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Teen Depression: Our Daughter’s Friend Said Our Daughter’s Cutting

Our journey began with a phone call: “My daughter told me that your daughter is cutting, and my daughter is very worried about her.” What do you say to a mother who calls and tells you this about your teen?

Thanks? Then what?

Diagnosis: Depression

Several hushed, behind-closed-doors conversations with my husband. Then, a call to the pediatrician and a referral to a therapist, who gave us a script to use in approaching our daughter correctly.

Correct approach or not, she is angry. First, she is furious with her friend for telling her mother. Then, she is mad at us for overreacting. Reluctantly, she agrees to talk to someone. Finally, she is overwhelmed by the diagnosis: depression.

She wonders why she is depressed. Her life isn’t THAT bad. She has ordinary problems: an unfair curfew, wasted time on her cell phone, mediocre grades, gossip. In her mind, nothing too horrible. But, she agrees to anti-depressants and therapy.

Worried About Her Every Move

But what’s the course of treatment for me, her mother? If she sleeps in, I worry that the depression is worse. If she eats too much or not enough, I worry. If she stays home on Saturday night, I worry. I realize that my worrying is more debilitating for me than depression is for my daughter.

So, I take a deep breath, and I try not to over-analyze everything about her. I check in with her therapist, who tells me my daughter is okay.

My daughter went through several months of therapy and continued the meds for several years. And, I continued my vigilance. When she asked for a t-shirt from a non-profit that helps teens and other people who cut, I worried. Was she cutting again? Was she reaching out for help?

“No, Mom, I’m not cutting. I know what it feels like to cut, and this organization helps people like me, and I want to support them.”

I took another deep breath. With time and the doctor’s help, my daughter is slowly weaning herself off the anti-depressants. We talk about what it feels like to be depressed, and she promises to tell me if any of those feelings come back again. So far, she tells me, “I’m good.”

I continue my vigilance.

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