‘How did I not see the signs? We made it to the children’s psych ward. I wanted to kiss the boo boos away, but I couldn’t.’: In the wake of 12-year-old daughter’s ‘suicide plan,’ mom says we can’t be ‘the perfect parent’ no matter how hard we try

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“Two years ago, our family endured something we never could have imagined. While this is extremely personal, we (as a family) have decided it is important to share this experience in hopes that it will reach just one parent, child, friend, or loved one so they will not feel alone, or gain insight into something we so often do not understand. There aren’t always signs of anxiety disorder or clinical depression. There might be that ONE child who needs to know they’re not alone and there are brighter days ahead. Without proper understanding, we cannot help solve the problem. We become the problem. Here’s to hope…

January 13, 2016: Sitting in a cold hospital room, with the smell only a hospital can have, holding my 12-year-old daughter’s hand trying my best to reassure her that everything will be alright. Just sitting and staring off into space, lost in my own thoughts, and trying not to break down in front of her. I must not show fear, right? I keep glancing at the nurse posted at our door wishing and hoping for a distraction. My phone is completely dead, my boyfriend is stuck at work worried to death, my son is with his father, luckily oblivious to what’s going on, and here I sit, absolutely terrified and unbearably alone. I sit wishing I had someone here to help me remain calm; someone who could tell me what to do.

I try to make small talk with my daughter because I can see the fear and confusion on her face, but nothing seems to ease her, or me for that matter. Just waiting, thinking, casually smiling, and more waiting.

The nurses know why we’re here, the doctors know why we’re here, and yet I can’t help but wonder…Why are we here? How did things come to this? What have I done or not done to lead us down this path? How did I not see the signs or did I and just brush them off or ignore them?

Little girl holds the lead on a pony
Krista Swann

As the minutes and hours tick by I’m left with nothing but my thoughts. I know I must stay strong because my child laying in the bed before me needs my strength. She needs to know she’s not alone and that someone is going to keep it together when she can’t.

Finally, the doctor comes in. After speaking with my daughter alone she then asks if she can speak with me in private. My stomach is in knots and I feel on the verge of a panic attack, but I simply smile and follow her to the nurse’s station. ‘So, what do you feel is going on?’ I quickly and calmly explain the events of the phone call from school, and the events of the prior weeks as she listens and takes notes. She says, ‘I have talked to her and we have no choice but to admit your daughter. She has a clear plan to commit suicide, and we need to evaluate her and watch her closely.’

Amongst the noise of a busy emergency room standing at the center of the nurse’s station, I could have heard a pin drop in my mind. All was silent. I was frozen. After what felt like minutes had passed, which was no more than seconds I’m sure, I held back my tears and replied with all I could muster, ‘I understand.’

She leaves to get the paperwork started and I return to the room to wait once more. A few minutes pass and she returns to deliver the news to my daughter. It is in that moment she showed absolute fear. She begins to cry and squeeze my hand. She breaks down and asked if I could stay with her. Knowing that staying was not a possibility, I kissed her forehead and explained the best I could that it was not allowed, but that I would be to see her as often as they allowed.

Mom snaps a photo of her daughter in her softball uniform before a game
Krista Swann

My heart was broken. I was defeated. I was living a nightmare in my mind, but I stayed strong. I vowed silently I would not break down in front of her. As we walked the busy hallways and took elevators with escorts to the 7th floor I held her hand and stroked her hair, trying to assure her that it was all going to be ok. Who was I trying to convince, her or myself? As we made it to the door of the children’s psychiatric ward, I did not want to let go. I wanted to take her and hold her until everything was better. I wanted to kiss the boo boos away, but I couldn’t. This was beyond my capabilities of fixing. As a parent, that is the worst feeling in the world.

