"I can't go to school today, mom. I just can't."
My daughter is 15. She is barely able to speak through sobs; her hair fanning her splotchy and tear-soaked face.
She is drowning in panic. She recounts how she threw up overnight because she was so anxious.
In this moment she doesn't want generic It-will-be-okays or cliched platitudes.
She just wants her mom.
Anxiety is cunning. It sneaks up in the quiet, when the mind is the most vulnerable. It starts weaving half-truths and ugly lies, so intricately that the truth suffocates underneath.
She collapses on her bed. Nothing I say will convince her to wash her face and slip one leg at a time into pant legs and gather her strewn-about books and put one foot out into the world outside of our safe walls.
Those are too many impossible steps.
To a healthy person, it seems simple. Just get dressed and get ready and get on the bus and go.
To a teen battling anxiety that ravages her insides and plagues her brain, those small steps might as well be a venture to the moon.
There is only one thing I can do in this circumstance. Well, two things.
Call school to excuse her.
And hold her.
As tightly as I can for as long as she wants.
She began her freshman year of high school in 2020, and that is when these mornings of severe panic attacks first started.
Never before had I seen her so wrecked, so helpless, so utterly hopeless.
A perfect storm of a pandemic, a new school, hormones, and mental health.
I know she was not alone. Is not alone.
Our teens are in crisis.
Our teens need parents who are willing to advocate on their behalf. In schools and hospitals and doctors' offices and communities and at home.
Parents who are willing to break down the door to their bedrooms if need be and destroy any barriers set in place to keep us from seeing the truth of their struggles and the pain hidden behind their smiles.
We have to being willing to look at their darkness instead of turning away.
We have to be vigilant in noticing the signs.
We have to be willing to speak up. To fight. To get involved. To get our teens into therapy or on medication or help them figure out coping mechanisms or all of the above, if necessary.
We must be willing to do whatever it takes to get them feeling better.
We have to link arms with other parents who are collapsing under the weight of it all. We have to say, "ME TOO," and be lifelines for each other. We have to be willing to stand the gap.
Our kids' lives depend on it. And so do ours.
Will you join me?
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