Potholders and Mindfulness

TWIGGER WARNING: Suicide, mental illness, depression, grief, psychiatric hospital, eating disorders, anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, self-harm, substance abuse

Do not read further if these topics are triggering.

As many of you know by now, about a week ago (I’ve lost track of the time honestly), I took my suicidal daughter to the emergency room. After twelve hours in the emergency room, she was transferred to a nearby psychiatric hospital. That first night in the psychiatric ward, she became medically unstable. In imminent danger, she was rushed to the intensive care unit at the regular hospital. The psychiatric ward informed me of this development and I hurried to the hospital, panicking so hard my hands shook on the steering wheel. Her time in ICU was the thing of nightmares. Hallucinations, ripping out her catheter, sheer confused terror. I arrived to find my baby with tubes in her body, blood on her sheets, and mittens on her hands so she wouldn’t harm herself. Her eyes darted to me. “WHY? Why, Mama? Why me? Why can’t I just be normal?” she said over and over.

After she stabilized, she was sent back to the psychiatric hospital. The HORRIFYING psychiatric hospital.

As I write this, she is still in the psychiatric ward, a horrifying, REPEAT – indescribably HORRIFYING place.

On Monday she will be flown to a co-occurring treatment center and need to be interviewed before our insurance will allow her to be admitted. If our insurance turns her down, I don’t know what we’ll do – try to find another place for her I guess. There are very few co-occurring treatment centers in the country though. This waiting and hoping for insurance to MAYBE allow my daughter to receive the treatment she so desperately needs is agonizing. But that’s a topic for another post.

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What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child for 12 hours? You try to help her be happy by drawing silly pictures.

What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child and you so want to make her happy? You draw her silly pictures.

What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child and you so want to make her happy? You draw her silly pictures.

My older daughter is tortured daily by invisible sadists. Her demons have been attacking her for almost a decade now. Her diagnoses are numerous: anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, possible borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, addiction, self harm, and body dysmorphic disorder. And I have sought out every possible avenue of help for her. She’s had a consistent team of professionals since she was thirteen: a psychiatrist, psychologist, a registered dietician, and numerous support groups. She’s been in eight different mental health treatment centers/psychiatric wards in eight years. She’s been treated by the best facilities in the country.

And yet, eight years later, she is suffering as much as ever before.

SHE HAS BEEN SUFFERING FOR EIGHT YEARS.

MY BABY HAS BEEN SUFFERING FOR EIGHT YEARS.

AND NOTHING HAS HELPED HER.

Excuse me while I take a loooooonnnnng moment to go scream my anger and pain at the universe.

Okay. I’m going to switch gears now because I want this post to lead to something positive. This next bit of my post will give you a view into the mind of a parent of a suicidal child. I’m not writing this for sympathy. Honestly, I kinda don’t wish to talk about this pain anymore. Sometimes talking about it actually magnifies the pain. So I do not need words of sympathy. I write this because parents of children with mental illness need ways to cope with the overwhelming emotions this bastard of a disease causes. This disease that abducts our children and tortures them day in and day out. This disease that strips them of their happiness and their dreams and their life.

I am not a psychologist and I do not have a “10 Ways To Cope With The Pain Of Having A Child With Mental Illness” list. As a parent of child who is suffering, as a parent who has been pushed to the brink by this sadistic bastard of a disease, I do have one lame little story to tell you. One that I hope may help even if it’s just a tiny bit.

As any parent would be after nearly losing their child to suicide and placing them in a psychiatric ward, I’ve been massively stressed: worried beyond all description for her, feeling her every pain as if it were my own, terrified for her future, mourning all the losses, feeling powerless to help, and struggling to maintain hope.

Stressed and grieving to the point of shaking, sobbing, and rocking on the cold tile floor in the middle of the night.

Stressed to the point of almost shutting down.

Unable to focus on anything outside of chaotic thoughts and emotions, I’ve barely been able to perform the daily tasks of living. Unsurprisingly, I’ve haven’t had enough focus to be able to write, revise, draw, blog, or almost anything else. I’ve been showing all the signs of grief: insomnia, nightmares, zero appetite, unplanned weight loss, alternating numbness or intense emotional anguish. The smallest tasks have seemed gargantuan. I’ve felt physically weak and ill, beaten down, severely depressed, and overwhelmed.

Yesterday, I neared the breaking point. I needed something, ANYTHING to escape the worries and sadness, if only for one small moment. I didn’t know what that “something” was though.

