Lesson #6: Parenting a teenager with major depression

Parenting a teenager with major depression is an exercise in learning to parent without fear.

To be fair, I guess all parents feel fearful.

I remember when my husband and I left the hospital with our brand new daughter, less than 24 hours old. We were amazed they let us leave. Didn’t they know we didn’t know how to care for a baby? We could barely get her in her car seat in the hospital parking lot.

In those early days as a new mom, my anxieties crept into my sleep. I dreamed of a flood. As waves of water thundered against the walls of our house, I held my daughter close while screaming that I couldn’t take care of her with this flood raging. It was terrifying.

But not nearly as terrifying as bringing my daughter home from another hospital, thirteen years later, knowing I really couldn’t keep her safe. I couldn’t swaddle her like I did when she was a baby or bring her into my bed to keep watch over her in the darkness.

She was no longer dependent on me to keep her free of harm. Instead, I was fully dependent on her and on her willingness to live.

Continue reading “Lesson #6: Parenting a teenager with major depression”

Lesson #3: Listen to podcasts

When things were really down and out for me on this road of parenting depression, I started to listen to podcasts. They helped.

If you ask a parent the one thing they truly want in life for their children, they’ll undoubtedly say happiness. But what if your child isn’t happy? What if your child is questioning whether their life is even worth living? It kind of messes you up as a parent.

When my daughter was hospitalized for her depression, I asked the social worker assigned to her, how did this happen? We were getting help. She was on medication, she had a therapist.  He told me depression is like a whirlpool. It can turn and turn and turn and then, out of nowhere, it can quickly suck someone under. I thought about this a lot in the months that followed.

As a parent, above the waterline, suicidal depression is more like a tornado. It lifts the roof off your world, scattering your emotions and sense of self in a million directions. All the while the storm is raging, you have to stand still and steady.  And when the flood waters rise, you tread furiously to keep you both afloat, not letting on that you’re tired and worn out and not sure you can save either one of you.

In the aftermath of this crisis, I started crying. Mostly in my car on the way to work. It was odd and sort of fascinating to me. I’d never been a crier. It was as if my body had filled up with so much water during the storm that even the smallest bump in the road was enough to push a few drops over the edge.

I know uncontrollable crying is a sign of depression, but in lieu of  spare change, time and emotional energy to fix myself, I started to listen to podcasts. I needed a distraction, but more, I needed to learn how to be happy again. I needed to make sense of my life and my choices. To understand why I was making this same drive to work, day after day, when I was failing at my most important job.

Continue reading “Lesson #3: Listen to podcasts”