Something is changing and I can’t put my finger on it: my gut has been telling me for a few weeks that we are heading somewhere and I can’t fathom out if that destination holds sunshine or showers.
Last week, I took Lizzie and her friend to a concert. The artist is “up and coming” and an advocate for teenagers who struggle with life so it was only a small gig but it was the second time she had seen this artist and she was so excited! (Excitement though comes with heightened emotions and that always needs careful monitoring because they can drop suddenly from very high to very low in a split second).
I booked the tickets only the week before as an incentive: when I see that Lizzie is struggling, I aim to give her something to look forward to, something to focus on in the future. It sometimes feels like we lurch from one short term event or goal to another but it’s a strategy and I stick with it because it works. My husband and I were going away for a night: it was a birthday trip I had booked for him a while ago and we had already cancelled it once so doing so again would have meant never getting there! I have noticed a pattern when we go away: Lizzie’s moods drop; she becomes more negative and talks more about seeing no point to life. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t jet of constantly and leave her but we do try and get away on our own once a year so to have an extra night away was a much needed treat which requires no excuses.
I’ve thought long and hard about why this correlation occurs (assuming I’ve joined the dots correctly!) and have come to the conclusion that it is fear on her part. She likes to think she is totally independent and in control of her own life: she would certainly never admit that she relies on me for anything other than necessary comforts! But the reality is that I am her support mechanism: even if she is screaming at me that I don’t understand, at least she is screaming and has an outlet for her emotions. When she is really low, when her self harm is so bad she needs stitches, it is me she tells. God forbid she should ever admit it but I am her safety buoy in what can sometimes be a very turbulent ocean. So the thought of me not being there, even subconsciously, creates panic and fear.
The tickets therefore, were something to focus on and to look forward to rather than the fear that was bubbling inside her, that she could only identify as doom. And it worked. We had a great night away, (totally over indulged!) and she was settled.
So the concert was a great hit and it was so lovely to see them enjoying themselves like “normal” teenagers, albeit 14 going on 34 year old teenagers! Whilst chatting in the back of the car, she told her friend that because we were so inseparable these days, that she was my best friend and I hers. Now, I know that this was a bit of hype in front of her friend and fitted the conversation they were having, but oh my! We have come so far in just 12 months: no she still doesn’t go to school, yes we have had 3 hospital admissions and yes her mental state has see sawed dramatically in the past 12 months…..but she is no longer directing all her hate and anger for the world at me 24/7. If you know anything about living with teenage depression or mental illness, you will understand what a stressful, utterly heartbreaking experience it is to be the target of all that anger, rejection and blame.
So this little victory kept me buoyant for a few days, over a week in reality, and I have now locked it away in my heart to treasure. Yet I still can’t quash this gut feeling that something is afoot. In the past week, she has dealt with some awful truths about her friends death and has been royally rejected by her best friend of 11 years, and she has dealt with it maturely but not without extreme emotion: her self harm has increased again and despite trying one lesson, she could not deal with the tentative return to education. We are turning a corner and on so many levels these are positive corners but my fear wont go away. Is this just caution? Am I just too afraid to hope that she is on the verge of actual recovery? Only time will tell I guess. What I do know is that this can’t continue for much longer. She has no outward hope for the future and she is drifting from one day to the next right now. For such a smart, intelligent girl, it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to see that this can’t go on for much longer without some kind of step change. However, we have lots of little milestones to conquer, not least some therapy which starts next week so despite my fears, I remain ever hopeful that we will see the sun again soon. I will not give up even if she has.
Stay strong x