‘How do I save her life?’ Irish mum’s harrowing account of daughter’s mental health battle
In this age of social media, there is a tendency to portray our lives with a little more gloss than is perhaps realistic. This is why, when someone is brave enough to put themselves out there and tell it like it is – the good, the bad and the downright ugly – we tend to sit up and take notice.
This has certainly proven to be the case for Irish mum Frances Crean, who has shared a heart-wrenching account of discovering and dealing with her daughter’s mental health battle.
Frances shared her story in a post entitled, A Post I Never Thought I Would Write, on her blog, Organised Mayhem.
She begins by sharing the opening lines of a letter her eldest daughter, Zoee, handed to her, back in November: “I am sorry I am doing this to you. I am sorry this is happening again. I’m sorry I put you through so much…I don’t want to die but I do want this to stop.”
Frances went on to find out that her daughter had taken an overdose of 24 paracetamol the day before: “She headed to two different stores and purchased two separate boxes of paracetamol along with a litre of water, and took them all. A couple of hours later, she did start to vomit and continued for the rest of the evening.”
“It happened to be a weekend that she was with her dad and convinced him that she had a vomiting bug and, to be honest, her symptoms were just of that.”
As you can imagine, Frances was left totally devastated by Zoee's harrowing admission.
“I sat with her on the couch crying, going from ‘what the f**k?’ to ‘what the f**k am I doing wrong as a mother?’ wanting life to just pause for 15 minutes, just to give me a chance to catch my breath,” she wrote.
“Here I am, sitting with my beautiful girl who has been on the most amazing life journey with me, and she is in so much pain she doesn’t know what to do and, at times, doesn’t want to be here anymore. How the f**k do I save her life? I have to.”
The following day, Frances brought her daughter to A&E, to ensure that she received any necessary treatment after ingesting the paracetamol. During an estimated 24-hour period spent in the A&E, in Saint Vincent’s Hospital, Frances and her daughter encountered around 14 members of staff – but she was taken aback by how they were treated.
“She was treated like a bold child who had had a temper tantrum. Mental health is not treated like an illness, more an inconvenience – God forbid they would need to spend time with you and talk to you and help you. What none of us knew at that moment was that my beautiful daughter thought she was schizophrenic, she had some very real symptoms,” wrote Frances.
Frances had previously contacted Pieta House and had made an appointment for the next day. Her daughter was almost finished with her drip, and – keen to keep the appointment – Frances inquired about speeding up her treatment.
After confusion and a lot of back-and-forth among various different staff members, one compassionate consultant told her to bring her car around and he would get her daughter ready.
Following the confusion and upset of their A&E experience, Frances and her daughter were comforted by how they were welcomed at Pieta House. Indeed, for the very first time in days, Frances ‘felt like she wasn’t drowning’.
“There needs to be staff members from Pieta House in every A&E in the country. We were greeted with a smiling face and an offer of tea or coffee; there were no tilting heads or that look of dancing on eggshells. There is such a sense of peace in their building but yet you know it’s a place where they deal with such intense pain from families that have lost a loved one to suicide, from young and old who need help, to parents and family members lost and needing guidance,” wrote Frances.
Over the next few weeks, Frances’ daughter battled on with the help of her family and professionals. If there is one thing that the mum-of-four has learned from the experience, though, it’s that we need more education across the generations.
“As parents we need to educate ourselves about how to parent our kids in a way that allows for real communication. For anyone that knows my family and the relationship I have with my kids, it’s one of the things I am most proud of – we are extremely close, but I have learnt so much on this journey about how to be a better parent. I was the mum who had all the answers. I have learnt now that I don’t have any of the answers, but I have the questions to help steer them to find the answer themselves,” she added.
She has urged anyone who may be in her situation, who needs a helping hand, to contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247.