A Mother’s Gut
Being the mother of an 18 year old, almost 19 year old daughter, who lives with depression, is an ongoing struggle. Not only does she struggle, but so do I. It is a struggle day-to-day, hour-to-hour and sometimes minute-by-minute, of when to step in and when not to. Just like in Forrest Gump,
“Life is like a box of chocolates.
You never know what you are going to get.” It was my decision to step in and be her advocate when I know that she wouldn’t/won’t reveal her depression. My goal is to make people more empathetic and try to make every day life just a bit easier for her. Life became harder when she turned 18.
She was a legal adult, but far from it emotionally.
Her mind gets the best of her and she can’t do many things that her peers do with ease. She is her own worst enemy. One continuous struggle is that she can’t get up in the morning, follow through with assignments and find or hold a job. Every day life experiences are harder for her than someone that doesn’t live with mental illness. It’s extremely difficult as the parent of a “legal adult” who won’t/can’t speak up for herself that she lives with depression. It affects many of her decisions day to day. Legally I don’t get a say or have access to her health care, school access, legal issue or psychological care. I decided to speak up regarding her education.
My daughter has always had trouble getting up in the morning ever since middle school. I think that’s when her depression really kicked in. She stopped doing homework and her personality would change at any minute. Her sleep schedule became continually off. Even to this day, she stays up late or up all night and then sleeps all day because of her personal interests. Thank goodness she has passions! She is simply too tired to get up for school or a job. I have bought every alarm clock and it doesn’t work. I even bought one that shakes the entire bed! Doesn’t matter.
Her mind works in it’s own way.
Of course, if you can’t get up in the morning or not until the afternoon that affects your schooling and working a job. When you are tired and/or live with depression, it alters your way of thinking about reality. Some days she cannot think rationally and that has led to drug and alcohol problems which led to legal issues. She has used these as a coping mechanism to help with her depression. Unfortunately, they don’t help, they make things worse. She is slowly beginning to realize this. As the mother of an 18 year old, I can’t speak to the parole officer or the judge. Only the lawyer and my daughter can, and she isn’t mentally able to do so and make smart decisions. It is like a constant rollercoaster that won’t stop. Living with depression isn’t an excuse, but it a reasonable explanation and a REAL reason why she makes the decisions she does.
One of the most recent frustrating examples of not being able to “step” in and help my daughter is with college. I’m thrilled that she is going to college! Graduating from high school was a miracle. From 8th grade on, she struggled with going to school, completing assignments and having any rapport with teachers, especially the ones she didn’t like, which were most. There were a select few that “got” her and thank god for them! They gave her self-confidence and leeway with assignments and time frames. She ended up going to a therapeutic school for most of high school and had academics, but mostly therapy. Therapists would tell me, “That’s not the real world and she has to learn to complete things on time and get along with people.” This would infuriate me because I know it is true, but I also knew that people need to be empathic to people living with mental illness.
The real problem in the world is that if the sufferers or families don’t tell, how are people to know and hopefully make accommodations so they CAN be successful?
So this revelation of telling led to my recent doing at my daughter’s college. It is a small, non-accredited school. It is a 2-year vocational school where she can study her passion. Because it is non-accredited she has to take a minimum number of classes and can’t take one at a time, which would be ideal. Believe me, I’ve asked! I don’t care how long it takes her to graduate! There is also no social worker or special education department that she could get special services with her 504 plan.
I have been told, by many experts and parents of “adults” with mental illness, that it is up to the person to share their story. I get it, but I knew mine never would and I had to step in and fess up.
I knew it was for the best for HER.
My daughter started college in March of 2017 taking three classes, the minimum. I paid for the classes so I spoke to the accounting office, but they told me next time my daughter would have to come in and sign a waiver saying that I was able to speak to them about the finances because she was 18, even though I was paying!!! I knew she would never do that. It’s hard for her to just get up in the morning and she was expected to take on another responsibility! To this day, I don’t know if she signed the paper or not, but I haven’t really had to speak to anyone in the accounting office. She got her classes and one was to her liking and two others that were not. I knew she would have trouble getting up for school. I knew she would have trouble completing the work in the classes she didn’t like. I didn’t tell the school because she was 18 and supposedly “on her own.” She was successful in the class that she enjoyed. She never did any work in one class because it didn’t interest her and she couldn’t get motivated to complete assignments. She was offered help, but she didn’t take it. This is another symptom of depression, but no one knew she was living with it and I didn’t tell. The other English class she did well in until the end. She didn’t write the last paper. I don’t know why, but she couldn’t follow through, finish and complete the course. This is also another symptom of depression.
