Waiting For The Unknown

We waited at the Emergency Room. That’s what Emergency Rooms are for, it seems.

We waited for a mental health evaluation for my middle child who a short while earlier had threatened suicide to anyone who would listen. We waited with knotted stomachs and interminably slow clocks.

And I personally waited with the audacity to hope that things could change, that she could ‘get better’ and stop skipping school, stop wearing torn black clothes, stop wearing her hair covering three quarters of her face, stop believing that she was a doomed failure, stop reading and writing and drawing about nothing but blood and death, and stop carving her body to help relieve the anguish she was feeling.

My daughter was understandably distraught and confused. And of course, how else might a teenage girl initially feel when armed police officers walk into her bedroom and announce that she will be going in for an emergency psychiatric evaluation? She alternated between tears of remorse and bursts of frustration, then her anger began to flare as the realities of the situation became apparent.

girl on bed

(Photo Source: Google Images)

Her cell phone had been taken upon arrival, along with her clothes and shoes. She wore oversized maroon-colored scrubs as she endured the aggravation of not being able to communicate with her friends beyond the few messages she had frantically texted before the phone confiscation.

I had known that her peers were firmly intertwined in her self-destructive and dysfunctional behaviors, and her inability to communicate with them during this crisis annoyed her greatly. (Okay, that’s a major understatement.) When her younger sister came to the ER after a while, she secretly asked her to contact certain people for her, to give them specific messages.

After several hours of waiting and evaluation, of tears and apologies mixed with empty promises and accusatory adolescent eyes, I was only partly taken aback at the announced possibility that my daughter might simply be released from the ER and sent home. She’d said that she no longer wanted to be alive and wasn’t at all averse to ending her own life. But she had not formulated a specific plan.

In an emergency room that’s apparently a pretty big distinction.

I wanted my daughter be admitted on a mental health hold. I had watched her descend into darkness over the previous months. I had been the recipient of so many of her rages. I had cleaned and bandaged her self-inflicted wounds. I had seen the black emptiness in her eyes as she spoke of the hopelessness she could not crawl out of, the blackness she’d seemed to learn to surrender to and eventually embrace.

I knew that if she went home nothing would be different. She would still carve through her skin, she would still rage and make threats that included suicide, she would still be failing school, living in the dark despair that had become her reality. Our home would still be held hostage in turmoil, and I would still fear for her life. Every single day.

I could not help her to stabilize. We needed someone else to facilitate that. So at my insistence, the decision was made to admit her. I believed without a doubt that, as backwards as it might have seemed or felt, it was the only chance for her overall long-term safety and wellbeing.

medical chart

(Photo Source: Google Images)

There was no room available in the mental health section of the hospital we were at, so calls were made to “find a bed” for her. A freestanding behavioral center with available space was located halfway across town, and we began another wait for her second ambulance ride of the day.

It was nearing midnight when my daughter was once more loaded into an ambulance. By this time my car had been brought to the hospital, so I got directions to the facility where I was to connect with them after transport and sign the consent for a 72-hour mental health hold.

My ex-husband had left and I traveled a couple of interstates alone to a multi-story building I’d seen many times off the highway. I parked my car and hurried to meet the ambulance as my daughter was once more offloaded and taken inside.

This facility was secure, meaning that no one could get in or out the glass front door without the lock being ‘buzzed’. I learned that no bags or purses were allowed inside, so I returned mine to my car. Again, the emergency personnel were sympathetic and considerate. They conversed easily with my daughter and offered their best wishes as they departed.

We were led to some elevators and up to another floor. We approached an area with yet another set of secure doors. These were large, locked, wooden doors. No going in or out without an electronic passkey, which only the employees were permitted.

locked hospital doors

(Photo Source: http://keyeslifesafety.com/)

And this was it. This was the unknown that I had both feared and longed for, the place where I trusted my daughter would not be able to self-harm or act on her suicidal thoughts. This was the place I hoped she could start to find safety and stability.

This was the psych ward.


© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013

11 thoughts on “Waiting For The Unknown

    • Very true, Amber. It is gut wrenching beyond description. But when the possibility of saving a life (literally) is within your grasp, you do what you must do.

      Thanks, friend.

  1. i hope this is the catalyst for your daughter to get better.
    i have been admitted to psychiatric hospitals 7 times. some of those included parentally influenced admissions.
    i remember being hurt and angry at my parents for doing it. i thought it meant they didn’t love me and had given up on me. but i know now that they loved me so much it was their only option left.
    in time your daughter will hopefully see that too.
    it has been a very long journey for me, one which i am still travelling, but i am getting there.
    all the best for you and your family.

    • Hello, laidir. Thanks for visiting and reading. I appreciate it so much.

      To be clear, I am recounting our story, things that occurred a few years ago (though it still feels like yesterday). My daughter is stable now and – like you – came to understand that what I did I did in love. If you’d like to read the first post on this blog, it tells more of where we are now. http://helptohopeblog.net/2013/04/06/caught-off-guard/
      There is much more to the journey that I will continue to share.

      Thank you for sharing your story and your encouraging words with me. I am touched by your kindness, and I am proud of you; I know that what you are doing takes immeasurably hard work.

      Take good care and come visit again if you’d like,


    • I agree! But they have their admission criteria; I know that. I just had to remember that I was the one who had seen her at her worst more often than anyone.

      I learned a valuable lesson that day about being a strong self-advocate (or daughter-advocate, in this case).

      I pushed for what I felt was safest for her, and I’m glad I did. I’ve no doubt it was the right thing to do, and it helped me have the confidence to do it again and again all through her treatment. I was learning to trust my gut, and I’m so glad I did.

      Thanks for reading,


      • Your daughter is so lucky to have you looking out for her. You absolutely did the right thing, good on you for listening to your gut instincts and for acting on her best interests.

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