It is only looking back that you understand that even though relative to what had gone before that summer was good, it is not normal to have to factor into your activities that if the weather is warm the hallucinations are more severe. That even with a minimal stress level I still had a sixteen year old kid who could not sleep alone or be left alone. It is like providing the same level of supervision to a toddler but one who is almost six foot and has the ability to break through child locks quicker than you can put them on.
They have the wit to find the hidey places and really then the only solution is to get rid of as much dangerous stuff as possible and otherwise keep it on your body. It still doesn’t work. I have a large handbag, some days I used to contemplate lashing a strap to a sea trunk and dragging that with me. According to Gok handbags should be large enough to make you look small so I think I could carry it off.
The reality is that if someone is determined enough, anything, anywhere is dangerous. You saw the stark reality of that when she was inpatient and how anything, literally anything, can be chewed to become sharp enough to gouge and saw down to muscle if you are determined enough.
It is really hard because always there is that dilemma of trying to reinforce choices and developing independence whilst needing to think safety. Your kid wants your trust, they go out with a trusted friend. This is normal behaviour to go to town with your friend when you are sixteen. Admittedly, not that many have a small stash of lorazepam and their mother on speed dial in case of wig outs but you keep trying.
You then kick yourself when you are in A and E at 2am as your kid has brought contraband razors back home and are quietly, methodically stock piling over the counter paracetamol ready for when it all gets too much and they need to try again to kill themselves. You keep trying.
In the end you can no longer keep them safe and actually that is all you can even aim to do, they are not getting better, they are getting worse.
All you are trying to do is control the environment and stop them having access or the opportunity to do something self-injurious. And failing, your kid who used to be so open and who you could tell what they were thinking before they thought it is a stranger, impulsive and self- destructive. It has become all about them not killing themselves and the weird thing is this feels normal.
Planning who will be supervising every minute of the day. You work therefore have rely on others who should really be living their own lives and not having to manage the responsibility, the not much older kid and the grandparents to supervise and take to appointments, people without whose support everything would unravel.
It is a team effort. Everyone has now taken a back seat to getting the kid where she needs to be, when she needs to be there and making sure she does not die.
It is like having a little child, where you know where they are every second but it is not like having a little child because this child is equally as vulnerable but is able and fly and impulsive and devious. They want the trust but cannot have it because insight is failing and their ambitions are no longer acceptable.
At times the kid was seeing people every day and speaking to the crisis team at night, that and their own reaching out to the Samaritans.
You consider yourself lucky in the amount of professional support your kid has had. You have read horror stories of people being left, of their kids dropping through services and not receiving the support they need.
They die and you worry that even with the help as by now you understand that really no one has the answer, there is no magic pill that can fix this, that your kid might be one of those young people whose photo you see shared on Facebook as they are missing and then next time you see it they have been found dead.
Tales of funding cuts and massively long waiting lists, there have been waits for you and changes of services and care coordinators but you have been lucky in the people have been committed to helping and also committed to keeping your kid out of hospital. Between school, CAMHS, outreach, crisis team and your kid’s determination they got through without hospital admission until they were nearly seventeen. They have some shared experiences with their peers until this point.
Then it fell off a cliff and a rapid downward spiral began. It is so strange looking back how normal the abnormal can become, because the world is now so small, tiny yet all-consuming, by now there is no point talking to friends as they really don’t have a clue what to say.
There is nothing to say, people like progress and resolution, it is depressing to hear from someone that actually things are no better, they are worse and you feel so tired of being upbeat and making a positive spin on a shitty situation it is not worth the hassle. You can no longer be arsed.
Even if minded to there is no time to look on the internet for helpful advice, it is now one hour to an hour, down to minute to minute, down to breath to breath. This is now really serious, it makes the previous times when it seemed really serious look like a party in a fun house and you wonder what on earth were you worried about then, when now the 125 train of mental health is screaming into your station and you really did not have the distance to see that fucker coming. It was probably a Sunday service.
Hospital admission varies for different people, a lot seem to go from A and E direct, for us it was from home. Recommendation on Thursday, assessment on Monday, referral for beds Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, bed available Thursday afternoon, 100 miles from home, cross country journey, three hours away.
Okay…rock and roll.
I consider that I have experienced some random stuff, that took me well out of my comfort zone but that week and the next couple of months really meant that I couldn’t have found my comfort zone with the aid of compass, a map and the helpful guidance of Ray Mears from the side-lines.
Admission was the slow freight train and there was time to plan, pack a bag, do good byes, it was as good as it could be.
If by good you mean having your heart ripped out and stamped on repeatedly by a troop of evil pixies who then whiz it up in the blender before pouring it back into your chest cavity and this is the feeling during a positive moment.
And of course there is the overriding task to keep your kid calm, to reassure, to be positive. It is almost like creating a new persona, the ‘everything will be OK’ based on no knowledge that it will be but in the knowledge that things cannot stay the same.
My poor mother in her attempts to normalise it all kept saying that it was like the kid is going to boarding school. It is nothing like boarding school. Of this you can be assured it felt nothing like packing for Mallory Towers, this is not a trip to Hogwarts.
So two weeks before Christmas your little household of three, in the dark and pouring rain, fortunately it was not a mild and dry night as that would have seemed just too spiteful, take the world’s most convoluted route to the South Coast to an adolescent inpatient hospital.
This does not feel good.
For you who will be on the outside, you are bereft. You have lost someone who has taken up your every waking hour, who has been the centre of your thoughts and plans for so long. You are taking a massive leap of faith. It is hard because there is really no choice. Just Hobson’s choice, you can do this the easy way or the hard way. A trusted care coordinator had said ages before that if told they needed to go in to go. So it was really go or be sectioned.
You take her, this is a voluntary admission after all and you need to be sure that they are settled and you want to see where they will spend the next who knows how long.
What you don’t realise on that very long journey is that you took her to a world of shared experience, of other young people who understood and had experienced the same kinds of things.
It was a most unexpected benefit and went a massive way to help her and her recovery.