Parenting Woes – Take #3763 – Teenage Depression

I made reference in a recent post to post-partum depression. I was surprised to see a lot of support for the discussion that ensued because I have never thought of the subject as something that should be hidden.

This time I’m going out further on a limb and discussing something much more personal and relevant: teenage depression.

During my own teenage years and via my girls, I’ve heard of a number of teenage girls who threatened suicide or attempted suicide.

I have never heard of a boy doing this (although I know they do) and I have never heard of a successful attempt (although I know this happens).

Now it’s happened in my family and the results could have been tragic.

I don’t have answers or great ideas on how to avoid it. In my case, I was unaware that feelings had become so strained and life so untenable.

To the best of my knowledge, the breakdown of the family has been the biggest contributor. Bickering between my daughters has been a factor. Me nagging the girls to complete chores and tidy up has been a factor. Feeling abandoned by friends — real or perceived — has been a factor.

What happened?

Well, there have been problems. THREE PROBLEMS.

Incident #1

The police knocked on the door one evening when most of my girls were asleep (or so I thought). “Can we speak to your daughter please?” they asked. “Which one?” I responded. I found out that my daughter had texted a good-bye note to a boy she thought was asleep. He saw it and showed his dad. Since his dad didn’t know me, the dad called 911. In this County, they take threats to hurt oneself seriously and were at my house within a few minutes.

No one was in trouble, they just wanted to make sure my daughter was OK. They do not ever want to visit a scene where a teenager is successful in a suicide attempt. They asked her if she was serious. She said yes, and so they said either I could take her for a psych evaluation or, if I refused, they would take her. Now. *sigh*

As you can imagine, the follow-up didn’t end until about 3am.

Incident #2

My daughter texted me after a minor argument. (We had a short discussion about where I might take her and her sisters for dinner and she stormed off. As I said, “minor”.) She said I needed to see her right now. She told me she had taken a bottle of pills. Oh no. I called the National Poison Center immediately.

Fortunately, it was not a lethal dose. But she had to be taken to the hospital immediately. She spent some days in the pediatric ICU (more details are here). As part of this, we found out that she had forgotten to take her medication for some days and this was the primary cause of her fragility.

Incident #3

This most recent incident is the one that has affected my ability to keep up with the blog over the last two weeks.

My daughter (a different one) tooks lots of pain pills before school and didn’t tell anyone, except for a Facebook message to a boy. He got the message when he came home from school and was very upset. Later in the evening, he decided to call the police. No one told me anything about it. Until the police arrived at the house while I was out at a Driver Education session with the daughter who took the pills. This was NOT the kind of phone call I wanted to get when out.

Fortunately, the kind of pills she took were not the ones to kill her. Or it would already have been too late.

The National Poison Center directed me to take her to the hospital (Note: [1] They followed up to make sure I took her, and [2] think of them and situations like this the next time they ask for a small donation). In the hospital, they discussed the details of the situation, including the fact she told no one at the time and wasn’t aware that she would survive. The hospital insisted that she be moved to a psych evaluation unit. They managed this at the speed of molasses. I missed an entire night of sleep only to discover that the unit was about 3 miles away and I could have taken her there myself in 10 minutes. Grrr.

She is still there and it’s over a week later. I have limited contact with her and expect/hope she will be home this weekend. But I do have to think about what to bring her, what to bring home and wash, the daily phone calls with the doctor, the meetings with the social worker, etc. I’m a little surprised I still have a job given all the time I’ve missed from work.

Something to note here is that, after the second incident, I bought a small safe and put all of the dangerous pills in it. I only gave the combination to one daughter. The one I trusted to be calm and serene. She was the one who took the pills.

The bottom line is that teens are sometimes much more fragile than we realize. I suspect there is an element of ‘copycat’ in the incidents in my own home, but cannot be certain. It is very hard to monitor everyone at once. I often find that I am worried about one daughter, only to discover that another is the one with the more worrying problem(s). Parenting is rarely fun, but eventually I expect it to be rewarding. We will have tales to tell one day. We will be stronger as a result of all this turmoil. We will have a history that no one can take from us.

Finally, a lot of my friends have worried about me and the emtional impact on me. I assure them and you that I have been through enough over the last 12 months that I take this in my stride. It’s time-consuming and I hardly want to have to deal with it, but it’s not the emotional whirlwind it might be. I’m tougher now than before. Not hardened, just tougher. I’m doing fine. But I could do with a vacation. France perhaps. Or California. Or Canada. There are friendly people in these places…

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About Single Dad

I married young. Now, after more than 20 years of marriage, 3 wonderful daughters, and many ups and downs, my wife has decided the marriage is over. The "About Me" and "My Background" pages on my blog have more details.
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20 Responses to Parenting Woes – Take #3763 – Teenage Depression

