November 7th is my daughter Gabi’s birthday. She turned 17 yesterday, is a senior in high school. She’s incredibly smart and skipped 5th grade. Seriously, the school didn’t know what to do with her. They kept trying to fit her in programs because she was so far ahead and finally I told the principal to send her to 6th grade. It was a great decision. Gabi is shy and quiet and funny as hell. I mean really, really funny. Yesterday, I went to her school and brought her some super gross, store bought, frosted sugar cookies, a minion birthday balloon and a love note. It’s the little things. Since she graduates this coming Spring, this was the last year to embarrass her at school. Good times. She traded her Minion balloon for a pastrami sandwich. Since it cost me $1.05 I think she traded well. Clearly, we have a pretty good time hanging out together.
Yesterday was also the one year anniversary of Kezia’s suicide attempt. Last year Gabi’s birthday was overshadowed by me working and Kezia being very sick. Dane saw Kezia and called me to come home from work, knowing something was very wrong and Gabi found the pill bottles empty and confronted her sister privately. She let Kezia know that if she didn’t tell someone, Gabi would step forward. I figured out what was going on in Urgent Care, and confronted Kezia myself while Gabi held her sisters hand and hugged her. Gabi and I were there for her through the hospital transport via ambulance, overwhelmed with worry.
It’s an odd thing the brain. Everything clicked for me all at once in Urgent Care and I was confronting her while at the same time, my brain was rejecting the possibility. I didn’t want to believe this amazing, beautiful, talented young woman felt so alone and overwhelmed that her best option in the moment was to end her life. I taught suicide awareness and have always talked to the kids openly about suicide. I also knew Kezia had considered it a couple years prior. Still, the horror of watching my daughter struggle in pain from all the medication she took, as she was wracked with guilt and sobbing uncontrollably, was definitely one of the most difficult moments in my life. As opposed to these memories.
From 4 pm until 2 am last year, I sat in the ER room with Kezia on IV, regularly getting blood tests to make sure all her toxicity levels were going down to safe levels. At 2 am the hospital social worker came in and asked if I was comfortable taking Kez home. I told him I taught suicide awareness and I know statistically when a first suicide attempt fails, if there’s a second attempt it’s almost 100% successful. NO I was NOT comfortable taking her home. I would transport her directly to an inpatient program. Which I did at 7 am when her levels were safe.
I took pictures that day. Of Kezia in the hospital. Of her sitting in the inpatient room crying with a paper bag of all her belongings ready to be locked up. Despite my efforts to look for them, I can’t find the pictures anywhere. I can’t describe to you how devastating it was to sit all night watching her levels in the ER, then driving her to a lock down facility where I could talk to her every other day and see her twice in ten days. She clung to me sobbing and apologizing, begging me not to leave her. I literally peeled her off me, told her I loved her and it was my responsibility to give her the best chance of healing. The nurse who was there with us wrapped his arms around her so I could leave. I walked down the hallway and out the door hearing her wail for me. In my car I finally broke down.
Kezia came into my room yesterday morning and snuggled into me, which she is known to do. It was different this time, as we both dozed off cuddled up. There is relief in being able to cuddle this amazing, strong, beautiful, smart, edgy, talented, artistic person who’s soul often times seems too big for her little 5’1″ body. It was the knowledge that I COULD hold her, when a year ago I feared I would lose her. I cherish the photo’s of Kezia with Gabi, knowing even though there are heated moments, they’re there for each other.
Gabi’s birthday will never be the same. None of us will. But we’re happier having gotten to the other side. Kezia talked with me about how it was hard to hit her 1 year anniversary, but a relief too. I feel you kiddo. I lost my step-mom and my neighbor to suicide. I can’t imagine having lost my daughter too. Keep those you love close to you and always – always – ask.