Saturday, November 25, 2006


When I was 13 years old, my father died. I came home from school, the day Christmas break started and could tell by the looks on everyone's faces that he was gone. Because of that experience, I have an irrational fear that each time I see someone I love, it will be the last.

My husband and daughter know that if they don't say good-bye, look me in the eyes, and let me tell them how much I love them whenver they are going out the door, I will worry and panic. It's been 30 years, and still I live this way everyday.

The possibility of death is so much closer to me now that my daughter is doing drugs. It could be as simple as a car accident while driving high, or heart damage from cocaine; one unfortunate night with ecstasy. I worry about her constantly, and at the same time prepare myself that if it happens, I have done everything I can to help her.

Today we had our first Intensive Outpatient Program session. It is for four weeks, three times a week and three hours at a time. I learned today that up until three weeks ago my daughter was doing coke every day, so I was right to be concerned and want to get her into treatment. She still doesn't get it. She thinks it's no big deal and everyone does it. She looks thin and scraggly and unhealthy. The counselor said she's in denial, thinking she can handle it and believing she's smart enough to stay safe while doing drugs.

I have a glimmer of hope that this might help. The counselor was very straightforward and didn't let her talk her way out of anything, like she can do so often with others. He made her face some facts, and she has agreed to continue mostly because I pay for a cell phone and car insurance that will stop if she stops. But I did see a little fear in her eyes and know that somewhere in there she might be ready for a change.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It feels so selfish of me to want a day without drama. I feel it's self-centered to think that I have this day off from work and I would like to just have a good day filled with things I have been wanting to do - read, sew, maybe just relax a little.

Instead I'm trapped, and that is exactly how it is. Because she is not getting exactly what she wants she is weepy, whiny, outraged, and a general bear to be around. There is screaming and pleading and slamming and storming.

On the outside I am a calm wall of firmness, not giving into demands. On the inside I'm a bundle of exposed nerve endings, and know when she slams out the door for the day, I will at once be relieved and then reduced to tears. She sucks the life out of me with her demanding nature and emotional outbursts. It's not normal and hasn't been for awhile. It's over the top, bigger than life, prone to make you feel at any moment she will take her life because she is in such despair.

Instead of a day off, it feels like a day in prison. My husband took the "good" car and is off for the day of games with his friends, which I never mind because it leaves me free to spend the day as a I please. But now, because something has been taken away from her until she fulfills an obligation, she will come back and forth and try to argue it out or wear me down or engage me in a war. It takes just as much energy to be strong and refrain from joining in the drama, but still witness it than it does to actually get involved in a knock down, drag out fight. It still leaves me feeling like a limp dishrag at the end of the day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Yesterday my drama girl and I went to lunch. I always call her that in my head because she's always been dramatic -- extreme reactions, lots of tears, very emotional. When she was three her grandparents started saying she'd grow up to be an actress, since she could really lay it on. It still makes me smile to think of the times she told people proudly, "I'm going to be a mattress when I grow up."

Our meal started out strained because she was sure I would be lecturing, but really all I wanted was to connect and try to gauge how she was doing both emotionally and physically. Most days she runs home to shower and eat and run out the door. She works nights delivering pizza, and I start work early while she's still sleeping. We ended up having a pretty good conversation, and I felt a little better knowing that right at that moment on that day she seemed to be doing okay.

We still talked about drugs, and of course she swears that although she has "tried" things, she does not do drugs. She still think pot isn't a big deal, but I told her that it's caused her a lot of problems this year, and that she's been unreliable, less responsible, and forgetful since she made pot a part of her life.

I told her we had a new counselor to visit on November 21st, but didn't say anything about residential. We'll cross that bridge if it comes. I know she does need treatment of some kind, because even though she has good days like yesterday -- there are many days that aren't so good. She can kid herself, but not those of us around her.

When we left the restaurant (separate cars - her choice - to avoid the stress of being together too long), she thanked me and gave me a big hug that I wasn't expecting. It felt really good to know that she also seemed to enjoy our time together, but more important she seemed to remember that I love her and am always here for her.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Biggest Fear

Right now is not knowing how this will all turn out. Could this be a phase that my daughter is dabbling in or will it continue to be a lifelong struggle with drugs and a downhill slide?

I've recently found out that she's been trying more than just pot. Her circle of "friends" is widening as she loses old friends. She's even less dependable, less responsible than ever and I'm worried.

I recently talked to a doctor about what's been happening, and they think residential treatment would be the best for her. There's only three months before 18 years old, so I'd like to try to help get her the help she needs, whether it be diagnosis of bi-polar, depression or drug counseling alone. November 21st is our intake appointment.

I've had some jobs in social service agencies where talking about residential treatment and substance abuse were everyday topics. I always assumed these kids came from really tough circumstances or maybe their parents just couldn't control them or discipline them when they were small. It seems so foreign to use those same terms for my daughter.

It turned around overnight it seemed. That's why I guess I'm open to the fact that she may have some type of mental illness and as they say, uses drugs as a way to self medicate. I myself use Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk and even THAT is a hard habit to break when I'm feeling down. My only side effect is being heavy -- I can't imagine my life if I used drugs or alcohol to ease my pain.

