Parenting A Teen With Depression ~ YOU Are Not Alone


Posted on by Patricia Leever

I’ve been sitting here, staring at this post all day, wondering if I had the courage to push the “publish” button. What you are about to read is very personal and was very hard for me to put into words. So why am I doing it? Ultimately, I guess I don’t have to. But even when you have an awesome support system (thank you Jasen and Mom!) sometimes you feel like you are alone and I don’t want anyone else out there to feel that way. This is as much for me as it is for anyone else. Maybe more. So, here goes!

When you become a parent, I think most of us try to prepare for what may come. At least in some way, right? I mean, we try to prepare for things like, the “Terrible Twos” or the first day of school or potty training or insert milestone here. I think it’s in our nature to try to brace our psyches for these things. What’s the saying…hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Or is it the other way around, prepare for the worst and hope for the best? Regardless, it never works, does it?

You can prepare and plan all you want. Things are working out according to plan, everything is going great…until it isn’t. Something’s off.

All the plans you made go flying out of the window because how do you prepare for your child to be diagnosed with mental illness? Depression? Anxiety? Possible Bipolar Disorder?

I’ll tell you how you prepare for it…you don’t. You can’t. Those are scary words. Verboten words. Words that are whispered into ears behind cupped hands.

Let’s face it, being a parent is hard enough, especially in today’s world. It’s not the same world we grew up in. It’s bigger, louder and more complex than anything we had to deal with.

Now imagine, for a second, that inside this big, loud, complex world you are not only raising a teenager that’s starting high school, but you are also trying to navigate and come to terms with, as well as help them navigate and come to terms with, those scary words.

Depression. Anxiety. Possible Bipolar Disorder.

People don’t talk about these words when it comes to teens. These are words for adults. Teens are just being over dramatic, vying for attention, trying to get their way, parents need to be tougher on these kids.

But these words need to be talked about. They need to be brought to light when it comes to teens. Look at what has come to light with children on the Autism spectrum. Something that was so overlooked for so long is finally given validation. The same needs to happen when it comes to teen mental illness.

Don’t overlook your child’s feelings. Don’t disregard them because they are kids. Don’t tell them to “get over it” because if it were that easy they would have. Don’t ignore. And don’t feel like it’s your fault. It’s not. Let me say that a little louder.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!

You aren’t a failure. You are doing the best you can with what you have to work with.

Get help for your child. If they were hurt you’d take them to the doctor, right? They are hurting. On the inside. Some of them are hurting themselves on the outside.

I’m not an expert in any way, shape or form. I’m just a mom, trying to do the best I can with what I have to work with. I am the parent of a teenager that suffers from mental illness. I’m not harping on my kid because she didn’t get an A on a test, I’m happy she had a smile today. I don’t sweat bad grades or missing homework, I’m glad she didn’t want to hurt herself today. I look at what people say about their kids on Facebook before I head upstairs to get her latest set of meds together, hoping that this is the combination that is going to help her.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for my friends and their kids that are in extracurricular activities, I actually love seeing pictures and reading stories on Facebook and I don’t begrudge any parent for bragging on their kid for any accomplishment in any way. I would “like” those posts a thousand times if I could.

But I’d be lying if I said they didn’t tug at my heart.

I’ve stayed up all night, watching her, hiding sharp objects and pills. I’ve had to stand outside the unlocked bathroom door while she uses the restroom. I’ve had to sit in the bathroom with her while she took a shower so she could shave her legs.

It’s hard. It’s exhausting, both mentally and physically. And if I’m being honest, sometimes I want to quit. Quitting would be easy, but it wouldn’t help her, if anything it would exasperate an already difficult situation. It’s excruciating to watch my child go through this. I feel helpless. Sometimes hopeless. And yeah, sometimes I do feel like the biggest failure as a parent.

The only thing I can think to do is let her know that I see her. I see her struggle. I see her pain. I see her trying to survive the forces inside her own head. I see the things she’s written on her body to stave off the urge to harm herself.

Please, don’t feel like you shouldn’t post a brag about your kid, post away and know that I’m going to like it. That was a win for you, everyone’s wins are different and as parents we need to start celebrating each other’s wins, no matter what they are, because this isn’t a competition.

This is a journey. A long, arduous journey that has a lot of bumps and road blocks in our way. We need to help each other instead of judging each other. It’s easier to judge, I know that, I’ve done it. We all have. But try to remember that all you really know is your circus and your monkeys. You don’t know what someone else’s circus is like. You don’t know their monkeys.

And one more thing, don’t forget about yourself. I have the hardest time with that one, but I’m trying. It feels selfish and you’ll feel like the guilt is about to eat you alive, but you have to take care of yourself.

You might wonder why I’m sharing all of this. I’m sharing my experience because I have looked for something like this online and couldn’t find it. I found many articles on teen depression and how to handle it, recognize it and all of that, but not what it felt like from the parent’s side. I wanted to let other parents know that they aren’t alone. That it’s scary and hard and not to give up hope. We are on med number three and believe me, meds aren’t going to make everything sunshine and rainbows. It’s a work in progress.

But I can tell you not to give up on the sunshine and rainbows, they’re still in your kid and when they let that light shine, soak it up. And don’t be ashamed. Don’t let your child feel ashamed. Be open. Be accepting. And in case you forgot already, you are not alone.

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Patricia Leever