My Daughter and Depression Post 2
During the week that Anya spent in Savannah, her dad and I talked so much. My goal was to keep him informed of her care as much as possible. Our blended family requires open communication to co-parent, but I confess that I am not always good at it. However, that week I constantly attempted to keep Anya’s father in the loop. We were preparing to attend her family therapy session, and I was nervous to see her. I was anxious to sit in a room with the four parents: Chris, Mark, Amy, and I. We had not been in one place at one time before, but to my surprise and thankfulness, all parents were concerned, loving, and attentive to her as she talked. A treatment plan was given to us, which included how to lock up our guns and pills. Even Tylenol had become dangerous to keep in the house.
The treatment plan included a diagnosis, a list of medication, and appointment times. Anya would be introduced to her new doctor the following week. She had requested a female psychologist because she had explained that she struggled trusting men (oh boy), and she wanted to see a female therapist only. The family session therapists gave us all a few minutes alone with Anya. The the other parents cried, chatted, and petted her. I sat frozen in my chair, staring at the physical appearance of my child. Her hair flung wildly out of her follicles, dry and brittle. She wasn’t allowed hair ties or conditioner. Her usual olive complexion appears pale and oily. In the last two months, she had gained forty pounds, and her clothes were tight and misshapen. Certainly, I should have noticed that she looked depressed weeks ago! Where had I been? I had a newborn, but a new baby is no excuse. She has always been such a mature, reliable girl, and the teen before me was foreign.
We left the table and headed down the hallway to the lobby as Anya walked with us. She smiled for her daddy, she hugged my crying husband, she chatted with Amy, and she held my hand. This experience bonded us for life. We now had a new journey: a journey of coping with a lifelong medical condition. October 20, 2017, Chris and I drove Anya home from the facility. She asked for chicken nuggets; we obliged her. From the backseat of the van, Anya told us stories of the girls who were in treatment. I knew that the people she would encounter during her stay would change her perspective. Many teens have abusive home lives; so many young people suffer from trauma and struggle to deal with the aftermath. Seeing and hearing the plights of others opened her eyes to the real hardships of the world in addition to mental health issues.
As a mother, I cannot fathom how teens with hardships can possibly overcome a mental health crisis. No wonder the teen suicide rates have risen. Suicide rates tend to be higher among middle aged white males; however, the rate for teens have risen in 2017. 44, 965 Americans die from suicide a year (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Ultimately, for each death due to suicide, 25 more attempts are made. The root cause of the attempt should be what parents, family members, and loved one should focus on: the mental health of the one who is suicidal. Depression is a real medical condition that even children experience.
Leaving the attempt behind is the toughest part. Treating a sick teen while adjusting to normal life breaks my heart. Anya became so behind at school, which is a clear indication of depression due to lack of motivation and concentration. Her hospital stay further set her back in the college and high school classes. There are no words to adequately express the love, care, and support from my colleagues during this time.
My administrators, graduation coach, school counselor and many teachers worked diligently and patiently with Anya to make a plan to help her overcome the absences before the end of the school year. Jennifer Cannon, Jeri Heath, and Carrie Owens will always be in my debt for their love and support. Anya could barely find the energy to go to school, and she often panicked and had catatonic states while in class. Our treatment plan created a safe environment for her while at school. She had a safe word and a process to calm down. We focused by working on her assignments in small chunks each day. On the way home, I would ask Anya, “how hard was today? How did you cope?” She would mostly look pitiful and explain that she felt hopeless and overwhelmed and would never feel happy again. We discussed at least one positive aspect of each day while driving to and from WCHS.
Every two weeks, we would do a grade check and a meeting with her academic advisors. Daily, we would check off our lists. Weeks and months went by without much change; medications were altered. Goals were set and accomplished. When would she feel happy? When would she be herself? When would she stop the alienation? How long would the depression last? Anya’s doctor continued to reiterate: it’s a marathon not a sprint. A MARATHON…
To be continued.