Sandy Klein

Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don't, and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it. – Harvey Mackay

Written by a 15 year old…

People need to realize how important mental health is.

My name is Brooklyn and I am 15 years old. I suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I first started struggling with anxiety around the fifth grade, at least that’s when it got bad I’ve always been an anxious kid. I thought of the outcome in anything and everything that I did. I stressed about my grades and cried whenever I got a bad one.

By seventh grade my anxiety was horrible I hated to talk to anybody especially people who I didn’t know. By this point I started to realize that I had depression. I didn’t talk to my family often, I was failing my classes and just stayed in my room. It wasn’t that I didn’t have motivation to do things I was just worried that I would fail. I wanted to make new friends, and meet new people but I didn’t wanna go through them having to learn about me and I was worried they would reject me. I didn’t tell my parents about this until halfway through eighth grade. The anxiety and depression would manifest itself into headaches and vomiting. Whenever I had a test or a big project, or I was doing bad in a class, I would end up throwing up all day and I would have a gigantic headache. One day I had a presentation in science class, my mom said I had to go in. I threw up, came back to the kitchen, and broke down crying. I tried to tell my mom what I was feeling but it was hard. That day my mom took the day off work and she sat with me as I explained what was going on. She told my dad that night and we set up an appointment with my doctor.

About a month later the anxiety and depression had gotten worse. I didn’t talk to my friends often only at school. And I never texted them back. It was then that we decided that it was time for me to start online school. At first it didn’t help at all I was so deep into a depressive episode that I couldn’t get out of. My walls are painted gray and I didn’t hang anything on them. They were just plain and my room was basically all empty. It was at this time that I started seeing a therapist. It didn’t help as much as I hoped it would and it took me a long time to start to get better. Eventually I did and by freshman year my grades are going up.

This summer after freshman year before my sophomore was hard because Covid 19 caused me a lot of stress. Seeing as my best friend has an auto immune disorder and my sister has cystic fibrosis I was incredibly nervous that anyone I knew would get sick. So my family and my best friends family quarantine together. This meant that that whole summer I spent at least two days a week with my best friend. We also FaceTime a lot and that honestly helped my mental health greatly. Now I am in my second half of sophomore year and my grades are up to A’s and B’s. I’m not gonna lie and say that I don’t struggle. Usually I get anxious five or six times a day and sometimes when I’m feeling good all day I’ll still cry at night. Or there are just those days where you feel horrible you either feel overwhelmed with emotions or numb. I make sure to tell my therapist for my parents about those days and they help.

My parents make sure to remind me that they love me every day, and spend as much time with me as they can. You just need to remember that just because someone is young that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with a mental illness.

This is a picture of me when I first started having trouble with anxiety

This is a picture of me when I first started struggling with depression

This is a picture of me in the worst part of my depression 

This is a picture of me now

If you look at these pictures you more than likely would assume I was a happy kid, that I wasn’t struggling with things things that you would never see. I grew up as the happy and smiley child in my family. I had curly blond hair and was always laughing. I believe this is why I felt even though my parents never said I had to, that I needed to continue to be the carefree kid in my family. So put on a smile and I fake laughed and pretended everything was OK.

I should’ve told my parents sooner because after they knew and started helping out my life came back and I smiled some more. Please make sure you talk to your kids and check up on them. They could not want to place a burden on you especially if they know that you have to deal with things. This could cause them to go really downhill with their mental health. Don’t pressure them to talk to you but make sure that they know you’re there for them.

Brooklyn

Many people don’t understand the difference between cystic fibrosis and asthma. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, and while it does affect the airways significantly it also affects the entire body. The overproduction of mucus leads to clogged and sticky airways in a cystic fibrosis patient that becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. Cystic fibrosis is a rare genetic disease, and both parents must be carriers for a child to have cystic fibrosis.

Cystic Fibrosis

Asthma is much more common. People have asthmatic symptoms when they’re ill, they can have chronic asthma that they’re treated for, children can grow out of asthma, and allergies can induce asthma.

Asthma

It’s rare to have cystic fibrosis and asthma. Approximately 10% of cystic fibrosis patients have asthma. It’s even more rare for asthma to be me most serious of the two diagnosis. It’s like losing the genetic lottery. There’s a significant family history of serious asthmatic episodes in our family. Our cystic fibrosis doctor refers to Lexi as her asthmatic patient with cystic fibrosis. As opposed to being a cystic fibrosis patient with asthma.

