trauma

Arabella’s second hospitalization didn’t go well. She told me she had one of the worst cases of cutting they have ever seen. That says a lot since it was coming from professionals working in a psychiatric hospital.

Arabella wasn’t doing well in group time. She couldn’t focus. She started picking at her wounds which was triggering for the other kids. Arabella told them she would never stop cutting. This ended up getting her kicked out of group and she was sent off to work by herself on packets.

Not only did she scratch open her wounds, but she started banging her head against the wall. This landed her in a room with 24 hour surveillance. She started having panic attacks which included hysterical crying for long periods of time and throwing up.

I felt like the staff blamed us for her condition. Trauma they said. Trauma, I hate that word. It has so many meanings that it means nothing. The Holocaust survivors experienced trauma. Everyone in the world experienced trauma from COVID. There could be trauma from abuse anywhere from incest to someone speaking to you the wrong way. There could be trauma from being in a car accident, etc. What does it really mean anyway?

Paul and I were incredibly worried. How were we going to keep her safe at home when she found a way to self-injure in a psychiatric hospital. They offered useless advice such as locking up all of the medications and knives in our house. As if she couldn’t find a way around that if she really wanted to.

Jordan’s mom texted me and said that she didn’t want Arabella staying at her house anymore. It really scared her when Arabella was suicidal at their house. She said she couldn’t live with herself if something happened and it really was a stressful situation for their whole family. I think she realized what I said to her a couple of weeks before was right. They weren’t saving Arabella from an abusive home. They were enabling Arabella to not work things out with her own family that cared for her. Not only that, but it was the first time they saw that she was dealing with some serious mental health issues.

The evening that Arabella was admitted, we were hosting the first Bible study group at our house. I considered cancelling that evening and the class altogether. But we decided not to. If I decided to cancel things for every crisis or sleepless night, I would get nothing done. I just wanted some degree of normalcy in my life.

I blamed myself. I felt guilty for things I didn’t even do. What kind of parents have their child in a psychiatric hospital with severe cutting that will require plastic surgery to fix? We also decided to pull the plug on her breast reduction surgery scheduled for a couple weeks from then. We consulted several psychiatrists and the plastic surgeon’s office about it. They all advised against it. It would be a big surgery and we did not feel we could keep her safe. What if she messed with the wounds? It could easily become life threatening.

I didn’t feel relief with this hospitalization. I wasn’t sure that she could be safe from herself even there. I didn’t know how things were going to be when she came back home. She couldn’t even handle being at home before the hospitalization and now Jordan’s family didn’t want her back.

We were desperate for answers that we couldn’t find.

The downward spiral

A couple weeks after Arabella moved out, I received a call that I needed to pick her up and bring her to the hospital. She needed help and her plan was to take a cocktail of all her pills.

Her girlfriend broke up with her. There was constant fighting amongst her friends. And she lost her job at the bar and grill doing food prep because she was too slow. Her self-esteem dipped to a new low. She was planning on going to school for culinary arts but she felt like that door closed because she couldn’t do something easy without getting fired. In her mind there really wasn’t anything left to live for. She lost her family, girlfriend, and a job. Maybe her new family was starting to lose its luster too.

I picked her up along with some clothes and had her admitted into a different psychiatric hospital right away. They did a rapid COVID test and while we were waiting alone in the room together a security company had workers moving in and out of the room trying to service equipment. It was a strange experience because they tried hard to seem invisible when they were anything but.

My daughter needed to remove her jacket for admittance. That is when I saw her arms for the first time after I was told her cutting was superficial several months ago. I suppose you could almost say the cutting was superficial on her dominant arm. But her other arm was ruined. It was absolutely devastating to see what she did to herself after her first hospitalization. She was going to need plastic surgery to heal those wounds. There were numerous scars that went all the way up her arm.

I felt afraid and sickened by it. All the while the men were coming in and out of the room pretending to be oblivious to our suffering. I can imagine the stories they told at home later. This time I was able to go into the adolescent ward with her while she waited for her room. Another girl said hi to her. No one really seemed to focus on her arms. Parents were allowed to visit their children in this hospital at meal time.

I told Paul that Arabella’s cutting was really horrifying and he was going to have to prepare himself to see her. I’ve never seen her in this rough of shape before. It was hard for me to handle. Something was seriously wrong with my daughter. What were we going to do?

I felt extremely disturbed by everything that was happening. I started having sleepless nights again and nightmares when I could sleep. It was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences for me as her parent. We were desperate for help but we didn’t know what to do. We weren’t sure if there was any hope left for her future or if they could even help her.

Life as we knew it went completely off the rails. Things were never going to be the same again.

The first hospitalization

Paul and I tried to get away for a few days for our anniversary, but it didn’t work out. I started the job with the census and would be training that week.

By that time, Arabella was on her second therapist. She was still feeling depressed and angry a lot at home. But at Jordan’s house everything was fine. I started noticing things I found unusual. Arabella started wearing long sleeve shirts in the summer. She even wore them to go swimming in the pool or the lake. When she was wearing shorts, I noticed a cut on her upper leg. I think at first she said the cat scratched her. I didn’t believe it and asked her what really happened. She said she cut herself with a scissors but didn’t really like it. I asked her if she cut her arms, but she refused to tell me or show me.

The evening before my work orientation, Arabella called me from her friend’s house. She said she wanted to make an appointment for an assessment with a hospital for her depression. I didn’t really think she needed it. She seemed fine at the time. But what would it hurt? So we scheduled the earliest appointment available which was 8 PM that evening. After we were screened for COVID, it seemed like Paul and I waited in the lobby forever. After we locked up all of our items such as purse, cell phone, and jackets in a locker they led us in through a locked door.

They told us that our daughter met the qualifications for hospitalization. Someone sat us down and talked to us with our daughter. Then I filled out all the paperwork. I asked about her arms. Was she cutting? Yes, but it was all superficial and would heal. They were going to help her and everything was going to be better.

We got home late that evening and I had to be up early for the work orientation. It all seemed surreal. I just admitted my daughter to a psychiatric hospital. But somehow I had to carry on. I had to be ready to start a new job and meet my new supervisor bright and early. I had to have a smile on my face when inside I felt like crying. But at least it was comforting to know that while she was hospitalized she wouldn’t kill herself.