I stood in that quiet hallway all alone and beyond scared, allowing all of the unfolding events to spiral through my mind. The silence was unbearably deafening. At this point I lost it. I screamed inside asking, ‘Why? What did I miss? What didn’t I do?’ At that moment, all alone, staring out into the night, I cried harder than I had in my life, holding myself, and trying to grasp for strength to say goodbye to my little girl. The little girl I had vowed to love unconditionally, to protect with every fiber of my being, to do anything in the world I could to see her happy. It was in that moment I felt pure failure and crippling guilt.

Nearly 30 minutes had passed and I had somehow managed to pull myself together enough to walk in and tell her goodbye. I did my best to assure her that I will be there for her and we will make it through this. I held her, hoping it would somehow wake me up from this nightmare and magically make her better.

Mom and daughter take a selfie in the park
Krista Swann

I held her one last time for the night and walked out of the large doors as they locked behind me. Knowing I was drained from the events. I was angry at her father. I was angry at myself. I wanted to hold my children close, but I was going home without either of them. I came home to my boyfriend who consoled me despite the pain he was feeling.

In the passing hours and days, I was able to process and truly think about life, every event, every single decision, every word spoken, absolutely everything over the last 12 years. I somehow managed to carry on at work. I spent the nights holding my son, consoling him as he cried about missing his sister, not understanding why she couldn’t come home. I tried to make life as normal for him as possible. I clung to my boyfriend for strength and wiped his tears as he cried because he wanted so badly to help and understand. 10 days. 10 agonizing days.

Mom takes a photo of her daughter and son while they stand in front of floral bush
Krista Swann

Now, two years later, I’m a glass half full kinda person…

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I don’t ‘live’ in that moment, but it has forever changed me…us…our whole family. We love harder and are thankful for the little milestones. We listen a little harder and understand a little more. Two years ago, our life seemed upside down, but now I know that every single moment/experience has its purpose whether we choose to understand it or not. I embrace every single second of this life, good or bad, and face the obstacles head on.

She will never know how proud of her we are and the progress she has made, but I hope she will one day be as proud of herself as we are! There will ALWAYS be hurdles, BUT there is NOTHING we cannot handle as long as we all stick together. So here we are today, two years later… we fought hard and we will keep on fighting… because life and love are worth fighting for.

We are in a far better place. We, as a family, went through a whole year of intensive in-home therapy 3-5 days a week. My daughter was prescribed medications to help with her sleep, mood stabilizers, and her ADD. Breanna learned techniques to handle her anxiety, depression, and racing thoughts.

As of now, we have been able to reduce her medications drastically. We still have our battles, but she leans on her family and knows we will support her and pull her through. She lets us in and trusts we will be strong for her when she cannot be for herself.

We have adapted to our new normal.

It was not easy by any means. We all had to deal with hard truths along the way. This is not something we could have prepared for, but it showed our strength. Our strength as a family, but most importantly, it showed Bre how strong she can be and that she can overcome any obstacle that may come her way.

Day by day. Moment to moment. Never give up.

Mom and daughter take selfie together while sitting in a car
Krista Swann

Through all of this I realized a few things.

1) It doesn’t matter what kind of parent you are. You are not always able to control how or who your children turn out to be. You cannot control mental or societal influences. No matter how hard we try to be the ‘perfect parent,’ no matter how hard we try to break the cycle and be the opposite of the parent you had, there are certain things we cannot control.

2) We are only as strong as those we have to depend on. Without my boyfriend, my son, family, and friends I would have fallen to pieces. Without support and holding onto faith we would not have been able to stay strong and endure the passing days.

3) Every single moment, every word, every ‘I love you,’ every goodnight story, every ‘family moment,’ every second in our lives is precious! We just have to pay attention. We have to listen. We have to be willing to give and do no matter what is going on or how tired we are.

4) Embrace the ‘new normal!’ Adapt, love, laugh, cry, pray, pay attention, listen and live every second for the life you want and your children deserve. Learn to let go of what’s not important and what you cannot change. Focus on that’s important and within your control.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Krista Swann of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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