I was fast asleep at 5:27 this morning when my phone rang. I’m not normally up at that time, so it took me a while to figure out what was going on. I saw that it was my daughter’s girlfriend’s phone number. Okay, the timing was weird, it could be a pocket dial, but maybe my daughter was trying to reach me for some reason. I tried to call back and didn’t get an answer so I sent a text. Within minutes the phone rang again.
It wasn’t my daughter. It was her girlfriend, who was clearly freaking out. My daughter was cutting and she wouldn’t let her girlfriend take care of her.
“Call 911 if you need to, and I’m on my way,” I said. I am used to this so I was pretty calm. I was more concerned about her bleeding out if she cut deep enough. I got dressed and headed out for the half hour drive through Dallas to my daughter.
There was a surprising amount of traffic for so early in the morning, but once I got to Spring Valley, I hit all the lights green. When I pulled up to the house, the garage was open so I let myself in and entered the art room.
Now it had been about 40 minutes and a LOT can change in that time when you’re talking about someone’s emotions. I found my daughter sprawled on the sofa with her girlfriend in latex gloves trying to attach butterfly bandages to her right shin. Let me be straightforward. My daughter had hashed up her right leg from knee to ankle. Not her usual scratching, as the doctors like to call it, but some actual cuts. She was laughing and joking. Time to go to the hospital.
Daughter did not want to go to the hospital. Last time she’d been seen for cutting was at Baylor, which doesn’t have a psych ward. They kept her for the required 72 hours and eventually had to cut her loose. They hadn’t been able to find a bed for her at another facility either. She remembers the experience as being like torture and didn’t want to go through it again. Understandable, but not necessarily the best choice.
Girlfriend googled mental health facilities and we were directed to Medical City which used to run Green Oaks, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, Green Oaks has been shut down, just gps hadn’t caught up with it yet. Dallas has lost, I forget if it’s 2 or 3, mental health inpatient facilities in the last 5 years, and nobody has picked up the missing beds. This is just another casualty in the quest for profitable health services.
We changed direction and headed up to Methodist Richardson. I’ve had good luck with their outpatient program and girlfriend had been there for trauma, so that seemed like a good choice.
It was probably about 6:30 or 7:00 when we arrived and nobody was there. They took us back right away. The doctor came in and inspected her leg and didn’t react. Then he went away for a while. He came back with a nurse and a lo-o-ong needle and a staple gun. Not the kind you buy in a hardware store, but essentially the same thing. He numbed up daughter’s leg and went to work. It took 39 staples and 27 stitches to close up the worst of the wounds.
The doctor checked with us all about her mental state. Again, I’m going to be straightforward: My daughter has never wanted to kill anybody (except maybe her molester but that’s another story) and she only wants to harm herself in certain situations. Once she’s done the cutting, the desire to cut passes. So we could say with clear consciences that she was safe to go home. The doctor asked if we’d like to talk to a social worker. Well the nurse had already given us a fat packet of information so I asked if the social worker would have anything different to offer. Probably not, was the consensus, so we declined the social worker.
Now you should know, this does not mean we are ignoring the issues. Daughter has a psychiatrist who handles her medications. She is working with Genesis women’s shelter to get a case worker and a counselor. She has her girlfriend and she has me. We talked about some other ways to handle stress and pain, and it looks like she might take up kick boxing to help let out some of the big emotion.
I also found out that this started the night before. Daughter was feeling needy and felt like girlfriend did not pay her enough attention. Girlfriend did not pick up on it until after the cutting. I have to say, I think this is daughter’s fault. As a SARK says, “Ask. Ask again. Ask differently.” I don’t think daughter asked clearly and I’m pretty sure she is understated in her needs. I’m not pointing fingers here. Girlfriend feels pretty guilty about not getting the hint, but really she can’t blame herself for daughter choosing to cut. It’s not her fault. It’s not really daughter’s fault either, since when a person is upset, they don’t have a clear picture of how they come across. Daughter might easily have believed she asked bluntly for what she needed and somehow wasn’t as blunt as she thought. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I just know the situation left my daughter upset enough to cut.
I asked why she cuts. She said that when she does it, endorphins are released which of course makes her feel better. It actually resolves the problem at the time, though of course it doesn’t solve the root problem.
I just wish she would stop cutting up her perfect body, but it is her body, I don’t have any control here.
And I wish I could make the world safe for her. “You can’t fix me,” she says, but I don’t want to change her, I want to change the environment she lives in. And I can’t do that either.
I am sharing this story because people need to know they are not alone. Parts of life suck. Some emotions are big and overwhelming. But you are not alone, someone else has been there too. I can’t prevent you from cutting, but I can encourage you to find other ways to express your pain. Your life matters.