A Post I never thought I would write
I am sorry I am doing this to you. I am sorry this is happening again. I’m sorry I put you through so much……………I don’t want to die but I do want this to stop”
The chilling opening line of the letter my eldest girl handed me on Sunday 20th November. She continued on to tell me that she had taken an overdose of 24 paracetamol the day before. I have to state this wasn’t her first ‘cry for help’. I had received a call 18months previously at 6:30am from a friend of hers to say that she has a stash of tablets and she was going to take them. I got to her in time and I don’t know whether it was my naivety or just my inability to realise the severity of the situation but I think I told myself that it was just that a cry for help and asked myself was she really going to take them or did she just need me to notice she was in pain. I did what I suppose most parents would do, took her to the GP and then she started counseling – 6 months later the councilor felt she was doing well and ready to take a break, so life went back to normal – I need you to remember this line ‘life went back to normal’ you’ll understand later on why.
That Sunday night was so surreal. She explained to me that the day before that a friend was unable to come and meet her last minute and it was the straw that broke the camels back. She headed to 2 different stores and purchased 2 separate boxes of paracetamol along with a liter of water and took them all. A couple of hours later she did start to vomit and continued for the rest of the evening. It happened to be a weekend that she was with her dad and convinced him that she had a vomiting bug and to be honest her symptoms were just of that. It breaks my heart to think how fucking scared she must have been lying in bed that night knowing the truth and just how much pain she was in emotionally and physically.
I sat with her on the couch crying, going from “what the fuck” to “what the fuck am I doing wrong as a mother”, wanting life just to pause for 15 mins just to give me a chance to catch my breath. Here I am sitting with my beautiful girl who has been on the most amazing life journey with me and she is in so much pain she doesn’t know what to do and at times doesn’t want to be here any more! How the FUCK DO I SAVE HER LIFE – I HAVE TO.
I sent her to bed emotionally exhausted, as was I. I turned off the lights and headed up the stairs. I don’t think I will ever forget that night. I walked into my room and collapsed on the floor and sobbed like a baby. What? how? What do I? Can I? I felt a pain inside that shook me too my core. For the first time in my life I felt truly helpless and to be honest trying to articulate what went through my head that night is hard but I remember when the sobbing started to subside (mainly through pure exhaustion) and getting myself on to the bed lying there and just thinking how must she be feeling. How utterly confused, sad, scared, and absolutely lost she must feel. I have battled my demons and pretty dark demons too and so there was a part of me that got it – that need for it all to stop but I also knew suicide was not the answer.
The following morning I woke with a start – you know that moment you wake and think was it all a terrible nightmare but looking down and seeing I was still in my clothes from last night told me it was all very much real. I couldn’t let her seem me like this, so I jumped in the shower and got myself together (after I had popped my head around the door to make sure she was still alive – I know that sounds dramatic but its how I felt). After I had got myself together and put on my ‘everything is going to be ok face’ I headed into her room to be greeted with a very sad girl who just burst into tears – “mom please help me”. “Sweetheart, I am here and going nowhere. I am going to stay by your side every single step of this. Where the journey is going to take us, I don’t know but I promise you two things, it will get better and I am going nowhere”. I called a very good friend of mine who works in the space and she told me to get her to the GP straight away. Little did I know that paracetamol can’t kill you but the damage it does to your liver can and that it also takes a couple of days to start doing the real damage. Prior to ringing the GP I rang Pieta House and spoke to Peter in their Tallaght Centre (which is actually located in Ballyfermot). That stranger’s voice that greets you in that moment where you are totally lost is life changing. They have a skill set you can only be born with, that ability to guide me through the conversation and babbling mess I am coming out with, to help ascertain just how much danger she was in and it was apparent she was in crisis – he gave me an appointment for the following morning at 10:00am, I had a starting point, a lifeline.
Trying to describe how I felt as this moment is so hard, you see I have three other children, I am a separated parent so we had to think of something to say to them where they wouldn’t be scared and worried for both my daughter and I, so we told them that her migraines had come back and this one was really bad so she needed to go to the doctor and might need to go to the hospital for some tests but everything was fine.
We headed to the GP who in turn sent us to A&E in Vincent’s Hospital. We didn’t encounter one member of staff, we encountered roughly 14, we were treated with compassion and empathy by 1. Do you know in the following almost 24 hours in A&E not 1 person asked my daughter why – like what the fuck? I am articulate and intelligent. I don’t kick up a fuss unless it is absolutely necessary but lets just say thank god I was with her. She was treated like a bold child who had had a temper tantrum. Mental health is not treated like an illness more an inconvenience – god forbid they would need to spend time with you and talk to you and help you. What none of us knew at that moment was that my beautiful daughter thought she was schizophrenic, she had some very real symptoms. She needed to stay in Vincent’s to be given a drug intravenously to reverse the effects of the paracetamol on her liver. Her drugs were due to finish at 9am on the Tuesday morning and we had an appointment in Pieta at 10am – we needed to be there. I had explained it to the doctor the night before and asked would there be any way it would be finished so I could get her there. To say he was less that helpful was an understatement – “you’ll have to ask the team in the morning, she’s on the drug to save her life” (this was said while he was reading another document and not a second of eye contact) Don’t you think I fucking get that – I don’t want to be here and certainly feeling like I am an incompetent mother trying to keep it together for my daughter who is hanging on to life by her fingernails – you judgmental fucking prick – was what I was screaming in my head.