As I walked around the house like a zombie picking up Fang the Kitten of Destruction’s collection of mangled and shredded cat toys, I bumped into this cheap, crappy storage furniture thing I own in the front entrance knocking off the bottom cabinet door. Inside the cabinet sat a plastic loom and a pile of colorful fabric loops, items I’d forgotten were there. Items from when the girls were little and we used to do crafts together. I pulled out the loom and stared at it dumbly for a long moment. Then, I took it and a few handfuls of bright loops to the kitchen, dropped into a chair, and started, with clumsy-numb fingers, to make a potholder.

And something happened. My fears and grief sort of eased into the background as I rotely worked. One potholder turned into two, turned into four. The afternoon passed. I won’t say the pain evaporated. It didn’t. But it didn’t crush me in its grip as it had been doing for a week solid. I think Buddhists would mention the word “mindfulness” here. As I focused on the repetitive task, the constant violent thrashing of fear/sadness/guilt/regret/loss/anger/mourning against my vulnerable psyche eased. My mind emptied a bit, a welcome draining of the tsunami of emotions that threatened to drown me.  

The pain is not gone forever. I know this. It will return. The wounds are not healed. I know this.

But for that brief respite from unbearable pain, a big thank you to potholders. And to mindfulness. And wow, this sounds completely lame as I finish this post: POTHOLDERS TO EASE YOUR AGONY. But then again, if a freakin potholder can take away even five minutes of another person’s pain because of this post then it was worth it.

If you need support, please reach out. NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) is an excellent resource: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Reach out to a friend, to a family member, to a therapist. You do not need to bear this pain alone. Others want to help you. You are so very important and you are loved.

potholdercorrectallignmentP.S. The one on the lower right is supposed to be a sunrise. My younger daughter fell in love with it and asked if she could have it. I said, “I love you and of course you can have it, gooby.” So now she’ll be taking it to college with her and I hope this little sunrise potholder helps her through any tough times and reminds her of the value of mindfulness. As soon as I know my older daughter is safe within the walls of the treatment center, I’ll start sending her something to hopefully help her through the tough times. The treatment center has very specific rules about items allowed so my options are limited. I think I’ll send cards. I’ll probably start with my HUGS 4 YOU.

DrawingHugRobot2CopyrightI hope everyone in your world is in a happy place. But if they are not, I’m sending a big HUG 4 YOU to them and to you too and wishing you comfort and healing and strength and hope.


*IMPORTANT*

If you or someone you love is thinking of hurting themself, please call  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/


You take care of you.

Much love to you and yours,

 

me

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6 thoughts on “Potholders and Mindfulness

  1. Thank you for Sharing, I hope writing this, with helping others in mind has done the same as the potholder. I’m sure you have helped.

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    • I wsh I could help others who are suffering more. All I can offer is my understanding and my love and my listening heart to others and to wish strength and hope and peace for those suffering with mental illness and to their loved ones. Much love to you, babe ❤

      Like

  2. I’ve sat here for ten minutes trying to rake up the right words to express my feelings about this post. There’s just so much.

    This is brave. And powerful. And I’m so proud of you for trying. For not giving up. That takes so much out of us; to not give up. To keep fighting. And I know you are exhausted from it.

    I love you. All of you.

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    • I know there are no words any of us can express at times like this. I’m just extremely grateful for your friendship and your support. You are a beautiful soul. Much love to you, Niko. I wish you all the beautiful things in life.

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  3. When I was grieving my brother (I was 16, and he suffered like your daughter has been), I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t do anything I normally did, and that terrified me as an artistic person. I couldn’t do or make or play.

    I resulted in making embroidery floss friendship bracelets. That weaving and creative and repetitive task was such a blessing. I definitely understand how the potholers helped.

    I’m so thankful there are parents like you who understand mental illness is legitimate, and–even better–seek to help their suffering child(ren) till the ends of the earth. If my parents had been like you, I wouldn’t have lost my brother.

    I don’t believe in a god, but I’m praying for you and your family, wishing I could do more, wishing your health care system were better. You can do this. Your daughter can do this. Potholers or bracelets or mittens, you both can do this.

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    • Thank you so much. I am so terribly sorry about your brother. I ache for you and your loss of your loved one.

      I think research and our medical/mental health care system have far to go in understanding and truly helping those with severe mental illness. I think stigma is still pervasive and needs to be overcome. I think people need to be educated about mental illness and come to see it with the same compassion and care that they do with any physical illness. It’s sad and tragic and I do not have any answers or solutions. I so wish that I did.

      All I have is to be able to be here for those who suffer with mental illness and for the parents, loved ones, friends, and caretakers of those with mental illness. I’m always here for you. My DM is open if you ever want to talk. So much love to you, Coryl.

      Liked by 1 person

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