My daughter’s stay in the psych ward (her first stay, at least) was five days. Yet it seemed interminable and exhausting to me. I can only imagine how it must have felt to her.

While my daughter was hospitalized, I worked. I worked to find the new therapist she needed. I worked to prepare my younger daughter for her sister’s return. I worked to prepare myself for her return as well. I worked at calming my nerves in anticipation of the unknown that lay ahead for us.

I worked at contacting personnel in my daughter’s high school to let them know why she’d missed school and was failing her core classes. I worked to advocate to her teachers on her behalf as depression, anxiety, and panic had interrupted class tests, make-up tests, and all manner of school work and homework in the preceding weeks.

I worked to make it clear to her teachers that I was not trying to excuse any behavior; I simply wanted my daughter to know she could walk into a classroom, take a test, and not let anxiety continue to drag her into a dark abyss leading to self harm and despair.

I worked to prepare the way to help my daughter find even a tiny but necessary victory.

I worked to release the frustration of not hearing back from several of her teachers. I worked to let go of the fear that they would judge me as “that mom”, the one who let her kid get away with anything, then made excuses.




I worked to remember that my goal was not to get my adolescent daughter to pass English, sing in choir, or even pass her freshman year. I worked to stay focused on helping her reach a place of mental wellness, health, and personal safety.

I worked, literally, to keep my daughter alive, to help her want to stay alive.

I worked to respond to the teachers who had kindly and compassionately replied after I contacted them to inform them of my daughter’s deep struggles. I worked to contain my tears, to thank these good people for seeing the inherent value in my 15-year-old, even though she could not see it in herself.

I worked to remind myself that they were bearing witness to the good in my daughter, and helping me hold onto hope, whether they realized it or not.

I worked at letting go of the frustration that I was the one having to do everything, with no help from my children’s father. I worked to not allow wasteful bitterness about that overtake me.

I worked to arrange my schedule so I could be where I had to be when I had to be there, whether taking my youngest to cheer practice, or visiting my older daughter in the psych ward.

I worked at pushing aside the grief I felt as a widow, the utter sorrow I felt at not having my husband to talk with at the end of an exhausting day. I worked at trying to think of the encouraging words I knew he would say to me.

I worked to recall the feel of his arms around me, the safest place I’d ever known. I worked to remember that, no matter how distant it now seemed, I hadn’t imagined him in the first place.

I worked at staying awake and focused despite little sleep. I worked at the dailies of life: carpool, laundry, dishes. And, of course, I worked at work.

I was tired.


(One of my favorite bands/songs/videos. Best when played at a loud volume.)


Saturday finally arrived. Though two days earlier my daughter had angrily demanded I pick her up “Saturday morning at 6!” I kept my word and arrived around 9:30 a.m. The requisite paperwork took a little while. And there were new friends she’d made to whom she wanted to say goodbye.

We left with a prescription and a plan, and I was hopeful they would work at the same time I was terrified they would fail.

One of the perks of a psych ward stay (who knew there was such a thing?) was that my daughter was able to continue as the patient of the psychiatrist who saw her during her days there.

While that may not seem like such a big deal, the truth is that finding a qualified psychiatrist can take more time than one might imagine. And after finally tracking someone down, it’s not unusual to have to wait up to two months (yes, TWO MONTHS – or more) for an available appointment.

This one not-so-small detail had now been taken care of. It’s not like the appointments would be close to home, but just to HAVE appointments for someone who could manage medication was a major hurdle crossed. I was very grateful.

sunny day

 (Source: Google Images) 


My daughter and I stepped out into a bright, sunny February morning in Colorado. She hadn’t had the freedom to be outside for several days. She seemed small and fragile, a combination of embarrassment, nervousness, and relief. I felt much the same as she.

I didn’t know the rules for what a parent is supposed to do when they pick their kid up from the psych ward. So we went to Jamba Juice. It seemed like a good idea. And it was.

© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013

13 thoughts on “Work

    • Sometimes it seems rules would be easier, I think because we (falsely) believe we can have a guaranteed outcome if we follow those rules. Love is messy, and it’s risky. But it’s certainly best. And love is so much more hopeful than rules.

      Thanks for stopping by, Amber. Take care.


