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 #1: How to spot signs of depression

I’ve been over dozens of checklists for depression dozens of times. Still, I’m not sure I would have recognized signs of depression in my own daughter.

Years ago, I worked with a woman who had a teenage daughter who had dropped out of school and refused to leave her basement. In the morning, over coffee, she’d give me the latest on the home front, jokingly referring to her daughter as the basement dweller. On the odd occasion, that same daughter would come to work, curl up and sleep in the corner of her office.

Withdrawal from everyday activities. It a classic sign of depression.

It was 2004 and by today’s standards, I was likely the worst colleague in the world. I had no idea what she was going through. I didn’t recognize her own struggle or her daughter’s for what it was, but I do now. Continue reading “Lesson #1: How to spot signs of depression”