The 24/7 vigil for my daughter’s safety continued. It was President’s Day weekend, just a few days past Valentine’s Day. My stepdaughter had been keeping up regularly with the goings-on at our house, and she offered to return home with us after Saturday night’s family dinner celebrating her grandfather’s birthday.
She left her two small children in the care of her more-than-kind husband, and came to offer her support, wisdom, and insight. I will forever be grateful for that gesture of love and caring.
I took advantage of her presence and went in to work for a few hours on Sunday, knowing that the week ahead was unpredictable at best. I could not neglect my work duties, though I could not even guess at what the next days might hold.
President’s Day arrived on Monday and my daughters and I prepared for a scheduled appointment of pictures for the church directory. No one but my stepdaughter, my two daughters, and I knew the incongruous events that were unfolding: self harm and suicidal ideations resulting in a “homebound hospitalization” lockdown, punctuated by curling irons and mascara as we prepared to take a family portrait.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)
My stomach was queasy with anxiety, and the whole thing was ironically laughable. But true to form and in imitation of her wonderful father, my stepdaughter brought moments of laughter and fun as we posed in front of the photographer in a corner of the church sanctuary.
She shared private jokes with my daughters under her breath, loud enough for only them to hear and respond with laughter just as the camera snapped. Her presence is a bright spot in the memory of an otherwise truly awful day.
The evening before the four of us had been sprawled in the family room watching a movie together. My “lockdown daughter” has always been an artist at heart. She spent many hours during her most depressed times drawing pictures that may have seemed innocent enough at first glance, but a closer look revealed a dark poem, morbid musings, or subtle death motifs. Other drawings were blatantly filled with death, torture, or self mutilation.
Another theme of her illustrations was the mix of seemingly innocent childhood objects like dolls, teddy bears, and hair bows, with gruesome symbols of death, blood, and suicide. I had been told that drawing those thoughts and images could be a good help for my daughter, that they could aid her in processing some of the difficult issues she was dealing with.
While that was likely true earlier in her struggles, by this time it seemed more of a prophetic sign than a helpful coping mechanism.
(Photo Credit: http://fav.me/d28qt7c via Google Images)
As we watched TV that Sunday night before Monday’s picture day, my daughter worked intently in her sketchbook. After a while she leaned over and said matter-of-factly, “Here, Mom. Look.” She put in front of me a meticulous drawing she had just made of a young woman lying dead in a pool of blood. Was it a cry for help, or a blatant challenge?
My stepdaughter was preparing to leave and go back to her family after she helped us through our photo appointment early Monday afternoon, but she graciously offered to stay if I needed. I knew how badly she wanted to go home. I knew how badly her family wanted her home. I knew that asking for help even when I should is nearly impossible for me.
But this time, I did. “Please, can you stay just one more night? Just one more?” She agreed, of course, and it was the best thing I could have asked for. As it turns out, after our short drive home from church, all hell broke loose.
© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013