I recently posted an article titled "Suicide: It’s What’s for Breakfast" which had been written in 2009, a little over a year ago now. In it I told you all about my uncle and how he hung himself from a tree. I also linked to a letter written by a Brazilian teen who hung herself from a tree as well. I also told you about an eight year old California girl who hung herself by a belt from her bunk bed.
Now, I feel like I have to tell it all - let you know what I've been going through, and hopefully help somebody else out there who might need it.
Back in 2009, things were taking a toll on me and I hit a new emotional low when I found out about the suicide of the Brazilian girl after reading her letter. Regardless of what I was doing as a blogger to aid the project helping her, I couldn't stop her from killing herself. The producers of the project were stunned as well, and it was a group shock experience I would never like to re-live. Luckily for me I received a Message of Hope, and was able to move forward somewhat and try to get back on track.
Later that year, however, I found out that my daughter was having suicidal thoughts and it devastated me!
She was only 7 years old and told me that sometimes she wanted to get a knife and stab herself in the chest. She told me that she tried to kill herself already. She had tried to drop a knife on her foot when she was helping put dishes away. It was very innocent and very scary. When I got to the root of what was making her feel this way, a story came out about a girl from her father's apartment complex asking her to pull her pants down when they were playing outside by the bushes. Can you imagine as a mother how I felt at that moment!?! I was so bewildered, it really did come out of no where, although I knew something was up with her.
This incident had happened to her 6 months prior, and it was bothering her this whole time, but she didn't tell me because of some internal reasoning that she would be in trouble.
I knew something was going on with her because of her grades at school, and her behavior problems at home which had started to escalate. I thought it had to do with starting a new sport, still dealing with the divorce of her parents, the fact that I'm gay, that she's spoiled - all kinds of reasons other than the truth. There were no signs in her drawings, the stories she would write, nothing in her school work that would suggest what she was suffering from, but there was something there on a deeper level I just couldn't see.
I knew she couldn't kill herself by dropping a knife on her foot, but what if she realized a way that would actually work... and tried it?
(I have to take a deep breath. This is very hard for me to share. I have kept myself in a shell and away from people so that this wouldn't come up. I didn't want my daughter labeled in some way because this was happening to her. I am here telling you this because I want other parents to learn because I didn't know who to call or what to do but I had to figure it out. I HAD TO.)
My wife and I took our daughter to her doctor, an "adult we could trust", to talk to her about the thoughts she had and what happened with the girl from the apartment.
The doctor made a report about the incident to our state's family services and referred us to a specialist for further testing. We took our daughter for a full evaluation to see whether she had learning disabilities affecting her grades, and if we could eliminate the suicidal thoughts she was having. What it came down to after working with an excellent family therapist (MFT) and lesbian friendly psyschologist was that our daughter was suffering from post traumatic stress following the incident with the girl at the apartment which was affecting her concentration at school. She was constantly having "intrusive thoughts" affecting her focus and her behavior. These thoughts meant that she kept thinking about the situation over and over again and she was reliving the emotions over and over again too.
She had feelings of shame and basically that she was a 'bad girl'.
Being so young and innocent, feeling like you are a 'bad girl' can be the worst feeling in the world. I totally understand why she felt like she wanted to hurt herself - she wanted to stop the pain.
When we got to the bottom of things (which took a few months!) things got easier.
Before that things were hard. We really took things one day at a time, and I really had a hard time because my daughter sleeps in a bunk bed. We had her on 24 hour surveillance between my wife and I, and constantly "checked in" with her emotionally. Simple things like asking her "How are you?", "Is there anything you want to talk about or ask me?", or "What's on your mind?" to open up the lines of communication. I really had to work hard on my reactions to the things she told me, because I always told her that she could tell me anything. She chose not to tell me about the incident in the first place because she felt like she would get in trouble, so I had to be sure that even though she was telling me things she would normally be in trouble for (like she was behind the bushes when she wasn't supposed to be) I didn't make a big deal out of those issues.
The important thing was that I had my daughter, here, breathing - ALIVE.
I am glad she told me what was going on, and felt she could tell me how she feels. I've always told her she could talk to me, and now she knows it's really true. Our MFT has become a part of the family in some ways, and we are eternally grateful to the things she has shown us.
We are still taking things one day at a time, but we made it through a tough time and are here to tell the tale.
I just hope by sharing this others will know that the kids in our world are capable of a lot more than we might give credit for, and hold emotions we might not understand because they are so darn innocent. Check in with your kids, let them know how they feel is normal, and that what goes on out in the world is not their fault! Give them the support system they need, and if you can't give advice, you just don't know what to say, give them the Trevor Hotline Phone Number 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.
About the Author: Julie Phineas is a work at home mom of 2 who lives in Southern California. You can find out more about her by visiting her website at www.juliephineas.com.