Guest Post By: Jeff Wood
As a father, all I want to do is help my kids through life to make it as fun and easy as possible. But like with ourselves sometimes life throws your child a curveball.
My oldest daughter had quite a curveball thrown at her about 3 years ago. She ended up with depression. On top of that she has high anxiety. Now as a father this kills me every day. I want nothing more than to take the pain away and fix the problem but I am rendered helpless in all ways other than just being there for her.
3 years we had noticed slight changes in her behavior. Passed a lot of it off as its her being a teen. Her school marks started to drop a bit, again she is just being a teen.
Then she started dating. Quite a big step for a teen girl at the end of her grade 9 school year. Things were good at first then I noticed this boy was very controlling. I told my daughter what I thought and said keep your eyes open for red flags. That’s when the anger hit us. The over reacting over everything. The pulling away from friends and family. My wife and I sat up many nights talking about what was happening to our girl. Then BAM! The first break up. We knew this would be hard as it was for us too back in our teen years. But what we saw was something else. It was straight down. Crying and lashing out. Not leaving her room. School tanking big time.
My wife picked up on little things faster than I did which she is great with. I tend to let my emotions lead which makes me miss the little things. In talking with my wife and with my experience going through depression myself, it was time to go to the doctor.
We took her in and sure enough depression had a hold of her. Now recovery begins. She started taking anti depressants. Things slowly started getting better but until she had the right dose there was still rocky times. We had a few run aways, lots of screaming matches, and her becoming down thinking she was crazy.
Now let me tell you one thing, when your child runs away from you in a Costco parking lot, life sort of stops. I called my wife crying knowing I had just gave her crap for anger before I went into the store. This was my fault. I’m never going to see her again. The things that went through my head were endless. It took awhile but I found her. She told me things were just too much and she felt she needed to run. I don’t blame her at all. Depression is one of the hardest things a person can go through. Your head is foggy. Nothing seems right and you feel like you are not wanted.
After this day a breakthrough happened. She started opening up to dad. Now I was shocked it was me but quite happy she was talking. Things were worse than we ever thought. Many days were spent listening and trying to give advise.
I had lots of talks with her about my own experiences dealing with depression. I feel it brought us a little closer even though we still have our moments now. At the very least it showed her she isn’t alone. This effects many people and I showed this to her through groups and even on twitter. Blog reading helped a lot as well.
Fast forward 3 years. Depression really isn’t a factor any more. There still are down days but a lot of those are due to her anxiety and not the depression.
Now anxiety is a whole other story. Anxiety runs her life. I have been talking and working with her for a long time on this but like everything unless you want it to end it never will. She is a very strong independent young lady. She knows the signs of her anxiety and a lot of her triggers but having to admit a way of thinking is wrong, like most teens, is her downfall. She feels like if she admits she is wrong she has failed and for her failing isn’t an option.
Que in test anxiety. School time brings a lot of volatile nights due to a big test coming up. She studies hard then gets completely focused on the fact she might fail and can’t sleep let alone function. The anger that come from this is huge. I try talking and getting her to cope but it is a slow process.
With life for her anxiety runs it by her way of thinking the worst is always going to happen and a lot of focus on the past without looking to the future.
Now for me I’m an A to B thinker. That’s it. I’m here and need to be there. For her to get from A to B usually hits C,D, and ends up on E. All 3 aren’t there but she seems to make them possibilities and completely misses out on where she needs to go. This is very hard to deal with as a parent.
For example. I want to go out this weekend with friends. For me it would be ok call them make plans and go. For her it’s I want this, they are probably working, no point on calling, anger because I’m doing nothing.
Now coping with depression, anxiety, and anger all go hand in hand. I have talks with her about staying out of your own head. Don’t answer for anybody in your head, ask them and wait. Keep looking forward and not in the past. Be your life’s tour guide not it’s road block. Your parents are here to help not hurt but anger and bad behavior will always have consequences weather here at home or out in the world. But the biggest one is you have to admit fault. When you admit you were wrong you don’t need to lie anymore. You can learn from it instead of hurt. It’s not a bad thing, we all make mistakes, lord knows I have made tons but it’s how we learn from them that’s important.
Also if you feel anger taking over, breath. Deep breaths help. Say I need a minute and take a break to recoup. Take time for yourself to relax. Anger brings on words we can never take back. It can ruin a lot of relationships.
The hard part is everything goes hand in hand. Depression brings on anger. Anxiety leads to depression. Anger brings out both. It’s still a work in progress for me and my daughter but the way she have persevered is amazing.
We still have battles. We still fight but we have made huge strides forward. Dad is learning too. Things not to say or do to trigger her. I am changing myself as much as she is. I am very proud of the woman she has become. The hardest part is implementing coping techniques into every day life. I know this first hand as I have been there myself. She has made me a better dad once again through a very bad and dark time for her. She is almost there and I couldn’t be happier. I understand first hand what she is going through and don’t fault her for this at all. I still give her crap for anger, don’t get me wrong, but I also explain coping skills with it.
The future is very bright for my daughter and once the coping kicks in she will truly be free to enjoy life’s vast experiences.
I love my daughter with all my heart and would love to take the pain upon my self. She has done more for me in life than she will ever know. One day we will look back on this and laugh about butting heads.
If you yourself have suffered or have kids that do, know you aren’t alone. My daughter is and I have been through this. Please share your experience or just comment to show support for my girl. If you know coping skills that have worked for you, we are all ears.
Thank you for reading.