I can pinpoint the beginnings of my depression to 4th grade. I always assumed it was due to my being overweight and bullied. It may have been. However, the concept of suicide never really entered my thought patterns until high school. Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) was more my style, and no, it wasn’t for attention, but to punish myself for not being the perfect daughter my father seemed to expect.
Many years later, I know so much more. I know that the genetic predisposition towards mental illness runs rampant through my family history. I know that being a Highly Sensitive Person, lends itself to being traumatized by situations that may seem harmless to others. I know that having a parent with mental illness makes it nearly impossible to avoid it at some level or another. Now, I know that my 9-year-old, 4th grade, daughter needs help.
The words just seemed to slip out from her mouth, as a friend and I were having a casual conversation about ADHD and our experiences with the symptom of lacking impulse control: “Like, sometimes, I think I want to kill myself, but when I have a knife, I’m not brave enough to do it.”
My heart skipped a beat. My mind raced. How had I missed this? How long had she been thinking/feeling this way? How would the other mom react to such a shocking statement? Just a couple years ago, I knew she was struggling, but she seemed to have gotten so much happier since then!
I felt like the worst mom in the world. My 9 year old was calling herself a coward for being unable to take her own life, and I had no idea how to respond to an admission that I absolutely 100% understood and related to, especially in the presence of someone I’d only known for a few weeks!
In the moment, I thanked her for letting me know about it, as well as never following through on those impulses. I gave her a tight hug, and promised her that we would talk more about it at home. My friend was very sweet and understanding, and handled it like a saint, smoothly avoiding adding any additional shame to my hurting daughter.
At home, we had a longer conversation than we’d ever had before. We talked about how serious suicide really is, for the victim and the loved ones they leave behind. We talked about the events and feelings surrounding those thoughts of hers, and other ways to work through those intense, painful emotions. We talked about my familiarity with the thoughts and feelings she was describing, and why I chose to get help each time. I apologized for my own mental and physical illnesses getting in the way of me being the mom she needed me to be, these last couple of years, and we discussed ways that I could do better going forward.
We’re going to get her into therapy/counseling, and we’re going to be watching, and communicating with her incessantly, until she, myself, my husband, and her therapist are all reassured that she’s in a safer place, mentally.
My heart hurts, but I’m thankful that she has a mom who understands her pain.