Lately, I’ve not really known quite what to write about. And truth be told I haven’t really had the the get-up-and-go to even care. I’m struck with several thoughts right now, how my girl has been handling her depression, and how we have both been handling the rocky teenage years with Depression, Nightmare Disorder, Anxiety, and PTSD.
(forgive me, I already know I’m going to ramble on this one…)
Summer definitely has been flying by. A- was busy with Vacation Bible School prep and then actual VBS. After that she left for a few days for a church retreat. There has been youth group activities in between, and coming up she has two concerts, turns SIXTEEN, and then it’s off for another church retreat. Plus she has hustle to get all her summer work finished before school starts again in August!
Don’t get me wrong, I am loving how busy she has been. I’m not going to lie even a little bit. The last few months have been hard. Depression and PTSD are nasty little life-stealers. (I can make up words if I want to!)
I love that she feels safe at church with her youth group family. I love that she has become so involved. Sometimes I don’t know how she does it. I mean, sometimes she doesn’t.
Some days she does refuse to get out of bed or shower or brush her teeth. Some days the tears flow freely, some days there is nothing but a dull, vacant look behind her glazed eyes. Sometimes she spends days on the couch wrapped up in a blanket watching cartoons and isolating. Some weeks she doesn’t get to youth group because she’s had a bad day and is scared of having a panic attack while she’s there. Sometimes she goes anyway and learns that going and DOING can get her out of the darkness, even if just for a little while. Most days when she has to go out and after spending several hours pretending to be “fine” she comes home to crash, curling up in bed and wanting nothing but to sleep.
This is the first time she was able to go on one of the longer, farther away from home church trips; one of those phone left behind, completely unplugged trips. She was too afraid. But this year she wanted to go. The depression has been wrapped around her for about seven months with no relief. PTSD symptoms were rough, but she told me she wanted, no needed, to go on this retreat. And she did.
Four days in a camp near a river; tubing, white water rafting, paintball, and other team-building exercises with her youth group. Nightly prayer services and meditations, talks, and talent shows. She had a blast. And what do you know? She was able to manage the entire trip without having to ask her youth leader to let her call me. She did it. I think she came home feeling pretty accomplished.
They were starting a Peer Helper group at her school. Now if anyone actually knows A- they know she was MADE for that sort of thing. Seriously. Even before they started the program the school counselor had talked to her about it and how good she would be at it. She filled out her application before the end of the school year, did her interview and felt pretty sure the teachers in charge of the program thought she would be a good fit. The other day she received her letter. Now, A- never expects anything. She never assumes she is going to get anything she tries for. But she had been talked to so much about the program that I don’t think it entered her head that she would not be part of it. After all, she is already the kid the other kids go to when they have a problem. She already knows she wants to work in some way with troubled teens. Past experiences have given her a lot to draw from. Yet when she opened that envelope she was shocked to see that her application had been denied. She didn’t understand. I told her that more than likely it was because she had missed a lot of classes last school year. And attendance was one of the things on the list of requirements. The counselor had said she would answer any questions of A’s attendance last year – as she missed very few DAYS of school, just many classes, due to circumstances beyond our control (mental and mood disorder stuff – no need for details) But still, she did not get in. She was devastated.
She had also submitted an application for a new program at church within the youth group. A handful of youth were being selected for a discipleship program. A- thoughtfully worked on her application for several days before submitting it, and then waited to hear when she would have her interview. A few weeks went by and youth leaders never mentioned anything.
She was beginning to be afraid she had been told her interview day and time and in her ADHD-ness (Again, I can make up words when I want to!) had forgotten. She kept telling me she wouldn’t get in anyway, that there were so many kids in youth group, that she would definitely be looked over in favor of other candidates.
A few days after receiving her letter about the Peer Helper program, she got a text from her youth leader, adding her to a group.
The discipleship group.
A- jumped up and screamed, then she sat back down. (she actually almost threw her back out, which is kind of funny. Not really, but seriously?) She grinned, then she frowned. She knew she had never had an interview, so there was a mistake. She messaged her youth leader privately and asked if there was a mistake in adding her to the group, that she hadn’t had an interview, how could she be in the group?
The text she received back is one I will never forget, because it did more to let my girl know that sometimes, just sometimes, people ARE paying attention and see you for who you are. The leader texted her back and said, “My dear, of course you made it. There was never any hesitation about you. You are awesome.” It helped my girl see that she has worth. That she has something to offer. It’s too easy for her to forget that.
After a couple days I told her you know, God had a plan all along. Maybe God knows that there is something she will be needed for in the church program and that she would not have had time to be in both the church program as well as the Peer Helper program at school. He put her where He wanted her to be.
