Teen Suicide Attempt: Day Three
Our spirits rose when a familiar face walked through his hospital door. Over five years of IBD treatments, my son and this child life specialist had built a relationship. She heard he was in the hospital from the hospital clown, Ollie, who happened to find us in the critical care unit. The two of them chatted for a bit and then they played a game while I left to grab a coffee. We were waiting to hear when we would change units and she said she would see if she could visit him there. It made the thought of him being there a little easier.
My husband arrived just before we moved to the Pediatric Mental Health Care Unit. I wouldn’t be allowed to stay with him in the mental health care unit, so I was feeling anxious. A porter walked us upstairs and we were let into the secure unit. They took his shoes and searched his bags, letting us know what he could and couldn’t keep. There would be no laces, no strings in pants, no sharp objects, no electronics and no food in his room. I filled out pages of paperwork.
The social worker let us know that our son would be seen by a psychiatrist and attend groups. The average length of stay after a teen suicide attempt was five days. The length of his stay would be determined over the next couple of days.
Leaving Him Behind
After days of being in the hospital I was ready for my bed, but not ready to leave the hospital without my son. My head was telling me that he was in the right place. My heart told me that he needed us with him. It was another teary drive.
The next morning, I opened the med cupboard and saw the aspirin bottle. It was right there…on the top tier of my step shelf. I threw it in the garbage because I never wanted to see it again.
So Many Meetings
The next two days were full of meetings with social workers and psychiatrists. Our son saw them separately and attended groups. I arranged for help for my daughter at school and took her to the pediatrician for help with her anxiety. I spoke to him about my son as well. He told me I should have brought him in earlier and avoided things getting to this point. That one statement knocked me down hard. Even though I didn’t have a specific reason to bring him in, I felt like I had failed him. Despite all the times the social worker and psychiatrist had told me it wasn’t my fault, that one statement placed the blame fully on my shoulders and I was quick to accept it.
Visiting hours were limited to evenings, but he was granted a weekend pass to come home. We brought him home on Friday night. He couldn’t stay home on his own, so his usual “No thanks, I’m staying home” wasn’t going to fly. He went to the store with us and visited family over the weekend. While at home, his siblings spent time with him and no one was fighting. It was far from routine.
Sunday night came too quickly, and we returned him to the hospital. We knew that he would be home permanently soon, but it was still hard to leave him again.
Having already missed a week of work, my husband needed to get back. I went to the appointments on my own and shared the information with him later. I had a sensation of missing something every day, and it led me to think about what could have happened. Instead of missing him for a couple of weeks, I could be missing him forever. Rather than making safety plans and scheduling therapy, I could be planning a funeral. It was all a little too close for comfort. I prayed that we would never get that close to the edge again.
The daily group sessions and meetings with doctors seemed to be working well for our son. He started to share a bit in the groups. His doctor was seeing some behaviours that people outside of family rarely see, leading to some much-needed assessments. One of his teachers came to see him, armed with WWII novels and text books from the geography classrooms. He happily rated his mood a 7 that day. He enjoyed a couple of visits from his child life specialist and she arranged a special visit off the ward for him to do some magic with Ollie. I hope he was seeing how much he is cared for.
Our son came home with a safety plan, a new group of doctors, several appointments and a new prescription. We have a locked medication box that holds everything, including aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen. These are all commonly used by teens in crisis. His bedroom door no longer locks. He has a few new rules around electronics and the amount of time spent alone in his room. He came home right before March Break, giving us some family time before we worry about school.
I’m glad to have my family together again, but I find myself living with a new constant level of anxiety. I worry when I don’t see any of the kids for any amount of time. Leaving the house is stressful because I don’t know who knows and I feel like every smile is disguising pity or judgement. I’m tired of people asking me how I am, because I can’t articulate it. I know that the entire family has been impacted by this, so we are setting up family counseling.
Onwards and Upwards
I don’t know if it is the medication, but he seems happier than he has in a long time. He has spent time with his siblings and cousin and even reciprocated a hug (a rare feat!). He knows he is loved and right now that is what matters the most.