Casey Hagen, Author

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Saving Bronwyn…

My daughter suffers with a silent tormentor. It shows no mercy. It holds her in its clutches offering no rhyme, no reason, no warning. Her reality changes from hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute, and on the bad days, second to second. Most people take their lives one day at a time. We take ours one breath at a time, while her silent tormentor lays in wait, ready to strike.

Bronwyn is sixteen. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s active in her school. She has friends. She’s a saxophone player in her competition band.

She lives with bipolar disorder.

Her tormentor wound its way around her in middle school. Unbeknownst to us, she stopped feeling. She went numb. In order to feel something—anything—she started cutting.

The guidance counselor called to tell me she had cuts on her arm. He told me not to worry too much about it; most girls her age were doing it.

Don’t worry about it? My daughter resorted to marring her beautiful skin because she was hurting, and the school didn’t want me to worry about it? That’s the day I learned I could never trust the school system again.

The cuts were shallow. Until they weren’t. When we started watching for more cutting, she turned to other areas of her body. Areas we couldn’t see. She cut deeper.

We tried therapy, to no avail. Finally, we turned to a psychiatrist. Believing it was depression, he prescribed an antidepressant. We watched her get worse. We tried a different antidepressant. Worse again. Suicidal thoughts crowded her. We told her often, “Remember, it’s just chemicals messing with your head. If you ever feel like you want to die, come to us. We’ll help you through it.”

Thank God, she did.  Because one night she went into a downward spiral so horrifying, she cried and begged me to let her go. Let her die. I can’t put into words what that does to a mother. She held my hand, cried her heart out, and begged me to just let her end it.

We took her to the emergency room where they transferred her to a psychiatric hospital. She stayed for a week. For a few days it worked well for her. They changed her meds, things appeared to improve, and she came home. We continued with therapy and her psychiatrist appointments. When things started to decline, the doctor added a mood stabilizer. We were lulled into a false sense of security because studies showed people who take this medicine are six times less likely to try to commit suicide.

That false sense of security is a fickle bitch, and I’ll never trust her again.

On the day of my first book release, my daughter came home with a smile on her face and went out for a run. I got a call about twenty minutes later from her best friend who said Bronwyn told her she swallowed a handful of pills. I found my girl in the woods and dragged her butt home. I was furious. We had a deal. She promised to come to me. Only this time she didn’t. This time, her tormentor was stronger than she. Stronger than me.

This was the day I realized my sheer force of will would not be enough to keep her tethered to this world.

We went back to the emergency room, and they transferred her to another hospital, this one three hours from home. I was forty-eight hours away from traveling to the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference. I decided, right then and there, I wasn’t going. Bronwyn told me she wanted me to go. She said she would feel worse if I didn’t.

Left with no choice, I went. She was in good hands. My husband booked a hotel room next to the hospital so he could be there for every visit. Me, I wouldn’t see her for four days. Four. Long. Days. Four days of drowning in guilt for not being there. Four days wondering if she was really feeling better or if she was plastering a fake smile on her face for her father. Four nights lying awake, tears rolling down my face, wondering if she missed us, if she was crying herself to sleep. But it’s what she wanted. And I would do just about anything she wanted. Anything but stop fighting for her.

I showed up at the conference with a dear friend who is suffering troubles of her own. Her husband is dying. We held each other up. We leaned on each other. When worry and fear crowded in, we reminded each other of our goals. We forced smiles and networked the best we knew how. I told a small handful of people what was going on, but no more. Not because I was ashamed. Never that. But because I didn’t want what I was going through to become the focus.

Besides, we’ve been living in this reality for four years. We’re doing everything we can, and we’ve learned that this is just the way our lives are now.

Bronwyn is now on her fourth medicine, this time an antipsychotic. Turns out one of the worst things you can do for someone who is bipolar is to give them antidepressants. Every time we try a new one, we pray it’s the one. We watch our beautiful daughter and pray she’ll find the way out of her nightmare. Every morning, I worry she found a way to end it in the middle of the night. I pray I’ll find her awake and getting ready for the day. Every time I call up to her room, I hold my breath until I hear her call back. Every. Single. Time.

