I was getting scared
The episodes where Georgie was depressed, phobic and anorexic were becoming longer and longer and it became harder to find the vivacious, charming and cheerful Georgie.
I was getting scared. I took her suicidal thoughts serious and every time I found it a little more difficult to cope with her dark episodes. Georgie’s black moods were running our lives. My decisions were now influenced and motivated by fear. If only I could find this one person who understands and can help us. If only…
As mentioned earlier, helpful doctor friends wrote prescriptions for Zoloft and all sorts of medications for me to administer as I saw fit. After all, I’m a doctor’s wife; I had tricks up my sleeve and was capable. Or so they seemed to think. I certainly didn’t feel capable. I felt utterly alone and lost.
After seeing all the therapists, counsellors and doctors, we were still no further to getting a hold on the problem or even get a decent diagnosis. It was clear that she was depressed and hid behind her phobias. It was clear that Georgie had suicidal thoughts and was dead set on becoming the slimmest girl in town. It was obvious that her emotions on a daily basis ranged from as low as you can go, to as high as the sky. But why? This mixed bag of observations didn’t get me any closer to sorting any of it out or even getting a handle on it.
I was obviously not helping by refusing to put Georgie on permanent medication and also refusing to accept any labels that I felt could be detrimental to her sense of wellbeing. Feeble as that sense of wellbeing might have been.
The various doctors and therapists gave opposing opinions ranging from chemical and hormonal imbalance, to blaming her environment, parents, schooling, and genes, to prescribing antidepressants, counselling therapies and natural medications. All the while my girl was slipping away from me whilst I was holding her hand. She was clearly not in control of this demon called depression and nor was I.
Why would any child feel the way Georgie did when all around her did their utmost to help her out of her dark moods into the ordinary humdrum of daily life?
Permanent roller coaster
By the time she was twelve years old, she was on a permanent roller coaster of emotions. When I held her hand I got dizzy on the highs and nauseous on the bends. When I occasionally let go of her hand, she disappeared into the dips and valleys and every time this happened it was a little harder to find her and get her back on track. When she is on track, Georgie is a vivacious and talented student. She is also a born performer, dancer and singer with a natural ability for public speaking.
When the gene factor was mentioned, I remembered Georgie’s grandfather self-medicating with liquor and beer for his seemingly continuous depressive state. There have been suicides on both sides of the family. One of Georgie’s uncles was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and committed suicide at age forty-seven, as did another uncle in his thirties who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Some genes.
What was I to do?
Medicating Georgie permanently was never optional because both her uncles had been on meds when they took their own lives. It is a well-known medical fact that anti-depression meds can bring on suicidal tendencies in certain people. For the brief period that she was on anti-depressants Georgie found the side effects the meds brought on more alarming than ‘her natural self.’
I live proudly with the overprotective mother label. There are many things a mother may not advertise when she lives with a child who is not your typical average child. Most mothers in this situation will choose to keep their child safe and alive, above complying with social convention and order. I am certainly one of them.
But if I was part of the problem, I could also be part of the solution. I didn’t know how, but I was going to find out.
I decided that I was the authority on my child’s health. I was the one who walked, limped and crawled with Georgie as we tackled the valleys and hills of her disease. Over the years I’d taken a lot of notes and made many observations.
I learned to read her eyes and judge her frame of mind long before she came crashing down or was aware of another episode coming on. I noticed what it was that brought on these episodes. Even though some of them came out of the blue, others were brought on by situations, circumstances and diet.
Pull out all stops
I learned that the priority is not to pick her up after she’s crumbled, but to pull out all stops to keep her well.
I said to Georgie, ”It’s you and me, kid. This is what we do. Tell me what you love doing best of all, what makes your heart sing?”
It was a struggle to find favourite things to do and love, because by now Georgie was depressed most of the time. Asking her what it was that makes her heart sing was enough reason for her to burst out in tears and tell me that there was absolutely nothing on this planet that made her happy.
It broke my heart that my 12 year-old daughter couldn’t think of anything at all that made her happy.
I reminded her of the times that we had an ice cream on the beach and I asked, did that make her happy at the time? When she answered “yes,” I suggested that if it made her happy some time in the past then perhaps another ice cream could make her happy some time in the future. So was it OK to add it to our list? She nodded yes.
Even as we were working on her Happy List, she told me more or less every day that her life wasn’t worth living and why bother? And she wanted me to know that, really, she wasn’t worth the effort.
I beg to differ.
To be continued
All rights reserved – I Thought It Was A Little Angel – part 2
copyright myemmanuel 2014
names and places may have been changed for privacy reasons.