Curiouser and Curiouser

I tried hard to be a voice of reason to my daughter. But how does one reason where there is no willingness to receive it? It didn’t work for Alice after she fell down the rabbit’s hole, and it wasn’t working for me. Still, it seemed all I could do.

alice in wonderland confusing


Tuesday night had seen a change to my daughter’s medication. The two SSRI anti-depressants she’d tried in the previous weeks had served only to take her deeper into rage, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

She was switched to a medication initially developed to treat seizures but used off-label to treat mood disorders. As those with mental health issues often find, medication is not an exact science. Not at all. But the aim at this point was to stabilize her, which (ironically) meant taking her off anti-depressants.

She soon found out that the term “72 hour hold” was a misnomer, more a guideline than a declaration. This was first a rumor she heard from other adolescents in the unit, and then she found out it was to be her reality.

I tried to explain the reasoning behind the need for her to stay in the psych ward longer. “They’ve switched your meds. The old ones obviously didn’t work well for you. They need to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction to this new medication. It’s a safety issue.”

Predictably, she was not receptive. For the record, I’m not so sure I would have been either if I’d been in her shoes. Also predictably, her anger flared. She was not allowed contact with any friends while she was hospitalized, and even if the support system she’d built for herself was terribly dysfunctional and harmful, all she knew was that it had been taken from her. And she was mad.

There were some curious things I realized about myself in those few days, difficult things that made me sad and confused.

 alice in wonderland sad


I knew that I was afraid for my daughter to be released from the psych ward and sent home. I was fearful that she would quickly return to her previous behaviors and that I was just too worn down to be an effective parent anymore. I was scared that there would be no lasting changes resulting from this awful ordeal. And I was so out of ideas.

I knew that my goal was not to keep my daughter from getting angry nor was it to have her like me. My goal was to keep her safe, even if she came to hate me in the process.

I knew that I wanted to put up all kinds of roadblocks so that her choices were limited and she couldn’t make decisions that would be harmful. But I knew that would be a disservice to her, that it would mistakenly teach her that she could not be responsible for herself.

I knew that, in the bigger picture, I couldn’t and really didn’t want to control my daughter; I wanted her to learn to control herself.

I knew that  for that to happen there had to be boundaries and consequences in place, and that she had to choose her actions and thus her own outcomes. This was a source of great pain for me, because I knew some of the choices she would make and that their results would be very hard for all of us.

But I had to let that go. Even though I could see that she was not yet willing (or able?) to face some of her bigger issues, I had to let her choose for herself.

I will once more refer to an email I wrote to my small and trusted circle of support. This was yet another middle of the night message, a bit disjointed and bearing witness to my fears and frustrations. This was written on day three of my daughter’s stay at the behavioral center, the day she had mistakenly decided she was going to be released and sent home.

* * *

I had a meeting today with C and her dad and caseworker.  There was a chance for C to have her say and a chance for us to, then time for us parents to meet alone with the caseworker.  We were told early in the meeting that C would not be released until Saturday (day five of her “72 hour” hold). We really lost her at that point. She wants to come home NOW.

She was not forthcoming about some stuff she’s been lying about lately, nor about what might have been bothering her that led up her hospitalization. She’s been telling me for weeks about some things that are just driving her crazy, but she never even mentioned them in today’s meeting. I told her that I’d learned about some of her deceptions but she would not acknowledge anything, just said she had no idea what I was talking about.

I tried to prepare her for the fact that things will be very different when she gets back home, that boundaries will be tighter, and privileges will need to be earned back.  I don’t think she has any idea what that means or thinks it will really happen anyway.

I am feeling extremely overwhelmed at the thought of her return home.  The caseworker had all kinds of thoughts and ideas, and while some of them may be helpful, the work of it all feels like it will bury me.

When her dad and I walked out of our meeting with the caseworker, C came straight over and asked me why she couldn’t be released sooner.  She was very angry and confrontational and kept demanding answers that I couldn’t give her.  I gave her the only answer there was to give, but she wanted more and I told her that was all I had, I couldn’t make anything up to satisfy her.

