The agony of planning to send my child away

I step into Martha’s office. She is dressed in what looks like a Chanel suit. She’s definitely old Richmond–in the most pleasant and comforting way. Someone had recommended that Charles go to a wilderness program and she helps determine the best placement for kids and keeps up with their progress.

Martha is an educational consultant and has done this for many years, hundreds of families.  I had no idea there was such a thing as educational consultants.

She has chairs in a circle like she’s just hosted a support group. I ask her about it and she tells me that often families bring in multiple members to help make decisions and help with financial aspect of this next step.

I sit in a single chair and all of a sudden I feel naked, alone and desperate in this sea of chairs. I realize I don’t have much in terms of a support system for this. In 2012, finding resources for a child with mental health issues compounded with drug abuse is a very lonely, expensive and disheartening journey.

I’m not sure I can afford this next step. But how can you say you can’t afford to save your child? I’m in the twilight zone also known as the mental health system which is fraught with multiple mazes and costly wrong turns. At this level, it’s tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands. I start to sweat.

I ask about her fee and if I should pay right then

I’m prepared to do so. She gives me a form and tells me she will follow up. Not to worry about it.

Funny, but I never once got a bill from her in the five years I used her services. Looking back I think she had enough personal assets and wealthy clients that she simply chose to forget billing me.

Probably one of the few acts of kindness I encountered in that 5 year long journey of misery in trying to find Charles help.

Up until now, I had heard “we can’t help you” more times than I could count from practices, hospitals and state agencies. Nothing I ever called about met criteria. I was too middle class or Charles was not suicidal so he didn’t warrant attention. We live, after all, in the state ranked 48 for treating childhood major depression. At this point, I don’t even have a diagnosis–an example of our state living up to that ranking.

I start to talk and break down in tears

I realize few have even listened to this whole story. I abbreviate it —the 15 minute version. I apologize for going off track and I blow my nose. I realize how utterly desperate I am for human compassion and understanding and I feel ashamed for needing it so desperately.

Martha hands me a box of Kleenex. She is patient as I try to pull it together. She tells me she is no rush and to take my time. Obviously she has seen this before and listens patiently. She is so kind.

My husband would have been here but he was desperately trying to keep his job. He had told HR what was going on with Charles but his boss at that time was not very understanding of our situation and holding his feet to the fire for something he overlooked. This oversight was not a major gaffe but it became a sticking point. We’re both so stressed.

I have a good feeling about Martha

She lays out the next steps very clearly, sets expectations for the cost of wilderness and therapeutic boarding school and doesn’t sugar coat. She tells me she is going to handpick her favorite counselors for him, which she ultimately did, how to withdraw him from school so we could transfer his transcripts. She tells me that the last thing I need to worry about is his graduating from high school. His mental health is our first priority.

And finally she tells me that he might need to be ‘escorted’ to the program. She explains what that means and hands me her contact for these services. My heart sinks.

She shares success stories to give me hope

There are a lot of them. But premonitions right now for the opposite are so strong. I just want to throw water on them and put them out of my misery.

We set up the next meeting with that includes my husband. By the end, I am feeling a certain amount of relief—a break from the unrelenting worry and anxiety of watching my child self destruct and not knowing what the underlying cause is or what could be done about it.

She tells me that I will get a very thorough psychological evaluation at wilderness. I ask her what that is and she pauses–surprised. Why didn’t anyone mention one of those before? I kept asking for a diagnosis. All they had to do was say the words, psychological evaluation. Had I known those two words, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and gotten some answers over a year ago.

I feel powerless

I am powerless.

But I have a plan. Then the enormity of what we have to do, have him kidnapped out of his bed and taken away, hits me in the gut when I leave. He’ll hate us for this. And I hate that we have to do it. His life is really at risk. It’s the scariest and most awful dread.

How did it get to this? The grief of loss of innocence washes over me.

So while I feel a certain level of relief, I also feel dread. I want so badly to believe this will work.

Charles’ Diagnosis from Wilderness

2 thoughts on “The agony of planning to send my child away”

  1. I die a little inside every time I read about how alone and unsupported you all were through this. It breaks my heart for you. I compare it to my experience of working in oncology and hospice and think of the numerous support networks in place. I’m so thankful you are breaking the stigma on mental health and addiction, giving others that support they need so they don’t feel so alone. God bless you, my friend.

    1. Great perspective Amy. There are so many supports in place for other illnesses. Thank goodness while he was in wilderness I found a support group. It saved my sanity and I wish I had found it sooner

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