As parents of our teen who suffers from depression and anxiety, we are constantly considering where our daughter is at emotionally and assessing and readjusting reasonable expectations for that day or that moment.
English: Butterfly, Vindula arsinoe. Français : Vindula arsinoe, un papillon. Português: Vindula arsinoe, uma borboleta. Русский: Бабочка, vindula arsinoe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Can we get her to go out with her parents, run an errand, or do homework? Can we expect her to get to school or attend an extended family gathering? We have learned more about how to move forward with the day’s scheduled events by feeling out how much energy she has and whether her energy feels positive, stagnant or completely negative.
In the past, it has been difficult to gage how depression or anxiety has taken it’s grip on Grace. As time goes on, we are able to read the underlying message based on her behavior and statements.
When we are getting dressed for say, a family event, Grace will begin to get ready and then suddenly refuse to go based on the lack of having an appropriate outfit or whether her “favorite” cousins will be at her Auntie’s house. This is her signal to us that she is probably anxious, nervous about seeing others.
“A neural circuit underlying risk for anxiety and depression related to variation in the serotonin transporter gene, characterized by multimodal imaging and connectivity analysis.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We have learned to slow down and let her express and then acknowledge her feelings by saying, “you seem anxious about whether you will have someone there for you.” We assure her that we are there for her and my dear husband and I continue getting ready knowing we have a challenge ahead wondering if we will all get out of the door. We ask ourselves, has she gotten herself into a major anxiety mode where she has frozen up or blow up? Did our words of assurance and noting her anxiety help her get it together? Success usually occurs when my husband and I are most calm and not freaking out about the fact we have to be somewhere in an hour.
When she slips into her room all alone on a Friday night to sit in front of her computer, we get that she is depressed and needs interaction and distraction. These nights turn into our Redbox nights. To our gal, she just feels tired and exhausted. She isolates herself from friends, barricades herself into her room and will sleep part of the night, watch YouTube or even worse – self injure. She has a difficult time saying, “Hey guys, I am depresssed.”
English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This was not always the case. In the past, my husband and I used get angry by what we thought was “silly.” You know the argument, “What do you mean you don’t have anything to wear???” To make matters worse, I’d usually say, “You have tons of clothes!” And in chimed my husband, “You just can’t find anything because those clothes are all over the floor and not hanging up in your closet like they should be!”
As parents, we added so much to this lovely argument rather than just sitting back and reading the back story of her behavior. This outcome of this direction usually left one parent at home with our daughter while the other family members show up and made excuses for those who bagged on the gathering.
Another way she present anxiety and depression is rage. We are talking full blown rage that occurs in the form of horrifying self injury, a teenage tantrum that can lead to wrecking a room.
Rage is usually brought on by several things. When we, her parents, discuss and lecture her at length about homework on an evening there was very little sleep the night before or very little food intake (depression can eliminate the feelings of hunger). Or when we get frustrated with a report card and begin to yell about her grades. Another is when I speak harshly about how she hasn’t cleaned up the mess she made in the kitchen. These are just a few antecedents that lead up to a rage session.
All of these interactions on our parental part, opens a very dangerous door-the door to a scary, ugly rage session. It’s so darn predictable. I begin to engage in negative talk . Rather than ACTING, I am REACTING. Duh! I say lovely things that leads to an argument which leads to a full-blown rage out.
This is when I wish there was a parental red light button-you know it would be this huge button that would begin to emit a flashing red light when the words a parent uses is way out of line and unproductive. This red button flashes when those irritated feelings begin to grow. Those feelings that engulf you when you walk into your bathroom looking at a dirty sink full of make up, dirty clothes and wet towels all of floor just after your teen used your bathroom for the 5th time that week. This parental button could be pushed and create a real-time pause. I’d push that red button when I felt the urge to react. I would remain on “pause” till that urge to react passed. I am not saying that I let my teen get away with this behavior. I am suggesting that I pause long enough so that I don’t react. I can feel until I am done and then I am able to act in a productive manner and get her stuff out of MY BATHROOM.
Have you ever been on a children’s psychiatric floor? There are those empty rooms where kids can go, where they can to cry, shout, sing, say anything, lay down-whatever it is they need and a grownup just stands there making certain the child is safe. This grownup says something now and then to reassure the child that they are safe and that the grown up is there for them. I wish I could do this-push that pause button and not take anything my teen spews at me personally, just like the professional who stands in the room or sits with the child who is in the middle of a tantrum.
Usually, its my interactions or statement that help move Grace into a rage episode. What I’d do to backtrack: I would stay calm and not take any of her words personally. I’d say all the right things like, “you are really angry now and I am going to just be here and let you have some time to feel your anger.” Or, “your feelings of anger are very strong, just feel them and I am going to just sit outside of your room.” Perhaps I’d try, “Those are some strong words, you must really hate me now.” Here is another statement, “You are full of rage because I really messed up and said some really hurtful things, I am sorry,” I would just let her talk and talk and then hopefully, some epiphany would hit me and I’d say something that she could hear and that deflated and redirected her energy. Her tantrums can go on for a while but it feels hours. When we get to that point, I have yet to find an effective way of redirecting these moments.
Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help alleviate anxiety , stress , and depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The key is not to get there, to be in control. Not really, you can’t control those feelings. The key is to feel those feelings, but not act on them, to be mindful, meditate and breathe through the wave and get into a better space. Right?
I am a parent of a challenging teen and remembering that I am the grown up is not always easy, is it?