P.S. To My Love Letters Parts 1-9

J-Dub's Confessions

P.S. when used in writing, it stands for postscript, from the Latin post scriptum, meaning “written after.” Generally used in letter-writing to indicate something added after the body of the letter was completed and signed. 

Why did I write these letters?

  1. To bring awareness to mental health issues
  2. To help end the associated stigma
  3. To show others you are not alone

I am not a professional, (I just play one on TV).  LOL!  That never gets old.  Ok, it gets old. Ba dum tiss ūü•Ā

I am just a mom who loves her daughter unconditionally.  Loving unconditionally is hard.  I used to have rules and conditions on everything.  My perfectly scripted life was oh so phony.  Not anymore.

These letters were based on my personal experiences.  Each case is unique and I do not presume to speak for others.  That said if our story is relatable and makes one think before casting judgment on others, then I’ve done my job.

Do I think suicide can be prevented/cured?

The answer is not a simple yes or no.  Darn it all, the answer is sometimes.   Let’s equate mental illness to physical illness.  Some protocols work for some people but not always universally.  The 99-year-old heavy smoker going strong and the 20-year-old who never smoked who dies of lung cancer.

Unfortunately death by suicide will continue and the most important thing to me is that we do NOT assign fault.  Suicide loss survivors, you absolutely have to know that you are NOT the cause!!!  Don’t blame yourself, blame the disease that took your loved one from you.  You could not prevent a death by suicide any more than you can prevent a death by cancer.  Easy for me to say having not experienced this but in my heart of hearts I believe this is true.  Be kind to yourselves. You did your best and your best is good enough. 

Does that mean we quit trying?  

Hell no.  Hope is a fickle bitch but we need her.  The stories, the shouting from the roof tops, all brings awareness.  The impact of the awareness is measured successful by reaching at least one soul.  We keep the lines of communication open and we try multiple approaches. We fight! Together! Only in hindsight will we look back and see the hard work was worth it.

How is Lulu doing, do you think she will ever be okay? 

She is in her second year of college.  She still gets anxious over things like her grades. She is still the proverbial people pleaser.  Apple didn’t fall far from that tree.  I think she will be okay but I cannot predict the future.  Now I do not even try to predict/control.  Living in the moment is all we have.  I hope nothing ever happens yet what does happen is meant to be.

In hindsight, those letters are not the terrible awful.  They were written with LOVE!  Despite everything, the events of that day and what followed brought us to where we are now which is a really good place.  Perfect, uh no! Perfect flawed, yes please.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours everyday.

Sometimes the right song presents itself. Enjoy and hugs. XOXOXO ‚̧

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Part 9 ~ All’s Well That Ends Well

J-Dub's Confessions

I’d like to say the story is done or FIN as my Pony would say. ¬†Roll credits at this movie’s close and put everything in our rearview mirror. ¬†But alas, we are not even close to the end. ¬†At least I hope we are not close to the end.

Was Lulu suicidal on that fateful day? Depends on who you ask.  B is unequivocal.  No! his mind will not be changed.  Me? I want with my heart of hearts to be like B.

I have learned tons through this odyssey. ¬†Choose words purposefully as words have multiple meanings. ¬†Everyone who has mental health issues is not necessarily suicidal. ¬†And while it’s quoted that 90% of those who die by suicide have mental health issues, what does that even mean?

Circular logic fallacy:


Life has no absolutes my friends and we will never know why. ¬†And we will drive ourselves crazy trying to figure it out. ¬†Finally I find comfort in not knowing. ¬†Allowing God’s grace to flow, taking things as they come. ¬†Living day by day.

Going forward, I release all control.  The joke is on me; I never had any control.  Control is an elusive bastard. Lulu is an adult and whatever happens will be her choice.  As her parents, we are merely supporters on the sidelines.

Truth! Has and always will be stranger than fiction. ¬†And we won’t hide anymore. ¬†Silence = stigma. ¬†This life is not all unicorns and rainbows. Pretending does not make it so.

I used to think my kid was fragile and about to crack at any second.  I worried incessantly about her well-being.  My innate need as her mother to make things better also gave me reverse rose-colored glasses.  I only saw and believed the worst. I could not see the proverbial forest for the trees.

