My Daughter and Depression

Hard times: They are a Comin’

Disclaimer: This post is one of several that will recount my daughter’s battle with Major Depression. It is such a risky business to speak of much less write of mental illness. Anya’s experience has led her to share her own story of depression and healing at Sermon on the Mound at WCHS in Rochelle, Georgia. I want to use her bravery and her determination to help other teens as inspiration for me to write about my experience as her supporter. The second blog about her treatment will be published 5.4.18.

Sitting underneath the covered side porch of the peach shed that belongs to my youngest brother, I breathed in the fragrant, warm air and smiled at my sister-in-law, Leigh Ann, as she rocked in her black rocking chair. Five of our children were riding the golf cart through the orchard as we enjoyed looking at one-year-old Cara. I lovingly reminisced in my mind of when I was sixteen and worked in the orchard; none of the out buildings existed yet. Tom Sawyer’s orchard had been devoid of trams and garage apartments or sheds. I sold peaches out of an old truck body, and I sent customers to the right row of ripe peaches by giving them verbal directions.

Today, however, it looks serene and majestic with porches, porticoes, fences, a tram, goats, and kid toys. Leigh Ann interrupted my daydreaming by giving me a suggestion on my writings: your work doesn’t show how funny you are in real life. You’re so witty. It needs more wit. I do love a good yarn, dripping with humor, wit, and description. I love to read and write it, yet shouldn’t I consider my reason for writing? While ruminating on Leigh Ann’s suggestion as well as my childhood musings, I thought about my subject matter: motherhood. It is so often FUNNY.

Just last night, Bailey, my twelve-year-old step-daughter, and I had so much fun laughing together.  She has so much wit—even when she does not try. She arrived home after church, and I found her running away from the chicken coops.

She said, “Hey, Jennifer, a chicken got out of the coop.”

“Which coop? What chicken? I retorted.

“A big one!” She screamed back.

“Which one??” I asked again.

Her response to me was to do the chicken dance and laugh. “I’m the chicken that got out!!”

In addition to Bailey’s chicken joke, she made tears well up in my eyes later that evening while folding clothes. “Jennifer, Daddy’s drawers are full,” she stated.

“Are they?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s because he has too many panties.” Bailey exclaimed.

Of course, I laughed, and she corrected herself by referring to his “underwear.” Conversations like those are the laid back, enjoyable Mommy moments. I relish sweet evenings at home with the kids. Unfortunately, not all situations involving our girls have been fun. Right now, we are enduring a custody battle with Bailey’s mother, and we are suffering through Sophia’s (our fourteen- year- old daughter) six month restriction due to inappropriate cell phone usage. Yet, neither of these situations have devastated my heart and my soul as much as helping Anya through her battle with Major Depression since October 2017.

It was a quiet night in our house on October 15, 2017. At 11:30 pm, I completed my lesson plans, nursed the baby, and settled into my covers. A prevailing thought entered my sleepy mind; it was almost as if someone had placed it randomly inside my mind. CHECK ON ANYA! The odd thought screamed inside my mind, but it stopped when I opened Anya’s bedroom door. She was sitting on her bed at midnight, surrounded by several letters to friends and family members. In her right hand, she grasped a bag containing many pills. I found her only moments before she planned on committing suicide. My sixteen-year-old beautiful, smart, loving daughter felt so lost and alone that her only hope was escape. Permanent escape.

I grabbed her up and asked her questions. All of her answers led me to realize she was seriously depressed. Thanks to my teacher training, I called the suicide crisis hotline. I stayed with her, and in the morning, she would be evaluated by a crisis counselor. We waited all day for news of a decision: she would stay at a facility for teens for five days. She was transported by ambulance. I stood utterly alone in the middle of the community health center in Dublin, Georgia, and watched an ambulance drive my sweet Anya Claire “Azrell” (the name she called herself as a toddler) to Savannah for five days. In that horrific moment, my world stood still, my chest ached, and my tears streamed down my cheeks—I had to rely on the strangers to care for my baby.

