Sometimes I’m unsure as to whether I should write about something because the story isn’t all mine to tell. Sometimes, I struggle with wanting to put that story down because its powerful and it affects me so deeply that I feel I need to share it to be able to make sense of it. I still haven’t made sense of the past week. I don’t think it will ever come together as something I can understand.
Wednesday was the first boot camp style class for me with Winter Warriors, the ten week program I joined to stay accountable for my fitness routine in the miserable months ahead. I brought a minimal number of items in a bag and threw them, and my phone, onto a shelf in the entry of the gym and headed inside for a 30 minute lesson on proper form and the exercises we’d be doing during the core workouts. This meant the typically hated body weight exercises that included burpees, mountain climbers, and push ups. When we were done, I socialized a few moments and went to the car to drive home in the insane wind and drizzling rain. I pulled into the driveway and the family van was not in the garage. I pulled my phone out of my bag and had missed messages, phone calls, and voicemails from the last 45 minutes. I called my husband to hear the words I think I was already expecting from him. “We’re at the hospital. [Our 15 year old child] has tried to overdose on pills. There was an ambulance at the house and I brought the other two kids with me in the van.” The younger two kids are 3 and 5 years old.
I closed the garage door and headed to the hospital in my sweaty gym clothes without my purse. I called my best friend. I cried my eyes out while telling her how I was so upset and so angry and I just needed to center. She spoke back to me in a calm and even voice and assured me that my emotions were normal and to go do what I needed to. I arrived at the hospital after having to drive all of the way around it to get to the emergency department. I ran inside and was met by a woman who said that she couldn’t see the names of patients in the rooms, but had a feeling I was looking for room 18. She took me to the room where my oldest lay in a bed in the middle of the room with a box of tissues beside her looking emotionless. My husband then relayed to me she had taken my anti depressant pills from my room and taken them and that the ambulance drivers took the bottle so they could count and estimate how many she’d taken. The nurse came in and confirmed which bottle had been taken and that she’d taken around 30 of my anti depressant pills from a recently filled bottle of 90. The nurse also said that she’d been in touch with poison control and that she’d need to take some charcoal. My husband and smaller kids stayed until after the charcoal was done, but they were getting quite restless (as any young children would). I asked my husband to take them home since I was crying and didn’t want them to see me so upset.
During this time, I was checking my phone and one of her friends and the older sister had sent me messages on Facebook telling me that my daughter was saying things about killing herself. Another friend of hers messaged me the same thing. The assistant principal called to tell me that students had reported her saying she was taking pills. Later, I’d check her Snapchat to see that she had posted that she was going to kill herself using pills and that over 200 people had viewed that story on there. 4 people that I know of reported it. I assured the friends that contacted me that they made a good choice and may have saved the life of a friend. Quick thinking and reporting made a huge difference in this case.
I’d also sent a few messages out to people for support. One person, though she has a very young child and is probably very busy offered to bring me my things that I’d left at home and found myself needing during my wait. Another person, a runner friend who has been in similar circumstances offered that I was running mile 9 and that I’d make it to mile 10. She was right. I just didn’t feel like running that mile at the time, but I also have never felt like it when I was out running on the trail.
I sat in the chair for about 12 hours crying off and on. Sometimes, uncontrollably sobbing and trying to hide behind tissues or even my shirt pulled over my face. I watched people come in from the rigs on stretchers with their eyes closed and wondered if they were going to make it through the night. I had security watch my daughter while I went home and put on clothes that were more appropriate for the cold and windy weather that had settled upon the area in the past few hours. I picked up my Kindle and my phone charger from my house and briefly talked to my husband. I went back to the hospital and read an entire book while sitting in the chair across the room from my daughter, who was in an out of sleep, with a rapid pulse the entire time.
Around 3am, a woman entered the room who looked so much like my friend Kate that I was instantly relieved to see her. She was from the county crisis team. My daughter asked to be alone with her, so I went out to the waiting room where a janitor gave me a blanket to keep me warm from the doors being forced open by the strong winds. I then talked to the crisis person myself. We arranged to have my daughter sent to a facility for mental health. A few hours later, an ambulance showed up and took her on the drive to a larger town’s hospital that offers adolescent mental health care. I went home to sleep.
In the days since then, I’ve cleaned her room from top to bottom looking for anything she could hurt herself with upon her return. I’ve moved all prescription and OTC drugs into my bedroom closet and added a lock to my closet door. I’ve found an empty pain killer bottle in her closet that I hadn’t even realized was gone until I saw it. I’ve cried a lot. I’ve had conflicts with my husband that I don’t think we’d have if we weren’t under so much stress. I haven’t been out to run or even in my workout clothes. I’ve slept more than I usually would. I’ve talked to some of my daughter’s friends and even one of her teachers that lives a few houses away. He brought me her work from the school office to help out.
Apparently, in all the things going on while my husband was home and I was gone, a parent of one of her friends knocked on the door to tell him what was happening. When he tried to get her into the van to go to the hospital, she screamed that she wanted to die. My 3 year old has asked twice if her sister is dead. Once in the middle of the night after waking from a dream.
This was unexpected. It wasn’t out of the blue. A few weeks ago, the school called to tell us that she was threatening to overdose on pills. Crisis team was brought in for that, too. They made a safety plan with her. We made emergency appointments with a therapist and psychiatrist. We made her leave her bedroom door open so we could supervise her. The master bedroom was locked and we carried keys around with us to get in so that she couldn’t have access to prescriptions that were in the room. We were only allowing people to come to our house instead of her going to visit others so that we could supervise what was going on.
My daughter is due to come home tomorrow morning. We will have some pretty strict policies in place. She’ll have some new coping tools. We will all have to heal from this and figure out how to move forward. I don’t share this to ask for anything. I know that mental illness comes with a stigma that society still isn’t finished with placing on the people who suffer. I also know that unless you’ve actually been in the same exact position, you cannot say what you would do or how you would handle this.
I’ve spoken to and visited my daughter. I don’t think she would have wanted me to write this, but I think that it can help. Especially with people who may have gone through this quietly.
I’ve found some comfort in telling myself that the only way you get through life is forward because that’s the direction it goes. Things don’t pause when you need them to and they don’t slow down when you want them to. There are always going to be times where we wish things would just be different, but the only way to change them is to keep moving forward and get through and past it. So, I’m going to make it to mile 10. It just won’t be easy.