Raising teenagers is hard, on that we can all agree.
I have a 14-year-old daughter, and like most mothers and daughters, we participate in the standard circle of being very close, while arguing over issues that probably are not that important. My relationship with my daughter is vastly different than that with her brothers.
As she entered her teenage years, there was a subtle shift in personality that I did not exactly like. I would almost describe it as her becoming more aggressive, or at least having a shorter fuse than before.
Conversations with her brothers that previously would have ended with her rolling her eyes progressed to sessions of her yelling, sometimes threatening (though never following through, thankfully), and almost always ended with her stomping away to her room for hours.
Never having raised a teenage girl before, her father and I (divorced) were trying to determine what parts of this behavior were typical teenage hormones, or if something else was happening.
We talked with her and decided to visit with our family’s pediatrician to see what she thought about her general attitude.
As I looked back over the time, I was trying to pull together some examples of behavior that caused me to make a note.
- The time that we were at a family gathering. A group of family was sitting around the table playing cards and goofing around. At one point, someone made a joke that she felt was about her. Instead of talking to the table, she got up and ran upstairs on the verge of tears. She then texted me from upstairs explaining that it was too much and she was too embarrassed to come down. Every person at the table was family. No one was making fun of her. The entire situation was too much for her.
- There was the morning that we were attempting to go out the door to school (like every other morning) and she was not ready. I watched my daughter in real time struggle to put her shoes on. Her movements can only be described as mirroring those of the sloth in Zootopia. While the scene in the movie was funny, watching your child struggle to move at that speed is not funny.
- There was the issue with showers. When our children are toddlers and preschoolers, we expect our children to fight bath time. We anticipate the pushback. We were past that with her. Until she entered her teen years. It seemed that she struggled to find the energy required to shower, and would do so only when told.
- There was her room. For what seemed to be months, she could not or would not clean her room. Since she spends 50% of her time with her dad, and 50% of her time with me, there are some issues that are harder to enforce. I tried bribes, threats, incentives, and punishments, and nothing would work. Cleaning her room was beyond what she was able to do.
I took my daughter to our pediatrician. We answered several questionnaires. We talked with the doctor for over an hour and a half. We were both as honest as we could be, which is especially difficult for my daughter who is pretty shy and typically is uncomfortable in direct situations.
After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that my daughter has some pretty severe depression and anxiety. Portions of it may be hereditary, as I have previously dealt with depression myself, as have other members of our family. Portions of it may be situational, time will tell.
We all talked about how in some people depression manifests as lethargy. In some, it manifests as a short temper. In others, it may manifest in completely different ways.
She was prescribed a very low dose of an anti-depressant. We discussed the risks. We discussed safety. We discussed all of the side effects. The final decision to move forward with the prescription was hers, not ours.
She chose to proceed.
On day one she had a stomach ache.
On day two, she reported a mild headache.
On day three, she got up early to take a shower before school. On her own.
Over the next few weeks, she set up times to hang out with her friends. She spent time in the living room playing games and watching shows with her brothers and me. She cleaned her room.
My daughter and I have discussed how the medication is not a cure-all. She still is responsible for her emotions and how she responds to people. She may be on it for a few months to get over the bump or may be on it for years.
Talking with the doctor was scary, for both my daughter and I. We are both glad that we chose to take that step.
She has been on the medication for a few months now, and the change is incredible. She still has what we call “down days” where some activities and interactions are harder than others. We talk about these. She has agreed to be open with her feelings and we are working on determining if these days follow a pattern.
She laughs, engages, and is more “her” than she has been over the past few years.
Wherever this journey takes us, I will be right beside her, down days and all.
*Shared with the permission, and actually encouragement of my daughter. She stated that she thought, “It would be interesting to see my depression from your perspective since I only know what if feels like from mine.”