#MomLife: Depression is taboo

My daughter decided this week she didn’t want to go to gymnastics anymore after attending for the last 11 years. At first, I was a little angry, then I became relieved that there was one less thing on my schedule, and then I was sad for her. Gymnastics has been in her life since she was 2 years old and she has suddenly lost interest. 

Why? It didn’t take me long to realize she was no longer interested in gymnastics because of her mental health. My daughter is 13 and suffers daily with anxiety and depression.

Mental health issues have always been present in my life. I am not afraid to admit that I am Bipolar and have depression and anxiety. But dealing with mental health as an adult is much different than dealing with it as a teenager. When I was diagnosed 17 years ago, I started on medicine and was sent on my way to figure out my new normal. I have tried various different medicines to find the one that works for me, and now I can say I am in a somewhat good place with my mental health. Obviously, there are still good and bad days, but overall the good days outweigh the bad.  

I can’t imagine dealing with mental health issues at the young age of 13. As soon as I noticed a change in my daughter’s mood, I started to ask questions. In the back of my head I have always wondered if my mental health issues would affect my children, so I wanted to stay on top of everything. We called the school who has an in-school counselor available and I immediately made a doctor’s appointment. After my suspicions were proven correct and she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression it was time to start her new normal. 

We have seen good results from a medication that was prescribed to her for her anxiety but we haven’t quite been able to get a handle on the depression. You see, depression is a tricky thing. It can rear its head at any moment for no reason at all and can send you in a tailspin. She has been learning coping skills from her counselor but I have a feeling we will have to change or add to her medicine. 

I am a big supporter of taking medication to help with one’s mental health and other health related issues. I wouldn’t be able to function without mine. But my daughter is feeling some shame with hers. She feels like something is wrong with her because she has to take medicine. So how do we end this stigma? Unfortunately society has not helped with this. Mental health is still not considered a health problem even though it has the word health right in its name. It is considered taboo to be depressed. People don’t like discussing or dealing with it. I’d like to end that now. 

I fear for families that don’t have the knowledge or resources my family has had available to us. When mental health is left untreated it can be detrimental to your life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is one of the top five leading causes of death for teenagers. I’m afraid that if we don’t get a handle on normalizing mental health issues things will get worse. We need to let our children know it is OK to not feel OK, and it is OK to get help. 

My daughter has had some success with her coping skills and medication but her depression and anxiety still creep up when we least expect it. I can only hope the steps we have taken are enough to get her through the next phase of her life. My advice to you is if you suspect your child is suffering from mental health issues please contact their doctor and start the steps to get them help. Teenagers please talk to someone; you are not alone and we are here to help you.

Steph Hightree is a hot mess mom who is fueled by stress and too much caffeine. She is a Three Rivers native who talks about the good, the bad, and well, everything else about parenthood.

Any views or opinions expressed in “#MomLife” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.