We did not have to wait until January. I persisted. I annoyed. I checked for cancellations and then checked again. We walked into the specialist office on a Wednesday afternoon and it was heavy. The waiting room was full. The patients and parents were in various stages of holding on. We filled out paper work. We took vitals. The nurse interviewed us. The doctor called us back. We were already more than 30 minutes into the appointment when the doctor wanted to speak to each of us alone. He asked questions and I did my best to answer them. AJ did the same.
Just sitting in the office was exhausting and worrisome and hard. After more than an hour and a half, he assembled the care team and we sat across the desk. As he kindly explained the names, symptoms, treatment options and goals, I looked and tried to listen. I did. And it all began to sink in. Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are hard to hear. They come with a wealth of preconceived baggage, most of which I know far too much about.
Here is the truth. This is one of the hardest, darkest, scariest things that I have ever walked through. Having your child in the fetal position because it is raining outside and knowing that there is not one thing that you can do to help them, is the worst. The absolute worst. Knowing that while you tucked her safely in her bed, at any point in the night she could get up, sit alone all night in fear or worse yet harm herself is the nightmare of all nightmares for parents.
But equally as terrifying are the whispers. The comments about the way that you are handling this or treating that. The advice from perhaps well meaning, yet completely insensitive people that have a lotion, potion, book, prayer or idea that just may help her “snap out” of it – they are all so very helpful. Can I just have a moment?
I want every parent to think about your best friend’s kiddos. If tomorrow, they were diagnosed with cancer or a debilitating disease, what would you do? I would read up. I would offer to keep their other kids. I would check in. I would send prayer texts. I would rally on their behalf in the community. I would sell little rubber bracelets to help offset medical cost and provide research. All of this because when our people are hurting, we are too.
But something different happens with metal health issues. When we hear about someone that is cutting or has attempted suicide or is paralyzed by panic to the point of debilitating pain, we don’t know what to say. We avoid. We give them “space.” If AJ had left school for major surgery or a broken bone, we would have had posters and cards and banners on the lawn. Instead, the awkward looks in Target started. And the smile and wave and ‘pretend we are running late in HEB’ become the norm.
We did not cause her depression. She did not choose to have panic attacks – and for clarification in case you have not ever experienced a real panic attack – imagine a heart attack, not a nail bitting horror movie. We cannot make this go away. It is not like strep where you take 7 days of antibiotics and you are better. These are real, serious, life threatening, life changing conditions. Ones that may take years to treat and a lifetime to control. So we wake up and show up and live.
Because this is what we do, we will be bold and prayerful and hold tight to each other. We will take care of our souls with good self care and eating and even the dreaded exercise. We will see our doctors and take our meds. We will find ways to cope when life seems unmanageable. And we will do it with honest, truthful, messy stories, which you will get to hear for yourself from bravest 15 year old I know – tomorrow.