About Me

Mum of 2, suffering my own mental health issues, I began to write this blog as a way to release feelings and emotions. At 13 my daughter was terribly bullied which has led to her having serious mental health problems of her own. She is now 16. I wanted to document our journey and hopefully be able to look back and see how far we have come.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Another week goes by

I've found it terribly hard this week. I've missed Emily so much. We get so used to being able to phone or text our loved ones at any time that it is alien when this option is removed. Emily's phone is usually in her possession for 2 hours per day, approximately 6pm - 8pm. The rest of the time it sits in a safe.  Sometimes she doesn’t collect it at all.

She goes back to the unit on a Sunday evening and there is no visiting on Monday..  Obviously that makes it Tuesday night before I can see her. It seems such a long time. Messages were flying from my phone to hers on Monday evening, but it doesn't replace actually seeing her in the flesh.

On Monday morning I had my own Doctors appointment.  She looked at me with pity in her eyes before increasing my medication and offering to refer me for a new batch of counselling.  I’m not sure how long the waiting list will be, but I think it will be well worth exploring my first marriage and the problems my daughter is recalling from that time.  I wonder if I can actually lay some of the crap to rest.  Time will tell, it’s weird how I can hardly recall any details.

On Tuesday I went to visit Emily with my husband and son. We played games around a table and tried to keep it light hearted, but there were times when Emily cried.  She says she missed cuddles the most and she can’t go to anyone when she wakes in the night.

Her father has wanted to see her this week, but she doesn’t want him to visit.  This has caused some problems as he thinks it’s me being obstructive. I think our relationship has now reached a point of no return.
I’ve visited Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Emily tells me she finds it hard when I visit.  She really wants to see me and have cuddles but then she misses me when I’ve gone.  Trouble is I don’t think I could go without seeing her.  That’s perhaps me being selfish.  My biggest fear is that she’ll say she doesn’t want to see me, like she’s done with her father.

Today my Mum & Dad brought her home for the weekend.  She is already showing signs of distress, she really wants to hurt herself.  Tonight we had poster paints out in the living room and we both made colourful patterns.  Tomorrow we will decorate squares of fabric, as I came up with the idea of us making squares for a patchwork quilt.  It will be another full on intense weekend, but I don’t care.  At least I have her home, if only for the weekend.  I just need to keep her safe

Monday, 24 September 2012

Hard to write

I'm struggling with this post, it feels like a probe is going right into my core.  What I need to share is upsetting, guilt ridden and makes me ashamed.

The weekend has been hard.  It has been very intense.  I've got up when Emily did and stuck to her side like glue.  I've needed to.  She's tried to take pins, thorns from bushes and dinner knives, all with the intention of self harm.  This because I found what she'd been using to cut herself.  We found them by accident really, last week.  My son went to borrow her electronic spell checker, inside it he found a small razor blade. I discovered it had been removed from a pencil sharpener.  When I found a second pencil sharpener with no blade I hunted around her room.  I was lucky to find it, hidden in her glasses case.  Without being able to harm herself, the weekend has been even more tough for her.

Another reason it was tough for her was, as she put it, "I've stitched up my dad".
We sat alone and I let Emily speak at her own pace. She has been speaking to people at the unit about her experiences as a child. Unbeknown to me some of her memories are not happy ones and these seem to centre around her father.  She talked of being scared of him, of his bad temper, his shouting, his rough handling, his inability to show love and care.  All of this was whilst we were married.
She went on to say when her and my son went to stay with him at weekends after we split up, he would feed them, but that would be all.  She would look after her brother, she would tuck him in and kiss him goodnight.

Some of this I was aware of, some of it I wasn't.  I do remember incidents when he hurt Emily in front of me because he lost his temper.  I remember yelling at him and crying.  Guilt has come pouring out of me like water through an exploding dam wall.  There is so much I can't remember from that time, does it mean I shut it away?  Could this even be the root of some of my own mental health problems?

