I have thought long and hard on whether or not to write this blog. I have thought equally long and hard on how in the hell to put this season of life into words. But the fact is, a voice is a voice and if this offends you or frightens you then I did my job at raising awareness. This is not a blog for your entertainment, this is a story that is very real and very terrifying and that changed many lives through a very dark journey. This is what my 2016 was filled with and this is what a very real issue, that many people face, actually looks like. This is a blog about survival and digging deep. This is a blog about seeking help and accepting assistance and working diligently with all of your might to overcome. This is the face of suicidality and surviving.
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. But sometimes, those roads are beyond difficult and you find yourself down the proverbial rabbit hole, only to discover utter darkness instead of Wonderland. In order to appreciate the ending to this story you must start from the beginning with me. Not the thirteen years ago beginning, but a synopsis if you will, from the beginning to the now. Because the NOW is what is celebrated. Always in life.
Thirteen years ago I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen in my entire life. From day one she was this precious round cheeked, blue eyed, black haired little cherub that giggled and explored and learned so quickly. When they say children are a sponge they really are. Absorbing any ounce of knowledge she could. The snuggliest most lovable child I had ever laid my hands on and she was my child. God blessed me with this beautiful little miracle.
Once Corbyn was born, my daughter instantly became her brother’s keeper. His biggest fan and most trusted protector (outside of myself). She loved him fiercely. From teaching him how to talk to showing him how to walk. Asking if she could feed him, read to him at bedtime and rocking him in a hallway during a tornado. She was, and continues to be, a source of his knowledge and strength and example of love. When the day came to take her to a long-term facility, my son asked her what happened to her arms … asking her, “Who hurt you, Sister?” And she protected his heart and his child innocence telling him, “Nobody hurt me, Bubba. I was in a little accident. But I am going to be okay.” That was one of her darkest days. She was not wanting to choose life that day. But she would never let her little brother know that.
On Sunday, October 11, 2015 … my reality as a mother changed. You see, watching your young daughter be diagnosed with Celiac Disease at age 7 and then diagnosed with Von Willebrand’s Disorder a few years later and being told that she very well may never have her own children, to seeing her bury her father at age 9 … well, that is a lot as a mother to see your child endure and yet she was the one living it, feeling it, attempting to understand at such a young age. As a mother, just as any parent I would believe would, I felt that by consoling her, hugging her, planning fun outings with her and placing her in therapy was the right thing to do. That telling her that it would all get better and be okay was the right thing to do. So that is what we did. We dove into artistic creations, we went on adventures, we focused on the healing power of music and prayer and cooking together and playing with animals. And it all seemed to work. She would still smile and laugh and have fun and play with friends. As a mother, I assumed I was succeeding at my goal. Creating a new childhood for a child that had lost some of her own. A child who grew up a little too fast.
A little … I thought.
Then we decided to move. Fresh start. Better job for myself, while I continued my education. More opportunities for both my children. You see? My hometown is good for sports involvement, but lacked school clubs and courses for choir and math clubs and so much more that I wanted them to have choices to partake in and thrive at. To find their own fit in this vast big beautiful world. Little did I know that my smiling child was hiding a darker secret all those years. Six years to be exact. In therapy, with the therapist she had been seeing for three years since her father’s death, she told a very detailed, disturbing experience of what is known as sexual assault. She said she felt safe to tell since we were moving and would not be in the same town anymore. My baby girl, whom I had thought had lost a portion of her childhood through illness and losing one parent, had actually lost all of her childhood at six years old by a person that she should have been able to trust. So the ugly process began. The therapist called CPS. CPS got an appointment at The Bridge. The Bridge interviewed her and called an RN. The story continues. The man was taken before the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury “no billed” this man because of “lack of evidence” due to it being six years prior. CPS believed this child. Her therapist believed her. The forensic psychologist and RN believed her. But a Grand Jury decided due to time, that a terrified child harbored this alone, caused not enough “physical” evidence. So now this child of mine was terrified that she spoke out. Felt she caused problems for her baby brother due to all that we were focused on for her. (He had no clue and still has no clue as to what happened to his sister.) So, suffice to say, this beautiful and innocent young girl became depressed, hormonal as an upcoming teenager, angry and so many more emotions that were like a ticking time bomb inside her little body. However, continued therapy, showering with love and affection and constant words of encouragement were what we all felt were the proper thing to do for her. She began to smile again, spent time with her new friends, and continued to make straight A’s in school. All seemed to be healing as best it could.
Until that night in October. Sunday, October 11, 2015 to be exact. The nightmare hit that night. My daughter was going to go home with my parents for a few days and they hadn’t been gone 30 minutes. I got a text from my mother to meet them at the ER by our apartment. I am afraid that someone is sick, there was an accident … something. I was not prepared for what I met at the ER that night. My daughter had taken a handful of sleeping pills that she had been hording. Lesson number one. Just because you hand your child a pill, make sure they swallow it. Or else they can collect them. But what parent thinks of that or that it is necessary or a possibility for a twelve year old? She didn’t know how many she took. So our night was spent in the ER, her having regular blood work and drinking charcoal. A mouth full of gunky blackness and dark colored sandy teeth and tears in her eyes. Me telling her over and over how much I love her and that I am her biggest fan and to please tell me what she needs for help. She was, for lack of a better way to say it, just done. She wanted the inner pain to stop.
