A Call From the School Social Worker
As I was leaving my group for the day, the director caught me at the front door with a sticky note in her hand. It was the phone number to the school social worker's office.
This didn't bode well.
I nervously dialed the number from the director's office ( the one time I actually forget my phone and didn't drive home for it...Boom. I'm needed.) and chewed the side of my fingernail. It was almost the end of the school day and it wasn't clear how long ago the phone call came in to the office. “I knew I should have gone home for my phone. Geez, Chrissy, you know better. Don't be an idiot,” was all I could think while waiting to speak with Ms. G.
Gently and calmly she explained to me that it had come to light that Lizz was self-injuring*. My heart dropped to the floor. How could I have missed this. She's almost sixteen, I give her body privacy, as I should. But, still. How could I have missed it?
We all know about self-injury. You can't be around any mental health arenas of discussion, whether online or in real time, without learning about it and knowing it's an unfortunate act for many teens and even some adults. Pressure relief, the venting of pain that can't be seen, the release of endorphins...you know the drill. It doesn't make it any more easy to swallow. My mouth had gone dry.
I asked a few questions before leaving for the school. How injured is she right now? How had we found that this had occurred? Did we know how long this had been happening?
When I walked through the office door, I looked at Lizz sadly and asked “L, what are ya' doin', baby?” She began to cry and came to me, apologizing. I held her and told her “You are the only Elizabeth I will ever have, there is no replacement. You are not allowed to hurt her.” At my request she handed me the small box of razor blades.
Is seems that, three nights previously, we had gone to an office supply store where she obtained a box of blades without my knowing, which shows intent. The previous night was her first time cutting and while light cuts, morelike scratches that drew blood, there were many. I don't remember at what point I started crying, whether on the road or in the emergency room where I took her for evaluation.
The crisis worker there sent us home after setting up Children's Mobile Response to come to our home within the hour. I was glad to leave as the woman had treated it lightly then in a shocked voice asked why I had waited twenty-four hours to bring her in (it was two hours since I had been notified of the act, but twenty-four since she had cut). I was happy to deal with CMR, they are wonderful. Our mobile response team has worked with Lizz before and has so much respect for those they are working with and helping. As usual, the intake woman was awesome and keen.
I check her general body areas every day; arms, legs, belly. Her medication has been upped and it is back in my hands to give to her. She begins therapy again in a few days. I drink a lot of coffee and vacillate between beating myself up and worrying about her future. I've found myself tired even after ten hours sleep, so it seems I may be moderately sad or depressed.
We can do everything right, follow all the steps, be open to advice and our kids can still slip. It's a part of life for everyone and dramatically so for our kids. We are luckier than the generations before us. We have some place to go for support, validation, information and hope. I am so grateful for these as I wonder how our parents did it before us.
As I write by our softly lit Christmas tree with a cup of coffee I am realizing that these small moments of safety, calm and peace are more precious than gold. We need to soak them up while they exist.
*Lizz gave me her permission to write and post about this topic and incident.