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To My Daughter on Her First Day of Therapy

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To my daughter,

Today, at 4 years old, you are starting on a journey you might continue your entire life. It will not necessarily be easy, although at times the inner work may be lighter to bear. You see, you, like me, have an anxiety diagnosis. You, like me, have worries that overwhelm your brain beyond your ability to cope.

I know it. I feel it too. I live with it every day.

It’s been challenging to get to this day. There have been many days where your intense spirit have made me question every choice I’ve ever made as a parent. I worried that I didn’t eat the right foods when I was pregnant and nursing, that I haven’t loved you the right way and that I haven’t provided you with the right environment. My heart has broken as I’ve watched your struggles, and I’ve felt so helpless to help you. Now, I don’t have to figure out how to help you alone.

I want you to know I have advocated for you so fiercely. I had two pediatricians discount my concerns and tell me I wasn’t parenting you correctly, or that no one will see or diagnose a child so young. One even told me I just needed lavender spray and calming music! Ha!

In my heart, I knew something more was going on, and so I switched to a third pediatrician this year and demanded an evaluation. Finally, someone listened! The evaluation took nearly three months, but here we are, on your first day of therapy. I’m so very excited for you!

In therapy, we will get to play together, you, me, your brother and your father. Once a week, we will play with the support of a kind and skilled therapist. She will help us all find a way to narrate your experience of anxiety to you and your little brother in a language you both understand. She will provide connecting activities to bring our family together, to support and understand one another.

In our family, we will not have shame and secrets about our mental health. We will talk about it openly, in therapy and at home. Even when we are camping and hiking or when we are snuggled up with blankets and books in the winter, we can talk about it. We will keep sharing our highs and our lows at bedtime, just like always, without fear.

Some nights, you may not be able to think of what made you sad that day, and some nights you may not be able to think of what made you happy. Both of those are OK. I’m going to tell you something no one told me when I was little: It is OK to not be OK.

I hope so many things for you, but today, I hope you will be able to grow knowing yourself better than I did. I hope you can grow with many skills and strong coping mechanisms. I hope you will know you are truly wonderful just the way you are, and there is nothing wrong with you.

For years, I thought something was wrong with me, that I was broken. I am not broken, and neither are you. You have a mental illness, like your mama, and you deserve love, compassionate care and support.

My sweetie pie, (“Don’t call me that!” you say. “I’m a marshmallow pie and you are a pickle!”) you are being given the sweetest gift! You are being given the chance to love and accept yourself. More than anything, I hope you will keep saying, “I love myself!” like you do because you are so loved! We tell you this every day, but I’m telling you again: We love you, all the time, no matter what.

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Image via contributor.

Originally published: November 2, 2016
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