Learning to Love From the Center of Who I Am
We arrived at the crisis center in Flagstaff at the end of the day shift. The receptionist took Sarah’s information and asked us to wait for the next available counselor. I ran to Taco Bell to grab some supper, and when I returned, they still hadn’t called Sarah back.
While the lobby seemed nice enough, and the staff friendly, I worried about what we had committed ourselves to. Clients on their way out of group sessions poured through the hallway and my Judgy McJudgerton personality took over. “These people obviously have problems,” I thought to myself as I noted the shifty eyes and raucous laughter of those leaving. “Why, look at the way some of them dress! Our daughter doesn’t belong here. These are not her kind of people.”
It took all of my self-restraint to stay in my seat. I couldn’t believe that we planned on leaving our daughter with a bunch of strung-out drug users and alcoholics. How in the world would she find help here? I looked at Pedro, trying to read his thoughts. Before I could say anything, a counselor came out and called Sarah’s name.
I stayed quiet while my mind fought it out. This place didn’t feel safe. But home didn’t seem any safer. Perhaps the counselors and doctors here would find the clue to Sarah’s depression. So far all our attempts to help her at home had proven futile. Authorities would not allow an unsafe crisis center to remain open. I would never forgive myself is Sarah harmed herself at home.
A second counselor came out to talk to us. For the first time, someone wanted to hear from us, her parents—the ones who knew her best. Pedro and I took turns explaining Sarah’s descent into depression and how desperate we felt that nothing seemed to work to help her. The counselor listened carefully.
When we finished, she explained that the first counselor seemed disinclined to admit Sarah because Sarah didn’t seem to want to be there. After hearing our side of the story, the counselor agreed that Sarah did need help. She went to consult with her colleague, and Sarah came out to say good-bye.
I could tell she didn’t really want to be there, but that she wanted to please us. I prayed that we had made the right decision and that good would come out of Sarah’s stay there. When the sliding doors hissed shut behind us, I felt both crushing sadness and elation. How had our beautiful daughter ended up in a psych ward? Finally, maybe someone would help Sarah.
The dark night cocooned my grief as we drove home in silence.
The next day we returned to work and everything felt different, yet the same. A seed of hope swelled within me. I felt guilty that I felt relief that I would have a few days’ respite from the tension at home. We had no idea how long the crisis center would keep Sarah.
As a parent, the HIPPA laws that protect a child both comfort and frustrate. I wanted to sign us up for counseling sessions so someone would explain to us how we could help. I wanted to take part in the process so that we would do no harm and say the right things that encouraged rather than enable Sarah.
We had suddenly become caregivers to our 20-year-old daughter, and no one seemed to care about us, or the part we played in her life. I had an especially difficult time with this seemingly callous attitude on the part of the mental health professionals—my experience as a caregiver to Pedro through his cancer crisis had shown me just how integral a part family caregivers play in the care and recovery of a patient.
The counselor at the crisis center struck me as the first person who didn’t radiate vibes of condemnation: In all fairness, the negative vibes could have existed only in my imagination—shame and guilt that for some reason our daughter had an eating disorder, suicidal thoughts and deep depression. In my pride, I had always judged other parents whose children struggled. Now I found myself on the other end of my pointy judgmental finger.
For so many years, I had failed to love. I realized how petty, selfish and unloving I really was. God was slowly revealing to me ways in which I needed to change so that I could learn to love, really love and not just fake it.
He would give me an opportunity to practice what he was teaching me far sooner than I expected.It took my daughter's depression to wake me up to the fact that I suffered from a judgmental heart. Click To Tweet