We have not hid the anxiety and depression that often comes along with chronic illness. Anyone can suffer from anxiety and depression, and there are all levels of both.
I first experienced depression after Lexi was born. Poor Adam. Every night when he went to work I would just cry and cry. It lasted a few weeks. I didn’t know why I would cry, but the tears would just come. I didn’t experience that after Brooklyn was born, but even now I notice that if I start talking about something overwhelming me I’ll just start crying. Anxiety tends to hit me at night, when I’ll just lay in bed and think about everything in my life I can’t control.
There is such a stigma around around mental health, and I think it’s even more so for kids. We know that kids have issues with mental health. Teen suicide is a sad reality in our world. This is why I don’t like to say mental illness. I feel like it contributes to the stigma. Let’s focus on our mental wellbeing the same way that we do our physical wellbeing.
In our house we believe in therapy. As a parent I’ve seen first hand the benefits that come from giving a kid a safe, confidential, and trained person to talk to. Our CF doctor once told me to be cautious of where we go for support and advice. Social media and online outlets can be a dangerous place for advice. Kids, especially teens, can be overwhelmed and feed into the negativity.
Several months ago Brooklyn shared with everyone her struggles with anxiety and depression. You can find that post in a prior blog. One thing that has helped us is having an open dialogue. Talking about it, when she isn’t overwhelmed, helps me respond better when she is. I now know saying “I understand” or “it will be ok” just makes things worse. I thought I was being sympathetic, but that’s not what she needed. A hug, a hand to hold, or an I love you is what she needs. I encourage you to talk to your kids, and find out what helps them.
Lexi is the opposite. She wants the reassurance. She wants me to talk her through it. Lexi won’t have the same emotional responses that her sister will. You’ll notice that she will begin to do small things like bite her lips or pick her nails. Right now she’s experiencing a lot of anxiety with her upcoming surgery and hospitalization.
One thing both girls have asked for us a weighted blanket. I hadn’t made that purchase, because I honestly thought it was just a fad. As Lexi’s procedure gets closer, Adam and I decided what would it hurt. So yesterday their blankets came, and Lexi says she loves hers. Time will tell if they become blankets they will use often, but if it helps them feel more comfortable then it’s worth it.
As Brooklyn once said, if sharing our journey with mental health helps another parent or teenager then it’s worth it! Parents talk to your kids. You might find that an angry teen is battling something you aren’t aware of. The exhausted teen might not be able to sleep at night. The young child with a constant stomach ache is internalizing a problem. Adults find someone you feel comfortable talking to. It’s so critical to take care of all aspects of our wellbeing.
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