In my post of October 12, When Things Became Even Worse, I explained how Lily ended up in an adolescent psych ward an hour away from home. The event was traumatic for our close knit, sheltered family. I was devastated and afraid for my daughter, and guilt ridden because I wasn't with her, soothing and protecting as I'd tried to do for her whole life. It hadn't yet sunk in that my parenting methods weren't adequate for Lily's needs, that the situation was beyond me.
After phoning my mom, feeling every bit a bereft child, I wandered the unfamiliar streets again, in hopes of finding a place to get coffee while waiting for mom to make the long drive. I walked for what felt like miles, finally finding an open Safeway with a Starbucks. I was pitifully grateful for an overpriced latte, but tried not to look the barista in the eye in fear that she'd know I was a negligent mom with a child in the local mental health ward. Exhausted, cold and ashamed, I walked back towards the hospital and stood in front of a Target store, an easy landmark for my mom to find.
Mom made record time and drove up before I finished my latte. I got in and asked her to drive to a remote corner of the parking lot, knowing that I was about to lose it. As she put the car into park, I let loose, sobbing and explaining what had happened. She held me, like I wanted to hold my daughter, and listened, murmuring her love and support. My mom and I aren't always close, but she was just what I needed in that moment.
We drove home and I hugged my younger son before crawling into bed for a few hours sleep. During those hours, my family marshaled forces. My two older sons set up to tag team care for my youngest. My sister got on the first flight available to be with us. My oldest daughter, a child therapist in Southern California, arranged her schedule so she could fly up mid week when we expected Lily to be released.
After a short rest, I rose and made plans for the evening. The facility allowed visitation only from 6:45 to 7:45 each evening, and I wanted to leave early so we wouldn't be detained if there was a problem on the road. I packed a change of clothes for Lily, her toothbrush and vegan toothpaste, and my mom and I started out, stopping by the airport to pick up my sister on the way.
Lily didn't want to see anyone but me, but my sis and mom provided some much needed moral support for me. I signed in with the security guard, surrendered earrings, cell phone and keys before being allowed into the building. I waited with a small crowd to be let into the locked ward. During the wait, we could hear disturbing yelling and crying from the ward, along with the unmistakable sounds of someone banging on a wall. I grew more tense and worried, but worked to appear calm before being admitted for the visit. I knew that if Lily sensed my distress, it would only add to her struggle.
Lily was happy to see me, and I got a good hug before we settled down to visit. We sat together in the hallway, on adjacent chairs, as specified by the facility rules. I asked Lily about her day, and as she began to tell me what her day was like, she grew increasingly upset. One of Lily's compulsions before being admitted was her head tapping, lightly tapping on her head nine time with a pen every time she heard a word with "ck" in it. Because pens were considered contraband, Lily was denied that particular coping method when faced with anxious feelings. Adding to her discomfort, she was in a coed adolescent ward with numerous angry seventeen year-olds. The word of choice on the ward was of course, fuck, repeated frequently with an escalating emphasis.
Teens have an amazing communication network and their stories were shared in boasts of violence, drug use and promiscuity. Part of Lily was intrigued by these tales, and part of Lily was frightened by them. In spite of her struggles, or perhaps because of them, Lily was a young thirteen, very sheltered. She was gaining an accelerated education I wasn't happy about. One of Lily's other discomforts was the lack of vegetarian options from the institutional cafeteria. So she was hungry, frightened, and just beginning to understand that she'd rather be a home.
Lily began to cry and ask to go home. I put my arms around her thin shoulders and explained that I was legally prevented from taking her home because her admittance was involuntary, a decision made by the emergency room doctor after Lily's 911 call. I reassured her that the staff would take good care of her, and we spent a few minutes speaking with the evening charge nurse, a warm young man who promised to look out for Lily. She calmed a bit and told me about her roommates before our hour was up.
When the parents were asked to leave at the end of the visitation hour, I gave Lily one last hug along with a brave smile that even I didn't believe, and told her I'd see again tomorrow. I blindly exited the building and asked my mom and sis to get me to the car. I couldn't speak without breaking down and knew Lily might be able to see me through the windows. I had to maintain a confident facade for her benefit, or I'd never to be able to leave her there. And I didn't have a legal option to take her home yet.
I was furious and horrified by the chaos of the yelling and underlying feeling of violence on the ward. I would have to trust the staff at the hospital, but had no trust in anyone's ability to care for and protect my daughter. The truth was, I didn't know how to help Lily during a state of mania induced psychosis. I knew her med regimen wasn't working, but had no idea what would work.
We got back to Santa Cruz and I took a sleeping pill, knowing that I'd never get any sleep if I wasn't medicated. I fell into bed and slept soundly until my ringing phone woke me up after midnight. The ringing stopped before I got to the handset, but I saw from the caller ID that the call came from the hospital. I called the number and was eventually connected with the charge nurse who said Lily was upset and wanted to speak with me. My heart sank, but a brief conversation with Lily somehow resulted in calming her own. I again reassured her that I'd see her the next day. I waited until she disconnected before hanging up my phone and crawling back into bed for a restless night's sleep.