Jackson was admitted to the hospital a couple nights ago.
You know what sucks about having your child in the hospital for depression? It's not like a regular hospital. I don't get to sit at their bedside the way I would if they were sick, or being treated for some illness, or recovering from surgery. There are very specific visiting hours and they aren't even every day. You have to check in with the desk and leave your purse, cell phone, and all belongings in your car. You have to have a password to see your child. Once you get to your child's unit, you have to be let in a locked door, where you sign in and let the staff inspect anything you've brought for your child. You can't bring them balloons, stuffed animals, flowers, candy, cookies, treats of any kind. You can bring them clothes without drawstrings or other potentially dangerous elements. You can bring them cards without staples or anything that could be fashioned into a tool to harm themselves or others. Jackson will probably be in the hospital for Christmas. His brothers and sisters can only visit him one at a time with me, so they'll each have only about ten minutes with him.
You can only call your child during certain, specific phone hours and you only have ten minutes to talk to them because other patients are waiting to use the phones. When you visit your child, you sit with every other patient and parent in a common room and don't have privacy to really talk to them confidentially about how they're doing, what they're feeling, etc.
Now I know all these measures are in place to keep the patients safe. I understand that. I accept that. That's why the patients are there in the first place - it's a safe environment in which to recover and get help.
But, as a parent, it feels like I'm visiting someone in jail. It sucks to have your child away from home and know that you can only talk to/see them at set, infrequent times. It bites to not be able to even bring your child a little gift or treat to help cheer them up. It's scary and confusing your first time navigating the maze of corridors and all the locked doors to get to your child. It's annoying having to sign in multiple times and be checked out as if you're a criminal, trying to smuggle a file in a cake to your child who is locked up.
And with two children in this environment right now, I spend all my time driving back and forth to the hospital (an hour round-trip) for visits, meetings with case workers, family therapy sessions, dropping off clothes or chapstick or homework or other items my child requests. It especially stinks because every time I go, I have to leave Savannah in charge of taking care of the other ones so I have guilt about that. I try to make it up to her by driving her to the mall and the movies, etc. with her friends at some point most days. I feel like I haven't cooked a decent meal in forever. I usually like to do fun things with my kids during Christmas break. This year, I'm ignoring the younger ones to take care of the ones in the hospital. They're bored and running around like rabid monkeys with way too much energy and no outlet for it right now.
And to top it all off, this is a busy time of year. I've dropped the ball on baking, buying presents, wrapping, sending out cards, getting together with friends, pretty much everything. But none of that seems to even matter to me this year.
The kids' therapists keep asking me, "What are you doing for yourself? How are you holding up? Are you taking care of yourself?" I joke and tell them that I've penciled in my nervous breakdown for the middle of March, but I'm far too busy to worry about myself right now. And to all of you who are going to leave comments, telling me that I need to take time for myself and I need to take care of myself or I won't be good for anyone else, all I have to say is, "You're not a single mother to six kids." I don't get a break every other weekend. I don't have family that comes by once a month to help out. I do not have time. Period.
But I do have the most awesome friends on the planet. I always have a shoulder to cry on. I have an ear willing to listen to me. I have tons of people who invited my family over for Christmas. Thank you to Eric and Gin and Margaret for your thoughtful gestures and your kind, generous spirits this week! I appreciate it more than you can imagine!
So, this week, as you make your last-minute preparations for Christmas; as you stress out over the little details that we tend to give more importance to than they deserve, remember to take a minute to remember why you're celebrating. Give thanks for family that is with you and pray for those members who aren't. Take time to give thanks and to enjoy your family.
I'm sorry I haven't had much funny to write about lately. Don't worry, because I still look at the situation as positive. My kids are getting help. They talked to me and asked for help. We have a good, strong relationship. Things will get better. Things will be okay. And I'll be back to writing about how they did an experiment with a carton of eggs, soap, and chopsticks in the bathtub in no time.