things get worse.”
Worse??? How the hell could it possibly get worse? Worse is the thing I’m trying to avoid!! We need help now!!! Why are we waiting for this to escalate?
Well, as predicted, things got worse, a lot worse. I received a call in the middle of the night from the ER. My daughter had been admitted following a very serious suicide attempt. They weren’t sure she’d recover. This, right here, was the moment I was working so hard to avoid. I don’t remember driving to the hospital, or even walking in. I don’t remember if I spoke to a Doctor. I only remember, and will never forget, seeing my daughter, lying there in the bed. Both wrists were taped up and she was connected to every device possible. I made my way through the tangled mess of cords & tubes and I hugged her. I clung on to her, and I prayed. And I cried. A Doctor came to see me and told me that her toxscreen showed extremely elevated levels of various barbiturates – antidepressants. The prognosis was bleak. He wanted me to go home, sleep and he would call if anything changed. I stayed. I held a 1-woman vigil at her bedside. I wasn’t leaving until she did.
Twelve hours after being admitted, she woke up. She was coherent. She knew who I was, where she was and had a rough idea of why she was there. She was a miracle. The entire medical team was floored. They were preparing for the worst case, and she proved them wrong!!
Here’s where the story gets more frustrating. I had been told repeatedly to wait until she got worse before she qualified for services. We arrived, it had gotten worse, but to my amazement – she still didn’t quantify for services. The criteria for admittance into the psychiatric facility is – Threat to harm self or others. We just survived a gravely serious suicide attempt. When they came to screen her for admittance, they asked if she felt the urge to harm herself, and her answer was no, not right now.
I was not taking NO for an answer this time!!
You see, in my quest for knowledge, I had gone back to school. I was now a Certified Addictions Counselor and I could speak the language. This time, I stood my ground. I fought for admittance and they finally agreed. She was admitted on a 5 day psych-hold. Now I cold breathe. Now our journey will change directions. We will find an exit off the Highway to Hell and begin to explore new options. The staff at the Psych Facility were shocked to see her file. She was on 80mg of Prozak, and they stopped this immediately.
We were now enrolled in a weekly counseling program, free from medications and on a healthy, but still bumpy road to recovery. I say bumpy, but because change does not happen over night.
Our road to recovery has proven to be amazing for both of us. My daughter has learned some very helpful coping skills, she has created awareness of possible anxiety attacks & how to prevent them. We have learned to communicate more effectively and created hand-signals & buzz words to alert each other of possible attacks. I have learned, that despite how I felt, I was not the only Mom struggling through this. I have also geared my career to supporting Moms on this journey. The feeling of isolation & judgement was enough to stop me in my tracks some days. I’m not sure where I found the strength to continue fighting, but I am so glad It did!!
My greatest lesson through this journey was how I was enabling my daughter & her mental health. I truly thought I was protecting her from herself. It was not my job to save her, it was my job to teach her how to save herself! Today, I am the missing piece of that broken system. I am constantly adding to my quest for knowledge & am also a Certified Life Coach. I combined my knowledge, experience & expertise to develop a program to support parents on this terrifying journey.
You have tried everything to help your child. Nothing has worked. Call me. I know I can help, because I’ve been there!!
Much love to you on your journey. I look forward to hearing from you soon.