Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Whatever It Takes

A few months ago my world came crashing down around me. I came home to D crying and telling me she wanted to kill herself. We've been working on and dealing with her depression for nearly two years and that included cutting, but I didn't realize just how bad she was feeling. While I hated her cutting, I told myself that, because it was out in the open, it didn't indicate any actual suicidal ideation.

She didn't want to tell me at first because she didn't want to scare me. She asked a friend to come get the knife that she had previously used to cut herself. The one she found hidden in her room. But when she found that she was afraid to be alone because she might really hurt herself, she had to tell me. I did my best to remain calm and supportive for her, but on the inside I was shattered.

We made appointments with her therapist and psychiatrist. We discussed inpatient treatment and we added an additional medication. We evaluated the options and decided that we would work to avoid the inpatient option. First, there isn't a facility in our town and she would have had to go away and neither of us was in love with that idea. She's also been behind in school and missing another large chunk of time didn't feel right. Still, we left it open as a backup. Because I would do whatever it took.

Those first few weeks were incredibly painful. My baby girl was miserable inside her own skin and I couldn't do anything to change that. I was terrified that I would lose her. Every morning I went to wake her up I would pause at the door, hoping against all hope that my worst nightmare wasn't about to come true. I canceled plans with friends so she wouldn't be home alone. I rearranged my work schedule, I let her break the normal rules of hanging out with friends after school. I did whatever it took to make sure she felt safe. Safe from herself.

In the beginning, she didn't want anyone to know. I wanted to respect her wishes so I didn't talk about it. And, although I wasn't ashamed of her and her feelings, I felt like I had failed as a parent. Where did I go wrong that I didn't protect her from this?

And then I had a Halloween party. I had fun. I laughed, everyone else had a good time, it was successful as far as parties go. When everyone left, I fell apart and sobbed to my best friend. Because if I'm going to lose it with anyone, it's going to be her.

A few days later I opened up to the few people I trusted. The amount of support I got was overwhelming. It gave me hope and enough strength to keep trying and to feel less alone.

D also talked to friends and received the support she needed. Her new meds started to kick in a little bit. I checked in with her daily, asking her to rate her emotional scale. Anything below a five required a plan of action and we knew what those actions were. While most of us can handle a low of four or even three or two, D spiraled to zero almost immediately from that point. We evaluated the reasons for her ratings and how we could change them. The important thing was to be in touch and communicate every day.

A couple of months later she thought she had it handled. She put off therapy appointments, she even canceled one at the last minute to go to play rehearsal instead. A couple of days later she walked in the house and fell into my arms crying, saying again how tired she is of feeling this way. So we talked about how we're stuck with depression. This is a thing that we have, like some people have asthma or any other physical disability or health issue. We have to take care of ourselves, we have limits that we have to respect in order to take care of ourselves. Some things are too much sometimes and that's okay.

Now, a few months later, I think we're over the hump. We've learned what we need to do and what to look for. And, while I can breathe again, I'm not naive enough to think we're past this for good. We're just not. D, as a high school senior, is dealing with a lot of emotions and fears and doubts and excitement about what will happen in the next few months and in the future. It's all very normal and expected. To someone with a tendency towards severe depression, these stresses can send her spiraling down again. My hope is that we have both learned what to look out for before it gets to that bottom level.

The greatest lesson I have learned through all of this is that there is a lot of shit that just doesn't matter. During those dark weeks, I couldn't even focus on my weight like a normal neurotic woman. Because who cared if I lost those 15 pounds and looked amazing? What does that matter if my baby girl is gone? My job seemed nearly pointless. My friends, who I have always known that I appreciate and tell them fairly regularly, meant the absolute world to me. I gained enormous perspective. I became less afraid of a lot of things. Because the scariest thing in the world is losing the person you love the most. Everything after that is just an afterthought.

I think D has learned the strength she has. It takes real courage to ask for help. It takes a hell of a lot to tell someone the ugliest part of yourself and risk not being understood or, worse, ignored. Not only did she ask for help, but she kept asking for help until she got what she needed.

I asked her permission before sharing this with you. She didn't hesitate to say yes and that tells me how much she has grown and how much self-acceptance she has gained. My reason for telling you is that if you feel alone, you're not. If you're afraid to talk, don't stay quiet. If you're not heard the first time, try again. Try someone else. Do not lose what is important to you because of fear.

Most of all, don't lose hope.


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