Suicide is something people just don’t often talk about. I think people are scared to speak on this matter, but it’s a subject that needs to be discussed to help people who are struggling. A parent’s job is to nurture and provide for their child even through difficult situations. I’m so happy today’s guest-blogger was able to love and help her daughter during a trying time. It’s my hope her words will bring awareness and encourage you to help someone if called upon.
September is Suicide Awareness Month. And I wanted to share my family’s story and a few of the lessons I learned when my child tried to kill herself.
Our story started when my youngest daughter was in middle school. Actually, knowing what I do now, her depression and anxiety probably started at a much earlier age. When she was in the 6th grade a school counselor called and told me my daughter was talking about killing herself. I thought my daughter was just being a teenager, not wanting to hang out with us and playing video games in her room. But I later learned, she was really isolating herself.
When I took my daughter for a behavioral health assessment, I was asked to leave the room while my daughter talked with the counselor. I am not sure what I expected, but when I went back into the room, the counselor’s words hit me like a punch to the gut. She told me my daughter had a plan to kill herself and I needed to get all the medication out of my home. I went home numb. The next day, the counselor called and apologized for her bluntness. But looking back, I needed that. I needed to understand my daughter was serious and my husband and I had to do everything we could to make her want to live.
It was recommended she see a psychiatrist for medication and here is where I learned my first hard lesson. There are so many drugs for mental health. Some may actually have side effects that cause the same symptoms you are trying to stop – like suicidal thoughts. There was one drug my daughter was on that caused her to gain so much weight and she was outgrowing clothes faster than I could buy them. When I mentioned it to her psychiatrist, he immediately said it was the medicine she was on. He took her off that medication, while I was relieved she was off that medication, I was mad at myself. I was mad I did not research the medicine and know the side effects.
I pushed myself to never stop talking to her. I wanted to keep the lines of communication open. Even if it meant I had to ask her the hard questions about what she was feeling or if she wanted to hurt herself. A lot of times she told me she did not want to talk about it with me. So, we came to an agreement that if she didn’t talk to me, she would talk to someone about it. At first, it hurt that I wasn’t the person she wanted to talk too. I later found out during one of her therapy sessions that she didn’t want to share with me because she did not want to make me cry.
She was so worried about what she was doing to us and how she was making us feel. She felt she was a burden to us. This is why I get defensive when people say suicide is selfish. Obviously, I am not a mental health professional, but to me, she was always worried about her father, her sister and me.
My daughter did try to kill herself. She woke me up in the middle of the night and told me she took a handful of pills. Thankfully, she survived after a night in ICU.
After she was sent home from the hospital, a coworker asked how I was doing. She did not know what happened. I told her what I was going through. She literally backed out of the room. She never asked how my daughter was and she stopped talking to me for months. This is when I decided I needed to talk about my daughter’s story and mental health in general. I don’t want another child or family to go through what we did. We didn’t recognize the signs in my daughter.
No one talked about mental health when I was growing up. Suicide was a word that was whispered. Those with depression were told to shake it off. When I was in the first grade, I went through all kinds of hospital tests because I was sick every morning before school. Doctors tried to figure out why. They finally told my parents it was “nerves” and there was nothing they could do. I now know it was anxiety and what I needed was a therapist to teach me how to cope with the anxiety.
My daughter is about to turn 25. She is doing so much better now. She recently bought a house. I used to worry she would never be able to live on her own. If she could not make it through an entire school day, how was she going to handle a job? But she does it now. She still has setbacks once in a while, but the difference now is she knows when to ask for help.
I learned so much about my daughter, myself and mental health, especially when we went through her hurting herself. But the biggest lesson for me was keep on talking. Keep talking to her about her feelings and keep talking about it with others. Hopefully someday, this will help get rid of that stigma.