We're new to this world. That's not to say there weren't signs or moments that made me wonder and then push away the thought. Middle school and our first counseling. It didn't seem to help.
The first months of high school and everything seems fine. Mari goes to football games and has friends. I'm excited. My son had severe ADD and other challenges and never participated in any school activity.
Then. First the self harm and then the death of a dear cousin and then the 72-hour stay in the adolescent pysch unit. Meds, new school, counseling. Refused intensive outpatient. Grew sadder and sadder. In the new school, her "stirring of the pot" socially and setting one friend against another was soon recognized and the initial welcoming and flurry of invitations and activites came to a near total halt.
Friendless and without a sense of self, Mari invented herself a million different ways on the Internet. Some were dangerous. She got sadder and more anxious. She stopped sleeping. She cried. She stopped going to school. We changed the medication and she fell down the rabbit hole, tumbling and tumbling until I could hardly see her at the bottom. As she happily peeled the skin off her lips, I coaxed her to shower, to move from the bed to a chair. Two and a half months and then she took off her toenails and no one had answers.
Four weeks ago we brought Mari to a facility far from home, the best we could find, and today we took our family photo for Thanksgiving and, for the first time since she was two, she wasn't there. And no one asked. Oh, you could feel their knowing thick in the room, the brother's in-law, the family friends, the older nephews and even her brother.
No one asks. She's been erased.
Mari doesn't have something we can talk about like a life threatening disease (but oh, it is, and it has been). She doesn't have a broken leg or a hip replacement. She's 15 and in a state a long way away and still sitting at the bottom of the rabbit hole, with little interest in reaching up.
At the end of the day I receive photos of my daughter with half of her smile on her face. A start. Another shows her cradling two tiny puppies recently born to the canine program. My baby. That hair. Those eyes.
Who can I send the photos too? No one asks.
She called. We spoke for a few moments and her grandparents each spoke with her. Then it was over just like that. The photo with the puppies, the way Mari's holding them against her chest, cupping the second one's head in the palm of her hand, that's where the spark of hope resides.
I will teach them how to ask. And I will tell them.