She directed all her anger and frustration towards me. I don’t think she even made eye contact with her dad for that 5 to 10 minute conversation.  She made vague threats about not eating (that’s her choice if she wants to make it) and swore she was better and ready to come home.  It was really pretty awful.

She chose me to be the one to pick her up when she is released on Saturday. She told me she wants me there at 6 in the morning. I told her I’d be there between 9 and 10.

I know there are many strategies to deal with her in the days ahead; I just honestly feel like there is nothing left in me to do it – to learn what I need to learn as a parent, to find her a new psychologist (her request and the caseworker’s recommendation), to drive her across town how many times a week for those appointments, to find extra-curricular activities & get her enrolled & to the activities, to meet with her school counselor and teachers and try to help her not fail her freshman year.

I am just spent, which may be exactly where I need to be but it doesn’t make any sense to me and I can’t see how it’s all supposed to get done.

I did tell her dad that with these added commitments I cannot logistically do all that needs to be done for both girls during the week (always on ongoing battle for me), and he said he’d be available but the truth is that he works during the hours these things are going on. I will have to continue to change and arrange my work schedule to take care of things.

I don’t expect him to make any sizable contribution to handling those details because he hasn’t before. It would be helpful if he actually had some input or action of his own; I feel like it’s up to me to take the lead on these things because he simply will not and we are at a critical juncture where action must be taken.  He does not seem to accept the seriousness of the situation. (Caution: ex-wife frustrations are surfacing!)

Again, the ideas for help and change sound really good in theory but the reality of it feels nearly impossible to me. There just isn’t enough of me to go around.

The diagnosis the caseworker gave for C today was General Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Disorder.  I don’t know if a new therapist will reach a separate conclusion.  C says she hasn’t been suicidal for about a day and a half.  She says cutting is stupid and disgusting and she’ll never do it again (which she’s said before), and she swears that she has learned all she needs to know and will be fine.

She also says she wants to “help” her friends who cut to stop cutting, which basically translates to her taking responsibility for their actions – which scares me especially when she cannot take responsibility for her own.

After today, I cannot imagine a conversation with her that is not angry and confrontational and manipulative.

I do get that her choices are her own and that my job, after assuring her safety, is to allow her to deal with the consequences of her choices.  I know very well what some of those consequences could end up being, and I can honestly say I hate that.

Maybe that is where so much of my anxiety is coming from and I need to work towards what is acceptable and adequate, not what is perfect and guaranteed (those two options really don’t even exist).  But I selfishly look at those consequences, should they come – and I know some of them will – and I know that they will result in even more being put on my plate and I feel frustrated and angry about that.

Well so there it all is.  I am too tired to make this (or me) sound nice. I have no neat or tidy wrap up for this message; I’m just continuing to ask for and appreciate your prayers and hoping that my ranting and venting haven’t been too offensive.

In a few hours I start a very busy day, not only working on my taxes, etc., but also working out C’s discharge, contacting her school, trying to track down and interview therapists and stuff like that.  I appreciate your prayers and support.

© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013

9 thoughts on “Curiouser and Curiouser

  1. Three days is not enough for a “cure all” and release, it is an assessment time, when meds are introduced, meds with strong reactions, more time in the ward is the best place. It is tough, but a small slice of time if the result is getting your mind back.

    Also with the desire to help others with cutting issues… when yours are still there is a normal thing. Nothing is easy.

    You are writing in present tense, I know I have asked before, is this resolved or ongoing still?

    • Yes, the 3 day hold is more of a triage, less of a cure, but it seems most people think/hope it is the end of the process. It’s really the beginning. And I knew her heart in wanting to help her friends. But I also knew that she was nowhere near even recognizing her own needs. At the time I think it was a diversion for her so that she could bypass her own issues. Who knows for sure?

      And yes, this is resolved and she is stable. It was a long process, but worth it. (I know inserting the present tense of the email was confusing. It just really illustrated my own fears and internal struggle, so I wanted to share it.)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Take care, Amber ~


  2. I am glad that she is at a better level now. I watched my own parents struggle as I went deep into my own black hole and my heart ached for them as it does for you. To have to bear witness to your own child being in such pain …. It’s wonderful that you were able to make the right choices and be so strong for her.