I was suffering with terrible depression during my first marriage.  He did not 'get it'.  I'm sure at times he got angry with the kids because he was actually angry with me.  I knew about abuse, but the times when he snapped and was physical were not that frequent and they were my fault, weren't they? I did stop him, I did shout at him, but maybe I should have done more. My Mum says I used to tell her some of this at the time, but I don't remember. I think if I had tried to tell anyone else, he would have laughed it off.  He wasn't a nasty man, he just lost his temper sometimes. Mr Charisma, but that's not good enough is it?  If I had done something before she was 8 maybe I could have saved her from this agony she now faces. I can't understand why I am almost seeming to defend him, even now.  My head is saying, 'he's not a bad man', but then it says, 'no, but maybe he's a bad father'.  Maybe I made him a bad father.

Maybe I can't accept that he may not be very nice, because what would that say about me?

I looked at my profile and thought, do I need to change this?  It may be that it's not the school bullies that led us here.   But then I thought, it's all still bullying even if it happens to now be at the hand of her father.

So, what happens now?  The unit will explore some of these memories and in a few weeks time her father will be invited into therapy.  I have said I want to attend too.  I think we all need to hear what he says.  We all need to face up to what this means for us. I am frightened of opening these wounds, but I have to do it if it will help Emily to heal.  I fear there is so much I have locked away and I'm not sure I can cope with it. 

That poor child has struggled through so much, hidden things from me for 'my protection'.
What happens if I turn out to be the monster?

Trust broken, trust restored

On Thursday last week, I arranged for my son to have time off school to attend family therapy.  He was upset that his sister was now a resident, so I thought it would be good for him to see where she was and also have an opportunity to maybe say how he was feeling.

The session started without Emily, which is not unusual. Our therapist talked to my son about Cahms, therapy and mental health.  She then told me that Emily had said something in a 1-1 session which she needed to share.  She told us that since our Wedding Emily felt pushed out and was not receiving as much attention.  I burst into tears and looked over at my husband to see shock and disbelief on his face.  My emotions were in turmoil.  I couldn't understand what more we could do for Emily, so to think she felt like this well, I was devastated.

I spoke of when we were first together 6 years before and admitted, at that time, Emily had said my, now husband, was getting more kisses and cuddles than her.  We took that straight on board there and then, cuddles began to include the kids and we did everything we could make them feel part of something, rather than on the edge of it.  I asked if this could have been what Emily referred to, no I was told.  It was since our Wedding.

When Emily entered the session, she was unsure why I was so upset.  The therapist talked about how our family had changed and was leading up to trying to discuss the comment she had made in her 1-1.  I studied Emily.  If she had said something that she knew would upset me, and was waiting for this to be discussed, she would have been panicky.  She was not, she was calm, bordering on bored.  When the alleged conversation was finally revealed it was quite clear by her reaction that she had no idea what the therapist was talking about.  Her comments of "I don't understand what's going on here", "I don't remember saying anything", "I haven't said that, I wanted them to get married, it made it better" were brushed aside by the therapist.  The therapist made the assumption that Emily was denying her comments because they had upset me, but she was denying them because she had not said it.  When she finally stormed out of the room, it was not because she was expressing her anger, as we were told, it was because the therapist would not listen to her.  My husband was really angry, he told the therapist this,  he did not shout, because that's not him, but he told her something must have been misunderstood.  My son was sobbing on my knee, I was sobbing and somewhere in the unit, Emily was sobbing.

I left the unit in an almost catatonic state.  This was all wrong. It was being made out that the bullying was the tip of the iceberg and actually we were causing the problem.

When we visited Emily that evening we sat as a family and discussed everything that had happened.  Emily had assumed we would be upset and cross with her.  She assumed we had believed the therapist.  It turned out that Emily's actual comment in response to a question about our relationship was "I guess I don't get as much time just on my own with Mum"  How this got built up into the statement from earlier that day I can not begin to imagine, but it did throw up serious concerns about what information was being acted upon and whether that information is correct.  Later that evening I sat and wrote an email to the therapist detailing our family discussions and our concerns.  I did accept that there are times when the perception of one person is different to another, but that this was not the case.

On Friday morning I asked for a meeting to clear up my concerns.  I couldn't rest and I certainly couldn't go into the weekend with all this doubt and mistrust hanging over us.  It felt like we had just become the enemy.

