Welcome! You’re Not Alone

In October 2020, my 15-year-old daughter told me that she wanted to end her life.

She told me as we sat together on a clammy basement floor. I listened, shell-shocked, and tried to ask the “right” questions even though I wasn’t exactly sure what those questions were. Over the next few months, I lived in a state of tense, tearful panic. Most of the time, I was caught up in frantic activity: constantly watching my daughter, searching Google for therapists, and negotiating with her school for accommodations. In other moments, I would collapse in tears, unable to move.

Have you been there? mother daughter crying_ depression_mental health_anxiety

A couple of months later, my daughter admitted that she had an eating disorder. Even though her body was not medically underweight and therefore enabled her to hide her toxic patterns, she swung between restricting food in public and then binge-eating in secret. This behavior became destructive enough to send her to a treatment center for more than half a year.

Those first six months were a special kind of hell for me and my husband. We were terrified all the time. We felt scared of what our daughter might do to hurt herself, scared of how to handle this as parents, scared of being deceived by the eating disorder, scared of losing our daughter. We worried about her present and her future. We even feared having her home because as much as we adore our daughter, fighting an active eating disorder is like wrestling a monster.

We were also devastated. It seemed like our daughter’s depression, anxiety and eating disorder had stolen the beautiful girl we’d always known, replacing her with a shadow. Often, she isolated in her room, absorbed in her phone, or she would blow up unexpectedly in the kitchen. Trying to reach her was like pounding on a window from inside a house, trying to get the attention of a neighbor as their car races away.

I felt angry all the time, without knowing who to be angry at. Sometimes I blamed myself or my husband (maybe this was our fault). Sometimes I was irrationally angry at friends whose neurotypical kids followed a predictable path. Sometimes I was angry at my daughter. And I hated the eating disorder with passion.

If you can relate to any of this, I want you to know that you are not alone. Especially if you are in those first days, weeks or months of discovering your teen’s depression, anxiety or eating disorder, all of your feelings are welcome. I am sending you a huge hug. I want to reassure you that your child’s mental health challenges are not your fault, because I wrestled with those questions for many months. Even though you may feel overwhelmed right now, I want you to know that there is hope, both for your child, for your family, and for you.

Now that our family is on the other side of mental health journey (which is still a journey – we never arrive), I’ve embraced a mission of helping other parents. To be clear, I’m not a therapist or a life coach, so I can’t give professional advice. As a fellow parent and a writer, I am here to support you, through this blog and my Substack, where I pour out my heart in reflections on the maze of parenting teens with mental health challenges.

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This song by Lauren Daigle, a Christian singer who has overcome depression, anxiety and panic attacks, says it well: “You’re gunna be okay.” The road will not be easy and you will have hard days, but you will get through this.

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly if you’d like to connect. I’m also a person of prayer, so send me a prayer request if you’d like. Anything you share is between us.

Grateful that you’re here – there is hope!

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