2008-12-02

For Christmas I would like my daughter to live - a story all parents should read

Look at this picture carefully. It shows an idealised family preparing their stockings for Father Christmas. Mother and father with their two lovely delightful children. On Christmas morning the children will find their stockings loaded with delights and lots of presents waiting for them under the magical tree. Christmas lunch and dinner with family and friends. What a wonderful thought.

We all like to think our children will grow and become parents themselves one day. That we will be able to share with our grandchildren wonderful stories of Christmas day when we found that special present waiting under the tree. This Christmas story I am about to tell isn't one of presents or of sharing with family and friends. This is a story of a family torn apart and of a mother's grief and pain and that of her eldest daughter's struggle with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).

Before Christmas Came

My then seventeen year old daughter called me asked me to come down and meet her after her exams were over. She was living with her father then. We had been divorced in 2001 after a struggle to somehow get our shattered family back together - the decision I had made was with the realisation it would never happen. I knew something was wrong even then. My daughter was badly depressed and worse still she was cutting herself with anything sharp she could find. They call it self harming and the scars remain for life and not just on the outside. I spent a wonderful afternoon with her and we talked as best as we could. She assured me she had gotten some help which she had and was on medication to help manage her depression. I went home still gravely concerned and deeply disturbed by my daughters terrible anguish and pain. I should have seen the warnings even then. A mother knows when she is about to possibly lose a child even one that isn't so close to her in their relationship.

Christmas day came. I spent it alone with my youngest daughter who was then three years old and just diagnosed with severe Autism (she's doing just fantastically now!) her elder sister then barely five had been taken to see their Grandparents by their father before heading up North on holiday. Their eldest sister had told her father she had a friend coming to stay with her. It wasn't true.

Boxing day came and went then the next day at 1 pm in the afternoon my telephone rang. It was North Shore Hospital ICU telling me my daughter had overdosed on anti-depressants and was on life support. They had nearly lost her. I called my sister in a terrible state and she took me to the hospital and I had to see the site of my precious daughter unconscious. The same child I had nearly lost when she had been born at six weeks prematurely. Then I was barely just 21 years old. I had to face the very real possibility that I might have to bury my child.

I blamed myself. I blamed her father. I blamed everything I could think of. In truth it wasn't anyone's fault. It had happened and somehow we had to make sure my daughter lived. My family came together and working with Mental Health and Mercy Missions in Australia my daughter spend a year undergoing therapy. The outcome is a wonderful young adult now about to undergo a PHD in her chosen major.

I had my Christmas wish - my daughter lived. For some families though, there wasn't a happy ending. They had to bury their children asking why someone so young had taken their lives. What as parents had they done that was so wrong that their loved child had committed suicide. New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. Here's what I have learned from my own personal experiences

  • Get help immediately for both yourself, your family and for your child
  • Get support of family, friends and your local church group even if you don't go ask for help. Many hands will be extended in the community if you ask.
  • TALK TO YOUR KIDS!!If your children are younger make sure they can come to you about anything and know they can tell you when they are feeling hurt or worried. It will pay off when they are older.
  • If your child has made an attempt at taking their lives don't tell them you understand - because you don't
  • Be there for them as best as you can. They may not want you there but stay quietly around. DON'T TALK ABOUT NEGATIVE STUFF OR ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHAT IS HAPPENING. STAY OFF THE SUBJECT.
  • If your child has been depressed and is suddenly happy that is a warning sign they will attempt possible suicide. GET HELP IMMEDIATELY. Contact your Doctor and arrange for Child Mental Health to help.
  • Your child may not tell you the truth about what is really going on. Check every story.
  • Don't let the Mental Health system attempt to pull the Privacy Act on you if your child is a teenager. If you are in New Zealand. Contact the Privacy Commissioner and seek advice.
  • IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Don't blame yourself or anyone else. Get counselling immediately you will be a fool to think you can cope because reality is you won't.
  • Talk about it but then move on you have to. Learn from the experience you have gained and then share it with wisdom when others are facing that crisis
Resources: The Mental Health Foundation

Lifeline Counselling

Office of the Privacy Commissioner

Mental Health Commission NZ

Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand

YOUTHLINE NZ


11 comments:

  1. oh girl, I"m so sorry you and your family went through this. Wow what an ordeal. I hope and pray that your oldest daughter is on the mend mentally, physically and spiritually.

