It was 3:30 a.m. and we walked out the front doors of an empty hospital. The halls had echoed with each step we took, leading us farther and farther away from our crying daughter. In the past, the way I showed her I loved her most was to sit by her bedside, stroke her hair, whisper calming meditation techniques to back her down from a cliff she was perched upon, and to simply stay.
Tonight? Tonight I showed my 16-year-old how much I loved her by the way I walked away. Far away. So far away the echoes of my steps could not be heard by her and my ears no longer heard her cries. My heart, however, heard them long into the night, all the way from home, and I slept fitfully.
I want to put words to this hellish heartbreak I have, but I am ruined. I can find nothing to explain what it is like to admit your child to a psychiatric hospital. I can’t believe I have to, that I did, that this is real. There are no words. None work.
I am raw, broken and wounded to the bone.
Flesh has been torn from my frame as my child was ripped from my heart muscles with each step I took, me telling myself it was for her good that I did it. Her spot in my heart is now a hole; one that is a warning to me to get this right so that the hole is not permanent. Get this right or that hole will get larger, be edged with grief, guilt and shame. Get this right or suffer the knowledge that I had the chance to get things right and I chose the easy way out and let her convince me to do what felt better than to do the hard thing of what’s best.
My husband drove us home and he melted beside me as he turned the corner toward our house. It was like watching a steel rod turn to liquid. Slowly he leaked, seeped, bent and slumped. One thought of what he’d driven away from and he became a shimmering pool of hot mess.
I begrudged him nothing. He was strong when he needed to be. We were alone. Melt away, honey.
I, however, couldn’t fully give into the reality of it. I had too much to do. I didn’t have time to feel, dammit. If I began, I’d never stop, and I would fall apart into pieces that could never be put back together again. Instead I chose to go dead inside. I stopped up the tears and built up the dam, plugging the holes. I’d never get through this with all the tears that were threatening to spill over.
I had her things to pack, papers to gather, my kids to explain all this to, and a morning of foggy headed to-do’s of phone calls to clients to explain that I’d need time to reschedule them, I wouldn’t know my schedule for a while.
I sat with my kids in front of me; I continually had to squeeze my arm that was locked around my middle to force my self to be calm and controlled, answering my kid’s questions, trying to seem like I was a mom who had a clue. They needed to believe that what I was doing was for sure the right thing. They also needed to know when we all went into the family therapy session it would be hard for their sister and I explained some things they should understand ahead of time about the situation.
Then I left and went outside for a while. I let myself completely go. I ugly cried till my gut hurt and matched my heart. I let my pain have its way. The acid in my stomach churned until I nearly collapsed under the stress of its boil.
I looked at the clock on my phone. I had no time left for this. My mini moment of honesty had to be over. Time to go back to neutral and find a way to function through the next four hours of visitation, doctor meetings and family therapy.
My stomach sank to my feet. Walking back into that place meant I’d have to leave again. I felt myself begin to retch at the thought. How could I do that again? Didn’t I prove my love by doing it once already? Then it dawned on me, I not only had to, I WOULD do it over and over and over, each time I went, proving to her just how much I am committed to loving her.
Sometimes love looks like saying you’ll stay, other times it looks like walking away.