Young and Carefree

October is one of my favorite months…the leaves on the trees have changed colors…you get to go to the pumpkin patch and pick out a pumpkin, eat apple cider doughnuts, and then, on Halloween, watch all of the trick-or-treaters. I like seeing the school-age kids, because it reminds me of how nice it was at that age to be young and carefree.

Well, “young and carefree” may not be the case anymore. At least, not for everyone. Let me explain. Earlier this month, my sister called me to let me know that my 12-year-old niece was depressed, experiencing anxiety, and having suicidal thoughts. As soon as I heard this, my stomach dropped. My immediate thought was “she is way too young to have to go through this.” I was saddened to know that someone I love, so young in my eyes, was feeling the intense pain that depression and anxiety bring…and that I know oh, so well. She doesn’t deserve this. No one her age does. She should be frolicking around with her friends, talking about sleepovers, going to the mall, and giggling with her friends about boys they have crushes on. The biggest concern at her age should be something trivial like what outfit to wear or whether she should wear her hair up or down. She shouldn’t have to be struggling to get through each day, maybe each hour. Now, at my age, I can endure that pain. Even in my 20s I could. But 12 years old??

My niece ended up participating in a three-week, intensive outpatient hospital program and was prescribed some medication by a psychiatrist who was treating her. The program was for 12- to 17-year-olds, and she was the youngest one in the group. While she participating in this program, I slept at my sister’s house a couple of nights to help her out, but—more importantly—to make sure my niece knew how much I loved and cared about her and that I was there to support her—and always would be—in any way I could. The first night that I arrived at my sister’s house, I was surprised to see my niece looking and acting like she normally does. I thought that, maybe, she was feeling a lot better and would be going back to school in no time. I asked my sister that night how my niece was doing. She said that her anxiety was a nine out of ten that morning…and at various times throughout the day. So much for “looking” fine. Although my niece finished her outpatient program, her suicidal thoughts grew worse…because she also had a specific plan, she was admitted to an inpatient program. Now, she is doing better. She will be transitioning back to school soon…and taking things one day at a time. And we will be there with her every step of the way.

I’d like to end with a few words for any tweens, teens, or young adults reading this. Please know that depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder CAN and DO get better with proper medical help. It can be frustrating to hear parents, family, and friends who don’t have this disease or know what it feels like, tell you “you’ll feel better” and “things will be OK.” These are very kind and supportive words coming from 100% complete love (and they should continue to be said!) but hearing those same words from someone who has been there and done that…that means a whole lot more. And I can honestly tell you from my personal experience, having lived with bipolar II disorder for almost 10 years now, that you DO feel better…life DOES get better…you DO enjoy life again and are HAPPY to be alive!

Trust me. It takes one to know one, right?

Love and light,