I count her pills at least once a day. I carry them into our room at night so she can’t get her hands on them in a weak moment. Moments when that silent, invisible son of a bitch grips her by her throat and tries to squeeze every last vestige of hope and peace out of her.

I can’t imagine a world without her, so we’ll keep fighting.

To rally around her, our family has committed to each getting a variation of the semi-colon tattoo. Go to this link here to read about Project Semicolon: http://www.projectsemicolon.org/our-vision.html For those unaware, the semicolon is the point in a sentence where the author might place a period to end the sentence but chooses a semicolon to continue instead. This is a powerful symbol for those stating that the sentence represents their life, and the semicolon is their commitment to continuing their own lives and story.

We told Bronwyn, this is the one tattoo we will sign for before she turns eighteen so make it count. She did. It’s four by eight inches and incorporates the semi-colon and a music note. It’s big, bold, and makes a statement. And it’s gorgeous! Below are the tattoos done thus far…

Bronwyn's Story Isn't Over Yet Small

Bronwyn always jokes about how she sucks at writing. Her sisters are both wonderful writers and from my reviews, I guess I’m not too bad myself. That’s an awfully big shadow to stand in.

However, I don’t think she’s in the shadow at all. During her last stay at the hospital, she wrote a poem. It’s raw. It’s edgy. It’s brilliant. And I hope committing those words to paper provided her a few moments of peace.

Bronwyn and I think it only appropriate to share it with the world. For others who might be suffering. For those fighting their way free from their own demons.

 

I still vividly remember the first

and only time I was called to guidance.

I walked quickly,

pulling my sleeves over my wrists.

I didn’t need to be told the reason for being called down.

Somehow, I already knew.

 

The new teen trend is what he called it,

as if the scars on my wrists were normal; as if cutting was an okay thing.

 

To him, he was saying what he thought was honest.

To me, all of my problems were minimalized.

 

Frankly, the term teen trend

should be shoved up the ass of

ANYONE

senseless enough to say something

so stupid about

self-harm.

 

Cutting is not a teen trend.

Cutting is spending your days

shaking and sweating,

itching for a razor blade.

 

Cutting is hiding blades and bandages in a box

beneath your bed,

hoping your parents won’t stumble upon it.

 

Cutting is distancing yourself from friends

because you have a new best friend.

It’s cold and silver, providing your only relief.

 

Cutting is addicting,

slowly taking over your life,

because you’d rather bleed than be numb.

 

Cutting is not a teen trend.

It’s a toxic coping habit

that if not stopped,

can, and will,

kill you.

 

50 Responses to "Saving Bronwyn…"

  1. […] Please link over to Casey’s post here: http://caseyhagenauthor.com/2015/11/saving-bronwyn/ […]

    • Comment by Anonymous
      December 6, 2015 12:46 am

      I am in band with your daughter. Her bravery is truly inspiring, and I want her to know we love her and she is not alone. ❤️

  2. Comment by Michelle Ferrari - Johnson
    November 4, 2015 1:06 pm

    Brilliant and honest words.
    I pray you keep reaching for your stars. My middle son is almost 23 years old. He has done this for years. As a parent I am terrified to lose him. He writes with such compassion and honesty, like your beautiful daughter. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:34 pm

      Thank you so much, Michelle! I’m so proud of my girl and her willingness to call attention to her struggle!

  3. Comment by Jerri Ricard
    November 4, 2015 1:35 pm

    I cried….I quite simply cried. Bronwyn will now forever be a part of my daily prayers. My son suffers depression and anxiety disorder. Love is sent to you and your family.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 1:56 pm

      Stay strong, Jerri. We’ll both get through this! She suffers anxiety too. Right now, it’s the lesser of two evils, but it’s still there. The first time we went to the hospital with her and we were waiting for transport from the ER to the psychiatric hospital, we had a a nurse stay with us and he was struggling right alongside us. Turns out, his son was dealing with the same thing and they had tried for six years to find the right combination of therapy and meds. They were still battling. I think about him all the time, I pray that they finds a solution, and I pray that recovery isn’t as elusive for Bronwyn.

      • Comment by Jerri Lynn Ricard
        November 4, 2015 2:35 pm

        Lisa Ricard Claro is my precious sister in law. I am so glad she shared this.