Yet when I sit and really contemplate all that we’ve been through, I know to my very core, Lulu is NOT breakable. She was¬†never¬†weak. ¬†In fact, given what she has endured, she has displayed tremendous strength. ¬†That’s our girl, tough as nails. Head-strong and decisive too.

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I’ve got my own issues. ¬†We all do. ¬†Don’t forget about self-care and all that fun stuff. They (whoever they are) have said in order to help someone, you have to put your oxygen mask on first.

Writing this out during National Suicide Prevention month was my life-preserver and part of my healing.  There has been an outpouring of love which is very reaffirming. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone else. No one is immune.  The tide is turning, can you feel it?

“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: ‘me too’.” ~ Brene Brown

“I think the stigma attached to mental illness will disappear just like it did for cancer years ago.” ~ Sally Graham

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours everyday.

 

Part 8 ~ What’s Next

J-Dub's Confessions

After the banning, we found a doctor who was just a hair better than Doctor X.  The inital appointment went well.  An actual assessment was done and a diagnosis was made.  Of course this is based on self report mainly.  Not 100% reliable but felt like an answer just the same.

We will call her Dr. Y. ¬†She had major issues of her own. ¬†Reviews on Yelp “I would not trust this doctor with my child’s mental health” and “Major ethical business issues in appointment keeping”. ¬†Meaning she would see the patient for 5 minutes to fill the RX after having kept him/her waiting up to 3 hours past the appointment time. ¬†When one really needed to talk, she was catching up and pushed the patients along like cattle. ¬†Yet I am sure (at least in our case) that she billed for the 50 minute hour just the same. ¬†That my friends is NOT ethical. ¬†The talk part Dr. Y advised should come from someone else in any case.

In that regard folks, we hit the JACKPOT! Someone up stairs was looking out for us.

I can’t remember exactly if I was working from home or if I had taken the day off. It was lunchtime and I was on the phone with EAP insisting that I wanted a full list of referrals even surrounding cities like New Braunfels or Boerne. ¬†We’d drive anywhere. ¬†Like Ground Hog Day, I started by calling the first name given to me and thought no way will anyone answer. ¬†It was lunch time after all but I was trying anyway.

It’s how we found our Angel. ¬†Believe it or not, she answered the phone herself. ¬†In my memories, on the first ring :). ¬†No admin, no delay. ¬†Her practice is faith based and that was icing on the cake. ¬†I told her through tears everything that happened and she agreed to see Lulu the next evening. After that first session, B took Lulu to her appointments until she started driving herself there. ¬†Always after school to avoid creating more anxiety. ¬†And eventually Lulu was released with an open door to return anytime things got tough. ¬†An open door she took advantage of most recently when she had surgery.

For a while, I was angry. ¬†Now I no longer blame an entire profession for a few bad apples. ¬†We all do the best we can under the circumstances. ¬†To quote a former boss, “no one wakes up and says to himself, gee I think I will see if I can royally fuck up today”. ¬†We are humans, perfectly flawed. ¬†In hearing others stories though, we seem to have more in common than not. ¬†Simply put, good help is hard to find.

Mental health and well-being are complicated issues without a reliable diagnostic tool. Add to the mix more opinions than you can shake a stick at.  Be it insurance or a multitude of other factors, many are out on their own.

 

Part 7 ~ What Did You Do?

J-Dub's Confessions

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours everyday.

B was pissed.

What did you do?  She is not suicidal.  I know MY daughter.  She would never kill herself. She just wanted someone to listen.  Maybe give her some attention (wrong! We know now, contrary to popular opinion, someone who is suicidal is not an attention seeker)

B was so sure that he convinced me.  We went back to spring Lulu from the pokey.  I mean the commitment was voluntary right?  Wrong!  I signed papers.  We had a battle I will never forget.

They refused to release her and even said they would call the cops if we did not leave. They refused to allow us to talk to her. To let us see how she was doing.  I was screaming to let her out.  Let our baby out!!!

They put us in a room and left us there.  We waited.  Three different people alternatingly came to talk to us before we finally decided to leave.  Heartbreaking as they refused to pass along that we were there.  I can only imagine her feeling lost and lonely.

