Sometimes the only way to get your child help is to have them taken from you in the middle of the night. A Duvall woman made that painful decision months ago having already lost everything she had worked so hard to gain.
Last year, around this time, I told you about a woman in Duvall who started the “Duvall Week of Kindness.”
“We are going to be handing out fifteen dozen roses all over Duvall, and then we have people honk of kindness. We line the streets with bright yellow signs and smiley-face balloons and we hold up signs that say ‘honk of kindness,'” she told me last year.
Connie had been doing the “Week of Kindness” for years. Everyone knew her for her unique gestures of love. She had a knack for identifying strangers who needed a pick-me-up. But, what I didn’t know at the time of last February’s interview (though there were hints) was that Connie actually needed our help.
Her journey to admit that starts here with a chance encounter with a woman who would change her life.
“Just over a year ago I met someone … She reached out to me and she wanted to help with giving some donations to homeless women. Over time we kind of got to know each other and she shared one day that she had left an abusive marriage and that she left,” Connie said. She remembers thinking, “why would she leave a marriage after all that time?”
The truth is there are many reasons women stay; the abuser has isolated them from friends and family, the abuser has made them financially dependent; the woman loves the person and thinks she can “fix” the abuser.
For Connie’s friend, it was because she didn’t want her daughter to grow up to marry an abuser, too. The cycle continued though, and the daughter did marry an abuser — with irreversible consequences.
“This amazing, strong woman … I just lost it and I shared with her my story. I finally wasn’t silent anymore,” Connie said through tears.
For the first time in 30 years, she finally said it out loud.
“I was in an abusive relationship. Outside of my home, I was thriving and giving and inside my home, there was abuse taking place for a very long time that nobody knew about. My family. Nobody knew about it. And it was slowly killing me,” Connie said.
This loving person, who’d spent her life planting seeds of kindness around her community, went home every night to her own personal hell. The day her friend confided in her Connie left her husband.
Immediately, the tightly-wound web of lies this abuse had created began to unravel and Connie had to face an unsettling truth as she and her kids sought therapy. And that was that the abuse had stretched beyond just her. Connie’s son was a victim, too.
Despite her son being in therapy, she learned another unsettling truth. This one had to do with Washington state laws that allow someone 13 or older to have control over, among other things, their mental health treatment. The law is intended to help children seek treatment without fear of their parents, who might fear the stigma of mental illness, finding out and punishing them. But the law can also have the reverse effect if a child does not want mental health treatment.
“When I saw that I could not help my son, I mean, we went to several different treatments – therapists, psychiatrists, [Seattle] Children’s. And I felt like I was losing him and he just wanted to lay in the living room with his dog and not doing anything. As a mom, you’re supposed to take care of your kids and I couldn’t help him. The psychiatrist we were working with suggested maybe I send him away and I thought there is no way I was going to do that. There was no way! But nothing I was doing was helping. It was just getting worse. I felt like I was losing him,” Connie said.
Sending a child out of state is not common, but you can’t say it isn’t uncommon either. In fact, Connie found a couple of families in Duvall who’d sent their child to a state where parents have more control over a 13-year-old’s mental health treatment. You’ll find similar stories across the U.S. Connie persisted and found Elevations in Utah, which is a residential treatment center for teens.
That’s where he’d go, she decided, against his will.
“When I talked to Elevations it’s like ‘how am I even going to get him there?’ And they’re like ‘well if you try to drive him here there’ve actually been kids that have tried to cause car accidents because they don’t want to go.’ So, their recommendation is that you hire a transport company and they come and take your child and transport them there,” Connie fought back tears as she retold the tough decision that was in front of her.
“That last night together … I was struggling so much, trying not to let on because I didn’t want him to know what was going to happen. And then [the drivers] sent me a text saying ‘we’re five minutes out’. And, you know, he’s my boy. He’s sleeping there … and then they came,” Connie trails off and whispers the last part. It’s still so painful to think about.
Months into treatment, Connie said she noticed her son having a breakthrough. He’s been at Elevations in Utah for seven months now and she beams as she tells me that her son is happy again. It’s a priceless reward, but one she’s actually paid dearly for. Treatment at Elevations is $440 dollars a day and insurance cut them off two months in.
Connie says she’s depleted her retirement, borrowed money and started an online fundraising campaign to keep him in treatment. He’s supposed to graduate in April, but she’s run out of money to pay for the rest of his treatment.
So, for the first time in her life, Connie, who has only been the giver of kindness, says she needs help.
“Ultimately, I would love to get treatment for my son paid and I would love to set up scholarships for other kids because the majority of the families that send their kids to Elevations are going through the same thing that I’m going through,” Connie said.
I actually stop her short of continuing her thought because, as usual, I notice Connie thinking of others even as she struggles to pay for her own son. Connie laughs.
“I just … God gave me this heart. He just gave me this heart and I want to pay it forward. I’m trying to get there for my son. And it’s very hard to ask for help. It’s very hard. It’s hard to be transparent and vulnerable. And at the same time how can I not? You’ll do anything to help your kids,” Connie said.
You can read more about Connie and her son’s treatment at their YouCaring fundraising page.
There’s also the Random Acts of Kindness Duvall website, where you can find her. By the way, Duvall’s Random Acts of Kindness week, the first week of March, is still on. Connie wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have a Daily Dose of Kindness to share with Colleen, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can hear Colleen O’Brien’s “Daily Dose of Kindness” segment every morning at 7:30 a.m. on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.