It’s been a while since I’ve written about her, a former music student, now special ed teacher, but with so many deep seated psychological problems that for the past two years she’s been on a revolving door into the psychiatric ward. She calls me periodically, usually crying, to let me know that she’s “not doing well” or has “tried to hurt herself.”
One of those calls came in about a month ago – she was hospitalized after a suicide attempt, and she was calling me from her room. Her car had been impounded, she said, sobbing, and she didn’t know how to get it out.
I know she wanted me to help her, but those were the days leading up to my mother in law’s death, and in all honesty, I was just tapped out.
“You need to call your mother,” I told her. The girl does have a mother, even though their relationship is apparently god-awful.
“I’m afraid!” cried. “She’ll only make it worse!”
“Then talk to the social worker at the hospital, and find out what to do,” I counseled.
“Okay,” she says, the flat, resigned tone I’ve come to expect whenever I offer advice of any kind.
I called my friend Pat, who, knowing my situation at that time, agreed to go out to the hospital and see her.
The next night, very late, the phone rang again.
“I called my mother, like you said,” came her voice, low pitched, dark, and completely flat sounding – the scariest sounding voice I ever heard. “She came here and brought me some money.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes,” she answered. Then, after a long pause, the dark voice continued. “Here’s the thing,” it went on in my ear, “the thing about my mother. When I was little, and then when I was a teenager, and even now if I go home, she gets into bed with me and she’s naked and she touches me.”
Obviously I am in way over my head.
And that’s “the thing”…this girl is supposedly getting treatment at one of the finest medical facilities in southeastern Michigan. Why is she calling me on the phone from her hospital room? Why is she attempting suicide right outside the building after leaving a session with her therapist? Does that make sense?
Anyway, that was last month.
Last night, after a particularly grueling day at the office (which you’ll hear about eventually, I promise), she calls again. She’s sobbing (and driving) which is so often the case.
“Things are just so hard right now,” she says, gasping into the phone. “My classes are so bad, there are so many kids who are violent and have to be restrained, and it’s impossible to teach, and I just feel so suicidal I can’t do anything.”
“Where are you now?” I ask.
“On my way home from therapy,” she answers tearfully.
I know that’s at least a 40 minute drive. So I did my best to redirect her attention to something other than killing herself. We talked about finding something to do each week that she would enjoy, we talked about her years in college, and how she felt better during that time than any other time in her life, we reminisced a little about funny things that happened during high school, and how they had seemed so bad at the time and now we were laughing about them.
After about 20 minutes, I could tell she was done talking. She hadn’t eaten since noon (this was about 9:00 p.m.) and I convinced her to go through the Wendy’s drive through. She assured me she was allright to continue on home.
“Thank you for talking to me,” she said softly.
“It’s okay,” I answered.
“I love you,” she said – she always says that at least once.
“I love you too,” I replied.
And I do ~ she’s a sweet natured, brilliant girl, who has never felt she was worth anything. She’s obviously in need of some unconditional love and support – the kind you’re supposed to get from your mother.
I get really angry at people who mess up their children. I know we all have “issues” of our own, but people who damage their own children- psychologically or physically – just don’t get any excuses in my book. There’s no exemption for that kind of behavior, no matter what your problems are.
And I’m worried that somehow this girl is getting lost in the system, that without an adult to advocate for her, she’s not getting the treatment she needs or the kind of advice to help her get her life on track.
Ultimately, of course, I’m worried that I’ll fail her too – that one day my conversational gambits and lame attempts to play therapist simply won’t cut it, and she’ll succeed in her quest to escape from a life she continues to find more and more untenable.
And that’s the biggest fear of all.