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The Deal I Made With My Mom That Helped With My Depression as a Teen

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My senior year of high school was a tough one. I’d been through a lot the year prior, and over the summer I’d been diagnosed with major depression.  I went into senior year smiling, singing in the choir, belting out the national anthem at sporting events, and socializing with friends, but what many didn’t know was that I was faced with a painful sadness I was only just beginning to understand.

Many didn’t know that on most Friday nights, I was sitting in my bedroom alone, or in the family room with my mother watching Blockbuster videos, while others were out at parties. I felt alien since my diagnosis. I felt different from my peers. I felt like I was walking around with a deep, dark secret; a secret that I wasn’t “normal.”

There were lots of days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face my fellow students. There were times when halfway through the day, I just felt the urge to go home and be alone. I went to the nurse for ailments that didn’t exist only so my mother would be called and I could be released from school for the rest of the day. I didn’t have the flu. I had depression.

After a while, I started to think it may just be easier to become emancipated so I could call myself out of school when I felt like it. I told my mother my thoughts, and to my surprise, she understood.  She said, “Don’t do that. If something happens, I will not be able to become involved and back you up. I will not be able to go to bat for you in the future.” She had a point. Without my parents’ involvement, I was on my own. It’s not that I had any reason to think my parents would ever need to be involved in anything happening at school, but the thought of them being frozen out when I may need them was unsettling. My mother made me a deal. If I needed to come home, I could just contact her, and she would call me out without question.

She chose to trust me. She knew that if I left school, I would be headed straight home because I needed time to myself, not because I just felt like skipping to go shopping. My mother saw me struggling. When I went to the therapist, she was always waiting outside to see how I was. She knew I needed my space, and that sometimes school was just an overwhelming place for me. All she wanted was for me to graduate, and have a shot at attending college, so she did the very best she could to ensure I reached these goals. The moment she suggested our arrangement, I realized how much she truly understood what I was going through, and I loved her for that. We may have disagreed on nearly everything during my teenage years, but she got the fact that I needed to be able to unplug when necessary.

The author with her mother

I finished my senior year and went on to attend college the local college in the fall. I don’t know if my mother realizes how much she helped me achieve these things. The simple act of letting me know she was on my side and willing to help me get through the year with as little pressure as possible was all I needed. I may not have gotten straight As, but I did well enough. I didn’t fail, and I didn’t quit.

I know having a teenager with depression can be frustrating. The idea of allowing a teen to decide when they feel like being in school is not one most parents would want to consider, but in my experience, it made all the difference. I know there are many out there who think simply pushing their child more is a way to force them through the sadness and lead them toward their goals, but pushing isn’t really the right medicine for everyone. Being forceful isn’t going to take the pain, stress and anxiety away from their struggling child. Sometimes the answer just takes a little thinking outside the box, because a little understanding goes a long way.

Originally published: July 18, 2016
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