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.

34 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Margo O'Leary 17th March 2017 (2:41 pm)

    You can tell this was written from the heart, head and with total honesty. I agree the education of our children has to change to support them ….to enable our children to talk, connect and engage with each other and with us their parents/peers. Thank you Margo

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah 17th March 2017 (2:56 pm)

    Wow, this was so powerful and inspiring and well written, I just want to give you a hug! You are too right, suicide is talked about but you hardly ever hear about failed suicide attempts and what happens after them. I am so sorry you were treated that way in A&E, it’s shocking! That’s something that really needs to change, the treatments of patients at a most vunranle time in their life is something that is so important. You sound like an amazing mum and I wish you and your daughter the very best in the future! Thank you for sharing your story :) Sarah

    killedmycactus.com

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 17th March 2017 (3:33 pm)

      Thank you so much Sarah for taking the time to read it, your comments mean the world xx

  • comment-avatar
    Amber Harrop 17th March 2017 (5:12 pm)

    I have been your daughter, I only wish I had you as my Mammy to support me, Pieta House is an amazing place. My heart goes out to both you and your daughter and thank you for sharing your store , more people need to xx

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 17th March 2017 (6:24 pm)

      Thank you so much. It’s such a privilege being her mum xx

  • comment-avatar
    Erika 17th March 2017 (6:44 pm)

    Wow frances that’s was amazing and I’m sure very difficult to do but I’m very greatful you did, as a mum of three my oldest 10, these are extremely valuable lessons for us and for you who share them with us “thank you”.I’m sure you are a fantastic mum and your children are very lucky. I hope this journey gets easier for you both.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 19th March 2017 (8:10 pm)

      Thank you so much Erika xx

  • comment-avatar
    Elaine Rogers 17th March 2017 (7:10 pm)

    I cannot imagine your pain and the suffering of your beautiful daughter. But I can feel the pain through your writing, and it is real for me as a reader.
    I wish you both the best with your journey together and you’re the better mammy for it. I am very impressed with the system you have evolved with your daughter regarding communication and signals. I suspect Pieta House were hugely supportive there. So sorry you experienced such shocking behaviour at A&E – one wonders – a caregiver is a caregiver, how do they get to the point of not caring in a manner that is repsectful and supportive?
    All the best to you and your family xx <3

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 17th March 2017 (8:07 pm)

      Thank you so much Elaine for your message, your words mean the world. I asked myself the same question, how empathy and compassion were lacking so much. I didn’t go into half the detail of some of the things that were said to her and I.xx

  • comment-avatar
    Aileen Ferris 17th March 2017 (10:03 pm)

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It must have been very difficult. Breaking the stigma around these things is so important and you’re contributing to doing that. 16 years ago I was a very depressed teenager and the silence surrounding it only exacerbated it. I hope it gives you some hope to know that people do recover from it, though.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 19th March 2017 (8:09 pm)

      Thank you so much Aileen for sharing. I wish you continued success and good health xx

  • comment-avatar
    Laura 17th March 2017 (11:18 pm)

    My dear Frances, you are an amazing mum, who thankfully had the strength and wisdom to get the best possible support for your daughter so that she could find her path back to the light. Marital breakdown and emotional pressures instigated by social media have a huge effect on children, there should be a national support system to help families cope with separation so that the hangover is not borne by our innocent children and our education system needs to progress to equipping our children with the life skills they need to cope with the societal pressures that exist today. It’s a disgrace that the two organisations that try to help families deal with these challenges are charities – Pieta House and One Family, both of whom receive practically no government funding. Your daughter is lucky she has a mum who can carry her when she is too tired to walk and show her that it’s ok not to feel ok but never to fell not ok alone. Much love to you and your family. xxx

  • comment-avatar
    Fiona 17th March 2017 (11:40 pm)