  1. I’ve been where you are as far as the emotional roller coaster of having to hospitalize your child. My middle daughter was self-harming and self-medicating and was hospitalized three times in a year for two weeks each time. She overdosed twice and drank herself into the ICU the third time. I was so scared and tired. I never knew if I’d come home from work and find her here~ dead or alive. Then, she ran away from home. (She was eighteen, but in her senior year of high school.). My husband and I prayed for her salvation and physical safety constantly~ begging Him to “save her~ whatever it took.” A couple of years of her being gone and only hearing from her sporadically was taking a toll. Then the phone call one summer evening…. She was crying hysterically and sobbed out, “I’m pregnant.” My heart stopped. I know she was heavily drinking and attending “pharming” parties. ;( But put God is so much bigger than the box we sometimes put Him in. She gave up drinking drugs~ even smoking. She considered adoption, but decided to keep him. Our grandson, now four, saved his mother’s life. She is not totally “there” yet with regards to her salvation. But she is a good mommy and puts that little boy before herself in everything she does. Hoping your daughter realizes how precious she is to you and Him and grows in Him. Hoping the effects on your younger daughter are minimal and she is able to show her sister compassion. Blessings!

    • Penny, thanks for sharing your story. My heart stopped right along with yours as I read it.

      The story I am recounting is from a few years back. My daughter went through treatment and is now much more stable. As you might imagine and have surely experienced, there are many ramifications throughout the family.

      Like you, I lived often with the fear that I would find my daughter dead. The worst time for me was going to bed every single night because she self-harmed the most at night. I feared that I would wake up and find her dead, by design or by mistake. One of the benefits of having her hospitalized (or in care elsewhere) was my ability to sleep at night, knowing that while she might not be happy with me, she was at least safe for the time being.

      What a precious gift our children are to us, and your grandson as well! Even from the ashes, beauty can come forth.


  2. Ps. We were blessed that her principal was sympathetic and did everything in his power to help us and her. The first commitment was during junior finals and he offered to let her take her exams over the summer as she felt up to it. We couldn’t have asked for more support. Hope your daughter gets that kind of support, too. The teachers that did not reply to you may not be uncaring. They may just not know what to say. I ran into that, too, even from family and friends.

    • It’s always great to hear about school personnel who are supportive. We had a few teachers who truly cared, others who were likely too overwhelmed to be able to do much, and others who probably didn’t know how to respond.

      My daughter went to two public high schools, and they were like night and day. Sadly, the first school made it clear that we were more than an inconvenience. It was a newer school and seemed very focused on statistics and reputation. They did not have good practices for caring for someone like my daughter in place at all, even though there were some caring individuals (and some very “not caring” ones as well!).

      At the first high school, no one ever told us about any support or accommodations that were available, clearly a violation of the law. I knew nothing of IDEA, 504s, IEPs, etc and they certainly never mentioned them, just gave her detentions, etc. And we know those things don’t work when someone is struggling with mental health issues.

      The second one she went to was phenomenal in the way they came alongside and supported and loved her. It was a wonderful way to end her high school years, which had started out so terribly. Some schools really just handle these things better. I’m thankful we finally found one of them. I’m glad you did as well.


