+++ SELF HARM TRIGGER WARNING+++
“Can you step in to my office, please?” It wasn’t unusual for my daughter’s therapist to ask me back for the final part of the session, so I followed her. My daughter sat sadly in a leather chair, and I took my place next to her.
“She has something she needs to show you.” I was puzzled as my daughter stood part way and started to unzip her jeans. Still hunched over, she pulled down one leg of her jeans further than the other. I winced as my eyes began to water.
There, etched in large, crude letters covering most of her thigh, carved not with a pin but with the thick blunt end of large household scissors: FUCK
My hand instinctively went to my mouth in deep grief. My heart raced and my stomach began to churn with anxiety as my daughter quickly zipped her jeans and sat down.
She had not shown me this damage she had done to herself, and she had purposefully not cleaned the cuts.
I kept thinking how badly it must sting, to have tight denim on the open scrapes she had self-inflicted only the night before. She’d worn those jeans all day; I imagined how every time she’d moved or adjusted her pants, the wounds would have ruptured anew from the bond they’d made to the fabric.
(Photo Source: Google Images)
Her self harm and self hatred had become unmanageable.
I wanted to scoop my daughter up, to take her home, to clean her wounds and make her pain disappear. But weeks’ worth of trying had made it abundantly clear that such a thing was beyond my capability. And on top of that, my daughter deeply and openly resented going to any type of mental health counseling.
Her stock was placed firmly in the peer group she had chosen, and any efforts to intercede for her safety were complained against. She went to therapy because I made her go, but her emotional loyalties were to those who had taught her about self harm and with whom she was dangerously emotionally enmeshed.
I believe that a small part of her was hoping desperately for help and rescue, though the larger and more visible part of her was resentful and angry at the intrusion of counseling appointments twice or more each week. But what choice does a parent have? It was soberingly clear this was not a phase she would outgrow.
“We’ve been talking,” said her counselor, “and while I think she is right on the cusp of needing to be hospitalized, we have come to a compromise.”
To the best of my understanding, while my daughter was saying she wanted to die, she did not have a specific plan to carry out that desire. And that’s how we ended up in the therapist’s office on a Friday afternoon in February, planning a long holiday weekend of what was basically house arrest.
(Photo Source: Google Images)
“She has to be with someone 24 hours a day. She must sleep, eat, and be in the same room with you all the time. She cannot be alone except for short bathroom breaks.”
My mind raced to take in all the information, envisioning how we would put the plan into action. I’m nothing if not a planner, but even I was overwhelmed by this. “We’ve agreed that if she will stick to this plan, she won’t have to go straight to the hospital when you leave here today.”
I nodded as I looked at my daughter’s therapist, trying to take in the details and instructions, but inside of me there was a thunderous voice of fear and uncertainty: “WHAT??? Are you nuts?!? I think she should be hospitalized! NOW! How can I do this? This is impossible! I cannot keep her safe!!!”
I looked over at my daughter, who had disappeared inside herself. She was definitely angry, but she was more frightened by the thought of actually having to go to the hospital on a mental health hold.
(Photo Source: majed-ahmad, http://fav.me/d33oeft)
Despite my own fear, I chose to believe the part of her that was the frightened child, the part that felt trapped and afraid and just wanted to go home. So we went home with plans to return in four days.
© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013