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Audrey Ann was 13 or 14 when she was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The diagnosis came after her first suicide attempt. She was regularly going to counseling, but hated it and it didn’t seem to be helping. She began cutting, now the problem of self harm. The anxiety and debilitating panic attacks soon added to her suffering. We were all involved in counseling and she was taking meds for her mental illness, but there were more difficulties in her life and multiple suicide attempts over the next four or five years. Hospitals, med changes, psychiatric counseling, in-patient mental health facility treatment, we tried so hard to keep her healthy. People would say to us that she was just crying out for attention, but they did not know her struggle. We weren’t giving up on our daughter!

Our family was very close, we shared everything. She had a very special bond with both myself, and her father, feeling completely at ease confiding in us whatever was on her mind.

Eventually, Audrey Ann received a correct diagnosis: borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety and panic disorder. She did very well on her new treatment plan, and wanted to keep taking the new meds. Seemingly stable with minimal problems, she landed a great job, moved out on her own to a nearby area and was in a happy relationship with a young man whom we adored. A lot of great achievements! We were optimistic!

Around age twenty-one she began confiding in me about her experimenting with drugs and alcohol, “Not the real bad ones” she would say, and I knew I had to react calmly, or loose her trust. She knew I didn’t approve. I would always tell her to never, ever, ever try heroin or meth.

Still living on her own, we rarely saw her. She rarely came to visit us. She started hanging out with people who partied a lot, as I began seeing on social media. I became suspicious of her activities, but she was legally an adult and I couldn’t stop her from doing anything, all I could do was tell her we were concerned. Her boyfriend did his best to keep her safe and he took good care of her, but our family was changing, and not in a positive way. Her father and I were so very sad and very worried, we didn’t know what to do. She was becoming heavily involved in this different crowd.

It wasn’t long before she moved back home after her rent was raised. We welcomed her home and thought we’d be spending more time together as a family. Her dad and I thought everything was going to be alright, our girl was coming home and we were elated!

How wrong we were. She was either never home, for days at a time, or she was holed up in her room. She complained of insomnia, which we knew was part of her anxiety. She always claimed she was “just catching up on sleep”. She was snappy and moody. We wondered if she was forgetting her meds. We were so concerned, thinking she’d fallen into depression again, as her boyfriend had just moved out of state for college and they were dating long distance. She always said she was fine when we questioned. She had a great paying job but was always broke, even though she had no rent to pay at home. One day, on a rare occasion, we were chatting in her room briefly and I noticed a digital scale, one for weighing cocaine and pot. I calmly questioned about it, but she lied to me. I was so very hurt, as I knew exactly what it was.

Her comings and goings were so erratic, going out at ten or eleven p.m. and returning hours later even though she had to be up early the next morning. Chronically late for work, it was very concerning. When we questioned her activities, she always had an excuse. We were polite, we were loving, we were supportive, we got angry, we asked, we begged, we made new house rules, we were obviously very worried and aside from locking her in the house, there was nothing we could do. She was an adult. We were worried that if we constantly badgered her, she would move out somehow and we’d completely lose her. I tried to get her friends to give me answers but that was a complete fail, they wouldn’t dare tell me anything. She had also stopped talking to her best friends from high school, they weren’t in her new crowd. She always told us her boyfriend was fine with her hanging out with friends. He was being lied to as well. We learned later, their relationship was strained.

One morning I knocked on her bedroom door and she shrieked at me to not come in, sounding panicked. I should have knocked the door down! Her father and I were so worried, I spent a lot of time crying, and his feelings were so hurt because she continually ignored us, and we knew we were being lied to all the time now. Our little family was dissolving.

She came home one Saturday around noon, smelling like alcohol. I was in the kitchen, she was staggering in front of me, at first saying she only drank the night before, but realizing I wasn’t buying it, she started getting upset, apologizing. I told her to call me next time and I would pick her up. I always told her to just call me. Just. Call!

I convinced her to go to bed, sleep it off, we’d talk later. Her dad and I had to run errands. Upon returning home late afternoon, I got a frantic call from her boyfriend who was out of state. He said a mutual friend of theirs just told him Audrey Ann was in really bad shape and had been injecting heroin and also crystal meth for the past six or seven months. My heart sank, my legs got weak, I wasn’t sure if I could stand up.

