Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Walking Through Darkness With Your Teen - Part 1

I’ll never forget the moment my teen first came to me and showed me the cuts on her arms.  I said the first thing that came into my head.  Big mistake.  I rolled my eyes, “Really?  That is SO stupid.” I wish I could take it back.  I’ve learned a lot since that August afternoon; one of those things being to bite my tongue and look for a way to validate what she’s experiencing.  The first thought in my head is most often not the appropriate response.  A better response would have been,  “Thank you for coming to me. Can we talk about it?” or “Wow…I’m not sure what to say right now,” or "I'm sorry I didn't realize how bad you were feeling." I simply could have hugged her.  But in that moment, I was angry.  I was instantly hearing criticism in my own head, “If you were a better mom, she never would have done this.”  “That family member was right. You couldn’t even manage 3 kids, so why would you have 2 more?”  I also heard, “Don't reward her behavior by giving her the attention she wants.”  “She did this to piss you off.”  

In that moment, those inner thoughts were wrong, but loud.  Just like my teen's thoughts, telling her she’s worthless, telling her that if she hurt herself, she’d feel better. Telling her that her life is insignificant and even burdensome.

We went to some family counseling, but didn’t directly address the self-harm.  I was hoping it was just something she dabbled in after seeing it online and that she wouldn’t do it again. I told myself that it wasn’t too bad.  I prayed prayers of deliverance over her, but even while praying, I knew we had a long road ahead of us.

Then in March, she came to me to reveal that she was having thoughts about suicide.  She envisioned the details and had a plan.  (I've learned since then that having a plan is significant in many regards.) We visited a counselor within 48 hours of that admission (She slept in our room those two nights).  That counselor recommended in-patient treatment at a facility where she could be safe while we developed a game plan.

Taking my teen to Shoal Creek was surreal.  It was one of those out-of-body events you experience, thinking, “I never thought this would happen to us.  To me. To our family.”  But it was happening.  From the moment the counselor said “hospital” until, hours later, after an afternoon full of telling our story, listening to her speak out loud the horrid thoughts she was fighting in her mind, I was sent out into a waiting room while she spoke alone with a psychiatrist.  It was only then that I was able to break down and cry.  I sobbed, sitting alone at 10:00 pm in the lounge area of the adult floor of the psychiatric hospital.  I knew the staff would understand, so I just let my sadness release into tears.  I wanted to “fix” whatever was troubling her.  I wanted to pray away the demons.  I wanted to speak truth over the lies in her mind and have her simply believe me.  Believe God.  Then came the accusing questions again: What did you do wrong?  Should you have sheltered her as extremely as some of your Christian homeschooling counterparts?  Should you have just said “no” to any type of social media access?  Should you have kept all family stress out of eye- and ear-shot of the kids?  Should you have not discussed second and third-world problems and atrocities?  Maybe if we had never moved.  Maybe if we had kept that job.  Maybe if we had never moved to the apartments. Maybe if I had never given her that medication. Maybe if….  Should have….  What did I do wrong?  Parents of kids who struggle will identify with these thoughts, I’m guessing.

The staff at the hospital was fabulous.  From the phone intake and assessment to the moment she was discharged, they cared.  They cared about us as parents.  They cared about her.  They never once made me as a mom feel worse for being there.  They offered a plan and the plan offered hope. 

From that April evening when she was admitted until now, we've received a lot of support from quite a number of sources.  Ken and I are so proud of our daughter for her openness, willingness, and hard work. We've learned a lot and healed a lot.  We've decided, with our teen's approval, to share our journey so far.  Our hope is that it can encourage other parents and give them some basic information or at least a place to start if they are seeking help. [Click here for Part II]


  1. Wow!! Thanks for sharing your story with the world! I pray all of you will continue seeking out the help you need, one day at a time, one moment at a time!! So sorry the demons have tortured her so much!! Hugs and prayers! Love you!!

  2. Thanks for sharing...this is a powerfully honest story!