It’s been 7 months since my child wanted to die. 7 months of worry and angst and work and more worry and sadness and anger and wine and ice cream. And now we are here. At the place where my child wants to live. We didn’t get here overnight and there were days I was sure we would never arrive but yet here we are, living. For now. I am ever the cautious optimist and I know all too well that the roller coaster can knock the wind right out of you with no warning. But for now? I’ll live with the high.
Along the way I have developed some pro tips about coping and dealing when your child wants to die and how to hold a light at the end of the tunnel.
- You are all doing the best you can with what you available to you. You can’t expect to fix everything and you can’t expect it to all be better just because you want it to be. It’s cliche but time is the ultimate healer. Your child didn’t spiral down overnight and you can’t expect her to be ok overnight. If you need to cry every day, then cry every day. If you can’t leave your house for days, then don’t. If you can’t sleep and don’t eat, it’s ok. If you’re on a liquid diet, i.e. wine, so be it. If you don’t want to talk about anything to anyone then hit ignore on the phone repeatedly, they will understand and if they don’t that’s ok too. If all you can do is talk about your child and the situation and you blubber your eyes out to your closest friends it’s ok, that’s what they are there for. Whatever you do is ok. Please don’t worry about it as you are wasting so much precious energy that you need to get through the future.
- If your child is medicated watch them like a hawk. I mean every little tiny thing that they do because let me tell you, an increase in anti anxiety meds can push your child into the darkest abyss of their life in a matter of days. Write down what you see; ask them daily how they feel; be in constant contact with your child’s doctor; your child’s doctor should be a psychiatrist aware of the side effects of medications; monitor them to the extreme so that they are like, get away from me already. Don’t hesitate to call their psychiatrist at any time of day or night, weekends or not to voice your concerns, no matter how trivial you think they are. Medications can really help but they also come with significant side effects including suicidal ideation and self harm. I found this out the hard way.
- Do not activity your child’s depression away. Meet them where they are. If they won’t leave their room, don’t make them but maybe instead join them. Don’t talk too much. Just be. As parents we want to “fix” our kids and kiss their boo boos away and make everything all better. I’m here to tell you that sometimes we can’t just fix things. Sometimes we just need to be with our kids and whatever they are dealing with and hold space for them that they can come through it. Many a day I found myself willing strength to my child that she could wake up another day and put one foot in front of the other. Many a night I would wake in a cold sweat convinced that she wouldn’t be breathing. Every day I held space for her that she would get better, whatever that meant for her. Her idea of better and my idea, you see were too very different things. Her idea of better was not wanting to cut or kill herself whereas my idea was getting out, being with friends, exercising, going to school, having more energy, talking more, sharing her feelings. Yeah, my expectations were ridiculous. The best thing I ever did was to just crawl into bed with her and tell her, yeah, this sucks but I love you and I’m here for you through the suckage. We will get through this together in whatever way you need to do it. It was really, really hard but we are better for it, I’m sure.
- Try alternative therapies. Yes talk therapy is great but often for 14 year old girls it is futile. I may be giving an unpopular opinion here but whatever, I don’t care. Teenage girls have immature brains that think irrational thoughts and often talk therapy is only one very tiny part of what they really need. Acupuncture, cranniosacral therapy, hippotherapy, yoga, aryuvedic medicine, essential oils, whatever, just try it. What have you got to lose? Some of the best work my child got was through alternative means such as acupuncture and craniosacral therapy. The changes were profound on the inside and she didn’t have to verbalize on the outside. Have her or him join a support group. Teens do much better when they have other teens to talk to. They don’t trust adults, it’s not in their brain development. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. No pun intended.
- Get off of facebook. Facebook shows you all the shiny, happy people in the world and very little of the shit that really goes on behind closed doors. And while I used to love R.E.M., I don’t believe in shiny, happy people. Take space, walk away, know that we all have our mountains to climb. We look at peoples’ lives on social media from the outside and through filters and rarely do we see the true struggle they may face everyday. I would experience a huge amount of sadness and jealousy when I would see all the pictures of happy, well adjusted teenagers on facebook and then come home to my far less than happy, well adjusted child. I could only think, why us, why me, why her, why not anyone else. There were days I didn’t know if she’d be hospitalized forever or not graduate or die at a far too young age and I’d log in and see shiny, happy shit everywhere. But you know what? It’s all a bunch of bullshit. We choose the lens we use to show people what we want to show. Me? I’ve always been one to lay it all out there, but that’s me. There are others that do the same and I applaud your honesty and bravery. It is in those comrades that we find peace and togetherness, and understanding, and support. I have met the most incredible people through this process and I am a better person for it. Don’t be afraid to write about it. If your child was battling with cancer or a heart condition you’d post about that shit in a heartbeat and gather the troops. Well, do the same here. We are all in this together and when you finally speak out and break the shiny happy shit, you’ll find that you have people around who have been there, done that, and understand and they will help you fight and get through it. There should not be any shame and silence is not an option. Be vocal, talk about it, find another platform besides the shiny happiness that doesn’t exist. Call your army and pool your resources, you’ll need them.
It’s been 7 months since my child wanted to die. It’s been 3 since she’s self-harmed. She talks about a future. She has plans. She has more happy times than sad. She is more open. She is trying. My child wants to live. I can feel it.
I thank all of the people in my life who have helped me and my family through this, you have been invaluable. And to everyone in a similar place, I am here for you.