How do I get her back?
Before I was a part of this world of childhood mental health, I naively thought that I would never miss the signs. I first-off thought that this would be an issue I might possibly have to deal with when my kids were teenagers, but definitely not when they were as young as eight. Approximately 1.9 million children between the ages of 3-17 have diagnosed depression. Approximately 4.4 million children have diagnosed anxiety. No one ever gives birth to a baby and thinks that they will one day have a child in these statistics. I always thought that if/when my child was depressed, I would immediately know. That the signs of depression would hit me right in the face. I thought they would be obvious. I could not have been more wrong.
My daughter, since she was three, has always had a harder time with simple emotions. At one point we had her tested for autism. We just didn’t know what was happening. After many test and therapies we realized she had anxiety, ADHD, and dyslexia. Because of these diagnoses, I thought we had a hold on her mental health status. Again, I was wrong. She was silently suffering inside. Her feelings weren’t her own. She couldn’t find any joy in life. Every time she felt a spark of joy, it quickly faded. My heart broke for her. I just wanted her to feel better. Where was that infectious smile? Why couldn’t I find it anymore?
As I sit here typing, two years later, I do see the other side. We have been blessed with a wonderful team of counselors, psychologist, psychiatrist, and friends. They have guided us each and every step of the way. Without this group of people, I am 100% certain that my daughter would have taken her own life by now.
She will never be un-depressed. She will always struggle with this disease. But now she can see past it. Her smile is bright again. Her life has returned. We continue on with weekly counseling sessions and daily medications. But the joy she once exuded is back.
The subject of childhood depression and thoughts of suicide are scary. No one wants to talk about them. If you are like me, you might assume that when a child mentions “killing themselves” you see it as a ploy to get attention. You aren’t wrong, but the attention they are seeking is real. They need us to take them seriously and to dig down to the heart of those words. Sometimes it could be an immature moment of thoughtless words, but other times it can mean that child is suffering inside and they just need someone’s hand to grasp onto from their world in drowning waters.
If you notice any of the signs of depression (linked here) or feel like you are in need of help for your child, the resources are there. We are blessed to live in a city equipped with amazing professionals right in our own back yard. Reach out to their school counselors, their teachers, your pediatrician. These are all wonderful places to start! Know, Mom, that you are not alone. Allow yourself grace. You did nothing wrong, and neither did your child. It is not too late to help them get their shine back!
Below are some resources that will help a parent walk the path of depression with their child, including tools to determine if the child is depressed or hosting feelings of sadness.
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, please talk to a professional.