If you’re thinking you might not survive your teenager’s depression, I’ve got an idea. Three steps that helped me climb out of a pit of despair and hopelessness and get my head and my heart back in the game.
I’ve talked to enough moms to know that it’s not unusual to hit rock bottom when you’re parenting a teen with depression. You get to a point where you feel broken. Emotionally and physically exhausted. While not suicidal (if you are, please call Crisis Services Canada), you fantasize about walking out the front door and never coming back.
I’ve been there. I remember sitting in the living room of our home, the coffee table between us like a referee, as my husband gently suggested I get professional help or antidepressants.
“You don’t get it,” I snapped at him. “I’m not depressed. I just hate my life right now.”
Though I’m all for professional therapy–I think everyone, sick or well, should be in therapy–back then it seemed impossible. I didn’t have the time, money or energy, and long walks or hot baths weren’t cutting it.
Fortunately, I found another way to pick myself up off the floor. It’s super cheap and so far, it’s worked for me. So if you are feeling like you might not survive your teenager’s depression, please don’t give up. Try these three small steps–at least once. You have nothing to lose.
Step One: Write it all out
Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, would tell you to dance it out, but I recommend writing.
Grab some paper and write it out. By it, I mean all of it. Everything that’s happened since your child became ill. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Just write about the stuff.
Write about when it started. What you noticed first or failed to notice. The things your teenager has said to you. The times you failed to be your best self. Write about doctor’s visits and the disgusting bedroom. School refusals. Self-harm. Suicidal ideation. Suicide attempts and safe plans. The disappointing mother’s day. The maddening obsession with social media. Food issues. Friend issues. Panic attacks. Whatever it is you are facing, write it down.
I know what you’re thinking: “Writing this stuff down isn’t going to make me feel any better.” but try it. At least once.
After all, you have nothing to lose. There paper has no expectations of you and no one, but you, will ever read what you’ve written. You can even burn it afterwards. But before you do, do step two.
Step Two: Read it
It’s fucked up!
Excuse my language, but there’s really no other way to describe it. Yes, you are dealing with an illness. And yes, you love your kid, but that doesn’t change the fact that things are pretty fucked up right now.
A couple months ago, a friend emailed me to say, “I have to tell you about my Jerry Springer Christmas.” It made me laugh out-loud.
We are all living Jerry Springer lives. Lives we thought happened to other people. Lives we were not at all prepared for.
So, give yourself some grace.
Accept you are going through an extremely difficult situation. That it’s normal to wonder if you will survive your teenager’s depression. That your life is hard and unfair and living this way, day after day, feels horrible and defeating.
Agreed? Then you’re ready for step three.
Step 3: Choose something different
Choose something different.
I know, easier said than done, but consider the words of Byron Katie, the self-help guru from Texas. If she read your story, she would say, “It was always meant to happen that way. Because it did.”
All those things you wrote down? They were always meant to happen that way. Which begs the question: what happens next?
Whatever you do next in this very moment, staring at your piece of paper, is what will happen.
It’s an incredibly powerful thought because it gives you control over your life when you thought you had none. It puts you smack dab in the present. Not in the worry of the future or the guilt of the past, but right here. Right now.
You can choose what happens next.
I chose a journal. A navy blue moleskin, lined. It cost me $34.00. It did not make my daughter well, or stop me from crying in the car on the way to work–listening to podcasts did that–but it reminds me daily that I have control over my own thoughts and actions.
Here’s why I think writing works:
- It’s blissfully selfish. While an understanding friend or therapist could also be a great sounding board, they have needs, too. They need to breathe, for example, and that can be annoying at times. And when you’re at rock bottom, you don’t need other people’s needs, however subtle they are. Journaling is about you and only you.
- It puts order to your thoughts. Putting your thoughts on paper forces you to untangle the ball of wool in your mind and write in a straight line. The result is a more manageable narrative that you can then pick apart and examine.
- Writing brings clarity. What did you write? What words did you use to describe things? How did it make you feel? What thoughts are serving you? Which ones are keeping you stuck?
- It gives you perspective. When you get your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper, you can look at them with a degree of separation. Words on a page. They are not you. They are your thoughts about your circumstances. You created them. Each and every one. You may not be able to control much, but you can control your own thoughts.
I’m sure there are other ways to survive your teenager’s depression–like professional therapy if that’s a realistic solution for you right now. But if it’s not an option, this free, three-step program worked for me when I was at my breaking point.
If you try it, let me know if it helps.
Call Crisis Services Canada if you are thinking about suicide or worried about a loved one. It is available 24/7 by phone and 4pm to 12am ET by text. Call 1-1833-456-4566 or text 45645 offers