Is It Tween Angst or Depression?
I’ve been depressed enough times during my lifetime that I can recognize the signs. I know when it’s coming on: the hopelessness, the sadness, the craving for ice cream, and the fact that all I want to do is sleep the day away. The tears. The screaming. It’s a vicious cycle of being perfectly fine one moment and then lapsing into a deep, dark cave the next. When I started to see the signs in my daughter… I panicked.
There is a history of bipolar and eating disorders in my family. I grew up with it around me. I lost a cousin to it when she felt that suicide was her only out. The fear that grips me when I think my own children might be heading in that direction scares the living daylights out of me. When I started recognizing signs in one of my girls, I knew that I couldn’t just sit back and hope she’d grow out of it.
It wasn’t obvious at first. She had migraines. To have a 7-year-old child have migraines is in of itself a scary thing. The doctors didn’t know what caused them but my poor girl would cry in pain, throw up sometimes and just wanted to hide in her dark room. Then I started noticing the outbursts. She always fought with her sisters but out of the blue she would scream at the top of her lungs and become completely irrational. I couldn’t calm her down. The only thing that worked was getting her alone in her room and holding her tight.
I didn’t think much of it at first. What parent wants to think her child might have something wrong with her.
The symptoms didn’t go away as she got older. With age came more issues. Tween issues. The crying became a daily thing. Crying over mean girls, crying over friends, crying over a bad grade or a bad hair day or something as simple as spilled milk. Little things bothered her. Oh hell, everything bothered her. She wasn’t listening. You could call her name a dozen times and she wouldn’t hear you. Or she would hear but refuse to answer. When asked to do anything, her response was always, “I’m too tired.” She lost things. Her homework, her lunchbox, her jacket. Her grades in school started slipping.
What does she have? I don’t know. I’m keeping close tabs on her. We’ve talked about seeing a therapist. Surprisingly, she’s not opposed to the idea. I told her I thought it might help to talk to someone. She says she wants to talk to me. I pray every day that she’ll talk to me.
Now is when it starts and I know I need to keep it under control. Just like a physical illness needs to be tended to, a mental illness does as well. I’ve started giving her coping mechanisms to deal with her pain.
I know that stress and dehydration brings on the migraines. I make her drink water all day long and try to get her to not scream and lash out so much.
I know the key words that will set her off on a tangent. I avoid them to the best of my ability. Words like don’t and can’t and shouldn’t cause her to rage.
She is ultra-sensitive about her weight and I try my best to give her healthy lunches and avoid the sweets. I’m pushing exercise and fresh air to keep her moving. I gave her a pedometer so she could track her steps every day. We made it into a game.
I try and spend quality one-on-one time with her. Every now and then I do something special just for her.
I do what I can but I’m still afraid. She is a follower, my child. I live in fear that she’ll follow the wrong crowd. I can’t… I won’t let that happen.
Yes, maybe she’s just being 9 and dealing with all the things every 9 year old does. But I’ve seen the signs before. I see the signs now. I’m choosing to be proactive and not take it all lightly.
If you have a child who is lashing out or hiding out or seems a little too out of control, don’t ignore it. This is when it starts… the downward spiral. You either make the choice to deal with it before it gets really bad… or you risk serious problems later.
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