Teenage depression, hope, and resources for suicidal ideation


Before I go in to a long winded update, here are a few things to know immediately:

For parents: Call 9-1-1 if your teen has a plan for suicide and has a willingness to follow through and will not go with you to the ER. Do not be ashamed. None of the staff will fault you for this, in fact, they will hug you. It's ok. You're not alone. They're not alone. Ok? Ok. Now, I can let you know how our experience is, so long as everyone is safe. 

-------- Update from this post and all your wonderful replies. One week later. --------

Reaching out to The Internet can be a mixed bag. Sometimes you get coal and sometimes you get Ice Cream Sundaes with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Y’all provided some amazing ice cream when we most needed it. I can’t say thank you enough.

It is now, a week after hospitalization, that I can finally update without deleting everything in ten minute increments as things change. 

I took her to the ER as instructed by her doctor. We spent 9 hours there as the various staff visited and examined her and discussed issues and what to expect. I could write a whole post on this experience, since we went without any idea of what to expect, but I also can encourage you to read https://childmind.org/article/taking-a-child-to-the-emergency-room/. (Thank you Maggie for sending this resource when we needed it most.)

Having already started an antidepressant the day before, and without a hospital bed available, they allowed us to bring her home if we felt we could keep her “safe.” Safe is the new word of the hour. There are hard lines we’ve had to draw as parents of a teen who is contemplating, openly, ending her life. Those lines are non-negotiable and in the event she is not safe, we bring her to the ER without question and without conversation. So far this hasn’t become an issue, and here’s what happened and why we’re doing “OK” for today.

The person at Children’s hospital that was the most effective was the one we saw after 8 hours of waiting, evaluations, and waiting some more. It was worth all the waiting, though, because even at 9:30 at night, my reluctant and sometimes stubborn daughter opened up to this mental health professional and showed lightness and humor. We discussed the ways she was feeling, how she got there, WHY she got there, genetics and depression and taking care of our bodies and our souls. We came up with a plan we could agree on which looked something like this:

  1. Mom And Dad will agree to give LB space when she feels overwhelmed so long as LB can verbally reply within 10 seconds of a knock on the door. If no response, parents have permission to open door and visually check that LB is safe. 
  2. Mom and Dad have permission to open door every 15 minutes to ensure the safety of one daughter, regardless of verbal queues. This is agreed by all parties.
  3. Mom and Dad will communicate with teachers and school staff to let them know about the stress LB is under. We will come up with a plan together to elevate stress and find a way to be successful in school. 
  4. Mom and Dad will read the overwhelm queues (as noted, but not listed in this post, your student / child will have his / her own) and respectfully pause to allow space for the Big Feelings. We can then evaluate what the next action should be. (Options include taking a break from The Activity causing stress, letting LB go dance in her room or listen to music, allowing her to draw, removing everyone from the Situation, yelling with mom in whatever area makes the most sense, and others TBD.)

Here’s the important thing about all of this information: Have an understanding you AND YOUR CHILD are ok with. It might take a professional to ease the tension if you are the one causing the stress. Also? It is OK if it’s you. Don’t beat yourself up over that. Remember the bigger picture: These kids, even your child, are supposed to be questioning their authorities and fighting against what they’ve always known. It’s a dance that nobody is ready for but everyone has to go through. And it’s OK. As long as you are willing to understand this, your judgements of their feelings fall away and THAT, ALONE, is enough to let them fight safely in the context of being a teenager. It means you have their back, not stabbing them in it. It means you grasp the Big Picture and that makes you the Bigger Person and all they really need right now is the Big Person to get it a little bit, and they will dance with you if you keep that in mind. I promise.

Since the horrible day I found the suicide notes and since the informative, albeit long and exhausting, ER visit, I can now report the following:

  1. Talk. Too many people are experiencing this right now and nobody is talking about it. Or some brave people are talking about it but it’s still something we, as a society, refuse to openly address. This has to end. Now.
  2. Go Day By Day. LB is herself again. I’m no fool, though. She is herself in the new parameters we’ve allowed her to be in, we’re isolating her from the Stress in an effort to allow her some time to heal before she has to deal with those triggers again. It’s not a forever solution. She can’t avoid school or work all the time, but this week has been a godsend and a message of hope to see our beautiful daughter wrestle with her brother, wake up with happy eyes, and be the talkative creative spirit we’ve always known. But please, as friends and family, don’t see that we post her “being ok” and say, “So she’s fine now?” She’s fine RIGHT NOW but that’s not the end of this. We will be talking about this for years to come. She might have a lifetime of conversations to have. Depression isn’t “cured” the next day. It’s not cured in a month or a year.
    It’s sort of like the Justin Bieber song that gets stuck in your head and you have to try to address and knock it down and just when you think you have it under control, something will queue it back up and you’ll find yourself singing "Is it too late" again. (For the record, YES, JUSTIN, IT IS TOO LATE.) This is a little glib but for those who don’t deal with depression or mental health issues, there’s no real way to grasp how this is an ongoing, forever, sort of process. 
  3. Be Patient. Dear friends and family, no, we’re not always ok. Let’s not ask the questions you don’t want to hear answers to. Close friends who ask if we're ok might get an earful. Or might get a brief synopsis but not the whole story because we might be in the middle of dealing with The Not Ok. When we can answer, we will. Ask so we know it's ok to reach out and then let us deal with All The Not OK without answering and explaining everything until we're in a place that we can. It's not you, it's us. It's right now. It's just difficult at this minute and we can fill you in soon. And by asking, we know you're there if we need you ASAP without context. Be ready, it might happen.
  4. Ask The Questions You Need Answers To, Let The Others Go. I constantly ask my teen too many questions but back off the minute overwhelm shows up. I don’t avoid asking if she feels safe today. I ask difficult things; are you ok? Do you feel safe with yourself? Is there something you’re not looking forward to? How can we address this? She hates answering these questions but it was part of our plan that if she can work in a stress-free environment this week, (missing the SBAC tests, which is another discussion altogether and a huge driver in this entire thing) she promised to answer all the questions she could. So I ask and she replies until she’s done replying and I respectfully stop asking. So far that’s working well. I even got a classic, “MOOOMMM” which meant my daughter is there, MY daughter, being LB and age appropriate. I smiled at this. She didn't get it.
  5. Be Prepared. Her Dad and I both have the numbers to the crisis center on our phone as well as the ER line for Mental Health. Do this. Now. When you need this information, it’s not the time to fumble around with anything. I have this on my “favorites” (ironically) so it’s on my main screen so I can call the minute I need it. 
  6. Be Forgiving. To you, your child, your partner(s). This is ok. Don’t panic. You got this. You can freak your shit out as needed, by god, yes, do (I have). But know that you got this, your child has this, you can do this and you will make it, and your child will make it, and the more you show up now, the less likely you are to miss out on anything in their lives. And yes, they will have long, wonderful, gloriously honest lives, because you showed up so freakin’ much right now. This is what we are called as parents to do. Not the potty training (although, good job on that!) or the kindergarten school project, or that damn science club experiment. This is the hard work of being a parent. This is the hard work of being human. This is the real shit where it all hits the road. Grab the keys. You’re driving this show and your teen child is watching you and begging you to take the wheel. You can do this together. I promise. 

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