When your child wants to die there are a whole series of events that happen. Some are scary, most are terrifying, all are overwhelming. When your kid’s best friend calls you and says she got a text from her saying “I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore, I’m going to kill myself”, your brain goes into shock. Your heart stops and then beats so loud you’re sure it will explode. You dial her number and pray she answers as you run to the parking lot and your car. You hear her shaky voice and thank some far away God under your breath and you keep her on the phone telling her to listen to your voice you’ll be home in 5 minutes. And those are the longest 5 minutes of your life as you talk to her but don’t want to say anything to trigger her more so you tell her you’re at a light, you’re turning left, you see our street, you’re in the driveway. And then you’re home and faced with your child sitting on the floor hysterical with a knife by her side.
And she reaches for you and you hug her hard and tell her it’s going to be ok even though that’s the fucking lie of the century. Then you call your husband and you tell him to come home right away and the two of you get her in the car and take her to children’s hospital ER because that’s where you go when your child is so sick they might die. And you get to the registration desk and the lady asks why you are there and every part of you wants to say I think she has the flu but what comes out reluctantly is that she’s at risk for self harm. And as you say this, you feel shame so deep inside your core that you want to hide under the seats in the waiting room. And she tells you to come this way and they put you in a room with a person out front named patience and patience is there to make sure your child doesn’t kill herself. And you think comically, hah, patience, of course her fucking name is patience. And then throughout the night people come in and ask you the same questions and your child has a blank look on her face and both of your faces are streaked with tears and makeup and she tells you she’s scared and you tell her so am I and you hug a lot.
Then the nice social worker from the psych department comes down and tells you there’s a bed shortage in the state of Massachusetts and it may be a while before she is placed somewhere even though she is at an extremely high risk of suicide. She researched, had a plan, was ready to implement but cried for help. Of course she tells you that she was going to stab herself in the stomach and part of you laughs because that is the most ridiculous way to kill yourself but you don’t laugh because everyone is watching your every move and taking notes. And the people sitting right outside the door look at you and tell you it’s all going to be ok and she’s ok and you want to scream, none of this is fucking ok so just shut up! But instead you cry a little and say you know even though you don’t. And they pull in another stretcher into the ER room for you stay over because there are no beds for kids who aren’t physically sick but emotionally or mentally sick and you cry yourself to sleep thinking if she had a physical ailment that could cause her to die she’d have a room.
And you wake up at 5:00AM crying hysterically because you need to get it all out to be strong for your child. And you rinse, repeat for two more days until they finally tell you she has a bed at Children’s and you sigh with relief. You go upstairs and they search everything to make sure there is nothing she can hurt herself with and ask you all the same questions that everyone else asked and they take your kid to a cooking group and you have to go home without her. You meet other parents who all have the same look on their face and you want to fist bump them and say I understand, we’re in the same boat but you don’t because everyone is still watching you and you think judging you. You come back for a family meeting and for the first time in forever feel hopeful. There is a plan, there is hope, she will get better. She is clinically depressed but there is treatment and there is hope and she will come home and it will be ok. And your days consist of counting the minutes till you can go visit and spend time and see her smile again. You don’t want to tell anyone but you do because you have to, you can’t function or do this alone and what you find is that you are surrounded by love and support from your friends and family with no judgement. And you start to think your life is a Sondheim song filled with conflicts, and sadness, and humor, and irony and you just start to put your words to music and hum it out.
This post was therapeutic for me to write. It needed to happen. My child is sick and I need to let go of the shame that she is depressed. It is an illness and much like cancer it has taken over her life and tried to kill her. I hope people who need it find comfort in this post that someone else has lived it and will talk about it. Silence is not an option.