I have four children, two boys in their early-to-mid 20s and twin 17-yo girls, but this book is mostly going to be about one of them. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that the events described in these entries will be through the lens of our experience with this one child.
I have been married for 25 years, which I have been told is something to celebrate. That sounds glib, I know. We are currently seeking counseling for, if I am correct, the 5th time in our marriage. I think we should have just started way back when and kept up the weekly sessions, but we thought we were cured lol.
I have also been reading Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad, and despite the title of this post, I have been taking it very seriously. I’ve been in education for over 25 years, and I can always use a little more professional development when this is concerned. Throughout my career, I have worked in schools where I have not shared the same culture as the community. Some people might argue that I am more “woke” simply because of that, but resting on those morals is shaky at best. We’ll see how that fits in with the rest of the stories I plan on recording here.
Sometime in middle school, I’m guessing between 6th and 7th grade, my daughter began isolating in her room more and more. She had friends and was keeping up with schoolwork, so we did the best we could trying to maintain household life with these new developments. When the girls transitioned to high school, she stopped eating dinner with the family and eventually started living on her own schedule, sleeping most of the day and staying up most of the night. At first, she was making it to school and continued to keep up with her work, but then she became more focused on isolation, so she moved into the basement. Her grades plummeted during the first semester of her freshman year, and she struggled a lot with anxiety and depression. That was the 2019-2020 school year, so in March everything closed, and her mental health became unmanageable.
We took her to so many therapists, but we had no idea what we were dealing with. I did not have a strong understanding of mental health issues and how to address them even though I have been doing that in my job for my entire career. It is very different when it is your own child, though. The interesting thing about my daughter is that she has this defense mechanism where she just shuts down and does not communicate. She will assume this flat affect and just stare through you, and when you ask her what’s up, she will snap out of it and go, “What! What!?” in an agitated manner… The therapists we initially sought out did not jive with this approach and told us that they would not work with her if she was not willing to work with them. I was under the impression that most people don’t necessarily want to work with a new therapist, but they learn how, and it gets easier, but these therapists wanted her to be past that first part.
She continued to struggle through the 2020-2021 school year, and we continued to look for therapists. During this point in time, her interest in school dropped to nearly zero. She constantly watched youtube videos on things that interest her: sustainable agriculture, clean eating, minecraft, roblox, and a healthy dose of news and current events, most leaning to the left-to-far-left politically. None of this was done with any joy. She dropped so much weight. She stopped hanging out with friends. She stopped shopping for clothes and going outside. On a vacation to the Outer Banks during the summer of 2021, my wife went into the bedroom where my daughter was sleeping, and when she put her hand on our daughter’s hip to gently shake her awake, she felt the sharpness of the bone protruding through skin and came to the realization that this little girl was starving herself.
Our daughter denied any disordered eating, but did agree to go into an outpatient program for depression, anxiety, etc. in November of 2021. She had already missed so much school and just continued to miss more while in the program. She tried while at the outpatient program, and she was able to get caught up on a lot of school work, but her mental health did not improve. We also adopted a tortie kitten at this time, which our daughter named Tofu. The kitten pretty much adopted this stuggling little girl, and became her constant companion when she was home. They slept together and hung out reading or watching youtube videos. Times were a little brighter.
Later, our daughter admitted that she was at about rock bottom during Christmas of 2021. She stayed in the basement obsessing over whatever she had eaten that day, pacing and crying, consumed in a fear and distress that she couldn’t understand. She avoided family as adeptly as she could and held us off with sarcasm and a general foul malaise.
In early February, sweet Tofu munched a lily that I bought my wife as a romantic gesture and died of liver failure. Or maybe it was kidney failure.
On March 25, 2022, after a few weeks of debate, then planning, then action, at a tiny airport in Durango, Colorado, I said goodbye to my daughter as she walked away with a young man and woman I had never met before. They would stop at a local restaurant, then a clinic to draw my daughter’s blood, then they would drive for hours and hours until they reached a base camp in the deserts of Utah, somewhere near Moab.