I typically blog about Microsoft data technologies, the overall Data community, and professional development topics. This is none of those. However, I think it will be the most important post I write.
Note: I post all of this with my daughter’s permission and assure you she has read it before I posted it. We agreed, together, that this story is too important to remain hidden. If we can help someone, anyone, by sharing this, then we’re going to do it.
My Goals for This Post
I have a few goals here. I want to lay them out at the beginning since the rest of the post will be organized according to these goals.
1. I wanted to provide a bit of insight on Depression for those that may not know much about it, or have only been exposed to common myths about it. As someone who has battled Depression, I hope I may be able to help a bit here.
2. I wanted to tell Paige’s story in the hopes that it might help someone else and even help chip away a little more at the stigma still associated with mental health issues, particular here in the US.
3. I wanted to provide a bit of insight for parents of depressed children. My hope is to have someone else benefit from my experience.
A Non-Clinical Primer on Depression
I have often seen/heard Depression described as being really really sad, typically by people who have not experienced it. I can certainly see why this may be the case since crying is often a physical symptom associated with it. A lot of people seem to think there is a continuum of happiness/sadness that has outright euphoria on one end and depression on the other. The idea being that as you move further down the Sad end of the spectrum, you move into the realm of Depression. This is not correct. Not even close, I’m afraid. Depression does not even belong on that scale at all.
Depression is its own separate thing, not just a subway stop in the city of Sadness. Depression has nothing to do with Happiness or Sadness. Depression does not care what great things you may have going for you in your life. It doesn’t care how much money you have. It doesn’t care who you are at all. Depression is the Honey Badger of the human psyche. Note, you can watch a funny video about the Honey Badger here, but probably best to do it without kids in the room.
Depression is a bully that knows EVERYTHING about you. Depression is a bully that goes EVERYWHERE you go. There is nowhere you go that it cannot follow. This just compounds the feelings of despair and hopelessness that Depression fosters.
We learned about six weeks ago that our oldest daughter, Paige, had been suffering with Depression for about six months. She had called me from the hallway outside one of her classes. She was sobbing and had no idea why. Having experienced Depression myself, I had an idea that it may be involved, as I encountered the same situation several times.
I brought her home and we started with calling the Nurse Line from our insurance provider. It was on this call that I learned that Paige had been fighting this for some time and that this included thoughts of suicide or self-harm. The nurse was super supportive and helped us get an appointment for Paige that afternoon. That started her down the path of getting some help. The immediate outcome was for some medication as well as some therapy.
Paige started seeing a therapist to help her, particularly since she had trouble opening up to us (my wife and me) about it. The therapy was helping and Paige was feeling better. Things were going quite well. While at one of the therapy appointments, I took one of the cards for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that were laid around the room and asked Paige to put it in the case with her cell phone so she would have it with her.
Last Friday evening, Paige came to me in tears, on a call with her cell phone, holding up that card. The Depression had almost won, pushing her very close to an action that is hard to think about. But Paige managed to stop and call the Lifeline instead. After joining her on the call, the counselor and I agreed that she clearly needed more help than she was currently getting and she needed it NOW. I took her to the Emergency Room where a young Harry Connick, Jr. (seriously, the resemblance was amazing) took great care of Paige. He was careful to involve Paige, still a minor, and us, her parents, in all decisions about her care. We all agreed that it was best for her to stay in the hospital for a bit to get deeper help with this more profound bout with the Bully.
Paige spent 5 days in a special unit of the hospital aimed at helping adolescents stabilize and learn coping skills for dealing with Depression, Anxiety, and related issues. The people there were amazing and Paige is in a much better state now. She came home Wednesday morning. There is still a long road ahead. Depression is not like a broken bone in that once it heals, you’re done. Paige will need to deal with this well into the future, but now that it is out in the open, and she has better tools to help her, we are very hopeful.
As I was thinking about this post and her story, I realized something I had not fully processed before: Paige is my hero. The Bully of Depression she is facing is so much stronger and more devious than anything I have ever faced. And while I have had to deal with Depression myself, I never had to do it as a teenage girl in a society that stills sees and treats girls as “less than.” I am in awe of how strong Paige is and how maturely she is approaching this fight. The grace, strength, and dignity Paige is showing as she stands up to her Bully are an inspiration to me.
The image at the right is one of Paige’s birthday presents. She’s a fan of David Bowie and we got her this poster and framed it for her room. It seems so fitting now that she have a poster about being a hero when she is one.
Paige kept her struggle from us for months. Even having experienced Depression myself, there was still no clear sign of what she was going through. As a parent, it is our responsibility to keep our children safe and healthy. It was very easy for me to fall into the trap of blaming myself for not seeing this earlier. Despite intellectually knowing that this is not my fault, it was incredibly hard to silence the voice in my head, especially the Bully of my own history with Depression, telling me that I had failed her. If you learn your child (or any loved on for that matter) is suffering with Depression, try to resist the urge to blame someone (including yourself) or something and, instead, put your energy into supporting them and working with their care team to get them the help they need. No amount of blame will help anyone.
Depression has no respect or adherence to logic you may try to impose on it. When letting my mother-in-law know what was going on, she was asking a lot of questions as she was honestly trying to understand, which was great. If the therapy and medication Paige was already taking where helping, how could Friday’s events have taken place? The best answer I could come up with was that there is still so much about how our brains work that we just don’t understand. And, once again, Depression doesn’t care. It won’t do what makes sense to us.
If you need to, reread the Non-Clinic Primer on Depression above. Read up on Depression from respected sources in the fields of Psychology and Psychiatry, the more recent, the better. Put effort into understanding it rather than relying on what seems to be “common knowledge” about Depression from decades past. Your child/loved one is worth the effort and needs you.