    • Like all of us, I learned as I went and certainly made mistakes. But as parents we learn that there are hardships worth going though for the sake of our kids. Our knees may turn to jell-o, but we keep going. 😉

      Thanks for your comment.


  3. I, too, went through struggles, though I was the daughter. My parents didn’t see that I needed help, there was no sacrificing for my wellbeing, and I finally admitted myself to the hospital at eighteen years old. It has been such a long journey, and now I have my own children and fear for their mental health.

    I sympathize with you, as I have a challenging son whom I feel sure will need more and more from me as he grows into adolescence, but looking at what it has taken me to get better (not completely well, but worlds better), I intend to make that difficult investment. I’m so sorry. I know how exhausting it must be. But better to be firm and set those boundaries now than to continue to enable C to stay “sick.” Whether she appreciates it or not one day, you’ll know you did what you could.

    And don’t forget that doing what you can includes making sure you are taking care of yourself. Hugs.

    • Hi, Ms Ex. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sorry that your parents didn’t or wouldn’t recognize the pain and need you had. You deserved more than that. I’m impressed that you had the presence of mind to know what you needed and admit yourself at age 18. I think that speaks well to your strength and self care.

      I must give my daughter credit; she eventually went to residential care and realized while she was there that the choices I made were made out of my love for her. She even thanked me for sending her there. But getting to that point was such a long and difficult road for both of us.

      I see your concern for your son, and I encourage you in your resolve to love and care well for him. I imagine your own experience gives you some extra insight and you will be vigilant, taking compassionate action if and when it becomes necessary. Good for you.

      Little did we all know how much becoming parents would challenge and change us! I would hate to have come through all we did and not be different than I was before.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting,


  4. Honey, I can so relate. My daughter is hospitalized at KidsPeace in PA. I wish I could say this was the first time, but alas I have lost track of the number of times she has been to the hospital for cutting and self harm. It’s been a long road and as awful as I feel that she is there at yet another residential treatment center – for the first time in a very long time, i feel like I can “breath”. I come home and there’s no drama – no worry of her running away or hurting herself – no worry of her jumping out of windows or in front of cars. I can relax. How selfish does that sound….sigh. I feel anxious, at peace, and defeated at the same time. The hospital is more equipped to help her than I am. We are parents. We should be able to provide everything our children need. Feel free to facebook mail me anytime. Having special needs children is a blessing, even if at the time we feel like its a curse. It just means God trusts us enough to wade the storm and come out stronger than ever!

    • Yes, you do know quite well what it all feels like. And I’m sorry. But you explain it so well. When my daughter was hospitalized I felt all of those things – anxious, at peace, and defeated. When she finally left home for treatment out of state, I felt like I could finally let my guard down and breathe. It was weird to come home to a house with one less person, but certainly a relief to know that she was safe even if I was not the one who could keep her safe.

      It’s not selfish at all. It’s wise and necessary. Part of the unbelievable difficulty is continuing to parent and care for the siblings/rest of the family/home/work/etc., and once things are a bit calmer, that whole dynamic can change for the better.

      I think many parents think they would “never do that” (send kids out of home or state for treatment) because it would mean they didn’t love their child. In fact, it’s the opposite – we make these gut-wrenching choices because we DO love our kids and we want to give them the chance at the best possible outcome. Sending my daughter away for treatment was the most loving thing I could have done for her at the time. If what we’ve been doing isn’t working (and in fact ends up being dangerous to our kids, families, or ourselves), then we must pursue what will work, or at least what has a chance of working.

      Thanks for the invite to contact you. We are stable now, though no one’s life is ever without bumps. I will keep your info. Feel free to head over the Help To Hope FB page if you want. (It’s listed at the end of the blog post above.) I think we all function better with some level of community and understanding, especially when things are so wacky. Obviously your daughter is at a place where she can get the support she needs and deserves. I hope you are getting the same for yourself.

      Thanks for your kindness; stop by anytime,

      All the best,


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