Mental Health Stigma Suicide

Therapy for the Therapist

I did a couple years of therapy when I was getting my master’s in psychiatry. It was helpful. Then I felt rather done with it. My therapist agreed. We had done a lot of work and covered a lot of ground and I was much better after I graduated and started working in mental health and out of the emergency department.

I’m generally quite open with my own clients about my therapy experience- not the actual content- but the process; especially when trying to talk people into therapy who are reluctant. Essentially I relate that I found it helpful,  that it can be time limited, and it’s important to find some one you vibe with and it may take a few tries to find that “right fit”. My first therapist was nuts- I didn’t see her for very long.

My second one was awesome. I actually sent him a birth announcement when I had the boys with a little note thanking him for all the work we did together as I felt I would not have made it through the fertility treatments without having gone into it in the best mental state of my life.

After my Dad died last April and I was coping with significant stressors at work I started feeling like I didn’t get to grieve my Dad. I also felt like I was becoming generally more depressed and less motivated. I knew the cause was the death of my Dad and generally watching his decline over the last two years.

I also knew it was time for me to go back to therapy. The issue became finding a therapist who could see some one in a Queer marriage, because trust me heterosexual therapists just are not the same. I say that with love for all the straight therapists out there. It’s just easier for me to talk to some one who is Queer because they get it.

So Queer competent at the least and some one I didn’t share a ton of patient’s with and who takes my insurance and who could accommodate my schedule. Yeah. That task was daunting to me. I talked to a couple of my therapist friends and got some recommendations. Waited a few months. Talked to them again. Got different recommendations.

Then made the call. It’s always good for me to do something like this because it makes me appreciate how nervous clients must be when they are calling me for an intake. I went to the intake, and am super happy with my decision to go back to therapy.

I forgot how nice it is to have a space to break down. I needed to break down. I needed to grieve and discuss my grief with a neutral third party. It’s been incredibly validating and empowering. I also needed to talk to some one who didn’t know my Dad so I could tell stories about him and describe him in detail.

After three or four sessions I felt great. I was thinking, I think I’m done with therapy. Then the non-crazy side of my brain was like, uh no. You don’t fix two years of watching your Dad decline and die after four sessions. We were just scratching the surface.

I also knew of my own clients who felt like they were “done” with therapy, who really weren’t, and who needed to go out and suffer and realize they weren’t done and call a month later for an appointment.

I’ve been open with my family and friends about going back to therapy as I work in mental health and want to #stopthestigma.

I’m not crazy. I was mildly dysregulated due to unresolved and unprocessed grief. I’m working on it. I told my therapist about my impulse to stop coming when I felt so much better and then the reality check I gave myself about it. He laughed and agreed that it’s a thing. People feel better initially and drop out of treatment too early before getting to the real issues.

He also agreed I don’t need to be in therapy forever. But likely a 3-6 more months is realistic. For an hour a week I get to take up space in a way that allows me to be vulnerable and process the death of my Dad. It’s important that I do this work. Unresolved grief can lead to many other sequelae none of which I want to experience.

I also feel it’s important that I practice what I preach. If I’m struggling I need to recognize that and seek treatment. I tell clients every day that they need therapy. I also always say it’s not going to be life long but it takes time to work through complex emotional issues.

I’m giving myself that time. I’m making myself and my feelings a priority.

At the intake he asked me what was the tipping point that made me schedule an appointment. I told him that I now have two extended family members who committed suicide. One was a teenager several years ago, and one was a grown adult earlier this year. Both very different scenarios and both highly functional people one with a bright future snuffed out too soon, and one with a very successful career and family.

I told him that I have been touched by suicide. That I don’t feel suicidal or depressed to that degree at all, but that if I didn’t intervene for my emotional health now I didn’t want to wait until I was at the point of either of these relatives. I’ve seen the worst possible outcomes of untreated mental illness in my own extended family. I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want that to be anyone else in my family or among my clients so I have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

I didn’t say it quite that cogently in fact I said it through tears because I feel a deep pain for these family members who took their own lives.

I am a mental health professional and I am in therapy for the second time in my life. I am working out grief related to the loss of my Dad.

I hope any one struggling with mental illness in any way shape or form has the strength and ability to reach out for help when you need it. I hope no one else I know ever commits suicide again. I hope for a future without stigma for my clients and for myself.

I hope if you’re reading this you feel empowered to reach out for the help you need.

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

 

PCOS & Endometriosis Recipes

My Favorite Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

I went gluten free after my diagnosis of endometriosis. I cried a lot. I loved baking. It took me a LONG time to convert all my favorite recipes to a good gluten free recipe. I tried MANY flour combinations. Trust me on this recipe. It was after multiple trials. When I say multiple. I mean probably two years of trials. Many tears. Not as many tears as trying to get a good gluten free banana bread….(which took me 5 years and many more trashed disasters)….but that’s another story.

These muffins are perfect. Try them my way. If you want to change anything after your first go round go ahead. But do them exactly as I describe for the first try. Two years. That’s how long I worked on this recipe. My sons eat it. They actually prefer these to regular gluten filled chocolate chip muffins.

Why chocolate chip muffins? They were my favorite baked good item and I had a perfect recipe for them full of gluten/white flour. It was imperative to me that I have a good gluten free muffin recipe- no weird gluten free aftertaste, a good rise, soft, not too dense, and melt in your mouth good.