I couldn’t reveal her secret.
So summer came and she was supposed to continue school. She decided to take the summer off from school, which was fine with me. She felt like her brain needed a break from school. She was 18 so I couldn’t make her. I did know that routine was good for her, but also difficult for her. We spoke in August about going back to school and she definitely wanted to go back. I made the decision to get involved and call her counselor to tell him that she wanted to return to school Another struggle came. I was told my daughter would have to write an essay of why she wanted to be readmitted to school. Because she took the summer off, she had to reapply. I knew this would be a disaster. She wanted to go back to school, but couldn’t “pull the trigger” to get there. Then an amazing thing happened. My daughter actually asked me for help with writing her essay.
This was huge! She never asked for help!
Igave her ideas and we wrote a draft and told her to do what she wanted with it. If she didn’t like it, she could rip it up or write her own, but do it. Her counselor told her the Acceptance Committee needed it in two days. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. She missed the deadline and I was freaking out. A few weeks later I called the counselor and luckily he spoke to me because my daughter is over 18. He told me my daughter had eventually sent an essay in but it wasn’t long enough and didn’t have enough “meat”. If he only knew the struggle that it took for my daughter to simply write that! He requested that my daughter write another, more detailed, essay. I asked him to send me what my daughter had written. Apparently she had ripped up the one we had written together and wrote her own condensed one.
This was a disaster!
This was the turning point in my mothering of a daughter who lives with depression. I knew my daughter wanted to go to school to study her passion. I knew that she needed routine and I knew this school was the best and only place for her. I did the opposite of what every professional told me to do. I sent an email to the counselor and explained that she lives with depression and explained the symptoms.
It was like a mini tutorial.
I even sent him the original essay that we had written together. It explained that she has trouble waking up in the morning causing her to miss school. I explained that asking for help and taking it is difficult. I explained that deadlines are difficult for her. I explained that one-day she can be happy and the next not. I explained that she doesn’t always look at his emails and respond promptly or at all. I asked that I be put on the emails as well so that I know what happened with her acceptance. I even told his counselor not to tell my daughter that I had sent her original essay or tell her what I had told him about her depression. I did what my motherly gut told me to do. Within a few days, because I was put on the email, my daughter had been accepted! I don’t look back on my decision and I won’t tell my daughter that I did what I did. It’s in the vault for now.
Now I know that she will have another chance to have routine and go to school for her passion. I only hope that she goes consistently and asks for help when needed. I also hope that she will tell her story when she is ready. At least her counselor knows her story. Maybe he will pass it on to her professors discreetly.
I will never give up on my daughter and trying to find ways to help her even if it means revealing her mental illness. I will continue to talk about depression and as Rebecca’s Dream’s mission statement says, “it is a real disease.” People with mental illness need help on a day-to-day basis and they need empathy. Some cannot be treated just like everyone else. They are not everyone else. Parents of children with depression also feel the suffering as well because, as parents of “legal” adults, they don’t have access to information they need that they may know best to help their child who lives with this REAL disease.
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
– Marilyn Monroe
Take a break from cooking dinner in the coming weeks and give a gift to Rebecca’s Dream to continue to raise awareness for depression & bipolar disease! See the locations and dates below. We hope to see you there!
Thursday, September 14, 5:00-8:00, Portillo’s, 700 Lake Cook Rd, Deerfield, 60015
Wednesday, September 27, 5:00-8:00, Potbelly’s 740 Waukegan RD., Deerfield 60015
Sunday, October 1st from 5:00-8 Red Robin Fundraiser, 295 Parkway Dr, Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Wednesday, October 11, 4:00-8:00, Chipotle 1849 Green Bay Rd., Suite 159, Highland Park 60035
Tuesday, October 17, 4:00-8:00, Panera 772 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook 60062
Wednesday, November 8, all day, Michaels, 1879 2nd St., Highland Park 60035
The Bipolar Experience – One fashion model’s war against the stigma of mental illness by Lee Ann Jeffries and Eva Marie Everson
Adopted at nine months, married off at seventeen, a mother by nineteen, and diagnosed with the severest form of bipolar disorder at twenty-three. LeeAnn Jefferies believed her dream of being a top model–of traveling the globe for fashion and its industries biggest names–was sealed behind the heavy doors of a fourth floor psychiatric ward. While her husband managed two small children and a full time job at home, LeeAnn underwent the brutality of electroconvulsive therapy, commonly known as shock treatments. And although many of her memories were stripped away, her dream remained.