Getting help, Self-care for parents

Why I talk about my kid’s struggle with depression

I didn’t always talk about my kid’s struggle with depression.

For a long time, I thought, “it isn’t my story to tell.”

Even though it is. Getting married, having kids, nearly losing one of those kids–those events are all a part of my narrative.

But for years, our situation was precarious at best. My daughter was struggling to stay afloat. I didn’t want to rock the boat, or weigh her down with my baggage or anyone else’s for that matter.

Thankfully, she’s much stronger now. She’s also quite open about her experiences. We both are. We talk about mental health at home almost as easily as we talk about what’s for dinner, which makes me hopeful for the future.

So, now, when I try to think of reasons to keep quiet, to just thank my lucky stars and say, “good luck to the rest of you”, I can’t. I think the potential benefits of sharing my story outweigh the risks.

Here are 10 reasons why I now talk openly about my kid’s struggle with depression

  1. Before I had the wherewithal to ask for help for myself or to seek out other parents, I found this article by Michigan Mom. It saved me somehow, just knowing I wasn’t alone in this. Support groups are great, but we also need more of these stories on the world wide web.
  2. Every time I have talked to someone, they responded with sympathy and kindness. What’s more, most of them have told me about a child, niece, nephew, parent, step-parent who has also struggled with depression.
  3. Talking about it helps me articulate my thoughts and feelings. It makes them less scary. It also helps me to build a vocabulary for very complex, often abstract emotions. The more I do it, the easier it is.
  4. If my kids had a physical illness or a food allergy, I wouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. I like to think I stayed silent to protect my child, but I think, in part at least, I stayed silent because of stigma. That didn’t make me feel very good.
  5. I believe we have a better shot of finding better solutions and support for teenage depression, and families and school systems, if parents are part of the conversation.
  6. I have information worth sharing. Getting help for your child is a bit like learning to play a video game. You have no idea what’s coming or where the pitfalls are. It helps to have someone who’s made it to the next level show you the ropes.
  7. I need people who aren’t in the thick of it to understand what I’m going through, because I need their help, too. But I can’t expect them to understand what I need and why if I don’t take the time to explain it to them.
  8. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Youth Mental Health Canada reports there are 3.2 million Canadians between the ages of 12 and 18. at risk of developing depression. That means there are twice as many parents out there also at risk. We can ask our kids to speak up, or rely on non-profits or over-stretched service providers to make noise, or we can lend our voices to the cause.
  9. There’s no shame in any of this. Depression is an illness. It’s not my fault. It’s not my kid’s fault.
  10. I don’t want to have to lose one of my kids before I speak up and say, it’s not right. We can do better. Our kids deserve better.

I get that not everyone will agree with me. I also get it if you say, this isn’t right time for me or my child. To each his own.

But if you’re in the arena getting your butt kicked, as Brené Brown would say, I’d love your thoughts on this. What holds you back from sharing your story?

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