I told him I would call him back, and I went into her room. He called her before I could start a conversation, and they began arguing on the phone. Eventually, she called us to come into her room “to tell us something.” She was sobbing and distraught, and began telling us she was using both heroin and meth. She kept saying she hadn’t used in two weeks, and she insisted that she was done with it all. We said we’d get her to rehab, we’d support her all the way. I wanted to take her to the hospital but she refused and wanted nothing to do with going in to a rehab -she said she had to work Monday, she couldn’t miss work. The night wore on, with a lot of discussion, until after midnight when she finally quieted down and I held her in my arms and convinced her to have something to eat. Not much later, she fell asleep. Things seemed calmed down.

Her dad and I, not knowing a single thing about heroin addiction or meth, assumed that she was being truthful about being clean for the past two weeks. She insisted. We had no idea these drugs just take over and quitting them cold turkey is not possible without any assistance. We wanted her to go to rehab, to get healthy and our plan was to have a discussion the next day, after she got some rest and was in a better frame of mind.

Sunday morning we went about our plan of running errands and then getting home to have our talk. Driving home, I received a frantic phone call from her boyfriend, who was on the phone with her. He said she was threatening suicide and we needed to get home asap. I called 911 and we were home within 15 minutes. Ten minutes too late. In our driveway were seven sheriff vehicles, a firetruck and two ambulances. I became terrified ! Jumping out of the moving truck, I ran up the driveway ignoring instructions to stop, yelling to the officers to run! Run! Why weren’t they running ? My husband couldn’t make it up the driveway, it was too full of police vehicles and he was pulling a large trailer. He was instructed to stay where he was. I ran to the top the driveway and was told again to stop. Paramedics running with medical bags, I was beginning to go numb. This was real. It was not like the other times when she was hospitalized and then came home. A friend arrived, whom I had called to please come ASAP. We stood there trembling, pacing. Where was my husband? They need to let him come up! Were the only clear thoughts in my mind.

An officer came over, told me they were working on her but it did not look good. I started screaming for my husband. Please someone get my husband! They moved vehicles and allowed him to come up to the house. More chaos with paramedics and officers. Then, the worst moment of my life happened. My husband and I were called into one of the ambulances, they sat us down, and the officer told us that Audrey Ann’s injuries were too grave, they did all they could, but she did not make it. She has passed away.

A blood curdling, deep down scream came out of me that was heard from miles and miles around. I shattered then and there, uncontrollable shaking, sobbing, my mind went blank. What? She passed away? There is no way. No possible way. I immediately went into shock, and lost my mind. My poor husband, Audrey Ann’s father and best buddy, was in shock as well.

Weeks later, reading through her texts, I learned that her heroin and crystal meth use had gone on for almost a year. She was using up until the day before she passed away. She was never clean for those two weeks, as she had told us that night when she admitted to her using. I learned that she had also been regularly using cocaine, ecstasy, pain pills, benzodiazepines and getting black out drunk. She was also selling drugs. There were texts from her to friends saying she wanted help, she wanted to stop. Texts saying how dope sick she was. How she hadn’t slept in a week. A text on her last day on earth saying she had a gun in her hand. That text obviously wasn’t taken seriously. She cried out for help, and no one helped her. We would’ve helped you, Punkin. We would have rescued you, taken you in our arms and together dad and I would have taken you to the best rehab out there, and helped you become healthy once again.

In her bathroom trash, I found empty soda and beer cans that made an odd rattling sound. One by one I cut them open, carefully removing used needles, some with blood in them. I lost count at 57 syringes, all used. I went into a trance. I went through her room, finding little packets of meth, heroin and cocaine hidden away and no doubt forgotten about. So many little packets! I found her rig for injecting. Her cocaine scale had fresh powder on it. I found straws for snorting, bent spoons for cooking heroin. She had only been living at home for almost three weeks, how could we have not seen this? I was sobbing, wracking sobs and sorrow. My heart literally hurt, like a heart that was squashed on the ground. I didn’t realize a heart could actually physically hurt. But it did. I went into a sort of numb trance, somewhere else. I couldn’t function. I still cant. The toxicology report stated all the drugs in her system, which only confirmed that she was still using, right up until at least the day before she took her life.

My husband and I are forever changed. There is no joy in our world any longer. I don’t want to go on without my sweet, sweet girl. I am receiving treatment for PTSD weekly, and we miss our daughter so much, it is unreal. I haven’t been able to return to work, and its been one year and three days since she left us. I don’t care about anything anymore. I have left her room the same way she left it, I often go into her closet and smell her clothes. The mortuary gave us two snips of her hair, and a little paper with her fingerprints on it. Mementos. We are sick, sick with ongoing grief, grief that does not lift and does not leave. We cry daily, sometimes nonstop, wracked with sorrow, guilt and what if’s. Everything is changed, nothing is the same.