I struggled with questions: how could I have missed the signs of such serious depression? Why hadn’t she reached out to me? What if I had not felt compelled to check on her? I decided to focus on the fact that I had supernatural intervention. Anya was very much alive and receiving the help she needed to recover. On October 16, 2017, the six month long marathon of recovery had begun. That would be the first of many hard, complicated days for Anya as well as my family. Immediate treatment was the first step of the marathon.

To be continued…




16 Month Old Tantrums

Toddlers and Milestones (uhmm…I mean Tantrums)

I am so excited to indirectly respond to my husband’s lack of understanding of child development here on this post. He often chastises me for over- looking Liam’s, our sixteen-month-old son, tantrums. He is the third baby that I have borne and reared in the last seventeen years; in addition; my husband needs to realize I remember a thing or seven from Human Growth and Development (which he has never taken). From the age of one to the age of two, babies change and grow so fast emotionally, physically, and verbally.

Parents can search endlessly on the web to find information about child development. I usually search for information and articles based on Liam’s behavior and development at the moment. Yesterday, for example, I decided that I should take Liam to Anya’s (my seventeen-year-old) chorus concert. Of course, I believed he would be easily entertained by the music and by the crowd. I was wrong!

For the first five minutes, he enjoyed being passed around by all the pretty teenage girls who were fussing over his cuteness. However, after that, he wanted to roam free inside the Abbeville Methodist Church.

abbeville methodist church
Abbeville Methodist Church

Before I could grab him, he crawled under the pew in front of us and made a run for the pulpit. He squealed in delight, ran as fast as he could, and climbed up the pulpit steps. As sweat beaded down my forehead, I remembered how much I struggled with this stage of development. Could actually catch him for the next two year while carrying around my vast plump physique? I certainly can as long as I remind myself what to expect with Liam’s development now and in the next few months.

What Milestones should I expect for Liam in the upcoming weeks?

Liam and his Bunnies

Liam is 16 months, but here are the 18 Month Milestones:

1) He should be able to drink from a cup.

2) He can hold and use a spoon.

3) He can walk and stand without assistance.

4) He has begun to pull up on furniture and other low lying objects.

5) He readily babbles with random words mixed into the noise.

6) He can point to a few body parts as they are being named.

7) He tends to follow simple directions like: SIT down or don’t throw that dirt.

8) He helps Chris, my husband, put on his clothes each morning by holding his arms up or trying to put his feet inside his shoes.

9) He will hold crayons and try to write with it.

10) He often expresses his emotions, especially when he has separation anxiety or frustration.

When I look back at this list, my husband would really be concerned about the emotional expressiveness. When Liam has a tantrum, Chris calls them his “Greene fits.” I ignore his negative jab towards my family’s emotional stability, but I would like to address the topic here. A toddler’s parents need to understand the brain development involved with the TANTRUM. Socially and emotionally, toddlers experience a variety of feelings and express them based on behaviors that most adults deem as “bad.”

Chis and I expect that sometime between Liam’s first and second year of life, he will:

1) display his emotions (tantrums, aggression, etc.)
2) demonstrate his frustration
3) feel and express jealousy
4) want to do tasks himself
These actions are normal for his age just as it is normal to:
1) copy adult’s actions
2) play alone with his toys
3) give hugs and kisses
Most parents deal with the issue of  how to handle tantrum behaviors. I have found several articles  that suggest parents NOT react to the child’s tantrum. The tantrum is an attention seeking behavior and refusing to give the child attention during the tantrum eliminates the desired outcome of the behavior.

Finally as I reflect on Anya’s chorus concert, I realize that Liam pitched several tantrums because I would not let him run loose in the sanctuary. I walked to the back of the room and tried to distract his attention away from his tantrums, which worked for a few minutes. Ultimately, I took Liam to the car and let him drink from his sippy cup and eat goldfish. As Liam gets older, he will understand consequences for his actions, but right now, I do not want to reward his tantrums with the attention he seeks. Each parent has different parenting styles, but my choices for correction will change as he grows. I firmly believe that the parent’s response should align with a child’s development.

Please feel free to comment to this post. I look forward to chatting with you.