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.
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.