Monday, 2 July 2012

The day I called CYFS (Child Protection Services) on myself.

I imagine that when most people think about government agencies becoming involved with a family and/or the welfare of a child, they would picture a scenario where a concerned neighbour, teacher, or perhaps an extended family member reporting parents for child abuse. Maybe the child is showing signs of physical abuse, or neglect. Maybe the parents are drug addicts.

Most probably wouldn't imagine a parent calling to report that they fear their child is not safe in their own care.

But a few weeks ago, that's exactly what I did. And although making that call and the consequences that followed, were high on the list of the most terrifying experiences I've had, I'm so glad I did it.

If you've been following my posts here, you'll know that I've experienced recurring bouts of depression and anxiety since I was a child. Through learning from those experiences and I guess through the natural process of gaining maturity as I age, I've learned some skills and techniques to help me cope. This means that now, when a wave of depression and/or anxiety hits, it usually only sticks around for a period of weeks-not months- and and the effects aren't so extreme. I can usually hold on to the hope that things will get better in time, because I've seen it happen that way so many times before.

But this time, things have been very different. I've been deeply depressed for a number of months now, and my mood has steadily dropped over time. So much so, that a few weeks ago, I realised I had lost hope altogether. Life seemed so bad that I couldn't imagine that things would ever improve. Compounding everything, our financial situation was (and still is), dire, my husband and I were fighting almost constantly, and had discussed separation, and he had returned to full-time work for the first time since our daughter was born, leaving me as her primary caregiver. I felt totally isolated living in the countryside away from long-term friends and family. It was just me and our child alone in the house day in day out. I felt trapped. And my daughter's normal 2 year old defiance had become unbearable in the state I was in.

I'm ashamed to say my mood was affecting her very negatively.  She needed my love and attention, but I was closed off. Every squeal or clatter she made while playing sounded like nails on a chalk board to me. All I wanted was to be alone, to cocoon myself in silence and to make myself feel better. Now I realise that was never going to help me recover- it was the depression talking, wanting me to isolate myself further so it could perpetuate itself.

To get the attention from me she needed she started acting out. She would scream, hit, and throw tantrums numerous times a day. I tried my hardest to react to this by sticking to the discipline measures advised for her age. Staying calm, attempting to distract her onto another activity, counting to three, giving her time outs for 2 minutes at a time. But the behaviour didn't stop, it escalated, and so did my anger. I was losing control, screaming at her at the top of my lungs. Terrifying her.

Looking back, I can easily see the essential elements that were missing in dealing with the situation. She was receiving a lot of discipline, but very little positive attention from me. I would reach out to try to hug her a lot, and tell her I loved her. But I wasn't showing her I loved her. I was ignoring her until she forced me to pay her attention with bad behaviour. She needed me to play with her, to provide activities and participate with her. To give her positive reinforcement. To connect with her. But I had pulled out of our relationship. And I was very, very angry.

That's when the thoughts started. I would catch myself  thinking about hitting her, just to make her stop. Stop the noise, stop the hitting, stop the grabbing at me for attention- just stop. And I was starting to think about suicide.

As the weeks went on, it became harder and harder to dismiss these thoughts. The anger and despair was boiling up inside of me. Until one morning I felt like I really might snap and hit her. I wanted to throw her against a wall. I wanted to punish her for the torment I blamed her for. And I wanted to cut my throat and die.

Somehow, underneath all of those raging feelings, I still knew she was my perfect little girl that didn't deserve any of this. It was this weak little voice that pleaded to be heard above the thunderous storm poisoning my mind. My girl was defenceless against me. I was a bully. And she needed help.

So, with no dignity or pride left in me, I shut her in her room. Not for punishment. But to keep her safe from me. She screamed and hit the walls, while I cried uncontrollably and searched for the right place to called for help. I tried Plunket first, but after several attempts, I couldn't get through. Then I tried Barnadoes, with the same results. I was desperately trying to think of somewhere else to try, when a social worker from Barnadoes called me back. She had heard someone crying before the click on the answerphone, and had checked for the number.

This was it. It was time to be honest. I told her my daughter was not safe in my care. I told her everything.

She was more understanding than I had expected. But she told me what I must do. I had to call CYFS, and tell them what was happening, or she would be forced to call herself. CYFS! They were the people that took people's babies away! Put them into foster care and destroyed families! They might take my child. She might end up all alone in one of those awful places. Her whole life might be ruined.

Those were the panicked and irrational fears that jumped immediately to my mind. But then I remembered why I had called in the first place. My daughter wasn't safe in her own home. I was hurting her. And these people only wanted to keep her safe. From me.

So I rang. I rang, and I told my whole story all over again, this time to a call centre staff member at CYFS.

The police were on my doorstep within five minutes.

That's enough for today.  


Mrs4444 said...

Maya, you are brilliant and a wonderful mother. What a gift you have given your daughter (not to mention yourself). I hope you are getting the help you need now. Please let me know.

nancygrayce said...

Bless your sweet heart! I am another woman with lifelong anxiety and adult depression (probably from all the anxiety)......I started having panic attack when I was too young to know what they were and at that time, no one knew how to treat it anyway.

I was the mother you just described yourself as, only I didn't call out for help. Luckily, I had family on both sides very near and I could take the boys and drop them off for a time of relief. I also put on a very good face for the outside people in my life. Still do for that matter even at 60.....BUT as an adult I finally went to a psychiatrist and learned that I had been suffering unmedicated for many years. Since I've been on medication, I'm better.....mostly just minor anxiety now!

So, I for one am so proud of you for reaching out when you knew you needed to! I am so glad to "meet" you through this huge, supportive land of bloggers!

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