Locked in The Tower

Last night, the youth pastor from Eadaoin’s youth group called me.  I was on a long-distance call at the time so I ignored the first call.  Five minutes later she called again.  I had a funny feeling so I took the call.  Her voice was strained and a bit high pitched.  She’s stressed and nervous, I thought.  I wonder what she’s calling about.  She tried to be friendly, but the slight vibrato in her voice gave her away; I went for the direct approach.

“What’s going on, Leslie? Why are you calling?”

“Eadaoin posted something on the youth group’s Facebook page, and I felt it best that you know about it.”

I held my breath.

“She asked for our prayers.  She wrote that she’s struggling, and then she posted that she’s cutting.”

Something exploded inside my chest.

“She posted something of this nature on…Facebook?”

“Yes.  I called her immediately to check in with her, and I wanted to call you just to see where your family is and what might be available for Eadaoin.  I know that your family has just been through so much, and I just want to know if there is anything that we can do for you.  I just can’t imagine…”

I don’t cry often.  I don’t even lose it often.  I get migraines.  I have Fibromyalgia.  All the stress that I feel goes directly into my body, but I could not keep up nor cope with the information flying at me in this short phone call.

“Leslie, Eadaoin is in a crisis stabilization program.  She has been removed from public school.  She’s on three different medications.  Aside from putting her in day treatment or in a partial hospitalization program, she’s getting as much help as she can get.  She did not tell her therapist or me that she was cutting.  To be honest, I’m feeling angry right now.  It was not appropriate for her to post that publicly.  Her peers at youth group are not equipped to handle that aside from maybe one.  She made a private matter public, and she is lying to the very people that want to help her.  That exist to help her.”

“I agree.  I did remove the post, and I printed it out because when the kids do things like this we have to keep a record of it.  I feel better knowing she’s got something in place.  Okay.  Well, please call me if you need anything.”

My husband came into the kitchen as I was ending the phone call, and I was crying.  He is like many men in that as soon a woman starts crying he looks terrified.  He awkwardly patted my arm.  I felt like Matt Damon’s character in “30 Rock” who would break down and weep openly while Tina Fey’s emotionally inept character, Liz Lemon, tried to comfort him: “It’s okay.  Don’t…be…cry.”

“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

I told him.  I also told him that I was not going to handle this situation well  at all because I was too triggered.  I was too angry at Eadaoin, and I knew why.  My mother used to cut.  She would make a big show of her emotional dysregulation, lock herself in her walk-in closet, and then sit in there and cut herself.  My stepfather was not equipped to deal with my mother when she was like this so he always called me up to go in there and talk her down.  I was only a kid myself, but my mother responded to me.  No, it wasn’t right.  It was very, very wrong, but that was the system in my family.  Eventually, she would come out sniffling and snarfling, show me her cuts, and I would tell her not to do that again, get her bandages, and settle her in bed.  It’s really similar to kids who look after their alcoholic parents.  So, when Leslie called me to tell me that Eadaoin posted on Facebook that she was cutting, I was instantly transported back to the other side of my mother’s closet, and I did not want to be there.  I also knew that the intensity of my feelings were going to get in the way of my ability to be empathetic.  I needed my husband to get his ass in the game and help me with Eadaoin.

We went upstairs and found Eadaoin looking like she always does these days.  She was playing “Animal Crossing”.  My husband said, “We got a phone call from Leslie.  We need to talk.”

“I was waiting for this,” Eadaoin sighed.

“May I see your wrists please?” I asked, trying to sound gentle and reasonable, but I’m fairly sure I was seething.  There were cuts.  By the looks of it, they were healing so they were a few days old if not a week.

“Why did you do this?” my husband asked.  Eadaoin shrugged.  I just went for it.

“Did you decide to cut yourself because you feel better afterwards? Like you get some kind of endorphin rush? Or, did you do it because you don’t feel anything and you’re just trying to remind yourself that you are capable of feeling something?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied.  Not helpful.