        • Comment by Casey Hagen
          November 4, 2015 2:45 pm

          I had only briefly heard about the semi-colon project until Lisa and one of her girls shared it with me again. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for her friendship!

  4. Comment by Rob
    November 4, 2015 1:36 pm

    My heart goes out to you. I’ll send good thoughts to you daily. Bronwyn, you’re a poet, and poets, good poets, poets who have something to say are always tempered and refined in a furnace of isolation and self-examination. Then, they pick up their pen–and cut. They cut through the BS and tell it like it is. They cut with their pen, to tell others what they know. Keep writing.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:41 pm

      Thank you, Rob! She needed to hear this!

  5. Comment by Paula
    November 4, 2015 1:59 pm

    God bless you. Don’t know if you’re Christians or not, but sometimes pastoral help, if it’s the right pastor can help. Having people pray for you is amazingly freeing. Knowing that God loves you gives you hope to go on. My prayers are with you.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:42 pm

      Thank you, Paula!

  6. Comment by Judy kentrus
    November 4, 2015 2:31 pm

    Having shared some of those events, you know how I feel. You have my support always. Sending prayers for strength for your entire family. Bronwyn’s poem is beautiful.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:43 pm

      My lady, who helped hold me up during the conference…I love you!!!

  7. Comment by KSE
    November 4, 2015 8:00 pm

    I am so sorry for all of you, but I know very well what Bronwyn is going through. I pray every night for an end to all mental illnesses for everyone. Bronwyn, keep trying combinations of meds until you find the one that works.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:44 pm

      Thank you!

  8. Comment by Linda O'Connell
    November 4, 2015 8:06 pm

    Casey, thank you for sharing your honest journey. Our family also experiences the ups and downs of this affliction, with a 19 yr old male. Heartbreaking. One day at a time.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:45 pm

      Thank you, Linda. Lots of deep breaths on our end, but we’re pushing through!

  9. Comment by Patti
    November 4, 2015 8:07 pm

    Thank you for for standing so strongly with Bronwyn and for both of you to have the courage to be vocal about her illness. I know firsthand how insurmountable the struggle can seem. You are not alone. Not you, not your daughter. There are so many of us out here. We stand with you. Even when we are on our knees, on our faces — clutching at what seems to be thin strands of hope — we stand with you.

    My daughter seems to have found the right medicine after over 11 years of the most horrific struggle and after numerous hospitalizations. Finally. Finally. She is now able to live on her own and is doing so well. Seeing her peaceful is beautiful.

    Bronwyn’s peace is out there. It’s “just” a matter of figuring out the right chemistry. I hope those puzzle pieces fall into place quickly for her and that you all have the right support network for help in the meantime.

    May the answers come speedily for you.

    Wishing you all peace.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:47 pm

      I’m so happy for your daughter! I pray that she continues to do well…thank you for your well wishes!

  10. Comment by Sioux
    November 4, 2015 10:26 pm

    Casey and Bronwyn–

    Bronwyn–You ARE a writer. Your poem was moving. You have a story to tell. Through your words, others can learn about what it’s like to suffer with bipolar disorder. (I think you and your mom should write a book together, with each of you doing alternate chapters. But that’s just me. 😉

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 4, 2015 10:49 pm

      Thank you…not sure how my girl would feel about writing a book with me. I can’t wait to tell her your suggestion. I’m thinking she’s going to look like she just sucked on a lemon. It’s just the teenager in her 🙂

  11. Comment by Cynthia Gallaher
    November 4, 2015 11:01 pm

    How heart breaking for your entire family. I will keep you in my prayers Casey.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 5, 2015 12:22 am

      Thank you, Cynthia!!!

  12. Comment by Elaine
    November 5, 2015 5:24 am

    Bronwyn, we are here. People care. Stay strong.
    You hit me dead in the heart and I know exactly how you feel. Brandi, i am with you.. Totally. God bless us all and remember even if you don’t feel anything, people you love do. We love you and will help you through this. It is NOT your fault, it is NOT a trend. And you will feel the love, because we love you. We are here, just talk to us and we can fight this together.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 6, 2015 12:50 am

      We love you, Elaine! Thank you…hugs and kisses to the family!