  3. Thank you for sharing this Blog. I have struggled with a depressed teen daughter for two years now. It started as anxiety and depression in the 8th grade she was doing some cutting as well. Therapy helped her anxiety and she seemed on the mend but her grades were falling fast. Then she started her freshman year. We were full of excitement for her as she made it into the Marching Band. Music is her passion and her outlet. We thought things were going well and she was still seeing her therapist but I could see something wasn’t right in March there was a sadness to her. After many questions she admitted to me that she had tried to kill herself 3 nights in a row. I contacted her therapist and we agreed it was time to look into anti-depressants. The first Zoloft didn’t work out because it was giving her very aggressive thoughts so we switch to Celexa which seemed to take her depression away. We had a great summer and she seemed happier than I had seen her in a while. School started in August 2013 and all hell broke lose. Two weeks into the school year she had gotten into some crazy drama with herself and a boy. I searched her phone and found out she was lying about herself and seemed to be creating drama for herself. I confronted her she admitted everything then later tried to drown herself in the bathtub. I took her to the hospital and she was sent to a mental health hospital for 3 days. That was the saddest day of my life by far. What was more sad was that there was some relief for me knowing she was safe and I could rest at home. She is an only child and she has my full and complete attention. I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it is to be constantly engaging with your depressed child to make sure she isn’t alone with her thoughts too long. She is now on both Celexa and Welbutrin and it seems to be keeping the depression away but she isn’t the same creative soul. She says she feels empty inside with no thoughts or motivation. It seems the medication has taken away her ability to feel which is bad but it has also taken away her desire to die which is good. It saddens me that she will be 16 this summer and I still have to babysit her. I do not leave her home alone and she really wouldn’t want to be alone anyway. She keeps asking to get her drivers permit but my husband and I don’t think she is ready for all of that responsibility. She was once a straight A student and now its a struggle for her to get even a C in her core classes. We do stay involved in her grades and push her to do better but I don’t like to push too hard as I worry about too much pressure pushing her back into anxiety and depression. It’s like we are hostages to the depression. I feel very sad that we are looking for the next two years to fly by so that she can be out of high school. We had so many wonderful hopes and dreams for her as she did for herself and now we are just happy to have her alive and safe. Thankfully she doesn’t act out or give us the kind of chaotic household so many other parents have had to struggle with. Our home is very quiet and controlled we just have a very sad unmotivated kid who thinks that life is so much easier if she isn’t on this planet. I worry about her future and if she will have to stay on antidepressants all of her life or if she will mature and grow and maybe her brain will heal the imbalance. For now I take each day at a time struggling to be happy and upbeat even when I’m exhausted and sad my self. This has truly been a challenge for our marriage. Her father loves her very much but can’t seem to hide his disappointment over how our lives have changed. I remind him always that this is not her fault so he has to find a way to understand this and accept that this is our new normal. Thank you for letting me share and any advice you have would be much appreciated.

    • Hello, JM, and welcome. I’m honored that you would read my blog, and also sad that you know what it all feels like. My heart aches with yours over your daughter. There is so much grief when we as parents see our children struggling and in such pain. (I admit I shed some tears while reading your comment; the emotions are so raw, aren’t they? A testament to your love for your daughter, but painful even so.)

      I do understand the sadness of leaving your child behind those locked doors for a mental health hold. It’s devastating. I also understand what a relief it is for you as a parent to feel like you can finally sleep at night knowing your child is safe. That is a double-edged sword for sure ~ you feel relieved, but you also feel guilty for your relief, and guilty that you can’t fix it, keep her safe, etc.. I hope it helps to know that I have spoken to many parents who’ve felt the exact same way, and it’s okay to feel all those things. They’re all valid and nothing to be ashamed of.

      I’m glad you understand that this isn’t your daughter’s fault. I hope your husband can come to a place of peace and understanding about that as well. We all have our different levels of understanding and acceptance, but when we can let go of our expectations and learn to live in what really is happening, it’s a gift not only to our kids but also to ourselves.

      I wonder if you have checked out your local NAMI chapter. Go to their website and click on Find Your Local NAMI. I would highly recommend seeing if they have a Visions Class, geared specifically to parents of minor children with mental health issues. If not, they should offer a Family to Family Class, which is for family members in general. Sometimes gaining a little knowledge and insight and realizing that others face this as well can be very helpful. Also, if you want to check out the Resources page here on the blog, you may be able to find some helpful links.

      I wish there was a magic wand, JM. If I had one, I’d express mail it to you! I do wonder about your daughter’s therapy. Have you ever heard of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) or CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)? DBT is actually a form of CBT, and both should be practiced by someone trained in them. They are two methods that have shown to be helpful for those in your daughter’s situation. I know there are others, but those are two I am familiar with.

      Another option, if your daughter is willing, is to do some workbooks together. Please know I am only listing these options as a friend and fellow parent, not as a professional, but I do have a couple of suggestions for you.'t%20let%20your%20emotions%20run%20your%20life&sprefix=don't+let+your%2Cstripbooks%2C125&rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Adon't%20let%20your%20emotions%20run%20your%20life This (very long!) link is to a page on Amazon that has some workbooks geared to teens. Maybe she could do them with her therapist, or maybe with you, especially if you approach it in a way that she doesn’t feel accuses her, such as, “I struggle with my emotions too, and sometimes I feel depressed and anxious. I wonder if we can go through this workbook together to see if we can both get some good ideas for ourselves.” (And as parents of depressed teens, that’s a very true statement; we can also struggle with emotions, anxiety, depression, etc.!) The two workbooks I have seen are Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life For Teens by Sheri Van Dijk, MSW and The Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Lisa M Schab, LCSW. Both are on the Amazon page I linked for you, and I know the first one I mentioned addresses using DBT skills. There may be others you can search for that might be a better fit.