    What an amazing insight you give. You wrote your story so well that I was right there with you.. and massive respect to you on how you pulled through and kept both of you afloat.. you have great strength. I have taken valuable lessons from your story so thank you for your honesty + for sharing. I wish you both every best wish on your journey forward. Xx
    Ps appalled but not surprised at the ignorance of the medical professionals you encountered. We can educate our young people and say it’s ‘ok not to be ok’ all we like, but when we find ourselves in trouble and medical staff are our first port of call we desperately need them to be equally educated and act accordingly, with empathy + respect – sadly the hse are still a very long way away on this. Shame On them.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 18th March 2017 (9:22 am)

      Thank you so much Fiona xx

  • comment-avatar
    Sinéad o'rourke 18th March 2017 (11:12 am)

    Thanks to you and your daughter for sharing your story. What it highlights, yet again, is that your healthcare system fundamentally fails those with mental illness. It takes luck to meet the right person and navigate the right path. I wish you both well for the future and hope your daughter can find a path that supports her in the journey through life.

  • comment-avatar
    Lisa Courtney 18th March 2017 (1:51 pm)

    I actually can not believe what I’m reading here. This is my story at the moment. I don’t know of another mother going through this, thank fuck for your letter, there is normal, and maybe even something to look forward to. We too are only 4 months into this journey and I just thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this, it came right when needed xx

  • comment-avatar
    Maxine 18th March 2017 (2:05 pm)

    I am so sorry you were treated that way in a&e. it’s both embarrassing and frustrating to hear as someone who works in mental health…what do we have to do to make it change? I don’t know. Pieta house are fantastic. I agree there should be an ASIST trained member of staff on every shift in every A&E. may I suggest when the time comes to transition out of pieta that you contact either swan family support in tallaght, or myself at adharacounselling@gmail.com to access affordable ongoing support.

  • comment-avatar
    Sinéad Lawlor 18th March 2017 (4:44 pm)

    Frances, my God. I found this story so utterly sad, infuriating and devastating and I cried so much I was so upset for you. But you haven’t let her down, she is a very lucky girl to have you as her mum. I’ve seen you around the last few months and I’m amazed you’ve kept it together. We lost a very dear friend to suicide 2 years, 2 months ago. We fought long and hard with that disease but he was very sick and lost his battle. Your daughter has you in her corner and you will fight tooth and nail for her. Thank you for your story. You’re an inspiration as a business woman, a contributor, a blogger and a mother. You rock. X

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 18th March 2017 (7:58 pm)

      Thank you so much Sinead. As they say you don’t know how strong you are till you have to be. It’s been a tough road but we are getting there 😊. Thank you so much for your comments xx

  • comment-avatar
    Therese 18th March 2017 (8:52 pm)

    Thank you for writing your daughter’s story. I’m in a similar position but it’s my husband who is depressed and suicidal so I understand every bit of your worry, pain, fear and stress. I’ve been in the emergency dept and seen first hand the insensitivity and rudeness that is offered by *some* hospital staff. I had to leave my father’s deathbed to stay with my husband in A&E when he made his first real attempt and we were left waiting 8 hours for a psychiatrist. His bloods weren’t even taken. The police (who I had to call as he was missing) went in person to his GP and asked him to go up to the hospital but he refused. The mental health service is barely breathing and so much more funding is needed.
    My husband recently started attending Pieta House but sadly it’s not helping. Plus they cancelled the last 2 app due to illness. It’s very hard for the very people like your daughter and my husband not to feel neglected and they are the people and their families who need so much help.
    I really truly hope for a good outcome for your daughter. Sadly I’ve resigned myself to knowing it’s not if but when. For some people their pain is just too much.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 19th March 2017 (8:07 pm)

      Theresa thank you so much for taking the time to message me. My heart breaks for you. I’m not sure which centre you are attending but move to another one, change GP, please feel free to contact me. My no is on my Facebook page or email me at frances@organisedmayhem.com xx

  • comment-avatar
    Jackie 18th March 2017 (11:31 pm)

