My 15 year old amazing daughter and I had the perfect day in downtown Chicago on Thursday. Exploring, shopping, talking. We had an absolute euphoric time, holding hands and laughing, living in the moment.
We had 7 and a half hours in the car to talk and vent, ask each other questions and learn new things about each other. It was heaven.
I could post about this and this only, to spotlight the ONE great day we have had in the last 5 months.
I could omit this next part of our journey, only to be discussed behind closed doors, as a way of keeping a certain “image” or hiding the fact that we are a real family dealing with some gut-wrenching stuff.
I could suffer in silence, for fear of being called a bad parent, for judgement, lack of empathy or the ever-present stigma of mental illness (that my extended family has endured for almost 20 years; navigating life with the most amazing and intelligent brother who happens to have Bipolar disorder with psychosis).
Secrets and silence have not helped to dull the blow of having a severely depressed, medicine resistant teenage child. I don’t believe that putting on a brave face and pretending we are not going through hell, is going to make anything better for us or our community.
I am eternally thankful for my clients and family, friends and strangers, for allowing space to talk about this horrific experience. I’m thankful for those who have been transparent in their own experiences with mental health crisis, talking about their daughters, fathers, sisters and brothers with the same affliction, with incredible tenderness and love.
Knowing that other humans have been through this experience and found healing and success are pivotal in building the strength it takes to have the mental fortitude to make it through every day.
This epidemic that is kidnapping our adolescent children; this anxiety and depression and self-loathing and fear, is not something to be quiet about. It’s not something that we need to sweep under the rug or hide away from the public. I believe there is great danger in suffering in silence.
My daughter has given me permission to discuss our struggles. She understands that it is harmful to pretend life is always sweet and easy. She wants to help in any way with other kids who are going through what she has been fighting courageously, for years.
There is so much to the story; year long waitlists for adolescent psychiatry and therapy, 6 different medication trials, inability to attend school (which creates a whole separate level of stress), inability to perform daily activities, effects on our other 3 babies who haven’t had a fully present (and terrified, sad, anxious and depressed) mother, missing tons of work, extreme financial burden, relationship struggles, desperation for help in any way….
A few months back, we found the most amazing therapist group. I am beyond extremely grateful for them. We have committed to intensive therapy for months, an Intensive Outpatient treatment program (IOP), tried 6 different medications, and were not able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. As a mother, I would give anything to take away her pain. But that is just not possible.
After years of struggle and months of absolute hell, we made the excruciating decision to take our daughter on Friday to a residential treatment facility for severe depression, 4 hours away from our home, for a 45 day stay. She has not been away from home for more than a night in a decade. We know how lucky we are to be able to afford this treatment, but it doesn’t make it any easier when I walk past her empty room or go to send her a text message.
I cannot believe her strength and courage during this time. Her tenacity and grace are awe-inspiring. She is an incredible kid that deserves an incredible life. This is how I know she is going to be okay.
We know that in 42 days, when she gets to come back home, she will not be all shiny and new and suddenly joyful. We know there is much work to be done. Adam and I will continue to go to group therapy and therapy on our own while she is away. We know we have patterns of behavior and parenting skills that have not been honed and it’s our responsibility to help our kids in any way we can.
I am not okay, and I probably won’t be for a long while. But SHE is going to be.
I write this because I know there are friends out there who are struggling too. And you are not alone. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I have most definitely not made all the right decisions along the way. But this disease is real and terrifying and it won’t just go away on its own. I’m fighting for us and you because I know how difficult it is to try and put on a facade, to live your daily life carrying that unbearable pain of your loved one.
We have to do better for our kids. I don’t know how, but I know the support system that is in place for adolescents with mental health struggles is majorly lacking. If you are a parent that cares and wants to get your kid help, you have to spend months searching and waiting, hoping your kid is still alive when they finally get in to see someone to hopefully give them some relief and support.
I don’t have the answers, but I HAVE to be a voice for positive change. We are all in this life together. I love you, I support you and I am here. Get the help. Speak about your struggles. Join a support group. Take care of yourself. I’m rooting for you!
I will continue to post updates concerning our personal struggles. I am here if you have questions or need to vent. I am not a doctor or a professional in any way, but I am a human who loves and cares deeply and has walked through the storm. I pray you have a loving support system to get you through the hard days and the strength to carry on. You are not alone!