It’s been a turbulent week and I’m not too proud to say that I am emotionally exhausted! Lizzie was due to return to education this week: this comprises of a gentle introduction back into learning. She has been quite clear that she cannot yet cope with the social interaction of school, even on a much reduced timetable. All the support functions involved have listened to her and been really supportive. So when she said she was keen to start exercising her brain, they put together a programme of just Maths and English to begin with, one hour each a week, hosted at her school but with external tutors.
Her first lesson was at 9am one morning this week: the time in itself was a challenge as she rarely sleeps but she was up and ready on time. We had an issue with her uniform though: she couldn’t wear her blazer for fear of the physical weight of the fabric putting too much pressure on the arms of her cotton shirt: she had cut herself so badly the night before that she didn’t want the still seeping blood to cause her shirt to stick to her arms and in turn her blazer.
I can’t fully explain the feeling of seeing deep, angry slices across your beautiful child’s skin…but hey, if you’re reading this, chances are you know what that feels like. It’s a kind of gut wrenching feeling that I can only describe as emotional gagging. I don’t balk at the sight of blood or cuts, but I balk at the fact that my child suffers so much anguish that she can do this to herself. I’ve talked about self harm before on this blog: about how the “professionals” tell you to never try and convince someone to stop self harming because it is a form of release, so we live with it. In some ways, I am comforted by the fact that she has some form of release. But I will never fully come to terms with it. To me, it is a physical expression of the pain she suffers; it’s like looking into her soul and it’s so dark and so painful that it makes my heart stop beating for a moment.
So let me be brutally honest: 12 months ago, the mum in me would have rushed her to the hospital there and then. But I now know that they will not stitch them because they are sliced and although they are bleeding still, they are considered superficial. I know the difference now and these cuts, horrific and frantic as they looked, would not be medically treated. They would however, spark worry and concern amongst the medical professionals and we would face another emergency psych assessment. I knew that Lizzie was slipping emotionally, I can tell from the nature of her cuts, but she was not at risk.
So off she went to school, had a successful lesson and then we set off for a CAMHS meeting. I took a bagful of supplies: butterfly stitches, bandages, antiseptic, plasters and the nurse there patched up her cuts and then expertly patched up her distress. Lizzie was really open, for once. She clearly explained that there no then, on that day, she was not suicidal, but that her desire to die never leaves her. She said (with patience, whilst we tried to keep up), that she may not kill herself this year, or even in the next 10 years, but one day it will happen. It’s at times like this that my hope comes flooding back: if we can just get my baby through the next 5 years, even one day at a time if we have to, then her emotional maturity will catch up with her intellect and she will survive this. Whilst I am barely suppressing this bubble of hope, she goes on to point out that all of that said, she fears this summer will be a difficult time for her and she doubts she will make it through. Boom. There goes that bubble of hope.
The following few days were full of see sawing hope and despair, for both of us. She hit some real lows this week, peppered with some normality. Tonight she has friends over to sleep and they are in the cabin in the garden, so tonight we can relax just a little. Tonight she is a happy, “Normal” 14 year old. However, I know every high has it’s consequence: my emotional exhaustion is not always for what has been, but often for what is to come.
But, and this is a massive, life changing “but”, whilst I truly believe her when she says she wants to die, I also know how strong my beautiful daughter is. Sometimes, I want to curl up under my duvet and refuse to face the day, but I don’t. She wants to die, but she is still here and still fighting: she is strong and she is amazing. Looking to the future is scary for us adults, it’s even scarier for a teenager. So we must face this one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. It is true that I have to take my lead from her but I also have a responsibility to believe in her strength and to show her that one step at a time is OK. It is so normal for us as parents, grown ups, loved ones, to steer our beloved teenagers, to set them on the right path for the future: we advise them on what they should and shouldn’t do (work hard at school, love the important things in life, eat right, consider a career in something they like, blah blah blah), but sometimes, the very thought of a path that leads to the future is just too much. So surely we must just look no further than the next minute, hour or day. Even the longest journey begins with one small step.
Stay strong x