I was asked a question the other day that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. The person asked how I dealt with my daughter’s needs. “How do you do it?” They asked.
The short answer is quite simple.
I love her.
I love her through the pain. I love her through the bad days. Love. It’s all I have.
When the depression strikes and she doesn’t want to move off the sofa I sit with her. I hold her when she needs me to and I sit quietly when she doesn’t. When the nightmares come and she won’t sleep for fear of them – I sit in her room so that she feels safe enough to try to sleep. When she has a panic attack I try to help her focus on her breathing. When she has flashbacks, I rub her back. When the anxiety is too much for her I try to help her find a distraction. When she harms, I smile and tell her it’s all right. I tell her how much I love her. I tell her how brave and beautiful she is.
When my heart is breaking for her I go into my room, close the door, and shed the tears that need to be shed. I emerge dry eyed to help her through. I help her find the good and the beauty in every day. I direct her as best I can to find coping strategies to move her into adulthood.
I wrap her in warm blankets and let her cry. I watch television with her when I have “better” things to do because she needs me to. I color with her and let the dishes sit in the sink. I take her for drives to calm her down no matter the gas prices or the miles on the car.
It’s as simple as love. That’s all it is. I have no special abilities. I don’t have all the answers. I listen. I encourage. I do it again. It’s all I can do. Do I wish I could do more? Of course I do. All parents have that same wish. I rely on her counselor. I rely on her doctor. I do the easiest thing of all – love her.
Depression. Anxiety. Self Harm. PTSD. ADHD. Panic Disorder. Those are terms we are very familiar with at our house. We are also very familiar with laughter, gratefulness, respect, kindness, and love.
I want to teach her to be proud of who she is. I want to teach her to accept herself for who and what she is. I want to teach her that her mental illness does not define her. I want to teach her to shine her light brightly. I want to teach her to embrace the good days, feel the joy that is inside of her, and accept the magic that is found in the world and in her own humanity.
She is a survivor. And the only thing I have done – is love her.