They released her to me knowing that I would monitor her completely until we found her a place to go for a few days. This is when I learned that there is a huge problem in our country for depressed teenagers and assistance. I called ten facilities between Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana for short-term treatment of suicidality in teenagers. Each of them having between 150 and 200 beds and zero availability. I was continually told, “If she is a threat to herself take her to the hospital.” Well, we had just left the hospital. They released her to me. I was out of options it felt like. Out of love and desperation, I called the insurance department at my job and they got me a direct phone number to Family Support Services in our city and I was able to get her an appointment within a few hours with a counselor who only deals with sexual assault victims and suicidal crisis evaluations. Her initial meeting with this man was hostility, anger and rudeness. Not my child! Where had my baby gone? But we visited with him a half hour and then he visited with her alone for almost an hour. At the end of that session he said that she was actively suicidal and needed a facility as soon as possible. I am sure he gave me the same contact information on repeat as the only thing I heard and kept hearing was ACTIVELY SUICIDAL. My twelve-year old beautiful, bubbly daughter was actively seeking to kill herself. I explained to him my conundrum of not finding a facility and he made one call to the facility in our city and she was assessed and admitted within hours. This man got her where she needed to be after I spent 24 hours calling everywhere I could think of, or was directed to, with no positive outcome. This man. Saved my daughter. He asked her to promise him she would stay alive. She promised and spent the next eleven days in that facility. Began medication and we moved forward. She continued to see this new therapist and began developing a great connection with him. They went to that dark place that she didn’t want Mommy to know about it. Even through all this my child wanted to protect me. ME. When it was my burden to carry for her. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t fix this for her. Because you see, she was feeling the constant chaos within. Her therapist explained it to me in the words stating, "She has PTSD. So severe it ranks with soldiers who have served in combat. This will take time. This will take all of us."
The next few months were a rollercoaster of events. My daughter had two more attempts at suicide by cutting her arms and wrists. At one point she had almost 40 cuts up her forearm and multiple cuts and claw-marks crossing over those. We had everything locked up. I mean everything from Tylenol to butter knives were locked behind a door that the keys were around necks and nowhere near her getting ahold of them. She was breaking pencil sharpers at school, tearing the tabs off soda cans, anything she could get her hands on she was cutting herself with. She wrote a lot. Dark truths that were inside her heart and mind. She also wrote that she heard the train in class at school and knew she could walk there and lay on the tracks if she could get away from school long enough to get there. She was ACTIVELY SUICIDAL again. So, after three stays at the short-term facility, it was decided by her therapist and myself and my parents that she needed a long-term facility. So again the hunt was on. Insurance coverage, availability, close enough to home that I could visit her on visitation days, promptness to admitting her. I kept being told that there was at least a two to three month waiting list for most places and the closest facility was 7 hours away. Then I got a call on day two that said they had an availability and I could bring her in two days. That three-month wait just dropped to a few days. Thank you God!
So, we all loaded up in my car, and we drove all night to San Antonio to take her to the long-term facility that was the next step in changing her life. There she finished school, learned coping skills, learned to communicate, we had family therapy, she had individual therapy, they took her off all the medications she had been placed on and was placed on one anxiety medication. I was told that she was actively suicidal (there are those two words again haunting me as a mother) and that the excessive medications she had been placed on intensified that as a side effect. So, we began the healing process. Her individually. Us as a family. She began receiving 12-hour passes for visitations off the campus and after three months we were told we could pick her up and bring her back home. Thank you God!
So, we brought her home. She continues to work on her communication, getting stronger each day. Owning that she is a survivor and no longer a victim. Finding her voice to be an advocate for herself and to stand up for herself and to stand up against others when they are abusive (physical, verbal, emotional). She is a fighter and stronger than she knew she was. She has learned to genuinely laugh again. She continues to make straight A’s. She draws and writes and loves fiercely. She accepts others and speaks more positivity into her own life as well as others. She is my daughter and I am so damn proud of her.
So, October 13th was one year. One year from the day I walked her into that new office, with a new therapist, for a crisis evaluation, for being told that my daughter was actively suicidal. One year that Charles gave my family what tools we needed to help save her life. To help her learn to stand in the sunshine again and to dance in the rain. A-Day as my daughter and I have named it. Alive Day. The day she began to live again. It has been a very long and dark journey with more tears and screaming than I care to tell about. One miraculous year of growth and I am still beyond proud she is my daughter and blessed that God chose me to be her mother. What a gift she is. What a testimony she has. What a life she will live. What a splendid day this day is. October 13th. A-Day.
October 13th, 2016, my daughter was told that she can call if she needs an appointment. She can call with good news or on bad days. She was reminded of coping skills on days she has a rough time. She was reminded of how to get through panic attacks if she is triggered. She was told all the positive affirmations that we see in her and feel are permanent to her character and personality. She was told, by this man, her therapist, that she is the “Most proud moment of his life, not just his career.” We celebrated A-Day. We hugged. We cried. We laughed. We lived. She lived.
* If you or someone you know is suicidal or expressing signs of self-harm. Get them help. It is more important to get them to safety than it is to risk losing a friendship or to anger a loved one. Call and do not take no for an answer on assistance. There are people who will help and people who will have connections to get you to where you need to be.
Know you are loved.
Know you have self worth.
Know that you cannot see light without darkness.
Know that it is okay to choose to stand in the sunshine.