I am writing this because I want you to know how important it is that as a family member that you never give up on your loved one with a mental illness and that your being their advocate is so very important.
Our daughter’s first struggles with weeks of depression was when she was in 8th grade.
She would be too depressed to go to school and would stay home. Then it was like a light switch was turned on and she would catch up on all her homework assignments in a few days. (she was always very smart) This was told to many doctors over the years and knowing what I know now , at least one of them should have recognized this as manic behavior.
I went to school asking to speak to all of her teachers after her absences became more frequent.
We were hopeful that perhaps her depression was environmental and had been taking her to environmental Dr for allergy shots.
This was helpful and I researched as much as possible. Food allergies were discussed and for awhile things seemed to be going better.
However, what teenager wants to give up pizza and coke and going with friends for ice cream?
This is a very difficult time for children in general- struggling with identity. Each time she was absent it seemed she lost more and more of her friends.
Some kids were very cruel- taunting her and saying unkind things.
I don’t blame kids… all were trying to survive and find their place. I must admit, I was disappointed in some- especially ones whose parents we were friends with., and or went to church with us.
The principal told me that 8th grade girls are the meanest creatures on the face of the earth. To this day, I truly believe this smart man.
We some how got through each episode and Michelle was involved with music and horse back riding- 4H group so she had an outlet.
One of the things that was hardest on Michelle was that due to absences kids she sat with at lunch no longer wanted her to sit with them . I am not sure if this was true or if she just felt this way.
She was lucky that the guidance counselor let her eat in her office.
This was all before anti- bullying talks and procedures were set in place. Despite many conversations with principal re:cruelty -nothing was ever done by the school to prevent or help in the situation.
We just kept keeping on. Taking a day at a time. Lots of talks, walks and reassurance that she would get through all this.
Lots of holding when tears came, lots of trying to explain disappointments we feel when people we thought were friends doesn’t just happen to her age group but happens at all ages.
The thing that I had hardest time about was lack of support from family members and”good” friends I had always been there for.
Let me say, SHARE WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH WITH OTHERS. . The thing that amazed me most were people I thought of as acquaintances who became great friends and avid supporters. I call these my Christian friends. Not all Christian friends were nice or supportive but this is when I realized that some people just give lip service to being a good Christian. You never know who might be your lifeline.
If you try to hide your difficult situation – I feel you are doing two things that could be detrimental. You are losing out on chance to gain support and you are telling your loved one that you are embarrassed or reluctant to share their illness with others.
Caution here- You must determine what it is your loved one wants you to share and be respectful of that when possible. On the other hand do not let them fall into the trap of stigma and all that entails.
High school and college brought many ups and downs. Stay close, be as supportive and loving as you can be. Make your loved one contract with you if they feel suicidal. Make them promise they would not try to kill self and promise to tell you if they are feeling hopeless or suicidal.
You may be the only thing that stands between them and suicide.
This is not to say parents are to blame if child does commit suicide. Often times the discussion that you would not be able to live without them and you would feel like such a failure if they didn’t tell you and contract not to go ahead with their suicide plan is just what they need to hear.. Explain How sad and empty your life would be without them.that it would hurt you and their siblings immensely and forever.
Talking about suicide does not give person the idea but it can make the difference of them not acting on deep depression and thoughts of ending their life.
Hang in there. Life gets better… Just get your child through enough life so they can know that things get better and they will experience wonderful friendships and things if they just keep keeping on. A day at a time.. and if that is too overwhelming then an hour at a time.