  13. Comment by Julie Rowe
    November 5, 2015 5:46 am

    Your daughter’s story sounds so much like my daughter’s it’s uncanny. My daughter is 19 now and she’s tried to commit suicide by cutting and overdose 7 times. Most medications made things worse, not better. Most therapists also made things worse not better.

    My daughter isn’t bi-polar though, she has borderline personality disorder. We were told my daughter was bi-polar a few times, but having worked in health care myself for several years, I knew that wasn’t it. Borderline people have fast switches of mood, happy one second sometimes, angry beyond all imagination the next. Borderline people are difficult to treat because it’s how their brain is wired. I urge you to ensure her diagnosis is correct. Have a look at this website for more information or email me privately. http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com/

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 5, 2015 11:24 am

      Thank you, Julie. They’ve actually already looked at Borderline Personality Disorder. We’ve looked at it extensively, and while it seemed to fit, more symptoms crept up that led us to bipolar disorder. Bronwyn’s doctor is top notch and at any time it seems like he might be missing something, he shifts in another direction. She has two other doctors working with him also. Our issues seem to be that doctors like to wait 4-8 weeks on new meds before they conclude they aren’t working or they’re making things worse. It’s in that window of waiting where we’ve had issues. He sees her frequently in the window, but part of the problem was we weren’t recognizing certain symptoms. It’s hard to navigate what is normal teenage angst and attitude versus what is part of the illness. Rest assured we’re always watching and if there is any shift, we address it. Thanks so much!

  14. Comment by Chanel Green
    November 5, 2015 5:07 pm

    Wow what does one say or do? Is this something we feel pity for? Is this something we ignore? Is this something that we should be brave and bring awareness too?
    I choose the road least traveled, the one that shows strength and character as you all have done. The road you all have taken to bring awareness is a testament to the unconditional love you have for Bronwyn. To put into words the pain that this crippling and gripping disease has on so many people, especially our children is a true testament of your strength.
    Many people are often ashamed or afraid to admit that something has control over them. Especially, something that we can’t see nor feel however; there is nothing to be ashamed of again only admiration that Bronwyn is so willing to share her story and be a champion for other young adults living with this very same pain.
    I don’t know you personally but I do know Jim and he is so committed to the journey of helping his daughter and family fight. I am fortunate to know a family that has such strength and compassion of one another!

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 6, 2015 12:52 am

      Thank you, Chanel…no pity, no shame. We just tell it like it is, because really, it’s all we can do now. We have to keep moving forward. We have to stay vigilant. But I have hope that we’ll figure this out!

  15. Comment by Dawn Baca
    November 5, 2015 7:08 pm

    Sending hugs. Well written. Bronwyn’s poem is beautiful. Being a parent of a child in distress is a long painful road of always wondering if we are doing enough. Stay strong. You have support, and Bronwyn is loved and has a great support system. I’m glad to read that the doctors are working together to make the changes needed for her.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 6, 2015 12:53 am

      Thank you, Dawn! I’m lucky to have you in my corner, lady!

  16. Comment by Donna Volkenannt
    November 5, 2015 8:35 pm

    Hi Casey and Bronwyn,
    My heart and prayers go out to you both. I found this link on Lisa’s blog and had to read Bronwyn’s story. Bronwyn is such a beautiful young lady. I hope she finds healing. Casey, you are a wonderful mother. You are both so brave to tell your story and to reach out in a way that will help others.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 6, 2015 12:53 am

      Thank you for the support, Donna! It’s very much appreciated 🙂

  17. Comment by Theresa Sanders
    November 5, 2015 11:19 pm

    Casey, I found this link on Lisa’s blog and met you a couple weeks ago on Facebook at Lisa’s book party. This post is so moving and heart wrenching and my heart simply goes out to you. I have twin daughters, one of whom tried to commit suicide in her senior year in high school. Your words brought me full force back to those terrifying days. But what I want to say to you and Bronwyn both is that my daughter, and our family, made it through that hellish time and my girl now has a great job, a loving husband, and a beautiful new baby girl of her own. You can and WILL survive this. Keep fighting — and writing. Your poem so resonated with me. Sending love and prayers to both of you.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 6, 2015 12:54 am

      I hope we’re fortunate enough to navigate our way through this. Bronwyn wants a family one day…I’m hoping she has it.

