In the previous blog I introduced you to my daughter Amanda, her diagnosis of major depressive disorder and gave you a little background. I shared mostly about her and how difficult it has been to watch my once happy, funny, athletic, beautiful daughter slip into the dark world of depression.
Originally, this post was going to be about a different topic. However, I have decided to open up about myself and how I have responded, reacted and finally accepted her diagnosis.
The truth is I haven’t always ” held the lantern”. It hurts me to say that, but it’s true. I realize in confessing some of my secret thoughts, feelings and reactions may subject me to criticism and judgement but that’s ok. If I don’t speak the truth, then what am I actually doing to help others? It’s the reason I am sharing in the first place.
Initially, when she was 14 and I really started to see things that concerned me, I thought I was being proactive. I tried to open up the communication between us, be more available to her as a parent. But it wasn’t working. My 14 year old daughter was talking about dying and she was cutting herself. She wore long sleeve shirts to cover the marks on her arms.
When I first discovered the cuts on her arms, I freaked out! I grabbed her aggressively, “What the hell are you doing to yourself? What is so bad in your life?!” I honestly didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t some teenage phase of isolation and hating her parents. This wasn’t hanging out with some kids that were a bad influence. This was real and I had to take action.
I called the psychiatrist and a psychologist and scheduled the appointment. I remember sitting in some of those appointments tears streaming down her face and I, for the life of me couldn’t figure out what was so damn bad? Make no mistake, I believed she felt sad, her feelings were real, but were they worthy of cutting yourself? Enough to make her want to die? WHY?
The psychologist worked with her on some techniques to stop the cutting. She was to wear a rubber band around her wrist and when she felt like cutting she was to snap the rubber band. That technique was not successful I learned soon enough.
I thought things were improving after she had been on medication for a while. She did spend less time in her room, started hanging with her friends again. I was feeling positive and hopeful. Then one day she was in the bathroom taking a shower, playing her music, but she was in there for a long time. I became concerned and knocked on the door… ” are you ok?” She wasn’t ok. She was cutting again. This time her groin and thighs. I was concerned, frustrated and angry. Why wasn’t this medication and counseling working?
We were in a dark place. I had a hard time focusing at work, I resigned from the church choir. I needed to spend more time at home. Sometimes I did well, I hugged her and reassured her I loved her. Other times I was frustrated, scared, worried and I lashed out. I was afraid to leave her, afraid to let her go to school. Do I quit my job?
With time the medication did seem to be working so I would let my guard down, begin to trust her and we would slip back into more of a normal routine. Then BAM out of nowhere something else would happen. I struggled to recognize if I was dealing with depression or rebellion. She was a teenager after all.
During counseling sessions we would try to outline some boundaries, establish rules, improve communication and consistency. We had success and failures. We had screaming matches, physical confrontations and many tears over the years.
I hate depression! It’s unpredictable. I need my life to have some control damnit and I can not control this! I can’t make my daughter feel happy, I can’t calm her fears, I can’t rationalize with her. I’m a communicator, I talk. I talk a lot… and I am usually pretty good at it. I can usually say things that will calm someones fears, reassure them. But depression is a liar, so whatever you say, depression is already telling them something else. If I say “your beautiful”, it tells her she is not beautiful. If I say ” I love you”, it says how can anyone love you? If I say “everything will work out”, it says something bad is going to happen. It’s the nature of the beast. I am also stubborn, so when the depression manifests and she replies with the lies it is telling her, I argue, she argues and things can escalate.
Over the years I have done things I regret. It is very frustrating to feel like you are working so hard at something and make little to no progress. It’s a cycle, it goes on and on and on. 1 step forward 3 steps back. A glimmer of hope, then darkness looms. Dealing with depression can bring out the worst in a person. And I am being honest, it has brought out the worst in me.
Depression robs you of normalcy, it steals your joy and catches you off guard. When it strikes, you want to lash back at it and unfortunately the recipient is usually your loved one. So, this cycle of things that happen like difficulty dealing with basic tasks, feeling overwhelmed, addiction, unable to sustain employment, chronic pain and other symptoms DEPRESSION causes but I have reacted towards my daughter. I am angry with depression, not her. I’m frustrated with depression and the cycle, not her. But I lash out at her. Does that make sense?
One day she called me while on her lunch break. She was having a really rough day something had triggered her emotions and she couldn’t stop thinking about her daughter Emberly dying. I kept telling her she had to pull herself together and get back to work. “Amanda you can’t miss work! You have to get back there, you can’t lose this job!” Meanwhile she is collapsed on the floor of her apartment sobbing. I wish I had been more compassionate in that moment. I panicked, I thought I could say something that would snap her out of it. I knew how much she loved this job and I knew her employers patience had to be running thin since she had missed due to hospitalizations previously. It’s not that I didn’t feel sad too. When she cries about Emberly it is the worst feeling in the world. I feel helpless, because there is nothing I can say to make that pain stop. I knew she was in a bad place emotionally. I myself have had emotional triggers when at work. But I am able to cry, go wash my face, take a deep breath and regulate those emotions. She is not capable of that, but I expected her to respond the way that I would.
Depression is a very hard disability to accept. To us, the person appears to be healthy so we expect healthy “normal” behaviors and lifestyles. This makes it more difficult for the person affected by depression because our expectation is that they will respond similar to how we would respond in any given situation. When that is not the case and we lack understanding it creates frustration and anxiety because they feel we just don’t understand them. The truth is we don’t. We don’t know how their mind works, why they can’t regulate their emotions, why they can’t get out of bed, why they feel hopeless and tired.
I have been tired, disappointed, discouraged, sad, frustrated and angry. It should be no surprise to me that others in her life feel that way too. However, I am her mom so there is that unconditional love that always pulls us through. When other family members and friends react with some of those same feelings, it hurts her and it hurts me too. She has had friends that have removed themselves from her life, because they can’t take it. She frequently cancels outings, she has a negative outlook on life. This is also part of our dark, lonely journey, ISOLATION. We walk much of this journey alone because of this darkness, because of the negativity.
In recent years, mostly since Emberly died I have a better understanding of her world. God knows I am trying with all my might to keep my daughter alive, to bring her hope and have a better understanding of what a challenge life really is for her. I hope those who know her can reach this understanding too.
Be gentle, be kind… carry the lantern and shed some light into someones dark world.
God Bless, thanks for reading. Remember, I’m not a professional, just a mom. Please remember to LIKE, SHARE and FOLLOW my blogs. 💞