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  2. A very, very good post, my friend. Well done for putting it up on here.

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  3. Liz,

    You have shared a heart wrenching story, and some valuable resources for parents who may need some help with their teenaqed daughters, or even sons. Yes, life isn't always picture perfect like the picture depicts, but we can learn to deal with the "lemons" life hands us sometimes.

    Best wishes!

    Renie

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  4. Liz,
    This post hit home for me! My son is 10, and last summer wrote me a note that he had thought of killing himself, and had even held a knife to his chest wondering if he should do it or not...you know then the heartbreak I felt. I know he had been sufferingome depression, last Oct he had a colt we had just weaned kick at him while in the stall, his had was resting right where the colt kicked and it severed the tip of a finger..which ultimately resulted in partial amputation. It added to his depression. The situation with his father has not been good for awhile, and things just seemed to be going nowhere in his mind..on top of that a small child with a very sensitive and easily bruised heart. I'm still very guarded....it's only been since June and July that this all came to a head. Some tell me I baby him. I just dont want to ignore all the things my mother did in me...my son was repeating my own past.....I was not going to make the same mistakes my mom did and let this go until he became an adult and major depression that almost killed him...like it almost did me...great post for putting your heart and private dark moments out there...it's something I wanted to do myself, but dont know how..started a blog once even, but deleted it....guess I'm not strong enough yet to come out of the closet myself...so I applaud you and my heart goes out to you and your daughter and all your family...I DO know how you feel, and unfortunately, how your daughter feels...PRAISE GOD that she is where she is today! Miracles happen every day and GOD DOES answer prayers!

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  5. Hi Guys thanks for your awesome comments.

    Amy - She is doing just fine. Older wiser and working on a degree that will help others that have suffered the same disorders. I'm just grateful I haven't to worry anymore. I just hope this story will help other parents if they have to face such a crisis

    Ice - I was crying when I wrote this. It was a good thing to do. But it was time I shared this with others. People need to know what can happen.

    Hi Renie

    Lovely to hear to from you again. Hope you are better after that terrible bug you had. You are right. Life can be a lemon and things aren't as rosy and picture perfect as people would like to think. I hope there will be some hope out there for parents who have had to go through this. My daughter is well now and doing wonderfully. I am very very lucky I have her.

    Best wishes to to you too Renie. Stay well and stay warm.
    Liz

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  6. Rae we must have been in the comments at the same time. I know where you are coming from. Some stories we need to share when the timing is right. For me it was. I felt strongly that I needed to share it so others. Each journey we take is individual and our circumstances can be different but if my story can help others that's all that matters to me. Hang in there. Get help if you feel you need to and you know you have friends and family to help. And you know I am always there to support you.

    Love and prayers
    Liz

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  7. Liz, what a brave post- and it sounds like this story will have a happy ending after all - My niece has her doctorate in psychology and is a counselor at Bowling Green University - and is very involved with suicide prevention and awareness- The more we can talk about our problems the more help and understanding there will be- I am wishing the best for you and your girls-

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  8. Hi Kathleen thanks so much for your kind comments. My daughter is doing brilliantly. She is now starting her PHD in her Psychology Major. It was a wonderful thing that she came through her terrible ordeal. She's alive and that's all that matters. She will turn 24 early next year. One day I hope to be a Grandma and I know I will be. Best wishes to you to too and thanks again. It's meant a lot.
    Liz

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  9. Hello Liz.

    Thank you very much for sharing your story. Im glad your daughter is well and alive. Hope she will and all who are in this stage in life will be okay. Congratulations to her for being on the process of her Psychology PhD. I believe you are very proud as her mother. :-)

    I came across your sharing when I was looking for an image of a family celebrating in Christmas. We pray and believe for all families- ours and those we don't know; happy and those not so much.

    Kind regards. Good days. Goodbye = God blesses all... We pray and believe. :-)

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  10. Hi Tey,

    Thank you for your comment. I'm pleased you read the story. My daughter is doing very well and way down the track. She's fine and happy. And alive and that's all that matters. Thanks for your comment and caring.

    All the best to you and your family
    Liz

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  11. Liz, after re-reading this I'm amazed, I wish there was this help when I was a teenager.

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