Some may think we're trying to put a label on her; give her an excuse for her behavior, but living through it, I can tell you it is real. It's a distinct and dramatic change that has occurred in the past year and it's scary to watch it unfold everyday.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Final Straw

My daughter loves any occasion to shop for clothes, and the Senior Banquet was no exception. It made me happy to see her excited about a school function. She seemed to desperately want to get that feeling of school spirit back. She didn't even mind that I pulled out the proud Mom camera and took a few shots of her and her friend all dressed up and looking like happy seniors.

The next day she told me she wanted to withdraw from school and get her GED. Through tears she told me that no one would talk to her, and she felt like an outsider. They whispered and made faces in their small town judgemental way, and she made her decision. She was miserable and anxious and didn't feel the same way about school as she used to.

We sat and cried together. I wanted to be sure that she wasn't just letting people run her out of school. There was no turning back from this decision. Would she feel bad that she didn't get to wear a cap and gown and cross that stage to get her diploma? Her response was, "why wait to graduate with a bunch of people who treat you badly and are not your real friends?".

Today she took the third and fourth (out of five) sections of the GED test. In two weeks she has the last one. She said they made her feel very smart, so I'm hoping that's a good sign that she'll pass. She wants to start community college in January and see how it goes before applying to a 4-year college. It's not the road any of us imagined for her, but it's a relief that she's moving forward for now.


Up until her incident with pot (the one that got her expelled and arrested), my daughter loved her school. Freshman year she was a cheerleader and field hockey player and a pretty good student.Sophmore year she chose cheering only knowing her grades always suffered a bit when she had too much going on -- hard for her to prioritize and be organized. If she received an A in one class, another had to suffer a C for it, so she was up and down with grades.

When pep rally week came, she was the first one to stay after school to decorate the halls and gym -- she'd wear her pajamas inside out, dress fifties style or whatever else was required for spirit week. She proudly wore her field hockey track suit and her cheering sweatshirt throughout the week.Her teachers mostly had positive comments at teacher conferences, something we were always surprised about, since she could be a real spitfire (putting a positive spin on it) at home. Her report cards always noted "not working to potential", "doesn't hand in homework", "assignments handed in late" right along with the "pleasure to have in class", "good student". Organization and time management was something we worked on forever.

The summer before 11th grade she started smoking cigarettes, and much later we found out that's when she started smoking pot. She also got her driver's license and first job at a fast food place. We didn't question her choice to quit cheerleading when school started, because now she wanted to work weekends and concentrate on her classes -- this year was the most important for college she'd been told.When the first progress report came out, it was more of the usual up and downs, only she no longer had other activities to blame it on. Algebra had always been troublesome and she'd had tutors on and off.

She started having trouble sleeping and then couldn't wake up in the mornings. She was always anxious, stressed out and prone to dramatic outbreaks. Her face drooped and she lost the light she'd always had.I worried that something was wrong and we began seeing a family counselor. The counselor suggested evaluation for depression, and informed us that depression in teens can look different than in adults. One minute they can be happy and social around friends, but have a lot of anger at other times (things that can also seem like normal teen behavior).

While waiting for appointments, the police search at school took place. She was suspended, had an expulsion hearing, and was expelled. We appealed, hoping they would take her good behavior and history into account. They hadn't even looked at her school record. Both the Superintendent and Principal were unaware of her past involvement in school activities or the positive relationships with teachers. The worst thing is that they didn't care that this was the first time in all her school years that she had even seen the inside of a principal's office. All they knew was that she broke the school's rules, and she was out.

We understood that she needed to face the consequences of her actions, but feared that she would continue her downward spiral now that she could not attend any public high school in our State. School was her life -- she needed the structure, the social network to thrive. She lost relationships with school friends since she was no longer part of their world.

The hardest part of this year has been watching my daughter's loss of innocence and joy. Once she was an average teen in an average town, loved her school and her friends. Now she has a seen-it-all attitude and doesn't see the world the same way. The only way I can explain it is that she is hardened.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


After all the self-doubt of the past 6 months, my daughter (MD) decided to go back to high school. She wanted to graduate with her class -- most she had known since preschool.

We met with school officials who congratulated her on meeting all her requirements for re-entry and talked of putting the past behind her and starting fresh. She was excited. I was relieved. Now we could get back to normal.

She shopped for fall clothes, and had her hair cut and colored in anticipation of the first day. She had a good day and people told her she looked so different -- in a positive way. She purchased all the required notebooks and school supplies for all her classes, and I visited each of her classes at open house to make sure I was on top of things this year. I let her know I was impressed with her and all the work she was prepared to do this year. She had two English classes (11th and 12th), US History (11th), Trigonometry, Chemistry, AP Art Portfolio, and a Media Design class -- no study periods. Secretly, I was very nervous.

She was just ending her ADD study and counseling and since she had been diagnosed, we had an appointment to have her try ADD medication to help her concentration in school and hopefully lessen her desire to smoke pot to calm down.

