Here’s the scoop on mental health problems…they suck. I think we’re now prepared to share some of our experience with mental health challenges and suicidal ideation, but be warned. It’s hard and sad and awful.
I am bringing it to my blog, because September is Suicide Prevention Month. We are a few weeks into the month, and I’m only know mentioning it, and I hate that. I wish I had started sooner.
I’ve had to think it through, though, and frankly, man up. It’s hard to discuss. And I wanted to talk to Brady about sharing to be sure it was ok with her. I decided I was ready, and she said “Yes! Tell it all!”, so here we are.
The goal is to bring awareness in a meaningful way. Of course, you’re aware that suicide exists, but you might not be aware of how suicidal ideation starts, that it can happen seemingly out of the blue with no trauma or underlying trigger, and how it affects a family from an inside perspective.
And, naturally, we hope we save a life. We hope we help a mother navigate the horror that is a child with suicidal thoughts. We hope we help grandparents who may not understand. We hope we can help a child who might be struggling to be heard and helped.
Again, be warned that this is a terrible, gut-wrenching topic. It’s even harder to hear if you love us and our Brady. If you will be disturbed or triggered by reading our story, just skip these posts. You’re probably already thinking, “Wait, what?” and didn’t even know we had suffered through this. Yeah, well, we put on our good faces best we could and pushed through. That’s material for a future post for sure.
Rest assured, though, that so far, our lives have continued. Some families do not have that luxury and will forever deal with loss and grief. Their stories have a tragic end. We recognize that.
Let’s start sorting through our experience to date…
When she was 12, her 13th birthday approaching, my daughter was displaying some pretty noticeable OCD-looking behaviors. She touched the radio button after I touched it. She pushed the STOP button a number of times on her phone. She wanted a certain bowl. There were more.
At the time, what I knew about OCD fit in a thimble. I knew enough about OCD, though, to know that it presents itself a number of ways and will appear in behaviors that seem excessive and not normal. Don’t ask me how I knew even that much. I guess I read a lot.
Next, she began to tic. We were sitting at a restaurant, and she abruptly said “milk” and then a few minutes later “duck”. Nobody responded. When I asked her later if she realized what she said, she acknowledged saying it but couldn’t explain it. Then she started blinking.
The eye blinking came with other repetitive facial contortions. She winced and wrinkled up her face and grimaced over and over. I initially figured she had started something that would become an annoying teenager habit, but nope. She yelled at me for suggesting it and told me she couldn’t hold it back.
So as this continued to ramp up (and it did in a matter of only about 3 weeks!), several bouts of anxiety, and lots of tears, we got busy. She was extensively tested by a Neuropsychologist and diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, OCD, ADD – Inattentive, and a learning disorder called Dyscalculia. It explained so much. We took her to a Sleep Specialist, too, because (believe it or not) one’s sleep habits and breathing affect one’s mental health. He was the first to say “Tourettes”.
There we were…a laundry list of conditions AND Tourettes. We set about researching all that and trying to find solutions, and in the meantime, she got worse…lots worse. Come to find out, Tourettes is a package deal. It always comes with Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and some kind of learning disorder, and we would learn that THOSE little disorders are the baddies. Forget the tics.
OCD proved to be the toughest, and it dug itself in deep and fast. Despite what you think you know, OCD is NOT about extreme organization and germaphobia. It can be, but that’s not all. OCD brings about terrible intrusive thoughts, even hallucinations. It makes mountains the size of Everest out of little, tiny mole hills in one’s mind. It is hard to contain. It fools one’s brain into thinking irrationally, then feeds off that to form this vicious circle of fear, reaction, and doubt. It can usher in cutting and suicidal ideation. And it did.
I want to tell you about each piece. I want to shed light on hard-to-understand mental health concepts from the point of view of a mom who knew absolutely nothing about any of it but had to learn. I want to try to explain the gut-wrenching, mind twist that she went (goes) through, and that my husband and I went (go) through. I want people to lighten up and listen. I want to explain how it is unexplainable. I want to help at least one person dig deeper, question their child, and try harder.
More than anything, I want people to get off their freaking high horses and realize that mental health problems are not only REAL, but they are RAMPANT and go unnoticed, undiagnosed, dismissed, and just plain not taken seriously when it comes to kids. And that CAN NOT be.
Ride the wave with me, if you like. Learn with us. We want ZERO trophies, medals, or parades. We want ZERO pity parties. We just want to create awareness. Maybe our experience will help someone else.
And before we get too far into it, let me tell you that there is HOPE. If you catch this early, if you get busy, if your faith is unshakeable… there are a lot of if’s…there is hope.
Our precious girl walked the aisle at church 2 weeks ago to profess her faith in Jesus, and this Sunday, she will be Baptized. Her struggle continues, and yes, we still deal with suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and other really awful mental health struggles. But she’s so much better!
The important part of that is that WE DEAL WITH IT. She is alive, and she now WANTS to live. There is hope.
Ride the wave with us, if you can, and share. Reach out to someone. Help. Pray. Seek to understand. Learn. That’s what Suicide Prevention Month and creating awareness is all about. Unless you’ve been through it, you only think you know, I promise.