Next morning, after a sleepless night, we were back.  Call the fucking cops.  She is coming home.  And they finally agreed after much maneuvering.  Against medical advice.  Another novel signed on the dotted line.  They also refused outpatient treatment and banned her from their services. This nameless place is one of the best in the city.  In the initial assessment Dr. X talked about outpatient.  That was now off the table.

First do no harm.

Ha!  She obviously needed help and to ban her was shocking.  I get that they have to be extreme.  Truly I do.  Making the threat is no laughing matter.  Thank you litigious society. They could be held liable for what she might do if they released her too soon. Very stressful, were we doing the right thing?

As I think about that fateful day, her answers were not resolute. ¬†I’ve learned after the fact the questions used in assessing her were leading. Instead you should ask:

What do you mean when you say you’re suicidal? ¬†I imagine her saying you said that H not me.

What brought you to this point?¬†I imagine her saying I’m anxious about going to school today.

We took our baby home, less than 24 hours after she had been admitted. We isolated ourselves even more.  To this day, her grandparents have no idea this ever happened. Besides my boss at the time, Pony, and Wise no one knows the full extent of what went on.

Of course, you know me by now. ¬†I am an open book. ¬†On this topic though I spoke only in allusions and innuendo. ¬†That’s what is driving me to come forward now. ¬†We did nothing wrong. ¬†Lulu did nothing wrong. ¬†We did the best we could to help her. ¬† ¬†Can anyone tell me why we should feel humiliated and ashamed?

Part 6 ~ Major Decision

J-Dub's Confessions

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours everyday.

The doctor (we will call him Dr. X) who admitted her was a joke.  I swear he was high on something.  Dilated pupils and the inability to sit still are tell-tale signs.  He spoke rapid fire and only sort of made sense.  All along we thought commitment was voluntary.

Dr. X: What would you like to do?

Outlining options.

Me: Can we wait for my husband?

Dr. X: When will he be here? We really should move this along. Spaces are limited.

Me through tears: Lulu do you want to stay? Do you still want to hurt yourself?

Lulu: I don’t know. ¬†No, I don’t want to hurt myself. ¬†I am scared momma but I can be brave. ¬†I will stay. ¬†Maybe here I will get to finally see somebody who can help me?

I signed her into a 72 hour hold still thinking this was voluntary considering how everything was explained to me.  The paperwork was a novel and I admit I did not retain most of it, the words floating through my brain, not sticking.  I may have signed under duress but that changes nothing.

Part 5 ~ That Fateful Day

J-Dub's Confessions

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Call 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours everyday

Her regular therapy appointment ended and we were leaving for school and work.

Lulu: I don’t want to take the stairs, let’s wait for the elevator

Me: Ok

Conversation as we wait for the elevator and continuing once we enter the elevator

Lulu: I don’t want to go to school today

Me: I have to get to work

Lulu: I can’t go to school, take me home and stay with me; you can work from home

Me: What happened? ¬†You just talked to H. ¬†The school year just started and you’ve already missed days

Lulu: ¬†She’s not helping me, talking to her makes things worse

Then Lulu slides down the wall of the elevator in a full-blown panic attack.

In hindsight, I should have taken her home and let her skip school.  Made a day out of playing hooky.  Instead we went back inside.  Then they asked two questions to determine next steps.

H: Lulu, you already told me you do not have thoughts of suicide, has that changed?

Lulu: I don’t know.

H: Do you have a plan?

Lulu: Kind of … I know where my dad keeps the key for the gun safe.

What? The world came to a halt; I did not comprehend what I was hearing. ¬†We sat in the office on a sofa … both of us crying. ¬†H had brought in her supervisor and both women are calling around looking for places to take Lulu. B was out of town. ¬†I was leaving messages.

Same as with trying to make an appointment to see someone, finding help is hard to come by.  Finally success.  H finds a place.  We drive ourselves over and are immediately seen.

Part 4 ~ I Tried, Really I Did!

J-Dub's Confessions

Uneventful freshman and sophomore years.  New clubs and organizations.  Beginner band, drama club and year book.  Typical stuff really.  She made three really good friends. Grouped together by alphabet.  They became close.  

Then B had his accident and her anxiety sky rocketed.  She was sad, she said.  She didn’t know why but she was.  Her sleep was disrupted.  

I looked for professional help through referrals from my employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  I called countless places. Same responses: Either not taking new patients or only sees adults.  

