“If we choose to place Violet in a Wilderness Program, I can have her placed by next week.”
“Next week??? What??? Noooo, no way. I am talking like - let her finish out the school year. Then, we have summer plans like weddings and things that she is IN! I mean, I have to have her there, these are things that have been planned and she is looking forward to them. I couldn’t take those away from her. I will just present it to her like a therapeutic summer camp and she can go after we are back from LA in like 4-6 weeks.”
“I have had this same conversation and I know it is a lot to think about. If you really think your daughter needs something like this, you will find you don’t want to wait. Weddings, vacations, none of those will matter as much as getting your daughter some help.”
“I can’t think about that sorry, not happening. I don’t want to NOT have her with us.”
I cried. Rivers, lakes, oceans of tears that swallowed up the car we were driving home in and floated us back to our apartment. My husband just held my hand and let me swim in it, there was nothing he could say, nothing he could fix.
Back to the nest and the anxiety set into my diaphragm - the familiar 3 pm accomplice - as Violet’s bus pulled up. She entered the house with an angry look on her face, threw her bag down, stomped into her room, slammed the door. Eye rolls from the babysitter who had picked up the other kids, more stomach-turning anxiety. Door knock, I walked in to attempt the “5 min alone” we were trying as per the NYU Child Study strategies.
She turned away from the computer – another screen of distraction – arms crossed, asked me what I want. “I want to have our 5 minutes honey. How was your day, you ok?”
“Terrible. Everybody hates me. Miss Ashley hates me, Miss Laura hates me, they all think I’m dumb and you guys hate me too. I hate that school.”
“I hear you feel that way, but we love you, so maybe you’re not interpreting things the way people mean them babe. Can we try to focus on something positive? Like, how about, what you would like to do this weekend?”
“I don’t know. I know you won’t answer me about summer camp. I ask you EVERY SINGLE DAY AND YOU DON’T ANSWER ME! LILLY AND EVERYONE GETS TO GO AND I DON’T AND I HATE YOU FOR DOING THAT TO ME!!!” Tears from her, while I try to hold mine in as I watch my daughter unravel into her anxiety.
“Vi, I told you, we can talk about that in therapy when we have someone who can help us through all of these emotions you have around it. It is not a conversation we are going to have now. Can we please spend our 5 minutes talking about something positive? What about your music lesson, have you written any more of your song?”
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY SONG!!! I HATE YOU GET OUT!!!! YOU’RE THE WORST MOTHER EVER AND YOU HATE ME SO I HATE YOU! I am going to leave this stupid house. I am going to hurt you the way you’re hurting me! YOU’RE A BITCH AND I HATE YOU!!!” (screaming)
“You are not allowed to talk to me like that Violet. Take a deep breath and count to 10. You must calm down, you will scare everyone. Do you want a hug? Here, hug me and squeeze me as hard as you can and get all those feelings out. Everything is ok.”
“MOMMY HELP ME. HELP ME!!!!! My problems are too big. They have gotten too big and I can’t control them anymore, I NEED YOU TO HELP ME!!!!! HELLLLP MEEE!!! …FORGET IT. GET OUT!!!!! I HATE YOU!!!!”
Pushed me out of her room and I let the door close.
I turned to my other kids who sat staring with the babysitter. I turned, walked to my room where I sat on my bed and just cried into my hands. Fresh new tears, when I thought my well was dry. My poor baby. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces and I just cried.
Next day school called and told me Violet “needs help now.” She had spent 2 hours that day in another room screaming and crying with the principal and head clinician trying to calm her down to go back to class, and it was just too much for the staff. They didn’t want her to finish out the year there because of more negative associations and they cared about her.
The world felt like it was caving in on me – forcing me to choose Wilderness, forcing me to send my daughter away. My outside brain would say it was best. My insides thought - I am the only one she really needs and how can I take THAT from her when she is already in such a state of disrepair?
This has been the hardest time of my life thus far. The mulling over the decision, the contemplation of what it means in the scheme of our silly summer plans, our new house, our family. The missing…THE LOSS.
“What will this mean, if we try to place her next week?”
“It means you call the programs, choose one, we work on getting all the paperwork done, you make flights and take her.”
So we did. This was June 12th. We planned with the consultant to admit her on June 20th. We had 6 days until we would tell her, the 18th.
I spoke to the director of the one we chose. I spoke to parents ad nauseum. I sobbed with every single phone call, every single questionnaire, every single address form. I was living in a weighted cloud of dread that I couldn’t even see through to function in my every day life. I stopped working. I could only deal with getting her there.
My husband, GENIUS, convinced me to tell Violet what was happening while at her therapist the night before we were leaving. THANK GOD. She expectedly freaked out, all the things you could have thought of. She went from dire sobbing to screaming, to throwing things, to soft sadness. She hated us, she wanted to say goodbye to her friends, she begged and pleaded. She didn’t understand why we were punishing her, she didn’t know what she could do to make it go away, she was furious, devastated, exhausted.
We had the other kids stay at my parents’ house so it was just us at home with her. I packed her bag while she was asleep, crying the whole time. My alarm went off at 5 am and we got up and went to the airport.
I spent one night with her at a hotel - it was sad and nice. She was able to be with me and be present even though we were both scared. I was trying to be strong but holy smokes – I am a TERRIBLE faker. Inside I was losing it. I had to be resolute, there was zero room for any other choice but where we were going. She asked a lot of questions, and I wasn’t able to answer them.
“I know this is what is happening but I still hate you for doing it.”
“It’s ok to hate me now Vi. It’s normal. We will be much happier later, this is hard for all of us.”
I watched her as she slept. Took her picture. Hugged her and just let my eyes burn her little sleepy face into my memory, it would be my last one for so long.
The morning of the 20th came, we were planning on spending the morning together. When we woke up I could see she was anxious. I asked her if she just wanted to have breakfast and go.
“I think that would be better Mommy, waiting is just making me more nervous. Let’s just go.”
We ate and got into the car and went.
We pulled into the “campsite.” I signed the contract, left a painfully sized check. Gave them a bag with only her underwear and bras, a picture of our family that the therapist would hold for her. Gave her a hug and said goodbye. Walked through molasses down the dirt road to the car.
I got back into the rental car and drove 2.5 hours to the airport to go home. The North Carolina intermittent thunderstorms mirrored my angst. I never knew you could drive and hysterically sob at the same time without crashing. I just left my little 11 year-old daughter. That was the hardest thing I have ever done.
As soon as the plane took off, I had my first feeling that things were about to get better. And they did.