After the retreat and after getting her place in the church program, I see her slowly coming around again. Her eyes are more clear and the smile is genuine. It’s like a burden is being lifted again.
I know after seven long months it is time for some relief, that events in themselves do not lift depression, but having things to look forward to, having things in your life that are meaningful, those things DO help.
The thing is, in the midst of the depression, PTSD, and Anxiety, in the sleepless nights and the getting older, some days I feel like I am losing my girl. We’ve always been so close. Probably too close, but that’s just how it is. Through the mental and mood disorders, she has made some bad choices, even though I know how good her heart is. But times have been rough and we have been on edge. Things just haven’t been as easy and effortless as they have always been. I know I have to let go a little, but it’s so hard to do. She knows she can’t always do what she wants, but she doesn’t always understand my reasoning either.
We’ve argued and bickered, disagreed and gotten angry. We both hate it. It feels like the end of the world.
July 4 was a particularly bad day. We had a massive argument, she cried and accused me of hating her best friend (which she was about to leave with so….) and then she was gone in a huff, and I was home in a huff. Maybe an hour after leaving she texted me and apologized. I apologized too. She came home early and I tried talking to her, but it seems most days everything I say is the wrong thing. Okay, now a lot of times it IS the wrong thing, because in MY ADHD-ness I blurt things out and I don’t always choose the correct words. I’ll own that. So she went to bed sad, I went to bed sad, and neither one of us slept.
The next morning I got up determined to fix it. She was sitting on the couch watching cartoons and eating cereal. After exchanged good mornings I somehow stepped in it again and said the wrong thing. She said, (partly kidding) “Well I WAS in a good mood when I got up.” So I’m standing there trying to talk to her and she doesn’t want to listen and then, suddenly, because she is who she is, she starts drumming on my boobs with her spoon. Only my child can end an argument in such a unique fashion. 😉
So I leave for work and leave her at home because she has a therapy appointment. Later I asked her if she made a return appointment and she said, “Yes, but you have to come.” Okay. I mean, that’s not that unusual. We have a deal where she goes in by herself unless she asks me to go in with her.
So that night I am determined that we have to get past this cloud of huffiness that has settled over our heads. I venture, “How was your appointment today? Are you okay?” This is a legitimate question because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be HARD. She said, yeah, it was good. Then she said, “We talked about feelings, and faith, and goals.”
I smile at her and say, “Feelings, huh? Like wanting to strangle your mother kind of feelings?” She grinned back and said, “Why do you think she wants to talk to us both next time?” I say, “You know, as bad as it might seem sometimes, just because we’ve always been so close, you know most of this is normal teenage stuff, right? It sucks being a teenager and it isn’t any easier being the mom of a teenager. I’m as lost as you are.” She said, “Yeah, that’s what (the counselor) said. She said it’s mostly growing pains.” I agreed. Then she said, “I told her that it was mostly my fault. I told her that I’m stubborn and don’t want to listen. I told her that I’ve given you reason to doubt me and that’s why you’ve been so hard on me lately. But she also said that you have a problem with fear. Fear that something bad is going to happen to me, or that I’m going to make some life altering horrible mistake. She said we both need to work on those things. Together.”
I agreed. And we will. But we talked. For a long time. I even told her why I was so afraid. She told me it made sense and she understood it, just sometimes she needed me to let go of it just a bit. And I know she does. She doesn’t want her “mental and mood disorders” to be the focus that I, or anyone else sees, when they look at her. She doesn’t want what she can and can’t do depend on those “mental and mood disorders.” She just wants to feel normal. And I get that.
She promised to not be such a pain in the ass. I promised to work very, very hard on letting go of my fear. We both promised to talk to one another. I reminded her that I WAS going to say the wrong thing sometimes. She reminded me that she was going to do the same.
Parenting a teen is hard. Parenting a teen with mental and mood disorders can be overwhelming and exhausting. And no day is all good or all bad. Even on the bad days there are those funny, unique, off the wall jokes we share. Even when we’ve argued and been angry, we still have laughed. Kids grow up too fast, like a race car whizzing by and flying off the track. There is no one answer on how it’s supposed to be done. There is no one size fits all way of doing it. There is no way that even the BEST mom-daughter teams aren’t going to have their moments. When you live with someone they are going to annoy you sometimes, that’s just the way it is. And, as humans, we are going to make dumb mistakes. And it’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.
Nothing changes the love that is there, the friendship, the bond, the feeling of completeness that you have with your child. Nothing is better than the shared inside jokes, the cuddles that your nearly sixteen year old still gives you, and the warmest hugs you’ll ever receive.