As my husband was at work, my Mum came with me.  I met with the therapist and Doctor.  To cut a long story short we heard from the nurse who agreed Emily had only said about not getting as much time on her own with me.  No one said they had made a mistake, but it was apparent they knew they had.  We talked, Mum talked and I left feeling like a weight had been lifted with my trust in them restored.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Did I fail?

Emily was 14 last week.  Her day seemed better than I had dared to hope for. She was pleased with her presents and although she was spending the day at the unit, they were having some time on a climbing wall in the afternoon.  Emily was actually looking forward to this. She has become close to a couple of the girls within the unit and I guess to her, going climbing was the closest thing she would get to a party.  Later we ate at home and Nannan & Grandad joined us for blowing out the, insisted upon, 14 candles and eating the cake.
birthday cake with candles
Emily's Birthday cake and far too many candles!

To be honest, it almost seemed normal.  She almost seemed normal. Almost.

Friday evening saw another unexpected visit from their father. My heart sank when I saw the car pull up outside so I did something childish.  I left my husband and the kids in the room and I hid.  When I say hid, I went to the back room and sat with the door shut, stroking one of our rescue cats.

I could hear the kids greet him and to my surprise I could also hear him asking Emily some questions about the unit.  I have tried to tell him before, but he's never been interested and certainly never asked any questions.  I wondered if seeing her scarred arms had actually had an effect on him after all.

It wasn't long before he asked for me and he came into the back room. I have so much I want to say to him, so many 'home truths' I want to throw at him. In reality, in that room, me, him and the cat, I remained silent.  He told me he hadn't realised how bad things were until he'd seem her arms.  I've informed him several times about Emily's illness and the impact it has on her.  It was clear he hadn't taken me seriously.  He then offered to take Emily to his house for a few weeks as in his words "it can't still be the bullying that's the problem now, so maybe she needs a change of scene" and "have they said what's actually wrong with her?"  My responses were clipped, defensive and to the point.  I added that Emily was also upset because, given the way he behaves, she assumes he doesn't love her.

On Monday I collected Emily at 4pm as normal.  I could see in her eyes something wasn't right, she said it had been a bad day.  Once in the car I encouraged her to talk.  She had been removed from her school lesson in the morning as she had dug her nails into her arm, constantly scratching until she bled. A support worker, her Doctor and one of her friends had taken turns in physically holding her hands to stop her scratching at herself.  She sobbed in the car, her head hanging, telling me she couldn't go on, couldn't see how it would get better, couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hugged her tight and told her I had been in the place she was now, but I was still here because I had got through it and she would too. You may not always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it doesn't mean it isn't there,  it's just hidden from view.

Later that evening her Doctor called to express concern over the days events.  She asked me to be even more vigilant than usual.

Yesterday I received another phone call.  The unit were asking permission to discuss Emily with her father. He had telephoned reception requesting information. I gave permission and then I was passed over to the Emily's Consultant who also wanted to speak to me.  I was still reeling from my ex having called them (presumably to get the 'real' story) when I  was dealt a far more sickening blow.  It struck me in the pit of my stomach.  The Consultant was explaining that due to the continuing self harm and suicidal thoughts they thought the time had come for Emily to become a resident.  I was sat by myself in the lunch area at work. I tried to sound together and practical, but it felt like my sanity was unravelling. I was asked my view, I was told Emily was ok about it when it had been mentioned. I answered that I would support whatever they thought was best for my Daughter. The Consultant said she would make enquires to see when Emily could be admitted and call me back.

I felt sick, my head was spinning with so many thoughts.  Tears were running down my face.  As I gathered my belongings I put my head down and hid behind my hair, trying to walk out of the room unnoticed.  In the ladies loos I leaned on the windowsill with my head in my hands.  The phone rang again and the Consultant confirmed the date for Emily to become a resident.

For me I feel like this has removed the last shred of credibility I had as a mother.  Ok we needed help, but at least she was still coming home, just like if she was going to school.  This action has taken her care so far out of my hands, taken away my responsibility, my role, my duty.  At the moment Emily will still spend Friday and Saturday nights at home, but this can be taken away too if needed and I would be faced with seeing her in a visiting room for a couple of hours at a time.

