By Celena McDonnell
That morning, I was strong. I had words. She didn’t want to go, but they said she had to. Cuts on her legs too obvious to be brushed under the carpet; the pills taken two weeks before— just now discovered—too loud a cry.
“You must be evaluated, we are sending you to the emergency room. We’re sorry, sweetheart.” Instructions from her therapist and mental health nurse practitioner that could not be ignored.
She didn’t want to go and was angry, so angry. Tears and sobs as I took her home first, trying to give her some semblance of control over her life, for wasn’t lack of that part of her depression?
“I know you don’t want to go…but you have a choice, at least. A choice in how and a choice in where,” I said. “I won’t go anywhere,” she replied. “You must,” said I. This decision was no longer ours to make. Only how we did it. “You need to pick. Come with me and I will take you away; to a different hospital, where they may be kinder, may be more respectful, may help and not hurt, may give you hope. Make me get an ambulance and police, and they will take you back to where you hated. We will no longer have this choice. You must decide the best of two bad decisions. Let me know.”
I was still strong then, she needed that, this couldn’t be avoided; I had to help her realize and make the best choice for herself, and so I used as many words as I could find. “I won’t go anywhere,” she replied. And she cried and sobbed and cried up in her room, her older sister yelling at me in the kitchen that I don’t understand, how could I, I didn’t have their problem…I was making it worse. She’s crying too, now, as I’m trying to explain that this was no longer a choice…no longer a choice, no longer a choice.
“She must,” said I. “Fuck you,” said she.
Up in my fifteen-year old’s room, I beg again. Then leave. And pace the kitchen. And breathe. And pray. She comes down to say that she’ll go, but only to that different hospital, thirty-five minutes away. And she will refuse to stay. I breathe again. And I stay strong. And use my words to let her know that I am on her side.
A long, quite drive on a beautiful October day; the glitter air kind of day, sun bouncing off the leaves of the trees that lined the highway. No more words, I let her sit and sob, not wanting music, not wanting a soda. Not wanting anything.
Too soon, we march into the emergency department.“Hi, honey…what brings you in today?” says the nurse in triage. The beautiful girl; too thin, too pale, with long, black hair and a beanie on top, she looks at me to explain. Not as strong as I, she can’t speak. I was still strong and so I again found my words. “Her therapist wants a psych eval,” said I. “She doesn’t want to live anymore.” Still strong.
“Okay, sweetie…how beautiful you are. Let’s see if we can help you,” smiling, the nurse is caring, empathetic….kind. She explains that they just got crazy busy, she didn’t want us in there with all the busy, and would it be okay if we used the private family room for our visit? Of course, I say.
And this was wonderful; a large flat screen television, plenty of large, more comfy chairs. A computer. She could be evaluated right there, no need to leave except for the bathroom and urine test that the doctor who came in, right there in that family room, ordered for her. And the lab lady would even come in there to draw her blood.
All this made me stronger. This was respect. This was care. This was what we didn’t get in our own area the last time she didn’t want to live. Or the first time she didn’t want to live. This was why we didn’t go back there, why it was so important that she listen to my words, and go with me willingly. If I’d needed help, we wouldn’t have had this choice. We would have had police and ambulances, and they would have taken her back THERE. It was important that she listen to my words, and let me lead her choice, important that it BE her choice. That my words lead her here.
I watch her leave with the lab lady to do her urine test. A tall, thin, beautiful, broken girl with long black hair and a beanie on top, joggers and band tee, and black Nike’s on her feet. We exchange small smiles as she leaves. I focus on the TV, chin in my hand, propped on my knee. Still strong. The words are in my head now, but as background noise only because she is someone else’s responsibility for a moment. Someone else had eyes on her for a moment.
Led back in, I see they have changed her. Gone are the joggers and band tee, replaced by a hospital gown and scrub pants, thank God, she hadn’t wanted the livid scars on the front of her calves to show. More respect for her, they didn’t even ask, had just handed her the pants. And let her keep her beanie on her head and Nike’s on her feet.
She sat, the lab lady went to work drawing blood. I broke. No words were needed now, nor were they appropriate. It’s time for business, and this was real. The fact that she was even thinner, even paler, in that hospital garb, and the thought of her possibly wandering around a locked ward by herself, without me and my words for a few days….I broke and tears came into my eyes as I looked at her, and she was thankfully busy watching her blood flow out of her veins and into the tubes, and didn’t see my fall.
By the time the lab was finished, I was strong again. I used my words to tell her what she had missed on Bones while gone, and made small chatter until the crisis counselor came in and I was banished from the room, albeit kindly done.
Her evaluation is done through a conversation, with a tech named the same as my sister, an unusual name for girl, yet they both had it. My sister with whom my broken daughter shared the strongest bond, they were so alike that she’d been dubbed mini-me by her aunt. The same tall, slim figure, the same in sexual orientation, the same in clothing choices, and it would appear the same in depression and an anxiety so deep, so hard, so hopeless, that they were also the same in suicidal thought and action. I went back to high school again; and again willed my sister down off of our roof, about thirty years now past.
It was odd though, that when I’d seen her first walk in, in that hospital gown and pants that made her look even thinner, even taller, even sadder, my mind flew immediately to my sister; odd that when she sat in the chair for her blood to be taken, I looked at my daughter yet saw her aunt. And the crisis counselor had my sister’s same name. Not a usual name for a female, not for any of the three girls, but they were female all the same.
I could still be strong, because my sister was suddenly in the room with us, sharing her strength from thousands of miles away; I could feel her as my daughter found her own strength, and her own words to speak on her own behalf, and save herself from a three day stay she wanted no part of. She put her life back into my hands, for me to oversee and guard and protect and save; and with my words I proved I was able and steady, and the counselor let her go home with me.
I stayed strong, and still do, using my words to help my beautiful, broken daughter, as I did her aunt long, long ago; before she had someone else’s eyes to watch over her. Using my words to show she is not alone, every day, every hour; I watch, speak, listen and prove that I am ready for when she needs me again.