Cutters, cutting... I didn't really understand what this was until I had one in my home. I had a basic understanding. This was what some teenagers were doing... another fad that emerged out of the borderline teenagers looking for attention.
Boy was I right. It was my own daughter's way of screaming for help. She was in so much pain that I, her own, mother did not see. As I reflect on those dark days. I have my story to tell and then hers. I'll start with mine...
We were you average american household. Mom, dad, two teenagers various animals living in suburbia. We laughed an teased. We had high standards for our kids, semi strict rules, went to church.
At the end of a retreat my daughter was on a counsel told us of what she saw on our daughter wrists.
At first I reacted like I could just yell it away. Or grounding or more control. But what I didn't realize was that my parenting up to this point was part of the problem. As I screamed at her to stop then begged her to stop I learned from her that her pain was real and it was deadly. I needed to change my parenting, I needed to forget everything I knew of this girl and listen to her. I was desperate to save her from this evil called depression. I would not let it take her away. I read everything I could. I googled and searched until I found something that worked. I knew it was up to me. No one else seemed to understand. I know I didn't but I was her only shot.
I changed her world. I removed her from friends that didn't build her self esteem. I drove her everywhere. I became a bloodhound to her moods. I hounded her about her feelings until she would scream and yell and then cry and we would sit huddled in her closet rocking until the tears dried up. I promised her she would not battle this alone. We would find away to beat this pain she was in. Slowly she started trusting me. We tried different medications. Some made it worse some worked for a while but then the depression would creep back in. As soon as I felt it was allowing her mood to dip we moved on. I would not loose my daughter to this disease. Deadly as a cancer we attacked it.
That was about 6 years ago. She knows it will always be her disease. That her meds will keep her alive. She had to understand this is not a phase or a teenage drama. This is a disease and it will rob her of everything good in her life if she does not treat it.
When we talk about those days now her reflection is fragile. I have to hold her hand how frightening the memory is.
She tells me about a world that she didn't feel she was worthy to exist in. That she was the cause of all that was ever wrong. That nothing she did was good enough or that she had any hope of having anything good because she didn't deserve it. She was so numb of feeling that the cutting actually felt good - reminded her that she was alive. Nothing mattered. Even her. This deep despair was so foreign to me.
And I thought we could yell it away. What a joke. I had no idea.
Here is what I learned:
Yelling or judgement does not work.
Patience and love does.
Find a good counselor and take them weekly.
If they refuse love them anyway. It may be that they cannot face the demons that day. This is hard exhausting work to get better from such a horrible disease. They cannot will or think or hope it away. They have no hope, no desire to live in this world of pain.
I had to help Alicia create a new world for her. We found one thing that made her happy. Dancing. So we did everything we could to encourage that. We eliminated everything that made her feel bad. I listened and held my tongue when she attacked. This was her demon and I had to battle it with her. When she would withdraw I would crawl in bed beside her and watch disney movies till she slept. We removed all knives and sharp objects from the house. We went shopping and went to movies and lavished attention on her. She craved to matter. She needed to find something other than her bleak world. I considered home schooling but we were able to take many "home days". She suffered from migraines and stomach aches. She failed classes and lost weight. All symptoms of the depression. But slowly she started to grasp on to life again. She carefully made some better choices. We talked about friends that lifted her up and those that pushed her down. She learned to tell the difference. She like to look pretty so we bought some new clothes and and found safe places where she didn't feel stupid. I had to change every aspect of my parenting. Her younger brother complained. Her didn't understand why we were babying her. He was sure he would be strong and conquer everything that she couldn't. He didn't understand why we were giving her so much attention when she was breaking every rule.
Now looking back. I know that this disease is hereditary. That he would soon battle this disease in his own way three years later. He understands now.
Now six years later.
We have three people on medication for depression. I am not one of them.
We do not call each other names or tease in this house. Our house is now one that only fosters self esteem and a safe haven from a often cruel world. We old build up. We listen and we let each other talk with out censure. We tolerate bad moods. We learn to say sorry when we had hurt each others feelings.
We have become a house of lavish attention and safety. They are caring and wise. They have lived through hell and are now extremely sensitive to others. They understand compassion.
This disease we will battle for the rest of their lives. But I am better armed and hope I can smell it coming.
God be with you.