On Friday, we drove two and a half hours from home for Maddy to be admitted to her sixth adolescent mental health unit.
The meeting with CAMHS last Monday was a farce: the team held their hands up and admitted that they were failing my daughter and that they wanted to change their strategy from a reactive one to a proactive one. They felt that it was not serving her to simply react on the days when she was struggling and that they would like to put a plan in place to work with her to set objectives and goals for the future that they could then help her to work towards. I was, and am, impressed that they could admit they weren’t getting it right; I was, and am, impressed with their plan. However, they have completely failed to miss the point that my daughter’s only plan and objective is to cease living.
Maddy was amazing during this two hour meeting: she cried the whole way through it but was mature, succinct and rational. She was deeply hurt that the team she trusts so much still fail to comprehend or believe her desire to die; that the professionals that she has poured her heart out to still do not understand that this is not the whim or attention seeking behaviour of an “average” teenager. She told them quite calmly that she did not want them to do anything, she just wants them to hear her. She sobbed and told them she didn’t ask for this illness, that she doesn’t know what she has done to deserve it but that she is tired and absolute in her desire to end it all. My heart broke just a little bit more.
Maddy was told during that meeting that they did not believe she was high risk. My daughter has nothing to prove any more: her reaction to that was one of hurt that she could be dismissed, but not one of determination to prove a point. This isn’t about them, it’s about her. We were told they are not responsible for her life and whilst this raises questions about their role of safeguarding, I absolutely agree: Maddy is responsible for her own life but this does not give them the right to absolutely misinterpret her position and views for their own absolution.
I have made no secret of the fact that I believe Maddy when she says she wants to die, to end the torment; I have also made no secret of the fact that I believe she is likely to succeed. This does not mean I will ever give up hope that she can win the fight against this awful illness but I watch her pain every minute of the day and I see her struggling to stay alive. I know without doubt she is emotionally capable of suicide. This acceptance on my part means Maddy and I can cut through the crap and are able to talk about it and this in turn means I can help protect her from that final act, from taking that step. A tiny piece of acceptance also means I don’t live in abject fear every second of the day and helps me stay rational, even when she is not. It is a conscious decision that I have made to accept she may succeed for my own sanity and for her safety.
Present at the meeting was our Family Therapist, whom only I have regular sessions with, who knows my views on this. She told us that she believed that I was assisting Maddy in her objective to die by believing her. This has been justified to me as their duty to “challenge” parents. Apparently, I am facilitating my own child’s suicide plan. Every shard of fear and worry I have for my child’s life has been placed firmly at my door, as my own doing. Should the worst case scenario ever happen, I will now live with the guilt that I caused it, could have prevented it.
My shock and disbelief at the handling of this situation, at a point in our journey that I believe is so pivotal, still leaves me reeling. My daughter has a terrifying calmness about her fate, a resignation. To her, there is no point in recovery which is why she refuses any help now. I am no expert but these signs are like beacons?
I guess I am angry with the team we put so much trust in but I also feel so very alone now. I thought they could help us. They did decide, almost begrudgingly, that Maddy should be admitted to hospital for her own safety. We don’t agree with this course of action but the pendulum swung very quickly from one of her not being high risk to being given a choice between agreeing to an admission or be sectioned and sent against her will. Five previous admissions have not helped Maddy. Adolescent Mental Health Units do not exist for recovery so all we could hope for was a period of respite, to allow her to breathe and find some comfort in not being responsible for her own safety.
I am so incensed that this is the only other option and that there doesn’t exist a true place of respite for our children: one where it is OK for them to fall apart and not have to worry about the consequences; one where they are emotionally supported and where therapy builds on their strengths, not a constant recount of their weaknesses, for which they feel punished and unheard; one where we as parents can get a decent night’s sleep knowing our children are physically and emotionally safe.
48 hours after I left my beautiful baby in a sterile, emotional devoid “place of safety”, she is still calling me, sobbing and begging me to collect her and bring her home. She is lonely, scared and unhappy. She has asked to see the consultant tomorrow and plans on convincing them that she should be discharged. I am terrified they will section her and that we are once again caught up in a system that just reinforces her view that her precious life is pointless. So yes, I agree that she should come home. She has far more to live for here than alone in hospital. I agree that she is safe there but for how long? The chances of them being able to “make her better” are so slim and eventually she will get home leave; surely with no change in her mental health and her desire to die, the risk of her acting on that is greater if she is faced with having to return to hospital, where she is so desperately lonely and unhappy? I understand the risks involved; I understand the chances that my beautiful daughter may chose to die either way, but I believe we are more capable of showing her that it isn’t all pointless and that she has a great and fulfilled life ahead of her than they are.
We will never give up; we will continue to fight. If we have to forge our own path and find our own way, then so be it. My daughter deserves every ounce of hope and fight that I have in me and whilst she gets so angry with me for constantly looking for therapies and solutions, I know it’s out there….it just shouldn’t be so goddamn hard to find.
Stay Strong x
4 thoughts on “Unheard & Alone…”
Oh My Love… this makes my heart flutter and heavy… you are a living angel and your daughter really is blessed to have you in her life… unfortunately so called health professions only ever know ” the textbook” rules and ways and often have not lived in your shoes or experienced life as you know it…and are living. You my lovely are doing everything you possibly can … and should be immensely proud of what you are doing for your little lady x
You write so eloquently about a subject so close to me. We live in the same fear as you and our daughter has the same determination as your daughter. Last year she spent 6 months in hospital and was s2 twice. Following her second section we removed her following medical advice because we firmly believed we could give her the opportunity to realise a future rather than in a distressing unit where they had no grasp of her clever manipulation and as it was a private nhs funded unit they neglected completely their obligations to my daughter and to us, her family. Her medications are being proactive as we plan a series of activities to engage her in the here and now but in my heart of heart i know she desires an end, a peace, a get out and my very being is in torment. But, we live in hope and as a family (she has 3 older brothers) we attempt to make the difference. My fear is she will be 18 next January and any new admission will be to an adult service and after her last admission experience she is adamant she will not return to hospital so there is a complete resolution to her next attempt.
I am genuine in my comments to you and i walk your walk. Professionals are great at making parents feel at fault and facilitating of suicidal plans but as a parent it is a very fine line and at the end of the day when they are all out of traditional solutions we are the ones with the greatest understanding and obervers of the daily nuances indicating any alarm bells. We have resolved to not call emergency services if possible in the future after her last admission – although we have only been aware of her distress for 12 months we are, through experience, aware of the support available to her.
Thank you for writing so honestly.
Oh Mary, this has so touched my heart. We too try so hard to engage Maddy in the here and now: we plan trips and events, book tickets for her beloved concerts in the vain attempt that it will give her something to look forward to and the truth is, to keep her alive. It is no way to live but she is still here, so maybe it works? I think what the professionals struggle to understand is that despite what we do and how hard WE fight for our child, I have accepted that ultimately the choice will be hers. Of course that doesn’t make it any more palatable. I have no words of advice for you but I only hope it is some comfort that you are not alone. There ARE adult services that can help: it is a crime that we have to seek them out, but they are there! My aim, when I have the physical and emotional energy, is to create a safe haven for our teens just so they can rest, press the pause button. I pray your child finds her way x Stay strong xxx