As we drove home from the therapist, my mind raced frantically. I was supposed to take both of my daughters to a weekend conference for teen girls, and the first session was to start in a matter of hours. Not only had my older daughter been placed on a 72-hour hold in her own home, I had been too.
This left my younger daughter lost in the shuffle once again. I ached so deeply for her, for all that she was losing and missing while I fought to keep her older sister alive. There was no way she could or should have to understand everything that was happening. But I also felt she should not have to have her life put on hold in deference to her sister’s struggles.
(Photo Source: Google Images)
I made some calls so that my youngest would still be able to attend the weekend’s events. It was hard to ask for favors from friends who didn’t know our situation, and I didn’t want to dishonor my daughter by airing her dirty laundry for her, so to speak.
Additionally, I did not want to put my younger daughter in a position of having to explain or defend or even vilify her sister. (This brings up the subject of the stigma of shame surrounding mental health issues, which is another post for another time.)
Finally, I reached my step-son’s gracious and generous wife, who agreed to accompany my youngest to the event we’d all looked forward to. What a remarkable and kind woman she was and is, to willingly change her weekend plans so she could step in and help us in our deep need.
They did miss parts of the weekend, and it was difficult and sad for my younger daughter knowing what was going on back at home. Even so, how could a sibling not resent, at least in part, another whose life problems were growing to take over the whole family, leaving everyone and everything else in virtual and unpredictable ruin?
I learned quickly that when you have to keep watch on someone 24/7, you don’t get to shower. You don’t get to relax, much less get any decent sleep. And you have to take really fast bathroom breaks.
You don’t get a chance to let down and grieve the fact that the person you are keeping guard over would really rather be dead. You just keep going. You have no other choice.
By Saturday, the day after her therapist had set up the 24/7 arrangement to avoid a mental health hospitalization, my daughter was already tired of me and her anger had returned full force. She wanted to leave home to go see her father.
She had already tried to run away. We had gone outside at her request, just to get out of the house. As we stood on the driveway, she inched her way closer to the street, eyeing me defiantly as I asked her to please come back up the driveway closer to the house.
Finally she did a quick double take and began to sprint. I caught her quickly, and in full view of the neighbor across the street. I grabbed her around the waist, wrestling her back towards and part way up the driveway, as she railed and kicked, ending with a scream of, “I hate you, Mom!”
She then went limp as a rag doll, landing on the ground with my arms still around her. “Oh, honey, right now I hate you, too” was the only resigned response I could mutter, trying to hold back the tears. I hate so much that I said that.
Our bewildered neighbor, meanwhile, was in his garage, staring, power tools in hand, wondering what was going on with that house full of females across the street.
(Photo Source: Google Images)
I hauled my teenager up off the pavement where she had collapsed and took her back into the house. And I agreed wholeheartedly that it was a fine idea for her to spend a little time with her dad.
“I’ll have her back soon,” he said to me as he picked her up. “Oh, please,” I responded. “Take a little extra time. I would really love to just take a shower today.” We had a preplanned family birthday dinner to attend that evening, and I was in need of a good scrubbing by then.
Clearly he had never been the lone officer on duty during a house arrest.
© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013