      You may want to search online for some forums/online support groups for parents with depressed teens. I say this because as a parent it’s obviously a great stressor, and you deserve all the support you can find. If you can’t locate anything, feel free to email me (my email address is on the Contact & Copyright page of this blog) and I’d be glad to help you look. If your community has a mental health center – usually run by the city or county – contact them and see if they have groups for parents in your position. They may partner with NAMI locally to provide that, and they may also have groups for your daughter, either DBT groups, or just groups for struggling or depressed teens, if she’s willing to attend.

      It seems to me that you probably already do this, but if you do approach these options with your daughter (workbooks, support groups, different types of therapy), do your best to word it carefully. Depressed teens especially can take most everything personally and in a judgmental way. Let her know that you want to do everything you can now to support her in becoming as healthy and productive as she can be, that as a parent your job is to look ten, twenty years or more down the road and do what you can now to prepare her for then, to do your best to assure her as good a life as she deserves. I know that’s what you want for her, and I know the fear you have about all of it. I understand.

      Is her prescriber willing to try any other meds that don’t strip her of all of her emotions? I know medications are by no means an exact science. In fact, as we have both experienced, it’s more often a matter of trial and error as each person responds differently to each med.

      JM, I understand and honor your wish for your daughter to be well and healthy, to have a future filled with hope and possibility. We as parents often need to adjust our expectations as to what exactly that means, but I encourage you to not give up. Sometimes the whole family (or at least the willing members) can learn some new strategies and skills that can make great improvements. Make sure to take good care of yourself. You matter in this equation very much, and not just for the fierce love you have for your daughter.

      Thanks again for reading, I think my reply to you is at least as long as the blog post was ( 😉 ) but these things deserve real and honest – and sometimes very long – answers.

      All the best,


      • Hi Monica,
        Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and kindness. I will definitely check out the resources as well. My daughter is seeing a therapist who specializes in CBT. I have not heard of DBT I will look into this as I’m curious about it. For now she sees her therapist once a week and also takes Kickboxing twice a week. We felt that having a good physical relief outlet would help to relieve some stress. We are lucky in that she wants to feel better so she is always very cooperative with her treatment plans. Immediately after her release from the hospital we participated in a 2 week intensive therapy program. She met with other teens recently hospitalized 2 days a week and one day a week the teens joined us parents who were meeting with other parents during her teen group days. We both enjoyed it and I personally got a lot out of it. I wish my husband had been able to go because that is where I really came to understand the mind of a depressed teen. Something he can’t fully grasp yet. He’s still trying to understand why she can’t just snap out of it and take control of her thoughts. Once the program ended my daughter wasn’t interested in finding another group. She tends to get attached to people and then doesn’t want to have to get to know new people in a new group. She also went to several months of hypnotherapy which helped her as well. I’m going to look into a support group for myself. It helps so much to hear the stories of other parents and how they deal with situations. My family is supportive but the just can’t understand what our life is like. Only other parents in the same situation know how painful and exhausting this way of life is. When I hear news about a young adult who has committed suicide, my heart just sinks. That fear will always be in the back of my mind more so when she is older because she will then be in charge of her own mental health. That to me is very scary.
        As far as other medications go, I’m sure her Psychiatrist would be willing to try other medications. I’m a little apprehensive when it comes to adding or changing medication because of my fear of how her body will react to them. I do know that it takes sometimes years to get the right “cocktail” of medication, we are only 11 months into the medication part of this story. I thank you again for all of your kind words and I look forward to visiting your site regularly and to post when needed.

      • Sounds like you are doing the important work. Keep at it. I know it can be so hard for both your daughter and you. You’re both worth it. I love that your daughter is in kickboxing! My daughter is a young adult now, and she is a dancer. She’d done a little dancing when she was younger (at the local Parks and Rec), but rediscovered it in high school, and even more when she was away from home at residential treatment. It’s a lifeline for her.

