The Roller Coaster That is Mental Health

A few weeks ago I wrote about the wonderful enlightening moment my daughter had while we were out shopping. It was a beautiful moment where she accepted the change that could be hers and felt sure that she had the power to heal herself.

The thing about change is, that it doesn’t make everything magically disappear.

She still has Depression. She still has Anxiety. She still has ADHD. She is still a recovering self-harmer.

And there is nothing wrong with being any of those things. Yep. I said it.

Those things in and of themselves may be vicious thieves, but they do not make a person less. They do not make a person unlovable, or any less worthy than any other individual. They do not make a person any less of a beautiful human being.

Mental illness is hard. It takes its toll and wreaks havoc. It is heartless and cruel. It is draining and senseless.

No matter how long I live I will never, ever understand why some people have to suffer in such a way. I look at my beautiful daughter and I see a childhood lost. It is enough to make a person want to shake their fist at the heavens and shout, “Why??!!”

But despite anything I did, or could have done, it would still exist.

There are always heart pounding dips, hairpin curves, and steep climbs on this journey of life with mental illness. One day can be fantastic, while the very next may prove to be a chore just to make it through. You can be having a great day when something happens that sets off your heightened sensitivity and the rest of the day goes down in a spiral of flames. You can wear a smile, joke and laugh with friends and family, while inside you feel numb.

A- has been doing remarkably well. She has not harmed in around two months. She says she might think about death sometimes, but she does not want to die. She says she isn’t going to do anything to herself. She is still embracing her change and embracing herself. She is still growing in confidence and in acceptance of herself.

It is a remarkable thing to watch.

And yet…just underneath there has been turbulence. About three weeks ago, her three “best friends” ditched her out of the blue. Here was A-, with friends for the first time in her life, excited to have them, knowing she had made friends for life. She was the shoulder they cried on, the one they complained to, and the one that was more loyal than they would ever know. Yet when they decided they no longer wanted to be her friend, they weren’t mature enough to handle it nicely. Instead of just being honest and moving on, they resorted to being mean and petty. A- was upset. Very upset. Here were girls she loved; girls she trusted, and they had turned on her.

I was worried we were in for a horrible spiral of self loathing. But that was not the case.

Other students rallied around her. Others were quick to offer friendship. She was given support. Instead of retreating to a corner and once again becoming the loner, she was more determined than ever. She knew it wasn’t her. She knew she could have friends and continue to have an awesome high school experience.

But I knew it hurt her more than she let on. She smiled on the outside, but I heard her crying in her room. I saw the sad eyes. But she continued on. She talked to new people. She joined new groups. It hurt because of how they treated her, but it did not damper her determination. I was proud of that.

Still, with the treatment from the other girls, and a series of mishaps at school due to her running out of medication for a short time, we were still in for one of those slow click…click…clicks as we tried to make it up this hill. The depression has shown itself but she knows it will release its hold. She knows it won’t last. That’s the big difference. She’s not sleeping well, she’s agitated and restless, she would prefer to sleep the day away so that she doesn’t have to think. Nightmares when she does sleep have been plentiful.

But she refuses to give up. She refuses to harm to make herself feel better. She refuses to withdraw.

High functioning depression can be dangerous because we aren’t sure what’s going on on the inside, but right now, I know she’s just hanging on and waiting for the storm to pass.

And sometimes, right in the midst of the sadness and melancholy she will do or say something that makes us laugh. She still has those moments that make her uniquely “her.” Like earlier this week when they were supposed to be doing wall planks in PE class and she got bored so she started doing the Macarena. (Coach made her run two laps for being “ridiculous” while he couldn’t help but laugh.) And this morning as we were heading off to school she shoved an entire family size box of Cheerios in her back pack. I asked why, she asked why not? I told her she needed to take them out so she didn’t end up dropping them and having cereal roll all down the school halls. She told me she might get hungry today while taking tests and need something to snack on. And she hopped out of the car blowing me a kiss before I could confiscate them.

Newsflash: I was SHOCKED she did not get in trouble with her gigantic box of Cheerios. I just knew impulsive, quirky kid that she is, she’d end up taking them out in English and offering some to the teacher.

It’s the little things that I embrace. The little, daily things that let me know she’s in there and that she’s going to be okay.

Home from school, she was cranky and got in bed to sleep. I figured I’d let her.

We’re going to a new church and she has made SO MANY new friends there! And best of all? She told me that she has stopped blaming God for the things that happened to her. It was one of the worst effects of the things that happened in her past – she used to beg God to help her and felt that He wasn’t listening. She would tell me what was the use of praying and believing when He let people suffer? Being in church and seeing other teens who aren’t just going through the motions, but who take their faith seriously, has been good for her. Now she’d been moving away from her anger at God for some time now, and was almost there, but she finally crossed back over that line, where she no longer blames herself, and she no longer blames God. Last week at devotional at church, she experienced a complete sense of forgiveness and healing from her broken relationship. She told me all she could do was just kneel there on the floor and cry, feeling like a great weight had been lifted off as she made her peace with the things that happened to her and the fact that she had thought God remained silent through it all. She realized He had never been silent. It was in a thousand little things that kept her going all those years. He’d been there all along.

So maybe the depression is rearing its head right now, maybe she’s anxious and moody, but that is the way things are. We just hold on and know it will pass. It seems odd that it can come at the same time that there is also good – but that is the nature of life.

In the meantime, maybe we should just do the Macarena and eat some Cheerios.


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