Winter is very hard on Lexi‘s asthma. She does best in hot temperatures and low humidity. Arizona’s the perfect home for her. Some asthmatics do better in cool temperatures, every person is different. Once the temperatures are in the 70s and there’s any moisture in the air, Lexi struggles. So why does that make winter a problem for us?

A restricted airway is tough enough. But when you squeeze that airway that has mucus in it, you lose that airway. Lexi has pockets in her lungs that have completely closed. Closed with mucus trapped behind them. Cystic fibrosis patients often have procedures to clean that mucus out of the deepest parts of their lungs. With the high risk of Covid to people with bad airways, Lexi‘s lungs haven’t been cultured in several months. We are unsure if there’s any infection currently present.

And not to complicate things more Lexi also has vocal cord dysfunction. Her vocal cords close off, and prevent the proper flow of air through them. This creates a scenario for her where sometimes it’s difficult to get air in or out.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

We are lucky to have an amazing medical team. It’s important to trust your doctors and your specialist. Today Lexi is struggling, and I just wanted to share a little bit about why she has bad days. part of her journey is educating other people.

When your child is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and any other chronic life impacting medical condition, the social workers talk to you about the critical need to let go. By that I mean when your child reaches those teenage years, you’ve got to let them begin to manage their healthcare. Of course that is a journey, and doesn’t happen all at once. It’s definitely not something where you simply say go ahead and make all your own decisions. It’s a team effort.

Today we had psychology, G.I., orthodontist, Brooklyn had online school, Lexi had virtual school, and I worked eight hours. Days like this when they were younger would have been overwhelming. Definitely in a non-Covid world where we would have gone to the doctor and not had so many virtual calls, I would of had to miss an entire day at work. Today however, I was simply filled with pride.

It’s scary to think of your children managing their health without you, when their health is fragile. In the beginning you can’t even imagine that they could ever be capable of doing so. However I see it happening before my eyes. The way the girls discuss their medications and their overall health, with minimal input from me, shows me that they’ve got this.

Our G.I. doctor has treated the girls for 15 years. She commented today how wonderful it was to watch them grow up, and begin to assume responsibility for their health care. We are at a point now where they tell me when a medication needs to be refilled. They tell me when a flareup is bad enough to call a doctor. I am at a point now where I can accept that they are capable of being responsible.

That may sound strange, but as a parent you’ve got to at some point let go. It’s hard to do and mistakes will be made. We’ve had a situation where a medication was missed for a couple of days because the pharmacy didn’t have it on hand, and I didn’t know it needed refilled when it did. But symptoms got worse, cause and effect lessons were learned, and now that child understands the responsibility for planning ahead for refills. There are other medications like inhalers, that I absolutely make sure there’s always a cabinet full of, because oxygen is something you don’t mess around with.

In five months my daughter with cystic fibrosis and more will turn 18. She’ll actually have to sign a paper giving doctors the consent to discuss her medical situation with me. I’m proud of her, because I’m starting to see that she is going to be able to manage her health. She might not even see that yet, but her doctors and I do.

Brooklyn and Adam

On Sunday Brooklyn came to us and said she needed to speak to Adam and I. She let us know she was having some anxiety, admitted that it was impacting her attitude and that she knew she was short tempered and her room was a mess. She talk to us about her plan, and asked us to be patient with her. Again, just simply proud. Being able to recognize and articulate your emotions is critical. She’s going to be OK also.

Before we joined this world of chronic illness I always thought of social workers as people who helped messed up families. Now we have our own medical social worker, I understand the important role that community plays in helping our children and us become ready for their independence. And independence with a chronically ill person might look different than independence for a healthy person. That’s OK. I am thankful for the social worker who prepared me through the years for allowing my kids to grow and become independent. I am thankful for the social worker who makes sure that we have the money to pay for expensive medications and can steer us in directions if we don’t. I am thankful for this community that will help us navigate Lexi‘s future from insurability to access.

Anytime a parent has a teenager they struggle with how much independence to give. How soon to give it, and are their teens responsible enough to have it. Make sure you’re supporting each other, being there for parents, and being part of that community. Help our teens learn to grow and be independent. And be respectful that you can never know everything that another family is going through.

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