Here we are. Wringing imaginary things through fingers as insurance questions are doled out from the monotone voice behind the desk. We are brought through sliding doors and sterile hallways to a bed hidden behind a curtain. We are greeted with a kind smile from the nurse taking vitals. Her questions to the patient in the bed go unanswered.
Then, as if our hearts are not crushed enough, the voice from the bed says five words that sting with every syllable.
“I don’t want them here.”
We stand to step past the fabric that has shielded us from outside machine beeps, moans and whispers. The curtain is drawn past us and the Q & A resumes. We are once again deemed outsiders.
The nurse emerges and extends a hand in the direction of a room off to the side. We enter and assume the position of a huddle. We are about to hear the play-by-play of what happened and what will happen next.
We learn that the cocktail consumed was whatever our child could get their hands on. A natural sleep aid — over the counter, found in the vitamin section, that we purchased at our doctor’s recommendation a year ago to help our child with insomnia — allergy medicine and Advil, all washed down with Robitussin. All non-threatening alone, but when combined together in mass quantities, well, leads to a room such as this. We don’t have anything else in the house and I’m thankful.
The nurse also shares that the cuts have been treated and should heal well. When asked where the cuts could possibly be as we have seen nothing, we are told they’re on the hips. Cutters are masters at hiding wounds and this is why we never saw anything while on vacation, even with bathing suits, tanks tops and all.
We are allowed back to be with our child and we sit in semi-silence for hours of observation to make sure the heart has not been damaged. I take the opportunity to go home to grab a few sweatshirts and to have one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have – explaining to our youngest what was happening. Trying to comfort and respond to questions I had no answers to.
I returned to the hospital, now with the added guilt of leaving the youngest behind to sit alone with their thoughts. I felt it was almost a catch-22. Where was I needed most? It was a very odd place to be in my head.
The medical clearance is the pass to have us brought through secure glass doors and a swipe-access-only entrance door. We sit a long time until the night-shift psychiatric nurse greets us in the waiting room. She explains that she will first talk to our child alone, return to talk to us and then we will all talk together.
She returns an hour later to advise us our child is extremely depressed and has been for a long time. This is foreign to us. Our child, we thought, IS happy, interacting with family, involved in school and activities. They did have a fall-out with friends, which we all agreed is sometimes something that just happens. We thought this was normal teenage angst…a phase that we all go through.
We discuss our feelings regarding these events and then are given options. We can have our child stay here to wait for a bed on the ward, but that may not be for a few days and we are told it could be pretty scary. We are lucky to be here on a “quiet” night. The second option is to transfer to a rehabilitation facility for group therapy. We all agree that our child would not benefit from this, in fact would be set back due to their personality of “helper.” The fear was that as the group, who in most cases would have really dire issues, would share and our child would take it all in and try to help the others vs. helping themselves. The last option was to bring them home and follow up with intense therapy. All of these options would be presented to the head psychiatrist to sign-off on the chosen course of action. We still may not have a choice in the matter and that was terrifying.
We may have not been aware that our child was depressed, but we felt pretty confident that we did still know our child and, for our situation, option three was the best. We joined in a room together and tried to talk. The nurse had to prompt a majority of the conversation. When she felt satisfied that enough interaction was occurring, she left us to be alone. I don’t remember all that was said. I know that we shared a laugh or two based on the drunken antics of the woman in the hallway who was trying to find food and convince the other nurse to let her leave.
The nurse opened the door to find all of us asleep. A makeshift, exhausted family chain – my husband in the chair to my right holding my hand, me in a chair with my arm and head bent over the exam table, my other hand reaching, laced into my baby’s fingers and theirs into mine.
We had the discharge papers and could go home. She hugged all of us and said she wished all family units could be this way. We would be okay.
That was the hope we needed to have enough courage to face the rocky road ahead.
Stay tuned for the last part of this highly emotional and brave story.