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Saturday, February 4, 2012

I know I said all that stuff about being more upbeat, having a better attitude, managing life more positively...there are times, though when I'm just not sure I can do all that's being asked of me. This is not having a bad attitude; it's me, acknowledging the fact that there are many things in my life beyond my control and I"m having difficulty dealing with them.

Tabitha got her first speeding ticket last week. It happened in the morning. She was going 35 mph in a 30 mph zone. She came home in a panic. I told her everyone speeds occasionally, she wasn't going extremely fast, and made a deal with her to cover the ticket and she could pay me back by filling the car with gas a couple of times when she started working. Then I hugged her, told her I loved her, and this would be okay.

The same afternoon while driving on a residential street, Tabitha hit a spot of ice and slid into a parked car. By the time I got to her, she was having an extreme anxiety attack and had become suicidal. The attending police officer was gentle and accommodating. He allowed us to postpone the reports and escorted Tabitha and I to the hospital to have her admitted so she could get immediate help.

There were no rooms in the inn. I was sent home with my anxious, depressed, suicidal daughter.

Tabitha's problem with cutting escalated. It was clear she was very troubled and not getting the help she needed. Her therapist/psychologist discussed changing medications but we made no decisions. Two days ago I drove my daughter to school. She was not feeling well and I knew it. She grabbed her mountain of bags and books and her violin and struggled up the sidewalk. I waited.

A few minutes later Tabitha returned to the car, threw her stuff on the back seat and said she was failing anyway and she didn't need that stuff. Then she told me goodbye and headed back to the building. I waited.

Again Tabitha returned to the car. She asked me angrily why I was still there. I said, "Well, I thought maybe later you might need one of those books, and I don't really have a full schedule this morning, so I'm just waiting here in case you need me."

Tabitha got into the car. I heard a tirade about giving up, not caring anymore, nothing mattered, she just wanted to go back to bed and stay there forever...I listened and I realized, she's not getting better and I can't help her.

I drove Tabitha home, finished getting ready for the day, and checked on her. She was still angry and hopeless and more cutting had happened. I called the hospital. They told me they had a bed available for her. I called the school to notify them that Tabitha would not be there for awhile, then I had my daughter get into the car with me.

Tabitha did not refuse. She followed me to the car. On the drive to the hospital she told me she would be dropping out of school and working at Walmart the rest of her life. She said what we were doing was a waste of time and money. I said nothing. She yelled at me because I had confided in a family friend that Tabitha was having difficulty and my friend's daughter had reached out to Tabitha--they've been friends since first grade. Then she accused me of not listening because I wasn't responding. I said I was listening--I just didn't want to interrupt.

We reached the hospital. Tabitha said again that we were wasting our time and money and then said she was just going to go through the motions, do whatever they told her until she could come home, but nothing would change. I told her I was sorry she was upset and sometimes it was okay to waste money on things like this. She said, "No, it's not!" But she didn't fight me when I asked her to please come with me, nor did she refuse to go inside.

In the emergency room, my daughter was congenial and cooperative. She answered all the questions honestly, gave a urine sample, and allowed blood to be drawn. There was a wait of about three hours during which we were visited by various nurses and a doctor. Tabitha ignored me during that time. I said nothing.

The ER doctor who did the initial evaluation asked me to leave the room while he interviewed Tabitha, then joined me a few minutes later in the family waiting room. He told me Tabitha was bright and lovely. I agreed. He said when he asks parents to leave during an evaluation, the teen usually spends about ten minutes verbally abusing the parent. He hears all the reasons the teen hates his/her parents and how useless and horrible those parents are. He said, "Tabitha speaks very highly of you. She cares for you deeply and admires you. That's unusual. I don't remember the last time I heard a teen in crisis tell me good things about their parents."

I started crying. I said, "She's very angry that I brought her here." The doctor said, "That's a healthy response." I nodded. I said, "I think she's really scared." Again, the doctor said, "That's very healthy and understandable."

Tabitha was admitted at 10:30 a.m. I was allowed some time alone with her before I was asked to leave. I sat on her bed. I said, "I'm so sorry you're angry. I didn't bring you here because you're being punished or because I want to get rid of you. You're here because I love you so much, I know you're hurting beyond your ability to manage it, and I want you to get the help you need so you can feel better. I can't help you. I don't have the training and I don't know how."

I continued, "I did tell my friend about you. She's known you since you were six. She drove you to school every morning for five years. She's watched you grow up. You've spent the night at her house and gone on vacations with their family. She loves you. I'm sorry if you feel I breached trust when I did that."

Finally I said, "Tabitha, the only thing I want for you is for you to stop hurting so much. I want you to feel you're able to take care of yourself and that people love you. I wish so much that I could take you home with me--but that won't help you."

Tabitha whispered, "I know. You did the right thing." Then she hugged me and said, "I didn't mean the things I said. It's okay that you told our friend. I'll work with the people here and try to get better."

And so I left her there. I'm not sure there is a more horrible feeling than leaving your child because they are beyond your help.

We met with her treatment team yesterday morning. Tabitha was there for the first hour. She confessed that the bullying problem at school had escalated recently. She has been a victim of bullying most of her life because she's very small and likes to spend time alone. She felt she was old enough to try to deal with the problem herself so she hadn't reported the newest attacks to me or to school administration. Tabitha has also been feeling more isolated since Adam graduated last month. She's alone at school now. Even though her interaction with Adam was sparse, knowing he was there gave her peace of mind. He'e not there now.

The doctors and therapists on the treatment team feel that Tabitha's cutting and depression are a response to the bullying, but also an empathetic response to the difficulties I've been having recently. They believe she is unaware that her stress is related to mine, but because she loves me she feels trapped in that stress.

What do I do about this? I said, "I can pretend I'm okay, but I don't believe that will be healthy for Tabitha or for me." The psychiatrist said, "This is a no-fault situation. It just happened. I believe you're handling it correctly; Tabitha just needs to be given the training and tools to learn how to support rather than empathize. She doesn't know how to do that yet, but she's bright and capable and I think she can learn."

We have a follow-up meeting on Monday at which time it will be determined how much longer Tabitha needs to stay.

I'm trying to stay positive. I'm trying to remember Tabitha is in a safe place where she can get help I cannot give. I'm trying to remember I did the right thing.

It's not easy. All I want to do is cry.


  1. Hi Samantha, I know a little of what you are going through. Last May, our 10 year-old son was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. He had a plan, a 10 year-old kid plan, but a plan that was nonetheless very harmful. His therapist was useless.

    Driving him to the hospital, leaving him there, and driving away with an empty seat in the van was one of the toughest things I've ever done.

    I wish I could do more than pray for you and your family, but I can't.

    Hang in there.


  2. Erin--I'll take all the prayers I can get. Thank you.