    Hi Francis, I feel your pain as I have been there as a mother also… I have had the same story with my Son, and a year down the line thankfully he has come through the other side. He is still attending Lucena and is now living his life to the full. he knows the triggers and he now has the tools to help him through when he gets down. We have a great relationship and have learnt so much together over the last year and he knows I will always be there for him no matter what. I dont know where I got the strength from to get through it as I thought I was going to fall apart as well. I was so devastated and afraid on doing the wrong thing but with the support of my family and friends we got there. Wishing you and your daughter all the best. xxx

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 19th March 2017 (8:04 pm)

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad to hear your son is doing so well. It’s amazing how we do find the strength. Wishing you and your son continued recovery and health xx

  • comment-avatar
    Jean 19th March 2017 (11:04 am)

    Powerfully written, a real reminder to what is important in life and to struggles others are going through. After a very challenging morning as a mother, I can really relate. I am so glad you are both getting help and support in your journey.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 19th March 2017 (8:03 pm)

      Thank you so much for your kind words x

  • comment-avatar
    Siora 20th March 2017 (5:27 pm)

    Writing this must have been so bloody hard – it was hard enough to read, so I can only imagine. Isn’t it so true what they say – you just never ever know what someone else is going through. Sending you tones of good energy and support. Sharing your story was the right thing to do.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 20th March 2017 (5:34 pm)

      Thank you so much Siora that means a lot xx

  • comment-avatar
    Paul Davis 21st March 2017 (11:17 am)

    Thanks for sharing your very personal story Frances. Mental health problems are becoming less of a taboo, thankfully, but they are still too often, spoken of in hushed tones.
    You are absolutely right, issues like this should be taught and spoken about in schools but also our workplaces. We need to educate our children, family and friends about how, sometimes, there is no discernible problem, no one big thing. Often, it’s a series of small bricks that build into a wall that we’re unable to climb and that needs to be recognised.
    A friend posted the link on Facebook and I have also shared it, saying if you only read one thing today, read this.
    I hope you and your family are doing well and getting through this tough time.

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 21st March 2017 (3:36 pm)

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and also to comment. I have to say you are so right, more Oren than not it’s those little bricks.

      I really appreciate you sharing, the more people that are talking the better.

      Thank you for your kind wishes also.

      Warmest regards

      Frances

  • comment-avatar
    Claire 21st March 2017 (10:10 pm)

    Hi Frances – thanks so much for being so generous and sharing your pain and frustration in the hope of helping others :) I don’t know if this is of interest but I live in nsw australia (originally from kk) and there is a fantastic charity here called ‘where there is a will’ which was set up to intervene and educate children as young as 8 about the signs of mental health – look it up on fb – I think you would relate! If you are interested I would be happy to connect you guys…. and if not hopefully you will get something from it xx

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 21st March 2017 (10:35 pm)

      Hi Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to message. I was only saying today that I want to see how Australia & NZ are working in the area of mental health and suicide.

      That would be amazing if you could connect me with them.

      I look forward to hearing from you xx

  • comment-avatar
    Fiona Kealy 22nd March 2017 (11:39 am)

    Frances,
    There but for the grace of God… there is huge pressure on kids to do well in school, at sport, to look a certain way. Everything has changed for this generation. You did an amazing job with your daughter. Can you please email me your address?

    Fiona xx

    • comment-avatar
      Frances Crean 22nd March 2017 (12:04 pm)

      Thank you for taking the time to message me. I’ll email you now xx

  • comment-avatar
    Jessica Spencer 26th April 2017 (9:13 pm)

    This is infuriating. The treatment you received in A&E had me near tears. Honestly, I can feel your fury.

    It’s saddening, but I’m glad the member of Pieta was so honest in telling you that you can’t save your daughter if she doesn’t want to be saved. So many people blame themselves when someone they love is this sick. I remember when one of my best friends attempted suicide last year. I was aware he was sick, and had asked was he suicidal. He lives in the UK which meant I was limited in what I could do, but when he told me of his attempt I felt awful. But now I know it wasn’t my fault, and your daughters illness is not yours.

    You’re right in that this is not discussed enough, particularly the experience of the parents with ill children. Well done on opening up.

    I hope your daughter is improving, and that you are well too. x