A Daughter’s Joyful Smile
Picture this. You are in your house performing your daily routine, in this case for me it was prepping to write a final exam, when your child’s school calls. It is the guidance counselor and she wants you to know that your child just verbalized having a suicide plan. What do you do? I would like to tell you what I did. I stumbled on my words. I felt my heart sink. My spirit felt guilty for not knowing just how bad the bullying at my daughter’s school had gotten. I went and picked up my daughter. Our journey began that day and it was not a path I ever wanted to see my daughter go down. Really, do any of us want to see our children struggle with a mental health issue. In my daughter’s case her depression was brought on by anxiety from the terrible bullying that was taking place at her school. Today I am dedicating this post not only to my daughter, but to a band her and I both love called Fall Out Boy. The reason for this dedication will be understood as you continue to read.
I am a mom who has a child diagnosed with anxiety disorder, which has led to periods of depression. All of this was induced by bullying that she went through at her middle school. You see my daughter is what some may call an “inbetweener”. She is not a popular kid, a sportsy kid, or super intellect. In school she gets good grades and travels along each day. Some may call her the artsy kid. She loves drawing, anime, comics, and listening to Japanese music. We knew that she had been struggling at school due to bullying. The incidents were being reported by her and us to the staff and we assumed things were improving. Why did we assume? I am a survivor myself of major depression and PTSD from my teenage years. There is a part of me still that feels I should have known when she was silent that she was not telling us everything and things were not improving. I was once that silent teen that was struggling inside and when I was silent that is when things were at the worst point for me.
I wish I could perform a Vulcan mind meld, sorry I am a Star Trek fan, on people to help them understand what I felt that day and the months that have followed. It was a few weeks before Christmas last year when this journey began for us. I did not want my daughter to go through the struggles I did for so many years with depression. Yes, I understand I survived the grasp it had on me. However, the years of darkness and stigma that surrounded me I did not want for my daughter. I felt extreme guilt. Did she get my genetic gift of being vulnerable to something like depression? Why did I not see how bad she was really feeling? I am a registered nurse and someone who has been in shoes similar to my daughters. Maybe I should have known. For months I have watched as my daughter’s spirit was battered by anxiety and depression. I saw her smile disappear and her voice get taken away. Every month I have attended therapy sessions with her or taken her to her psychiatrist in hopes of finding just the right medication and words to keep her moving forward. My spirit has also been full of anger, which is an emotion I am not proud of. Why did I have to fight so hard to have my daughter’s voice heard at her school? Why was there no discipline being passed on to those who hurt her? Do these bully’s parents even know what their children are doing? Do they care?
I hurt for my daughter. I wanted to be able to hug her and have everything magically disappear. However, I knew rationally there is no such magic. So I made it a point to be very honest with her and talk every day. I fought for her to help her have a voice at her school. Slowly, things began changing.
That day many months ago when the school called I wondered when I might see my daughter’s pure smile of joy again. Well, last night thanks to a group of four talented men called Fall Out Boy I was able to see it. It was bright and beautiful, which led to me crying happy tears. Transparency is so important. It is one reason I write for Bring Change 2 Mind. We listened last night as Pete Wentz told the crowd that outsiders are important. Here is a question: are those who struggle with mental health disorders (or who have struggled with them) outsiders? A majority of the world may say that they are because stigma is so prevalent around the topic. I looked at my daughter last night though and told her we are the most amazing outsiders there are, the survivors and the fighters of mental health disorders. We can lend a voice to the world and vast perspectives. Together we can open doors and we will!!