No, I am not talking about myself. Thanks for asking, though.
Imagine if you were a mother to an 8 year old and 6 year old twins. Now imagine one of the twins has a severe disability, requiring 24/7 care, her every. single. physical need is your responsibility to meet. She cannot communicate verbally- she can only scream. She cannot sleep through the night. She wakes 4, 5, 6 times. Every. single. night. For 6 years. She cannot eat solids. She must be bottle fed. Now imagine her twin has autism. Imagine your husband works 12 hour shifts. Imagine that you have had no decent sleep for 6 years (Hi Kelley!).
You are at breaking point. You are not sure if you can take any more, or if you want to. You reach out to the only person you trust. You confide in her that you are feeling suicidal. You tell her that you can’t bear to live this way anymore, and you don’t want your children to live without you. You tell her that you know how to mix your 6 year old’s medications so that if taken, they will kill. Imagine the person you confide in is an education professional, who is legally obliged to notify your state’s child protection authorities…
Fast forward, to where the child protection authorities arrive with a police officer. You become aggressive, threatening, screaming, crying and swearing. You are frightened. You don’t know who these people are, or why they have come. You wish you’d never woken up this morning. You scream abuse at the person you confided in, who is also crying uncontrollably. You accuse her of betraying you, because that is how it feels- like a betrayal. Suddenly, ambulance officers arrive. You become violent, attacking the police officer with a pair of scissors. The police officer disarms you as gently as a six foot four man can, and you fly into a rage. You try to leave the room, but there are people blocking the doors. You can’t open the doors, you are trapped. You are screaming to be let out. In your rage, you don’t know your own strength, and you open the door. The person leaning on it slams your hand in it, but you don’t feel the pain. She sees the marks on the back of your hands that indicate a history of self-harm. Old, healed scars, and new, just-stopped-bleeding lacerations.
Frustrated, alone, terrified, you run to the windows, but they are painted shut. You pick up a toaster and throw it at the window, but the glass refuses to shatter. The ambulance officer restrains you, as the police officer comes running. They try to talk you down, to calm you, but you cannot be calmed. You are hyperventilating, crying, shaking. The ambulance officer begins to tell you of his powers under the Mental Health Act, and you see him holding a syringe. You back off, saying ‘no, no, please’. The police officer asks you if you are willing to get into the ambulance of your own accord. He repeats his request. He is pleading with you to comply, because nobody in that room wants to see you sedated against your will, but for your own good, it must come to that, and soon.
Your partner arrives, and he takes you into his arms. He is confused, dazed. He has received a phone call at work, asking him to come. He doesn’t understand what is happening, or why. Who are these people? What has happened to you? What have they done to you? You cry as he holds you. The authorities attempt to explain to him what is happening from their perspective. They fear for your safety. They have a duty of care. They cannot release you. They must, by law, transport you to hospital for a mental health assessment. He asks whether you can be released into his care, and they explain it is not possible. He agrees to try and coax you into the ambulance. He fails.
The police officer makes one last attempt. He asks you if there is any way he can get you to agree to get into the ambulance. He doesn’t threaten, he doesn’t raise his voice. He asks you to look at him, and you do. You are dazed, traumatised, but you look at him. He asks you again, is there anything that I can say or do to get you to come with us voluntarily? You tell him that you will go if your confidant will go with you.
He leaves the room. He is gone for a long time, and you pace the room anxiously. You are still crying and hyperventilating. The ambulance officers exchange concerned looks. They ask you to sit down, take some slow breaths. You refuse. Eventually he returns, having extracted a committment from your friend, the education professional. You are escorted to the ambulance by the two ambulance officers, the police officer and the child protection workers. As you get closer, you begin to feel afraid. You wonder if this is a trick. You can’t see your friend. You call her name, but there is no answer. They tell you that she is coming, but is she? You are in no fit state to know. Reluctantly, you climb into the ambulance. The ambulance officer is kind, and gentle, but you can’t stop trembling. He explains to you that he is going to strap you in, and he reaches across you to do so. You gaze out the window, defeated. The ambulance door closes, and you jump in fright, thinking they have tricked you, but it’s ok, they explain they are closing the door to keep the driving rain out.
After a lifetime, your friend arrives. She climbs into the seat beside you, and the ambulance drives away.