During the first week I received a call at work from the guidance counselor -- MD was having some sort of emotional breakdown and they wanted someone to come pick her up. She had looked out the school window and saw a police car parked next to hers and felt they were targeting her and she freaked out. The guidance counselor gave me the number of a pyschologist. In a private phone conversation, the guidance counselor mentioned she felt there was something going on -- depression, bipolar or anxiety -- and we should make that appointment as soon as possible.

Wednesday of the following week her Dad got a call from the new school nurse. She wanted to excuse MD to go home and get a change of clothes (monthly woman's issue). He gave permission. He didn't realize that this was a ploy she had used with the nurse from last year.

The nurse called me two days later to apologize that she hadn't checked on MD's arrival back at school that afternoon, but she just found out that she never did check back in. That very morning I had sensed that she might be planning to skip school (her clothing gave her away), so I called the school to see if she was there. She wasn't.

The Principal called five minutes later and asked if I had known she was out of school. My answer was no. He then asked if I knew she was out of school the day before, and unfortunately I didn't. The nurse incident was Wednesday, and that was the last morning she was in school. She was now suspended for three days.

The day she went back to school I received a call at work. She was crying hysterically in the girl's bathroom that she couldn't breathe, she had to leave, she just couldn't stay there anymore. She was having another panic attack or breakdown. The sound in her voice scared me. If I didn't give permission, she was going to walk out and risk getting suspended again. We talked, but there was no reasoning with her. She didn't want to quit school or change schools, but somehow convinced herself that if she kept showing up she'd make it to the end of year.

Her Dad ended up getting her from school and spending the day with her, trying to make her realize she needed to make a definitive choice.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


If you are ever suicidal DO NOT search for a mental health professional. It will drive you over the edge for good.

In our experience, it will be their day off, their vacation or lunch hour when you call. You will either need to meet with or speak to an intake person first in a social service agency or play telephone tag with someone in private practice. Since they all keep their own schedules, they seem to find it unnecessary to have additional office help.

You will wait an average of 4 weeks to get an appointment, spill your gut-wrenching history at the first appointment and then wait another three weeks before you can be seen regularly in their full schedule.

If you think antidepressants might help, they can only be prescribed by a Psychiatrist or licensed Physician, however neither have time to counsel you or diagnose you in their 15-minute time slots. Those are reserved for med checks. You must be referred by a Psychologist or Social Worker after a few appointments with them. If you do get that referral, be prepared to start the appointment process all over again.

We are still in the finding-the-right-counselor phase.

Part II (April '06 through August '06)

The summer was a bit of relief for us, as everyone else was out of school too. It was normal and average to work a summer job, hang out with friends and enjoy time off.

In the midst of all that, there were weekly drug counseling appointments and medical testing for the ADD study. My daughter decided very early on that she was on the placebo, and no longer took the pills assigned to her. She would fill out her usage log in the car on the way to appointments and dump the pills in her pocketbook to mingle with the tobacco crumbles and gum wrappers. It wasn't up to me, it was her responsibility and one they said she could manage because she was 17.

She missed more than a few appointments or cancelled at the last minute, but because she was doing them a favor by being in their study, they were always kind and compassionate to any excuses or current dramas. I'd always get a call 20 minutes AFTER she missed an appointment and could only do my best to reach her and leave messages. During the last four weeks of the study, they started including me in the appointment process, and left me reminders of the date and time. I guess they finally figured that 17 year-old pot smokers with ADD aren't always the most reliable people to deal with.

In order to be allowed back into school, she had to take urine drug tests every other month to be submitted to a lab. I'd pick up the official results (received in 3-5 days) and send them by certified mail by a certain date to the school and also to the court. A few times she missed or cancelled the appointments, or worse yet they would come back positive for marijuana. That would throw me into a tizzy of making another appointment, rushing the results, and running to the post office. She wasn't sure during this time if she even wanted to go back to school, but this process was the only thing keeping that door open and worth my effort.

I wish I could say she was actually free of pot, but instead we learned that she'd scurry the day before to buy a $50 herbal remedy at GNC that somehow helped her "pass" the test. There was always a notation that her creatinine levels were low, which could result in a false negative. Each time the school accepted the results.

She couldn't understand why I wasn't happy about the "clean" drug tests as long as the school accepted them. I saw it as cheating the system and didn't want to give my stamp of approval on that method. I saw her use of pot as the beginning of her downfall -- the grades, lack of motivation, and the reason she was expelled and arrested in the first place. I wanted her to stop.

One counselor we saw for the possibility of depression/bi-polar told us that there were worse things someone can do than smoke pot. He had clients with much more serious problems. "See, even he doesn't think it's a big deal", my daughter grinned. I was furious that he would make that type of casual statement in front of her. I let him know that although there are many kids and adults who do smoke pot, it is ILLEGAL and the reason my daughter was expelled from school and arrested. So, pot got her where she was today, and it shouldn't be viewed lightly. Luckily, she decided after one more appointment that she didn't like him and we went in search of another counselor to diagnose her.

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