Luckily, I’m one of those people who has no problem giving others a behind-the-scenes look at my life with depression and anxiety. In fact, I get a kick out of revealing how it all started. There’s no doubt that I had it in my genes long before, but this one life-changing event triggered it. My grandmother, father, and all three of my brothers live/lived with it as well. We all handled it differently. Some with unconventional means and some with the proper channels of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes to promote healthy living. Either way, we’ve all survived. Grandma lived a long, happy life and we have fond memories of her sense of humor, generosity, love, and yummy midnight snacks.
For me, it started in the fall of 1986. I was just starting my second year of college at age 19. Sure, I considered myself an adult, but I was soon to find out that I was still just a teenager with a strong connection to my parents. I was in the “cool” dorm bunking with two friends. Over the summer, I had started dating a Marine, in a long-distance relationship. (Bad idea.) I was ready for an amazing year.
My parents called with the bombshell.
They were moving from my childhood home in Virginia (90 miles from college) to Newport Beach, California (about 3000 miles). And here’s the kicker…they assumed I would just move with them. In hindsight, maybe I should have. But, no. I was a mature young adult. I was in college. I had friends. I was deciding on my major. I was having a great time. And, of course, I had a boyfriend. After many arguments, they let me stay. And they bought me a car.
And that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.
Almost immediately, the depression and anxiety set in. I found myself crying all the time and a lot of mornings, unable to get out of bed. And guess who I called. My parents. Rightfully so, they had one answer…move to California. I still wouldn’t do it. I was determined to ride this out on my own. So, I did that. With lots of drinking and partying. Somehow I managed to get to class and dance rehearsals. I don’t really know how. I’m sure my dance program was a good outlet for the way I was feeling. Once again, in hindsight, I should have gone to California, or I should have tackled the problems I was having using mental health services, but back then the facilities wouldn’t have been as knowledgeable or helpful as modern-day services like Honey Lake Clinic as an example…
And what the heck was I feeling anyway? Sad? Angry? Abandoned? Caught off guard? Treated unfairly? To this day, I really don’t know that I can give a label to what I was feeling. It was a physical and emotional attack that came without warning. I believe it was living inside me and had a damn good reason to surface.
The story continues with moves, transfers, break-ups, tons of phone calls, a couple visits to California, psychiatrists, moving in with my sister, more drinking, more partying, more bad relationships, a failed marriage, etc, etc, etc, until the day I had a full-blown panic attack and finally, finally, took this thing seriously and started to turn my life around.
That was in 2001. Fourteen years. I suffered. Just because I was stubborn.
The one saving grace that surely helped me through all of this was the communication with my parents. Yes, we disagreed. Yes, I made decisions that made them cringe. Yes, they wanted grab me up and take me under their care. But they let me find my own way without judgment and with an open line of communication.
An article from Palmer Lake Recovery, Parents Guide: How To Help Your Teen Cope With Mental Health Issues, is an excellent resource. It discusses statistics, warning signs, causes, how to help, and useful resources.
Some ideas from the article that my parents handled well:
“A good starting point for you as a parent is to have a conversation with your teen in a constructive way that is non-confrontational and is focused on offering them the love and support that they may well need more than ever.”
“Your teen needs the sort of parental support that lets them know they are not facing their struggles alone and that you are there to support them through this difficult time. It is equally important that parents also have a support network they can call upon.”