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  • Sarah Swindell

The Brown Double Doors

My twenty-two year old daughter, Sophia, came home for Christmas break and one of the first things she asked me was, “Mom, when are you going to write about MY story!”


Sophia, the day before we left for the treatment center in San Diego.

I have been careful to not speak for my children, or guess their perspectives on the things I have been writing about. Like I have said before, that is their story to tell, not mine.


But Sophia wants her story told because she believes it will help others that may find themselves in a similar situation. She is walking proof of how one can turn their life around, and I can’t be more proud of this amazing young lady!


She was 16 years old when she tried to commit suicide. Even just typing these words send chills up my spine, but it happened.


One of the many dark sides of divorce, is what it can do to the children. I know there are many children that do not react in negative ways, or struggle as much as two of my children did, but I think the reality is that many children and teens do.


Shortly after the divorce, Sophia developed an eating disorder and quickly lost a dramatic amount of weight in a very short period of time.

I am talking about eighty pounds in just a few months, clearly not a healthy way to lose weight. Not only was her physical appearance quickly changing, so was her personality.


She went from being the sweet, outgoing and loving daughter, to an introverted, angry teenager that had completely shut down emotionally. She was showing her control in a life that was spiraling out of control.


Greg and I finally decided it was time to get real help. Sophia’s heart rate was through the roof as her body started to struggle from the starvation she was putting it through. We started to fear if this continued, either the dangerous life style she was living, or the eating disorder would kill her.


We chose a treatment center in San Diego that her doctor recommended, which specialized in severe eating disorders and other emotional issues. As a family, we sat her down and informed her she would be leaving for San Diego the following week.


Needless to say, she didn’t take the news well. She decided that evening, that her only way out of not going, was to swallow a bottle of prescription medication she found deep within a cabinet in my home. What happened in the two days that followed, was a complete nightmare.

This was a terrifying journey for me as a mother, and I have never been so afraid and unsure about what I was doing for her, as I was back then. But what I was feeling, could not compare to what Sophia must have been going through as a young girl that was very lost.


Here is a portion of that difficult chapter in her life.


Fall 2012


We drove up the beautifully landscaped road, to the one story home that sat at the top of a hill. It looked as if it could be the home of a perfect family, living the good life in California, but It was far from that in reality. Greg pulled into the circle drive as I sat in the front seat, and Sophia and her sister Brenna, sat quietly in the back.

Greg and I had been divorced for about two years at this point, but today we were just a family in pain. We all had started to cry at this point, but we said nothing as we got out of the car and unloaded Sophia’s things from the trunk.


We slowly walked up to the large, brown double doors and rang the bell. All of it felt unreal, and to this day, I can still see those double doors, and smell the interior of that house as if it was yesterday. It smelled of sadness and despair which gave me the urge to grab Sophia, run to the car and never look back.


A large therapy dog with a kind disposition greeted us, along with the main therapist. We walked in, as Sophia pulled her black and white polka dotted suitcase that she had since she was a little girl.


We were about to leave our broken, teenage daughter, and her childhood suitcase with complete strangers. We had no idea for how long, or had any idea of when we would see her again. It was one of the most unnatural and heartbreaking feeling I have ever had as a mother.


After a brief meeting with the staff, it was time to say our goodbyes. Brenna and Sophia were crying uncontrollably by this point as they hugged for the last time. I watched this as my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest, and thought I might have a panic attack at any moment.


Those brown double doors closed quietly behind us, and now only three of us slowly walked to our rental car. I fell into Greg’s arms and sobbed harder than I had in a very long time. The terrified look that Sophia had on her face as we said goodbye, was stamped in my brain for the next several months. But she was alive, and that was all that mattered anymore.


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If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts or are in any other life-threatening crisis, please call emergency services in your area (9-1-1 in the U.S.) or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.


If You are Thinking about  Suicide, Read This First


Hotlines in the U.S.

All hotlines listed below are free and confidential.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-TALK (8255)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day, every day.

Services are also available for veterans, and for Spanish speakers.

The Trevor Project 

866-488-7386 – a hotline for LGBT youth

Trans Lifeline

This is a hotline for transgender people. The volunteers and staff are themselves transgender.

U.S.: (877) 565-8860 

Canada: (877) 330-6366


Online Chat and Email

E-mail Samaritans

jo@samaritans.org

Note that the Samaritans international website states that people who send an email typically receive a response within 12 hours. The site also notes that names are immediately removed from emails, and emails are deleted after 30 days.

Lifeline Crisis Chat

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has chat available, 24 hours a day. To use the service, go to chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx.



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