I vividly remember her asking me 

“Momma did you remember to call?  Have you found somebody to help me?”

Eventually an appointment was made. The first therapist was nice but they didn’t really connect. After two 50 minute sessions, Lulu was told she didn’t need therapy.  She’d been given exercises to increase her coping skills.  

Yet nothing changed.  Lulu was still sad.   She was constantly worried.  

We made an appointment with a different therapist.  This person, an older woman, fell asleep during the first interview.  Seriously and poor Lulu just sat there. Too polite to go to the waiting room and get me. I complained to the referral service and refused to pay.   

Next she saw an actual psychiatrist.  Yay!  A medical doctor.  Has to be better right?   Nope!  We waited two hours past the appointment time before she was seen.  Then after a 15 minute evaluation, “doctor” sent her out the door with two different “potential” diagnoses and four (yes four!) prescriptions. The scripts went in the trash and we never went back. I mean come the fuck on – 15 minutes?!??!  

Then she saw another therapist.  This professional happened to be a new mom with her own baby.  She only worked part time.  Scheduling options were limited which meant Lulu missed her 1st period at school on Tuesdays.  This piled on anxiety about making up missed work to an already nervous kid.  A recipe for disaster.  And it was within the course of seeing this person that the terrible awful happened.

The guilt is overwhelming even now.   How did I allow this? How did I fail to protect my baby?  The what ifs are absolutely maddening !!!!

Part 3 ~ The Calm Before The Storm 

J-Dub's Confessions

The new school was awesome.  Not perfect as nothing is perfect. But things were much improved. She left a school where not a single teacher knew her by name to a school where her teachers called her by a term of endearment.  

She only “knew” one person having met my coworker’s daughter the week before school started.  Despite these kids being together since they were 4, they welcomed her.  She was one of three newbies.  One of which named L turned out to be her best friend.  

She gained confidence.  She thrived. Volunteering to work after school care for kinder and first grades.  Sleepovers, Girl Scouts, softball, Friday night school dances.  A late bloomer as if life for her had finally started.  

When discussions were had about where to attend high school, she opted to stay in private.   In a twist of fate, many of her classmates left for public school.  Not our district, more affluent north side schools.  We toured several places.  And she found “a place like home”. 

Part 2 ~ Origin

J-Dub's Confessions

What caused the invisible illness? ¬†Was the origin due to a perfect storm of genetics … a lottery of sorts or external factors. ¬†My non professional opinion is a combination of both. ¬†My heart wishes for a diagnostic test and who knows maybe one day we’ll get one.

Until then, you play the hand you’re dealt.

The bullying began in earnest in 6th grade. ¬†She’d had her cousin and partner in crime, her automatic friend with her until then. ¬†Same district but different addresses separated them that 6th grade year. Without her protector, things went south.

I’m not sure what drew the mean girls to her. ¬†She was a shy easy target. ¬†We didn’t know the true extent of what was happening. ¬†Master of hiding. ¬†When she’d share what little she did, we’d offer advice. ¬†She begged us not to intervene so we didn’t.

Instead the whole year we told her to rise above. ¬†To power through. ¬†To ignore her tormentors. ¬†She did. ¬†As best she could. ¬†Until she couldn’t. ¬†In 7th grade, we moved her to private school.

As always more to come.

Part 1 ~ The Terrible Awful

J-Dub's Confessions

September 10, 2017 was the 3rd anniversary of the terrible awful. ¬†I missed the occasion but I was not sure I would write about that infamous day anyway. ¬†Part of me believes this is not my story to tell and part of me thinks that during this month of suicide prevention now is the most fitting time. ¬†Part of me wants to SCREAM from the mountaintops. ¬†Part of me wants to crawl into a hole. ¬†I’ve decided I will share the story from my perspective.

In hindsight, there were signs.  To be fair, when someone does not want you to know something, she becomes the master at hiding.  Only in retrospect, with deep analysis does the light bulb go off.  On that day however, nothing could have prepared me for what happened.

Let me start by saying that finding help for someone with mental health issues is difficult.  When that someone is under 18, the ability to find help becomes even harder. As big as San Antonio is, there were slim pickings.  And I have good insurance which makes me cringe to think about the uninsured/underinsured.

That’s all for now. ¬†I have to pace myself. ¬†As always, more to come.