I couldn't hold it together at work, a colleague came across me in the corridor and alerted management.  I was sent home.  The guilt continued to pile on me, I'd let my daughter down and now I was letting work down too. At least going home early would allow me to collect Emily from the unit myself.

I had a drink in a cafe while I waited for 4pm (the end of Emily's day).  So many thoughts were in my head, including the situation with Emily's father.  I decided to make a call.  My tone may have been frosty, but I surprised myself how calm I was.  He knew the up to date position now.  I told him how guilty I felt that I hadn't been able to do more to prevent this.  I told him if I felt that way with all I had tried to do, then he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself as he had done nothing.  I told him he spent more time planning holidays than talking to his daughter.  To be fair, I think the penny finally dropped.  He admitted he'd not known what to do, so he did nothing. He admitted he'd not realised how serious things were even though I'd told him.  All he ever needed to do was talk to her and listen, text, phone calls, e-mails anything to show he cared. I told him this too.

When I collected Emily she looked ok.  I suppose for her, the weight of not being able to cope at home, has now been lifted.  We had a mixed night of her excitedly packing (as if going for a sleepover) through to her sobbing on my shoulder. I spent the night in a strange state of shell shock.

This morning I helped her unpack in her new room.  It felt like I was sending her to Uni, helping to put toiletries in the bathroom and photo frames on the desk in the halls of residence.  But this isn't Uni and she is only just 14 and tonight I really fear that she will be alone in that unfamiliar room and she will sob her heart out.  Just writing that make the tears roll down my own face again.  My head aches, my jaw is clenched, I haven't brushed my hair or cleaned my teeth and I don't care about the dark circles under my eyes.

This is going to be hard for all of us.  I need that little girl to stay strong, to be able to beat this and come out the other side.

Since yesterday I've asked family and friends, did I fail?  Is there something else I could or should have done?  Is letting her go into residential admitting defeat? Admitting I can't help her, I'm not good enough?

Did I fail?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Damned if I do, damned if I don't

The small bottle of cheap brandy I bought stands half empty.  I haven't managed a night without some form of drink for weeks now.  It started gradually.  We had so many alcoholic gifts for our wedding, we slipped into a routine of drinking some in the evenings while we were on holiday from work.  Whilst my husband can take it or leave it, I fear I can not.  We share a bottle of wine, but the spirits are there for when I drink alone.

Emily is now up to full strength in her medication.  I hope and pray it is only a matter of a few weeks now, until we start to see some improvement. 

Today while I was at work, the father of my children came to see them.  It is Emily's Birthday tomorrow (or today, looking at the time) He has just returned from yet another childless holiday.  By the time I got home from work, he had left.  Unfortunately, he had also left a lasting impression on the children.  Emily had shown him the marks on her arms, in an attempt to make him understand the dark place she was in.  I'm told he just shrugged his shoulders and said nothing.  He never asks her how she is, he never asks me how she is.

He thinks this is my fault, that I have made her like this.  When I first tried to tell him that his daughter was self harming, he joked that she was taking after me.  What a jolly joke!  For the record I have never cut myself.  Apparently a suicide attempt is the same thing according to him, and yes at 17 I did give that one a go.  He makes no attempt to support Emily or me.  My son, 12, idolised his father, but he too is starting to see the lack of interest.  It hurts him to see that there seems to be no concern or compassion for his sister and a waining interest in him.

Emily said this evening, through her tears, "I've got enough in my head, I don't need him on top"  My son said "I'm just going to his house on Saturday to get my toys before he throws any more away"  He too, was crying.

It's ok for him, it is us who are left to pick up the pieces.  It is us who are trying to get Emily and my son through this terrible time and this incredibly tiring and long journey.  It is us, me and a man who has willingly and selflessly accepted these children as his own, who will see this through to the end.  We, with support from my elderly parents, will come out of the other side with these kids.

Do I sound bitter?  Well that would be because I am.  I am sick of trying to smooth over the cracks their father leaves behind.  I want to get him in a room and give it to him straight.  I want to stop being the mature adult who rises above all the frustrations and ignores his selfish behaviour.  But to ignore it means it will never change, and whilst I can try and ignore it, the children can not.  He is, and always will be, their father.  What am I supposed to do?  I will always be damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Parent or Carer?