  18. Comment by Brandi
    November 6, 2015 12:42 am

    This article and story hit home. My daughter is 15 has been suffering depression and anxiety for 4 years, along with PTSD. She just came home after a week in acute care for self harm and suicidal thoughts. She said she was tired of living in the darkness of depression. A med change has helped tremendously. But like you, I have to be vigilant for the warning signs. I’ve read a bit about the semicolon, I believe we’ll each be getting one soon. Thank you for sharing.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 6, 2015 12:55 am

      You’re welcome, Brandi! It get’s easier…hold strong, keep fighting, it’s all we can do as mothers isn’t it?

      • Comment by Brandi
        November 6, 2015 1:24 am

        Yes, we do. She helps me find strength because she is just so dang strong herself. You and your family are now in my heart. I’ve found such amazing people during this journey.

  19. Comment by Sabrina
    November 6, 2015 3:02 am

    Your words brutally touch my heart. Raw and very real. As a parent of a son with this horrid lurking monster, I applaud your sheer strength and your weaknesses. I will forever regret not listening to my inner voice when he was struggling through his teenage years. It’s been a long road and it’s been a tough road but as long as we stay on the road together we are winning. Thank you for sharing your life with me. The semi-colon project sounds like an amazing tribute to love and a fierce symbol of communication. Bravo and prayers for continuing down the road together.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 9, 2015 10:45 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words! May we all be strong and conquer the lurking monster…you’re in our thoughts and prayers!

  20. Comment by Melissa
    November 6, 2015 11:19 pm

    This nightmare sink it’s claws in me when I was 31. For three years I was on the merry go round of meds that made me worse and hospital stays that took me away from my daughter. Finally my husband and it seperated my daughter stayed with her dad ad I moved back to my hometown and took myself off all the meds and started putting my CBT therapy to good use. This was the answer for me I cope much better these days although I have to keep things simple. Tell your beautiful daughter to never give up she will find what works for her.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 9, 2015 10:48 pm

      I will tell her…I hope things continue to improve for you, Melissa!

  21. Comment by Debi
    November 8, 2015 3:32 pm

    Bronwyn may not realize this; she is the light of so many lives. I am so blessed to not only have her in my life, but your whole family. She is a ray of sunshine, and I look forward to seeing her as much as possible. I not that won’t happen as often since I moved, but you are all in my heart. If I could wave a magic wand, and help her, I would. But since I can’t; I will send my love and prayers to you all. I’m looking to get a tattoo in her honor. I will send you a pic when I get it. Love, always

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 9, 2015 11:47 pm

      Thank you, Debbie! You’re closer now so we should get together…you’re always welcome to take a road trip out to see us…we can handle having a dog around for a few days. The cats will hate it, but they don’t pay the bills!

  22. Comment by Aurora,
    November 9, 2015 10:22 pm

    So beautifully put… I have a grown son and a 14 yr old with that problem my son refuses meds and my daughter is on meds. They both are coping. I know your fight. God bless and thank you for sharing

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      November 9, 2015 11:48 pm

      That, I think, will be the most difficult part. They feel better and go off the meds not thinking that the meds are the reason they feel better. It’s a never ending battle…thanks for the support!

  23. Comment by Tammy Hagaman
    November 11, 2015 5:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Members of my immediate family struggle and have struggled with depression, and I have friends who struggle with Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. Everyone knows someone who needs prayers for these.

    Check out Jared Padalecki, from TV’s Supernatural, and his “Always Keep Fighting” campaign.

    Prayers for you, your daughter, and the rest of your family.

  24. Comment by Maureen Bonatch
    January 5, 2016 10:26 am

    Thank you for sharing. Many people suffer alone because they’re afraid to expose themselves to scrutiny. May your story bring light into another’s pain and struggling to see they are not alone in this fight and give them the strength to reach out. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    • Comment by Casey Hagen
      January 5, 2016 11:05 am

      Thank you, Maureen. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re finding a solution 🙂


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