It’s a tricky spot we’re in, being parents of a (now adult) child who struggles with anxiety and depression. It’s something that I often do want to write about, something that I often feel called to write about because I know that we are not alone in this. I know that what I put to digital paper gives other parents something to grab hold of, serving as a beacon that things do change or as comfort when things aren’t changing but, either way, that there is someone else out there going through all of the things.
No, you are not alone. And, yes, I am still here. Yes. We are still here.
It’s just a tricky spot we’re in.
It never fails, actually. I write a telling blog and almost immediately hear from old friends or new, local or not so local, about their own challenges. From some, updates. From others, notification that they have joined this gut-punched club. I will say again, right here at the top, the moms you interact with each and every day are struggling as well. There is so much positive press on “erasing the stigma of mental illness” but not so much on what we mothers should do to alleviate the immense feeling of failure that we allow to creep into our own faculties.
Share your stories. Create a judgment-free zone and just unload.
I offer, free of charge, the use of my favorite term, “Wine & Whine.” Reds, Whites, Tears, Laughter, bring it. Bonus points if you show up with pizza and ice cream.
A year ago at this time, we hadn’t yet found out that our child had essentially dropped out of her life. We hadn’t yet pulled her from her near-campus apartment, the over-budget sixth-floor spot that we’d leased in lieu of a dorm room in case those closed for covid protocols. We hadn’t yet brought her home, in a whirlwind, with no plan beyond that gnawing feeling of “this child needs to be HOME now.” We hadn’t yet crawled through the summer, creating memories of blowups and storm outs and fetal positions and promises to try harder.
We hadn’t yet acquiesced to the tears on our cheeks and our inability to prevail.
We hadn’t yet thrown our hands to the heavens and walked through the front doors of the emergency room, only to hear our child finally do something with confidence after months of begging her to do something (anything!) with intention.
Standing a few feet behind her, we listened as she self-admitted as a suicide risk.
A year ago at this time, we thought we had moved beyond all rollercoasters that we had ridden during those tumultuous high school years.
It’s a tricky spot we’re in because that (adult) child is still here, right now, at home, one year later.
We have made so, so much progress. And, also, we have struggled.
Of course, I want to share all of the tales, good and bad, the ups and the downs, but I also want to be sensitive to the current calm waters in our home. There are others living here, after all. We typically aim for a level of “most.” If we can keep “most” of the household happy, then we have had a good day. That is not to say that one of us is more important than the others or that one of us is more of a ripple-causer than the others. And I really do mean that If you know anything about me at all, you know that there are times when I take the prize for the Biggest Ripple Causer of All, but this is a tricky spot we are in.
After we pulled our child from school, cleaned out an apartment that resembled a squatter’s pad, and took a few days to gather back our wits, we started back down what we thought was the proper parenting path. Get this child back up and running! Back to the counselor! Fine, no meds - but she will see a psychologist or psychiatrist and she will have a full physical and exercise regularly and there will be no more all-nighters watching Netflix! A job, yes! Socialization, yes! Reasons to get dressed each day, yes!
Every turn was crash and burn.
Still, we limped and tripped and stumbled thinking that if we could just get a foothold, we could get this her moving forward again. Still, each time we approached a re-launch, found ourselves thrown backwards. Countless attempts at employment lasted no more than a few weeks. There were days (endless days) spent in bed (her) with the curtains drawn, eyes glued to a laptop screen, earbuds shutting out the world. Appearances were a rarity, body tucked into the corner of the couch, face tucked into a phone, thumbs tucked into scrolling.
We kept telling ourselves, “kids will be kids, right?” Anything to convince ourselves that we did not have a real problem.
We had a problem.
Had we been braver, we’d have pulled all plugs. But she was a baby adult, could we?
Instead, we left that her in the worst environment of all - alone with the internet, full of affirmation in the form of rabbit holes that took her further and further away. An extension of the failure (in our parental opinion) of the mental healthcare system that had led her there in the first place. Don’t misinterpret that. We do not dismiss the string of mental health challenges that this child has dealt with, we have just landed in one too many offices where the treatment leaned hard on agreeing with a child’s self-diagnoses rather than an educated professional’s or even a parent’s intuition.
And so, a year ago at this time, we hadn’t yet thrown the half-finished puzzle off the table and let the pieces fly scattered across the floor.
Today, those pieces are coming back together.
We are terrified. We are excited, yes. But, lawd are we terrified. We - all of us, (adult) child included.
A year ago, we would never have talked about it that range of emotions together as a family. Today, big conversations are so normal that they are basically just everyday happenings. Secrets? Out the window. Struggles? Still here, just front and center.
How do you release the bird from the nest again with that memory of a divebomb just behind the last corner?
How do you maintain confidence that it really will be okay this time when your brain flips and flops from “yes, it definitely will be” to “will it though?”
We do know that this place, here, HOME, is not where she needs to be. Not where she should be.
Ironically, we are nudging her to the edge of the nest after what we would rate as our best year ever together. We had a chance for our family to regroup - a chance for her to find out just how deep our well of love for her runs. We often call it our re-do. All the fighting and pushback and anger of high school was (mostly) forgotten because this year, we had extra innings. There was no more hiding upstairs or in the corner of the couch. Jobs lasted longer - not forever, but longer - becoming more of a stepping stone than a dine and dash. We have heard laughter from four people rather than three. We have made memories that involved smiling and being silly rather than the blowups and storm-outs of years past.
But we know that middle-aged roommates are not what she really needs. She knows it as well. Her brother knows it. I’m not sure any of us are truly positive of what form that leap out of the nest should look like, other than “away.” Still, yes, we are all terrified.
She went away last week to spend time with friends and her favorite band. There was a peace in her absence. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean that in a “this is how it should look” way. She should be out in the world, experiencing life, creating crazy stories, and breathing in life-changing moments.
I realized while she was gone that this may be why our house tends to fill with an air of tension as her stay at home extends. We can sense that her young, explorative soul is decaying with each minute that she remains longer than she should. It is something we cannot bear to witness, but something that she has been slow to put an end to.
It is a tricky spot we’re in.
We learned last week that she will head south in August to the Carolinas, off to restart college for her sophomore year. It is wonderful news and she’s been accepted to one of the schools that she had on her list back in her first launch. She did not apply then as she felt that it was too close to home. And so, it is with irony that she will head south in a few months with a pack of butterflies in her stomach because now it feels just a bit too far from home.
This child who once thought there was no distance far enough from us now worries about being too far from home.
She’ll be fine. She will be fine, right? We will be fine too, right?
It is a tricky spot.