        Take good care and keep in touch,


      • Hi Monica
        Can I ask how your daughter ended up in a residential treatment center? How long did she stay? Today is a tough day for me, one of those days where I just feel beaten down and tired of this way of life. The constant worry, the fear of implementing consequences for bad decisions that my daughter makes. I just never know how she will react or how she will want to punish herself. It just all too much. I hate to drop her off at school when she knows I’m mad at her. I just pray she is there when I pick her up. Its is sad, she saw my crying on the way to school I’m just so frustrated the tears flowed and now I have to worry that she will punish herself because I was upset. At what point did things get better for your daughter? You say she is a young adult now so I’m wondering when things changed for her and what you think helped.
        Thank you so much

      • I can relate to all you are saying, JM. Teens can be unpredictable, but when in the midst of that you fear they may harm themselves or make otherwise self-destructive, life altering decisions, it adds a whole new dimension. I understand why you cried on the way to school.

        In a nutshell, my dtr was treatment resistant, meaning that she refused to participate in treatment/therapy. She got to the point where she was threatening suicide, so I called 911. She was hospitalized for 5 days. About two months later she had a huge blowup over something small. She was out of control and cutting badly. I had her readmitted. Her therapist had already recommended residential treatment becs my dtr was refusing treatment. I knew I couldn’t keep her safe. So while she was hospitalized for the second time, I started working on the residential end and she went straight from the hospital to treatment.

        She was gone about 15 months altogether. That includes the 10 days at the hospital, 9 weeks at wilderness therapy (while the search was narrowed for a longer term treatment), and a little over a year at residential. She actually graduated from the program before she came home, but stayed for a couple of months becs it was summer and she needed the structure that she had there. She then came home for her last 2 years of high school, but at a different school than she’d attended previously.

        While my dtr was in treatment, she was diagnosed with traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. I knew she was dealing with more than depression, as her acting out and aggression were well beyond symptoms of depression, and a big part of the reason I knew I could not keep her safe at home. In residential, she learned skills that helped her (DBT was a great help) deal with those things, and she no longer qualifies for that diagnosis based on the criteria/symptoms. It was a good and loving environment for her. So was the wilderness therapy. I swore I would never send my child to a ‘boot camp’ and it was absolutely not a boot camp. Both facilities placed high regard on relationships and the therapeutic process. And my daughter responded.

        It wasn’t easy by any means, as I will continue to blog about. It was heartbreaking all the way around for her to leave and be gone for so long. But I will tell you that even before she came home from residential, she thanked me for sending her, and said she knew it had saved her life.

        I know ours is only one story. Others have very different stories. I’m aware of that and very grateful for our outcome.

        Some community mental health agencies as well as some cities or counties offer residential treatment options. My dtr went out of state, but not every child does. If your dtr is continuing to or increasing self harm, I would be very aware of that as a signal of her distress. Why don’t you email me at HelpToHope (at) msn (dot) com and we can continue our conversation there? If you are uncomfortable using your private email address, think about creating a different one where you can remain anonymous. I understand if you need to do that.

        I’m sorry for your heartache. I know it’s deep.


      • One more thing I’d add about residential (wherever it takes place) : a good treatment facility will include the family as a whole, and will help parents as well. Not all parents choose to participate fully, which is a shame, but you can’t make someone do that. We had regular therapy by phone (likely done via Skype these days), and Parent Weekends every couple of months where we flew out. And there was preparation for returning home, plans and expectations put in place, and the use of newly learned skills for all.

        Going back to some counties/cities, some of them offer wrap around services that basically have similar treatment but the treatment personnel come to your home, kind of like a ‘virtual residential’. You’d need to contact your local mental health agency to learn what’s available where you live.

        I believe my dtr really benefitted from being in the group setting. Of course there were both pros and cons, but overall it was a good thing for her. She and I both are still in touch with some good people from there, both staff and students.

        My point here is a good place is not going to ‘take her in, straighten her out, and send her back home’. They’ll recognize the importance of the process, take the whole family environment into account, and prepare everyone for a student’s return home.

        Don’t give up.

        Hoping with you,


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