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.
Well, there have been problems. THREE PROBLEMS.
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.
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.
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:  They followed up to make sure I took her, and  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…