Firstly, and most importantly, I’m not an expert in mental health issues. I’m just a mom, a sister, a daughter, a cousin and a friend who has seen and dealt personally with theirs and my own depression. I wanted to share my experiences, to show you how ‘normal’ it is to face stress, anxiety and depression, amongst other mental health issues. Some of these issues are temporary, they happen, you deal with it, then move on. Others are far more penetrating, they pervade your every waking hour, and affect pretty much everything around you, and not in a good way.
This is a true depiction of the effects of bullying.
Two years ago I came back from a weekend away with my best mate, to find my teen daughter sitting sobbing at the top of the stairs. I expected it to be a ‘normal’ teenage thing. However, what she showed me and told me next was going to shake the very foundations of my world, and send us on a journey that no parent ever wants to take.
As I sat there, she rolled up her sleeves and showed me where for the past few months, she had been taking razors to her beautiful delicate skin and making cuts, some looked fairly superficial, others much deeper and were still healing. I caught my breath, trying hard not to frighten her with the fear that was clutching at my throat, as she told me “Mommy, I want to die.”
The cuts aren’t the problem, they are a symptom of an invisible illness. So many young girls and boys resort to self-harming as a way to get away from the pain in their heads.
It’s extremely painful to write this, but oddly therapeutic, and thankfully, she is still here. Every day is a battle, some days are easier than others. And I suppose I should be ‘grateful’ ( weird choice of word), that she opened up to me and felt safe enough to tell me.
I don’t think either of us slept much that night, I watched her like a hawk, wondering how my precious baby could hate herself so much that she wanted to die.
The next day I took her to the doctor to ask for a referral to CAMHS, child and adolescent mental health team, the GP was very sympathetic and made an urgent referral to their crisis team for assessment. URGENT translates as four weeks, not for this mom, I’m pretty good at kicking up a stink, and fired with a determination not to let my baby down (I felt I’d already done that by not knowing, not seeing what she was doing), we were seen within the week.
She was assessed as being at very high risk of suicide, I felt sick, I felt like I had failed as a mom, still do some days. Just imagine that one day your child is happy (seemingly), the next you’re being told to remove all sharp objects from reach and put away any ladders or items that could be used as ligatures. (The harsh reality was she intended to hang herself, I feel physically sick as I write this, please bear with me).
Even with that information, it was agreed she would be safe to go home, (I don’t remember if either of us got any sleep for the next few months). She was and has remained, for the most part, safe at home.
During the first few weeks, we saw a psychiatrist, and she was started on anti-depressants and some medication to help her sleep. Imagine how much of a failure I felt as a parent, my baby is so depressed she takes medication 🤬. However, whatever, she needs to get through each day, sign me up 🙋🏻♀️. She hates taking them, but luckily for me, she does. Oh and add that to the list of things to hide.
All of that was just the first couple of weeks.
Fast forward to now.
During the past two years, we have attended A&E ten times, once via ambulance as she was having seizures, and been admitted to hospital five out of those ten. She has developed Tourette’s and has anxiety related seizures (see above), she hasn’t been to school since the first day after Christmas (we are working on that). Not great considering it’s the first year of her GCSE years. Although, to be honest, I don’t give two shits what grades she gets, I need her to be healthy and functioning. There’s a meme that pops up every now and again, “your child’s mental health is more important than their grades”. And it’s really true.
It’s not all doom and gloom, she is starting to go back to school, gradually, not every day, but hey I’ll take each win.
She still talks to me.
She hasn’t cut in months
Every single day is a new day, some days are good, some days are really really really fucking shit (sincere apologies for the profanity).
Being able to talk to friends, family and support organisations has made a HUGE difference. Sharing my story has already helped some of my friends get help for themselves or their kids. It’s important to remember that mental health and mental illness are not a choice. It’s hard to face them every day, and many people just don’t understand. You can’t see mental illnesses, and maybe that makes it more difficult with.
What makes it easier is being able to talk. Opening to those close to you, and if you can’t do that, then contact an organisation trained in helping support people with mental health illness. There are details for them on the webpage neverbeafraidtoask.com
We are still on our journey, it’s a marathon rather than a sprint. But we will get there.
Thanks for taking the time to read this .