Try to remain flexible about options for care that may come up. Knowing someone who has dealt with Depression and did X to overcome it does not mean that X is the answer for your child/loved one today. It is vital to openly consider the options presented by the care team instead of pinning everything on the one tactic you think should work.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Depression, know that there is help out there. It can be as simple as talking to your primary care provider or even just a phone call to the Nurse/medical advice line. Although it can be hard to reach out for help, it is worth it. You/your child/your loved one are worth it.
Categories: Mental Health
Paige – Thank you for allowing your dad to share this story. Mark, thanks for sharing it.
Depression affects far too many people, yet most of them feel alone, sad, trapped, different. You allowing your story to be told has likely helped at least one (if not many more) people feel comfortable asking for help and seeking answers and admitting that they need that help.
I’m so glad you have supportive parents and a support network, Paige. Mark I’m glad you had gone through it and took it so seriously.
I look forward to seeing how your transparency and being a hero here will shape your future, Paige. And thanks for calling that number on the card.
Mark & Paige thanks for sharing. I echo what Mike has already said. As a parent, depression is something I worry about in all my kids just because it is so hard to identify.
Mark & Paige big hugs to you both. I cried real tears reading this and I relate to her Friday story, except I faced it alone. Stay strong! Your sharing this story may just make a difference in someone’s life. ❤
Paige, We have never met but I have been a fan of yours since you were born! Continue to strive to be healthy as you are SO worth it! You have awesome parents who love you with their entire being. Never be afraid to go to them for anything. Sending love from Amsterdam.
Thanks bunches for sharing! I deal with depression and one of my daughters does too. It IS a bully and takes away from who you are meant to be. Yes, Paige sounds very strong. Extra prayers for you all. I’m so glad you are getting the help you need. Life is too short to let depression steal it away.
Thank you so very much for sharing. I’m in my 40s. I struggled with depression my entire life since I was very young. Too many times I almost let the bully win but I didn’t. I hung on and I’m very glad I did. Paige, I’m so glad you hung in there. You are very strong. It’s not easy to deal with depression and can be difficult to explain. I didn’t get the help I needed until a couple of years ago. I’m so very glad you’re getting the help you need now. As a parent, I worry often about my girls and pray they come to me if they ever feel like this. I’m so very glad you reached out. Mark, you are a wonderful person and dad for helping her with this. Sharing your story isn’t always easy. I’m glad you are sharing, though. It really may help someone. I’ve shared my story here and there in other forums and some people told me it helped them knowing they weren’t alone. You are most definitely not alone. I know you don’t know me but I wish I could give you a big hug.
Paige: Thank you for calling the lifeline when you needed them. That choice turned what could have been an incredibly sad story into one where you are the hero. As a separate issue, thanks for keeping an eye on your dad… He needs that!
Mark: Thank you for having the experience and insight to make sure that Paige had the card, and the support that she needed after she used the card. Those things contributed to her becoming a hero. Thanks for being a first rate parent, looking out for your kid when she couldn’t do that for herself.
Everyone: Thanks for reading this. Learn about Depression, it affects many more people than you will know. As Mark observed above, Depression is not related to happy, sad, money, power, or much of anything else… Depression is buried deep inside the brain and it tends to affect the very “best” people who are smart, often rich, often beautiful. Depression DOES NOT make sense, you can’t reason with it, and without extensive training you probably won’t recognize it (there have been clinical papers done on just why no one can recognize Depression without training).
Depression is a serious, but treatable problem. Left untreated, Depression always leads to premature death and it can take a horrible path to get there… If you suspect that someone may be depressed, offer them help. If you can’t be certain that they are NOT depressed, get them help. That can save their life and provide us with another hero.
Thanks so much for the kindness and support, everyone. It really means a lot. Paige posted the following under my wife’s account on Facebook to respond the outpouring of support and I wanted to share it here as well:
“Hi everybody this is Paige! Thank you so much for all your kind words, depression is so hard for me to fight, but I will fight it, for me and for anyone out there who is struggling with this bully. Thank you all so much!!! ❤️❤️❤️ “
Paige and Mark, thank you both for telling your story. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are badly misunderstood because so few people are willing to discuss them openly. I’m glad to hear things are looking up a little. You two are very fortunate to have each other in this fight.
Stay strong. My love to you both.
Thanks, good sir.
Paige and Mark, you are both heroes. Thank you both for your strength and transparency. Depression is a difficult fight. But you are not alone. Don’t let the bully win.
Praying for yall.
Dear Mark and Paige, thank you for sharing your touching story. Was very moved to read it. You are both heroes for your honesty and courage. Sending you warm thoughts and am sure this story will inspire lots of other people. It certainly has for me. #sqlhugs.
Thanks, Mala. 🙂
Sharing this from your lives will mean a lot to many people –
even some you may never meet in person.
Keep on, keep on.
Thanks, Lonny. That is what we are hoping.
I was diagnosed with depression at age 26, a year or so after one of my aunts killed herself. At first, I thought that meant I might head down the same path. But instead I’ve learned that getting treatment early on means i won’t get that sick. With my depression well under control for close to twenty years now, I can truly see objectively that it’s a disease, like diabetes or asthma, that I don’t need to be ashamed of. We found a medicine that works. When I look back, there were bad times (Merrill can tell you about that, Paul), but having the strength and faith from your family that you can and will see this through is so important. Paige, thanks you for sharing and know that you will find your way through this. It might take a little while, but you’ll find a solution that works. You are strong! You are brave! You will conquer this!
Thanks for sharing, Denise.