I was on the verge, we had no sleep. We were in the ‘room’ in A&E where every person that walks past gives that ‘look’ in. So the next morning came and at 8:30 I approached a member of staff who asked me which cubicle I was in, when I explained where I was, I was greeted with “Ahhhh – ok hang on a sec” a min later a doctor comes over who I hadn’t met before. I explained to him that I needed to leave soon, her drip was almost finished and was there any way it could be hurried up, could we come back or could she come off it. He explained that some blood tests needed to be done first to determine how much the paracetamol level had dropped in her system. 30 mins later I am still waiting for these tests to be done. In the meantime they have moved us out of the room right into the middle of A&E!! Eventually the tests get done and she says that he will get them back as soon as possible. At 9:20 and with 4o mins to our appointment in Pieta I started to cry in A&E and let everyone see. On older consultant came up to me and asked was I ok to which I responded “I’m trying to get my daughter out of here and to Pieta House in Tallaght – its where she needs to be” He put his hand on my shoulder (the first bit of real kindness in 24 hours) and told me to go get my car, pull up at the front door and he would have her ready to go. I don’t know who he was but I will never forget his kindness.
Myself and my daughter were treated differently due to the reason we came into A&E and I want to know why – why weren’t we given empathy. Why didn’t anyone care enough to offer us a cup of tea in 24 hours. My daughter got a sandwich because I asked for one for her. The vending machine in A&E was broken and I wasn’t allowed leave her (I did request to go home for 1 hour to get her clothes and my glasses and I was told under no circumstances could I leave her and that they didn’t offer a babysitting service) I swear my blood boils when I think about it.
We headed to Pieta House, where for the first time in 36hours I didn’t feel like I was drowning. We had stayed afloat for the lifeboat to reach us – we had a chance of survival. There needs to be staff members from Pieta House in every A&E in the country. We were greeted with a smiling face and an offer of tea or coffee; there were no tilting heads or that look of dancing on eggshells. There is such a sense of peace in their building but yet you know its a place where they deal with such intense pain from families that have lost a loved one to suicide, from young and old who need help, to parents and family members lost and needing guidance. I was one of them and by Jesus did I need guidance, no one warns you about these things when it comes to parenting and life. We are living in a world that is surrounded with so much bull shit especially through social media that right now even though I was in the real world I was in a parallel universe. I wanted to go back to stressing about work and getting pissed off because I didn’t get that other wash on or the fact that I didn’t fell like lasagna to dinner. I didn’t want this but more than anything I didn’t want this for her.
I was greeted by a therapist, she does the initial assessment, who took me into a room and allowed me let go – god I didn’t think a word was going to come out I was crying so hard. “I don’t want her to die, how do I make this better, how do I make my baby better” was what I asked and the answer I was given was both chilling and what I needed to hear “you can’t – if she wants to kill herself she will. You can’t live her life for her. We are going to help her and give you both all the support you need and the tools she needs to get better”
I am not going to lie the next few weeks were tough, the reality of what had happened hit her and she slipped into a further depression but conversations were had in those following weeks that I will treasure forever. She opened up to me about everything, we cried, we laughed and we cried some more. I never made any more promises to her apart from being 100% honest with her and the deal was she would do the same. I knew her feelings of suicide or self harm were not just going to go away because we had acknowledged it, this was only the beginning.
The day we saw the GP he also suggested we get her assessed by the Lucena Clinic, which is part of John of Gods. She got her assessment for them in January and stated on some meds to help her with the depression and anxiety and also her difficulty sleeping.
The reason I have chosen to write about this is for about a hundred reasons but it’s not about my story, if that makes any sense. Why this has happened isn’t relevant and I know that because over the last 4 months I have met so many parents of children living with depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, eating disorders for every single walk of life, young and old but what I do know is that this is not something that is talked about enough. If love could have stopped this happening then my daughter would never have had an anxious moment in her life! And that goes for most people suffering and who have been lost.
We need more education for parents, for teens, we need to stop caring about teaching them subjects that they will never need or use again and give them life skills. They are growing up and we are living in a world where the pace of life and the constant need for acceptance is ridiculous but yet it is the world they are living in and that certainly isn’t going to change if anything its going to get worse. We need to teach them how they are the CEO of their own little world what happens in it is dictated by them, the impact they have on the world is decided by them. We need to empower them, build them up.
But as parents we need to educate ourselves about how to parent our kids in a way that allows for real communication. For anyone that knows my family and the relationship I have with my kids its one of the things I am most proud of – we are extremely close but I have learnt so much on this journey about how to be a better parent. I was the mum who had all the answers, I have learnt now that I don’t have any of the answers but I have the questions to help steer them to find the answer themselves.
Speaking about this is something I am so passionate about – its hard but not as fucking hard as reading that letter that night, not as fucking hard as sitting in A&E with a terrified little girl and not an inch as fucking hard as it would be if I had lost her. I am not a writer and everything I have written is from my heart, sharing our story with my daughter’s permission.
My only advice is that if you suspect your child or a family member is suffering, ring Pieta House on 1800 247 247 it will be the best call you will ever make. I am at the beginning of my journey but when I spoke earlier about “life going back to normal” my life now is normal – why because I know what’s going on and we are dealing with it. We have what we call ‘check-in times’ where she knows she can talk to me, we have code words for when she is in a situation where she needs help with no questions asked. Its a learning process but I don’t spend my life asking her if she is ok, this is not something that is just going to pass but I want to show here how what she feels is her biggest weakness is actually her biggest strength. She inspires me everyday and I couldn’t be prouder of her.