Since my last post we have had another Family Therapy Session and Emily's 6 week review.  We also had a family melt down last Sunday.  Emily and her brother were constantly snapping at each other throughout the day, but the final straw came when my son dropped a toy down the stairs.  Despite us all trying to help him put it back together (it was fixable) he ranted and yelled and wanted help but wouldn't actually let anyone get involved.

I really couldn't take anymore, work is rubbish, home is rubbish.  In the end, Emily shut herself in her room, I was sobbing hysterically in my room, wishing for a change, that I was dead. Andrew was stamping around shouting that his toy would never be fixed and my poor husband was trying to sort the lot of us.

Calm eventually returned, apologies were given and I suppose normal life resumed, well what passes for normal life.

The review meeting was strange, we felt out of place.  I couldn't say the things I really wanted to, as Emily was present.  I wanted to say that I was finding it hard.  Each day gets harder.  Emily is showing no signs of improvement.  Her self harm continues and her arms and legs are covered in superficial slash marks.

The Consultant intimated that we should keep Emily distracted at all times and that spending time in her room alone was counter productive.  My husband and I were referred to as 'Carers'.  I found this really clinical and impersonal.  They admitted they had not put in place the support needed and that this would be rectified. I tried to defend myself, explain what we try and do with Emily, but I did feel like I was on trial.

Later in the week the unit phoned me to tell me Emily's mood was low. They suggested we keep her busy, maybe some baking?  I have to admit to feeling totally fed up.  I am well aware of Emily's mood. We had spent all previous nights 'keeping her busy'. I am so frustrated.  It doesn't matter what I do, we distract and entertain, nothing changes. I'm not sure how, after a full day at work, I'm supposed to find the energy to bake.  My Mum said she'd cried all of Thursday night, purely out of worry.  Emily had repeatedly mentioned her wish to die.

On Friday Emily was walking around with 'I want to be dead' in marker pen on the back of her hand. Knowing how this was now affecting other people, I asked her to wash it off, to be honest I was cross with her.  I know I shouldn't be, but it's almost as if she wants to wear her depression as a badge for all to see. She really has no idea of the impact this has on others.  It's not her fault, but the upset is not diminished.

We've been trying to work on the garden this weekend, it's well overdue, I've tried to encourage Emily out into the sunshine.  I needed to do something that showed an actual result for a change.  This evening, I could see yet more slashes on her arms. I need to get away from this. Cahms are yet to have a positive impact and I'm not sure how much longer I can do this, work, house work, kids and crap.  I feel like I've been worn away, eroded.

I thought I was a parent, when did it change to carer?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

An apology

Last week and this week have been tough.  The pressure of feeling unsupported by Cahms coupled with Emily's fragile state of mind has been hard, really hard.  Too many times she's told me she wanted to be dead.  Too many times she's cut her arms and her legs.

Then on Wednesday this week everything changed.  I received a phone call from a Family Therapist asking to set up a meeting for today.  It seems one of the Doctors, not really in contact with Emily, had picked up on the lack of intervention and had set wheels in motion.

My husband worked from home so he could attend the session today.  We sat in a room with a Therapist, a Doctor and a Student Nurse and we talked about what family therapy was about. We explored some of my background and my husband did everything he could to show his willingness to support Emily.  Given my own mental health issues, therapy is no stranger to me. For my husband, this is brand new.  He participated fully today and instantly agreed to attend  further sessions regardless of work commitments. I am so very proud of him.

During the session, the therapist openly admitted that mistakes had been made, that Emily should not have been left for 6 weeks without therapeutic intervention.  She apologised and asked me if I, in view of this lack of care, would be able to put my trust in them.

Throughout this 'journey' my only concern has been the well being of my daughter.  I do believe that errors can happen, but from talking to the various practitioners today I can see they are truly sorry.  They know they have let Emily down and they intend to put that right.

I am relived that the situation will be changing rapidly and that Emily will soon be able to start the difficult path to recovery.

A simple apology can go a long way.