“Eadaoin, I’m going to be straight with you.  What you did in posting your cutting on Facebook looks like attention-seeking.  Leslie removed your post, and she now has to print it out and put it in a file.  There are consequences for doing that.  So, if you did that because you needed help, we are now up here to provide you with that help.  But, you have to cooperate at least a little bit.  Knowing why you cut is the first step.”

“You called me a nobody,” she said.

“What?” I asked

“You called me a nobody.  That’s why I did it.”

I just stared at my husband.  He stared at me.  “Mom would never call you a nobody.  She would never do that!”

“Yes, you did.  Don’t you remember?” she said quietly looking at me with wide eyes.

I just sat there mentally running through everything I’d ever said.  I knew in my heart that I had never called her a ‘nobody’.  I don’t believe that.  Why would I call her that?

“Give me the context,” I said.

“Well, you were telling me that I shouldn’t compare myself to Doireann because we were each gifted but differently.  I can sculpt, and people even buy what I sculpt.  People buy what I sculpt even though I’m practically a nobody.  See? You called me a nobody,” Eadaoin explained.

I looked at my husband.  He just stared at me in disbelief.  I was about to burst into tears or go bang my head against a wall.

“Eadaoin! Listen to me! A nobody in the sense that you are not famous.  No one knows who you are! Americans pretty much buy anything if a celebrity produces it even if the product is bad.  But your sculptures stand on their own because people buy them even though a ‘nobody’ from Minnesota creates them.  An amateur, teenaged artist creates them and people don’t care.  They are good enough to sell.  That’s what I meant.”

She just sat there.

“Eadaoin! You actually believed that? You believed that I felt that way about you? Why didn’t you ask me?”

Silence.

“You didn’t even consider the context of the statement? You just picked one sentence out of the entire conversation and went with that? Why?”

Not a word.

I can deal with a lot, but this inertia that she’s displaying is maddening.  It’s almost more than I can stand.  In the end, we removed the sharp objects from her room and told her that she needed to come downstairs.  Trust is just about the most fundamental thing in a relationship.  If she’s going to sit up in her room and cut, post inappropriate things to Facebook, and refuse to communicate, then she can do all those things downstairs.

After she had been downstairs for a while, she approached me.  “I cut because I feel better afterwards.  It seems to give me a release.  That’s why I do it.”

Well, there’s some information.  I have seen Eadaoin display very poor distress tolerance and extremely poor emotional regulation.  She cannot tolerate any kind of sadness.  I don’t think she’s always been this way, but as soon as puberty hit she began to struggle in new ways.  My husband has poor distress tolerance as well.  Doireann and I are the only ones, it seems, in the family who can tolerate distress, and I seem to be the Rock of Gibraltar largely because I have to be.  Last night, as soon as 8 PM displayed on all the clocks I put Milly and Grace to bed.  Grace declared, “I’m not tired.”  I just said, “You will be at some point.  Bed.  Now.”

My husband went to the store and bought ice cream because he’s not an emotional eater.  Not one bit.

I ended the night with an email to Eadaoin’s in-home therapist.  I expect a phone call this morning.  It’s Monday.  All I can say at this point is: Aaaw yeah, bring it!

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8 thoughts on “Locked in The Tower

  1. Oyoyoy…good luck! You showed enormous restraint and clarity – you should be very impressed with yourself. I would have lost my mind.

  2. We understand self-harm all too well at our home. Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury by Michael Hollander is a good resource…there are a few good books out there about the subject. There are so many reasons teens self harm…our daughter’s urge to self-harm is motivated by psychosis (berating auditory hallucinations). This behavior is so challenging to everyone involved. And Facebook…ugh. We had to shut down Facebook then slowly reintroduce it during psychosocial rehabilitation. Facebook isn’t going anywhere so we had to teach her how to use it within the context of her illness.
    My heart is with you today.

    • Thanks for that recommendation. I was talking with her about it this morning. Milly used to self-harm, too, mostly at school. She was very young. Just in the first and second grade! I understand why she does it. And, I was finally able to get her to hook into the idea of how she feels in her body when she cuts and if she feels the same at other times. It’s like she was so detached that she couldn’t settle in. Bit by bit, baby step by baby step. I’m freakin’ exhausted!

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