01 October 2010

Make It Better

I kind of forgot to blog this week. Here's a picture instead. 

Ok, fine. I didn't actually forget. It's been a rough week all around and every time I thought about writing about it, I found something else I needed to urgently do ... You know, emergency Etsy Treasuries, complaining on Twitter about the use of the word "soda" on Detroit 1-8-7, and downloading free Tetris apps onto my fancy new phone (which was fairly cheap since I was due for an upgrade, and is PINK, which makes my daughters ecstatic).

I've spent most of the past couple of weeks dealing with Mimi and her needs. Not unusual for parents. Really not unusual for parents of special needs kids. (That link, by the way, goes to a wonderful site, essential reading for anyone parenting a child with special needs.) The thing is, see, it's really hard to write about your kid's special needs and biweekly doctor's visits when those needs are psychological and the visits are to a psychiatrist. It's hard to write about the bedtimes when when your kid says "I hate being me" and "I wish I wasn't born" and talks about the people in her head who make noise all the time and keep her from being able to sleep. Or how when asked about her biggest worry, your kid draws a picture of herself in jail. It's hard to think about putting your 7-year-old on Pro*zac, never mind write about it. Rit*alin, ok. Lots of kids take ADHD meds. We talk about ADHD a lot, and kids on the autism spectrum. These are things people are starting to understand in children. But a clinically depressed, chronically anxious 2nd grader? People start to look at you, as a parent, a little funny. What's this mom doing wrong that her kid is DEPRESSED? (Must be the divorce. Or you know, those adopted kids, you never know with them.) What does a 7-year-old have to be depressed about? 

Well, a lot, it turns out, and nothing that I did "wrong" made her this way, but it's what we're dealing with, and it sucks all around. It sucks for Mimi, of course, most of all. But it sucks for me, too, and for Boo. It is really hard to live, never mind talk or write about. I come home from work most days, and spend four to five hours dealing with Mimi's needs, meltdowns, behavior issues, and moods, while trying to love her as much as I can and make sure Boo isn't completely ignored in the process. The other day I spent nearly a full hour walking back and forth between the bathroom (where Boo was taking a bath) and the girls' bedroom (where Mimi was supposed to be doing homework -- one math sheet with four questions on it  -- but was actually screaming, throwing her pencil, spinning around and around in the desk chair, crying, whining, and tearing paper into teeny shreds), dealing with their needs in 3-minute bursts. Bathroom -  bedroom - bathroom - bedroom -- they are about nine steps apart, but I felt like I was running a marathon. Some nights it's homework, some nights it's whatever I made for dinner that she doesn't feel like eating, some nights it's when I say "no more tv" and turn off the set, some nights it's nothing at all that I can discern but something awful is happening in her head and that's enough.

It's not all bad, and I don't mean to suggest that what we're dealing with is any worse than what many other parents go through. There's still this stigma, however, to mental and mood disorders, and so often we still are too squeamish to discuss them openly. Especially when it comes to children. I struggled with whether to post this or not, because after all it's not my issue, it's Mimi's. She doesn't seem to mind talking about it -- in fact, recently, she's become quite verbal and open about it, and for the first time is really finding the words to describe what goes on in her head. I want her to be matter-of-fact about it, and so we say things like "some kids wear glasses because their eyes need help to work right. Some kids have leg braces or wheelchairs to help them get around because their legs aren't as strong. Some kids take medicine to help their brain figure things out a little bit easier, or help them feel better." But it's different, of course it's different and she knows it and so do I, because no one wants to think about a 2nd grader with crippling anxiety and mood disorder.

So I'm posting, so you know. It happens, kids DO get depressed, seriously, life-changingly so, and if we don't talk about and do something when they are little, or whenever things start to get bad, then
we raise people unable or unwilling to share the hard stuff, other people unable to deal with people who are not like them, people who can't cope with their own feelings never mind take into account what other people might be going through. And ultimately we get bullies, and kids afraid to go to school, and kids who won't talk to their parents, and parents who don't see their kids' emotional pain, and middle schoolers and college freshmen, beautiful young people who could change the world, we get these kids hanging themselves and jumping off bridges because they have no hope that things will ever get any better.

It will get better. Whatever I have to do to make it better for Mimi, I will do. And I hope that talking about it can help, a tiny bit, make it better for someone else.


  1. Thinking of you, Jen. For what it's worth, I think you're doing an incredible job.

  2. Very worth putting words to it...thanks, Jen. It's nice to hear another Mom dealing with the same things I am...and still sad to hear your daughter is dealing with some of the same things my kid(s) is/are.

    Love you, girl. Keep on keeping on!!! The girls need you to.

  3. Thank you for sharing. It can't be easy.

  4. Thanks for the link to the site. But that's not really why I am commenting. I wanted to say we too, deal with mental health issues in our 11 year old (so many dx). Behavior mod at age 5 and suicidal at age 9 and well, you know the rest. I struggle with being public, but gave him a choice and ours was to say, this is it. What kind of message would I be sending him if I said it was okay for me to blog about kidney failure/his transplant and not his mental health. I'd be telling him it wasn't okay.

    If you ever want to talk about, you know, stuff. I've been there, am there.

  5. I hope it doesn't sound weird to say I am proud of you for getting Mimi the help she needs.

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  7. As someone who was a kid with some pretty hardcore mental health issues, may I just say that I'm very glad that Mimi has you on her team. My parents did their best, but it was always THEIR best - no outside help allowed. So, go you for getting your girl the help she needs. And go you for loving her and supporting her through all of this.

  8. Some kids are just wired for anxiety, mine included. Your description of homework is eerily similar to what goes on in our house some nights. It is hard to identify the triggers, though we know transitions (from summer camp to school year for example) can induce anxiety.

    You are doing great with Mimi - she's lucky to have you on her side.