  1. Laura says:

    I hope your post helps more split up parents know they aren’t alone. My daughter took my break up hard. She was devastated really. She acted out and it has not been easy. It’s been heart breaking. Hanging in there and get them help. There’s so many conflicting emotions involved and we as parents do the best we can to navigate them. We can’t always catch everything. If it’s any consolation, my daughter is now relatively adjusted and I’ve learned to listen to her about everything. Even if it’s not something I want to hear. I just listen. That approach changed everything in our house and now sometimes she’s too open, but I’m standing firm on my tell me everything policy. I also restricted her computer use. She’s been much happier and more well adjusted since I did. I hope things get better. And you do need to take that vacation 🙂

  2. Anne says:

    SD, I am so sorry. Parenting teenagers, and girls, is tough. It sometimes feels like it takes an entire detective unit to understand what is going on, perhaps becasue it is always changing before I can feel caught up. It sounds like you are calmly following your best instincts, and trying to be available to do whatever it takes to parent your girls with love and wisdom. I think that chores and high expectations of responsibility is probably not as much of a factor as just being a teenager. So cut yourself some slack there! : ). We do have too much on our plates, and too little help and slim pickins for back-up when it hits the fan. You do deserve a wonderful vacation. And you will get it, but you are tough now, and can wait until it shows up. Hugs to you, and I hope you can maximize those 10- minute vacations in the meantime!!

  3. Off the Wall says:

    Oh SD……what trying times for you, i’m so sorry. Has you ex been of any help with this, or only part of the problem?

  4. Caroline says:

    SD I am so sorry for you. I hope your daughters get the help they need. And come through this pain.

  5. 1smiles says:

    It took great courage on your part to post about these difficult things happening within your family. I commend you. Know that your experience will help other parents consider their own teenagers well-being. I’m glad you’re doing well.

  6. I am so sorry to hear about all this. I did it when I was young for petty reasons and it was just a bottle of aspirin so I was just fine. My sort of sister in law tried for real and was institutionalized for a while; she is a very troubled girl though. It really shook up the family. I think keeping them engaged and busy might help. I think I focused too much on failing peer relationships and boys. I had a lot of alone time and I think that didn’t help matters.
    I had a friend who’s son had these type of problems. Our company had an extended medical leave program where she could on any given day take the day off to care for her son without penalty for a certain time frame; in her case, I think it was a full year.
    You sound very level headed and strong. That should be just the back up they need. I hope you are able to have a vacation, you surely deserve it.

  7. SD – you have had so much going on and my heart goes out to you. I’m sorry. I am so glad the girls are getting the professional help they so desperately need to heal and find the tools to get through this horrible time of transition. So thankful for the follow-through that took place with the friends and the poison control center.
    You’ll get through this I know but it still doesn’t make it any more tolerable. Know how many people are thinking about you and wishing you the strength to push through this oh so very bumpy patch.
    Big hugs –

  8. Kelly says:

    Thinking of you and your girls.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I am certain it was difficult to write. You are strong and that is what your daughters (all of them) need. ~P.

  10. mysterycoach says:

    Oh my goodness… I only saw this post today. I’m sorry for what you are all goign through but I’m very glad the girls are going to be getting the help they need. I’ll lite a candle for you all…

    And, if I may… where is their mother throughout all of this anyway? I’ve asked you this question other times when you’ve talked about a busy schedule and everything and I’ve asked if she helps out and things. However… where is she? Is she helping? is she talking to the girls? Is she MIA … what is she doing…

  11. DFB says:

    SD, my heart is tight over this. I’m a teacher of teenagers and I worry all the time about the girls I see– especially the girls who seem to have it all together. They often come to me when they feel like they can’t open up at home, and many times I am surprised to find their homes to be stable, loving and incredibly supportive. The female brain is strange (have you read the book The Female Brain?). It sounds like you are incredibly equipped to handle your girls and all the woes they bring, but I would suggest that there are lots of people who are willing to assist (though not sure if your ex is one of them). I’m biased, but the first thing I suggest to my teenage girls is to write it out. As we all know, there is catharsis in writing (and community, too).

  12. backonmyown says:

    Oh, SD, what hell you’ve been through lately. I agree with DFB about encouraging them to write it out. If they don’t want anyone to read it they can destroy it. It’s the writing process that is cathartic. Back when I was teaching teenagers I, like DFB, used to encourage them to write.

    I hope life for you and the girls smooths out soon.

  13. Writing, Art, even screaming at the walls. All ways to let this out. Accompanied by understanding and the love I’m sure you show them
    It’s a tough road…I never had to deal with my children doing this. I can’t imagine the strain and stress for you. Keep strong .
    My heart goes out to you and your family.

