by Allison Whitley
She wakes up before 9:00 am and comes out of her room. She eats breakfast. She takes her medication on her own. She engages in conversation. Most importantly, she smiles and laughs. Today is a good day. So why am I fearful this won’t last?
My daughter suffers from mental illness. She is diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, and PTSD. She also has a secondary diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. She returned home from her first semester in college and everything fell apart; the illness took over.
After she shared wanting to kill herself, she spent a week at the local psychiatric hospital. This was during Christmas, a time of celebrating. How could I celebrate such a joyful holiday when she was in the hospital? It was not joyful and celebrating felt wrong.
My family decided to put Christmas on hold until we could celebrate together. Still, I went to Christmas celebrations with my husband’s family and my family. Seeing both families lessen their excitement of of the holiday in attempt to be sensitive to what my husband and I were enduring made it worse. Our Christmas was ruined, but why does theirs need to be? I felt like such a burden.
Once she returned home, we celebrated Christmas on New Year’s Day, but it wasn’t the same. I tried to paste a smile and fake the excitement, pretend everything was back to “normal”. It wasn’t.
She did not even make it a week home before the demons took over. She still endured suicidal thoughts and this time had a plan. Another trip back to the hospital for her second stay.
After this return home, she appeared fine. I was optimistic…she was going to be okay. The hospital stay worked. Yea! I honestly thought the hospital stay would help her suicidal thoughts disappear. What I didn’t know at the time was acute hospital stays are just to help stabilize her during a crisis. And then it happened…another crisis.
This time she had started to self-harm by cutting on her arms and legs. Back for stay three.
Three hospital stays over the period of a month had me at a loss for what to do. The cycling back and forth to the hospital was not working. I felt hopeless and defeated. After much discussion with my husband and hospital staff, it was determined that maybe a long-term residential facility would be needed. She was released from the hospital to be directly admitted to a residential facility 7 hours away.
I was excited that this was going to make things better
She will receive the therapy needed while being supervised. Our daughter was excited as well. She wanted to get better and for the pain to go away. I felt relief knowing she wanted to live. Less than three weeks into residential, we found out she had made a suicide attempt by cutting. The facility sent her to a psychiatric hospital for stabilization. My husband and I decided to bring her back to Virginia.
If whenever she had a crisis the facility was going to send her to acute care, we could do that here. After all, that is what we were doing before she went into residential. She was discharged into our care with the plan of intensive counseling, both in office as well as in-home counseling.
Back home, she was making progress. Therapy was going well. She enrolled in online classes in preparation to return to college in the fall. These were all good signs. I was excited because she spoke about her future. It had been three weeks; the longest she had been stable. Then it happened.
Another suicide attempt. Another stay at the hospital.
She is back home and still receiving intensive counseling. I am thrilled the time span between her crises is longer each time. Maybe this is a sign she is improving. I want to believe this, but I am still fearful.
When will the next crisis occur? The fear is real and sometimes overpowers my hope. But for now, I need to take joy when she wakes up before 9:00 am and comes out of her room. She eats breakfast. She takes her medication on her own. She engages in conversation. Most importantly, she smiles and laughs. Today is a good day.
Note from Anne Moss: Resource for families dealing with a family member who suffers mental illness/thoughts of suicide: NAMI Family to Family. They also have some wonderful support groups for families, too.