Guest Post By: Jeff Wood
If you have been following my blog you know my oldest daughter is 18 years old now and battles depression and anxiety.
Now things had really started to get better, the anger was lower, she was helping out without being asked and the biggest thing was that she was talking! Communication has always been her downfall and to see her opening up again was truly amazing. I had my little girl back, her brother and sister had the person they looked up to most, big sis, back! Things were great in our house.
Now you would think reading all that, things are still perfect. Ohhh man I wish they were, but anyone who has lived themselves or with someone else battling mental health sometimes it raises its ugly head and BOOM! right back down we go.
2 weeks ago I started seeing her behavior start to change. The first thing to go was the talking. Home from university and right downstairs, hide in her room for hours only coming up to play video games or for food. Ask about her day and you get one word answers like fine. No more talking about what she is doing or where she is going.
Big red flag for me and now I know something is wrong. Next comes the anger! Getting mad at anything said to her. The worst part is she gets stuck in her own head once talking stops and goes right to worse case scenarios, then reacts based on them even when it’s not reality. Now with this, anytime something is said to her the anger flares, and our house can become very volatile.
The whole time this is happening I try to talk to her. The first stage, not talking, gets me one word answers, the second, anger, gets me screamed at. I’m not talking your typical teen moodiness, I’m talking “Can you not right now, I’m not going to be all roses when you are the reason I’m angry!”, “It’s your fault that I’m mad, stop trying to talk to me, just leave me alone already!” all with blood curdling screams.
I have been told over the years she wishes I was never in her life, that I’m a horrible dad, I made her this way, I wish I wasn’t here, You think I’m a 2-year-old when I’m an adult – the list goes on and on. To be honest I remember saying the exact same things to my mom when I was fighting my own mind.
Believe me I don’t blame her for lashing out like this but I am so tired now emotionally from it. For almost 4 years now I have dealt with my daughters bad days and it takes a huge tole on me. I question whether I am a good dad, am I making the right choices, will my daughter turn out ok in life because she hates me so much – even though I know she loves me.
Her younger brother and sister have to sit through the meltdowns, hearing her sister scream from her room horrible things about dad. It has taken a toll on them as well and as their dad I feel horrible. They know why it’s happening, I have had those talks with them but to be honest I’m not sure they fully understand. My daughter never lashes out at her brother and sister no matter how low she gets and for that she is very strong. One day maybe she will talk with them to explain in her own words how she feels – when the time is right and they are old enough to fully understand.
The hard part of mental illness is during the low points, you don’t think clear and instead of pulling yourself up, you drag others down by any means possible. It’s hard to watch your child suffer with their own mind, you feel helpless and lost. Watching your other kids see and deal with it hurts. You feel as though you should just give up and walk away. On the really low days, Hell seems like a vacation compared to what happening. I would be lying if I didn’t say these are thoughts I have struggled with from time to time.
But here’s the thing for me, I WILL NEVER GIVE UP! I will take everything she throws at me, good and bad. I will be her punching bag always if it helps her deal with whats bugging her. I will be there to help whenever needed. I will also be the one who brings her off the ledge so to speak – by allowing her to scream, put me down, even hit me if it’s ever needed untill she is ready to open up. I love my daughter more than life itself! She will always be my first child, daddy’s little girl and a huge important part of my life.
After long talks over the weekend, the problems she was dealing with on her own came out. I will have a post soon about why. Things have calmed down and I hope will last for a while again. I was put through the ringer again, but it is worth it if only to allow her some mental peace. Sometimes as a dad, you need to same your child from themselves not just the world around them.
Now to work with her on more coping techniques, communication skills and to help were needed with these and any other problems she faces. Communication is key and the hardest lesson yet.
Parents, know your kids – and well. You never know when that knowledge will come in handy, but if it does you will be glad you paid attention.