  14. My Heart and Thoughts are with you. I’ve thought about you all day and how you must be feeling. Don’t forget you need someone to talk about this to.
    xxx

  15. Lady E says:

    I hope Brigitte feels better when she gets home, I have been thinking about you loads, and you know you are welcome to France anytime 🙂 xx

  16. TikkTok says:

    OH SEAN!!! I cannot imagine!! My three girls butt heads all the time; I am NOT looking forward to the next several years where they are all teenagers (although, by the time the youngest hits 13, the oldest dd will be 19 and may not be at home).

    Where is the runaway wife/mother in all of this? You are without a doubt getting the royally short end of the stick…………{{{{{hugs}}}}}}

  17. I nominated you for a Candle Lighter Award.More info here:

    http://abandonedbarns.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/349/

    Thank you for your contributions to our community.

  18. Robin says:

    You really have had a time of it – and I really do understand, since I’ve been on both sides of the picture – child and parent. Most people would call my parents marriage of 52 years a success, but it was actually an emotional train wreck for most of my childhood, and I got to the planning stage at least twice – once in junior high and once in high school – I just couldn’t take the emotional intensity without knowing what was going on. What saved me – I think – is that I spent every summer with my grandparents 2,000 miles away. It gave me a chance to decompress and relax so that I could face it again.

    On the other hand, my daughter was diagnosed with chronic depression and has been on medicine since she was 16. Her depression is not related to life, it is just a part of who she is, and she actually diagnosed herself – she had an amazing boyfriend who adored her, happily married parents who adored her, was doing well in school without feeling pressure, had great friends, and still wanted to cry all of the time. As long as she takes her medicine, she is fine, although she does feel life’s bangs and bruises with more intensity, although with less drama, than many of her friends and the literally hundreds of teenagers I have taught in the last 20 years. She swears that she has never once considered suicide, and I believe her, but it is a serious concern for me. Her anti-depressant was new when she first started taking it, and she too was passing out randomly and ended up in the emergency room with a concussion because she hit her head when she fell in the shower. She also ended up having all sort of cardiac tests – all normal. It turns out that the medicine she is taking causes dehydration and low blood pressure – especially if she stands suddenly and attempts to rush off. Life is a constant medical adventure with her, and I like you, try to just accept and roll with it – having just returned from the city 3 hours away where she moved in August because she was having emergency surgery to deal with several ovarian cysts….

    One of the things no one has mentioned in response to the horrible situation you have been dealing with – or actually in any of the blogs dealing with divorce, infidelity, separation, etc. – is that our children – whether they are 5 or 20, and no matter what they say or how much they yell and externalize – almost always feel inside like they are somehow to blame for the dissolution of their parents’ marriage…if only I hadn’t argued so much, been so messy, been a better student, won more awards, cleaned my room, helped my sister, spent more time with mom, hugged dad more often….it is too much for them to bear, and then the search for someone to blame so they don’t feel so much pain starts – mom is just selfish and hateful, if only dad had been nicer or didn’t work so much or…, if my older brother wasn’t in trouble all of the time, if my little sister would quit making a fuss all of the time….They need answers in the same way that we do, but they have even less information to go on, especially if the parents are engaged in a conspiracy of silence “to protect them.” I don’t know how open you and your wife have been with your girls, but I will say, as Pat and DFB have said, that after having students journal in high school English class – knowing that I would be reading their words – the pain that they suffer and do not know how to share is immense. They need to understand why their world has fallen apart, and teenagers especially want things in clear cut black and white, even if they see their own behavior is shades of gray…and purple, pink, and blue. They have a desperate need to know why, and to be reassured that none of the disaster is their fault, that someone will take care of them and protect them, that they aren’t unworthy and hideously unlovable.

    One of the worst moments of my professional life was during a conference on a Monday afternoon with a mom to discuss her 12 year old son’s appalling behavior in class, when she quietly told me that she and her husband had separated 4 months before, her X had made no attempt to see his son, and then had finally arranged to have him for the weekend just past – and that the boy had spent the entire weekend sitting in the window near the front door waiting for the dad who never showed up or called….I actually cried in the middle of the conference….That year was the worst of my teaching life because I just was not able to keep a professional distance – high school kids and college kids I can counsel and advise, refer, lecture, or let cry….but 12 year olds just called to the mom in me. It did, however, give me a much clearer look into the minds of kids and what they suffer because at 12 they have not constructed the shell that most teens have. Journaling definitely lets some of that emotion out, in the same way that blogging helps us. Don’t you think that Amelie is not so much trying to betray your trust as she is desperately trying to make sense of her world?
    Sorry this is so long – I have been mulling what to try and say sine I read the end of blog post and then the Parenting Woe just added layer on layer.
    I really hope everyone has settled down and is getting help sorting and feeling back in sync!

    • Robin,
      I owed everyone a reply to their comments. Yours in particular deserved a reply. Please know that I read and absorbed everything you said, even though I didn’t respond here on the blog.
      Best regards, SD

  19. Pingback: Parenting Woes – Take #4092 | Four is a Family

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