These are NOT healthy. Meaning they are not low fat and not low sugar. They are not paleo or Whole 30 friendly. They are just a solid recipe for when you want a good gluten free chocolate chip muffin. Makes 12 muffins.

I’ve not made this vegan- I have used regular unsalted butter which works fine, and I’ve used soy based dairy free butter which also works. I’ve never made without eggs though. The White Rice flour HAS to be Superfine- there are these options on Amazon and with Bob’s Red Mill. You can also add oats but again- stick to the original below first to get a feel for how it looks and bakes. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Set for 10, check, turn pan so the back doesn’t burn, then set for another 3-4 depending.

If you have a sensitivity to oat flour- you can use 1.5 cups white rice flour and 1/2 cup tapioca flour. It will have a different consistency than pictured though, but still works and still should rise well. I’ve done it when I’ve run out of oat flour.

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Batter should be thick
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Spray the pans with cooking oil
PCOS & Endometriosis Recipes

Vegan Chili

I usually have cookieandkate.com and two paleo cookbooks open with vegetarian chili recipes and I combine them into my vegan chili. My wife kept telling me just to write down my version. So this weekend when my cousins came from out of town and I made my vegan chili (again with three references open) I finally wrote it down.

  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • coconut oil (You can use EVOO or avocado oil- personal preference)
  • 1 medium butternut squash (or two bags of frozen B. squash) peeled and cubed OR 1 large sweet potato or both. I’ve done either/or and both.
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes (no added sugar and low sodium)
  • 1-2 cups vegetable stock or vegetable broth
  • 2 red peppers chopped up
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas (I love chickpeas, you can use kidney beans or two cans of black beans if you feel a certain type of way toward chickpeas:)
  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Chili powder (I use a tablespoon, you can use less if you don’t want it that strong)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Fresh cilantro
  • black pepper to taste- I do probably 1/2 tsp
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • chili pepper to taste (I do a sprinkle for a little kick)
  1. Saute onion and garlic in the coconut oil (roughly 2-4 tbsp of oil)
  2. Add the pepper, sweet potato, squash, and any other veggie you may be drawn to (some times I add mushrooms, but it does change the flavor, zucchini or broccoli is good too)
  3. After a few minutes add the tomatoes and broth
  4. Add all the spices, including some chopped fresh cilantro (You can save some for garnish but I never have time for garnish with twins and stuff, so I just throw it all in)
  5. Let that all heat up for about 10 minutes on medium. When it’s heated through add the beans (rinse them first), then add enough water so the liquid covers all the vegetables and beans.
  6. I cook covered then for about 30-45 minutes. Until it’s boiling and all the vegetables are soft and cooked through.
  7. Turn it down to simmer, add the chopped kale, cover let the kale wilt to desired consistency (longer it cooks softer it gets).
  8. If you have time for garnish you can also put some slices of avocado on top of the servings in bowls
  9. This soup is amazing the day of and the days after. It does freeze well too.
  10. I’ve never done it in a slow cooker….I suppose you can, I’d sauté the onion and garlic still first to bring the flavors out, then combine everything in the slow cooker, set to low and cook for 6 hours.

 

This is just after adding beans and cilantro, it’s already boiled, about to cover and simmer….

lesbian mom · mom of boys

The Boy and My Cat: Temper Tantrums and Reconciling

This morning my sons both wanted to bring their backpacks to daycare because it is show and tell on Friday’s. My boys each are stubborn in different ways. It’s my blessing and my curse. Stubborn kids. I was once a stubborn kid. Now I’m a stubborn adult. Se la vie.

Jackson is a special kind of stubborn. He has preconceived notions about basically everything, that can never be predicted by me or my wife, so we go in blind to every interaction with him.

This morning, as I do every single morning of the months of November-March, after we brushed our teeth I told them to put their coats on.

Jackson had a shit-fit. Apparently he couldn’t possibly wear a jacket and then appropriately wear the backpack. Through screaming and wailing it was relayed to me that somehow wearing a jacket would impede the backpack wearing.

Fine. Don’t wear the jacket. I’ll just bring the jacket. Well that added to the epic meltdown already happening. In the midst of this I also said I would get his Spiderman fleece instead of his big puffy jacket, because the Spiderman fleece would allow for less puffiness and better ability to have the backpack straps on.

This led to more screaming. I ran upstairs. Grabbed the Spiderman fleece. And as I was coming down the stairs and yelling for him to get out to the garage to put his shoes on I hear Declan scream. A surprised and pain scream. I went to the door to the garage. Declan came toward me crying that Jackson hit him in the head with his backpack. Declan looked especially pathetic.

I essentially lost my mind. I went to the stairs where Jackson was sitting, now with his arms crossed looking up at me in fear wondering if I would actually kill him now, I grabbed the backpack, chucked it in the house, and told him to put his shoes on and get in the car.

Of course Declan moved and the backpack that I threw, brushed his hand, and he started crying again asking why I threw the backpack at him, holding up his hand saying it hit his hand.

We were also running late now.

So I’m trying to take deep breaths. Both kids are crying. Jackson finally gets in the car coatless. I have the Spiderman fleece and throw it in my front seat. I hug Declan and tell him I wasn’t throwing the backpack at him, and I was very sorry it brushed his hand. Kissed his hand.

And coddled him into the car. Where he proceeded to recap the events of the last ten minutes and would intermittently say, “Jackson still crying Mama.” “Jackson stopped crying now Mama.” “Oh he started crying again Mama.”

I took deep breaths and put on Frozen II and then Indigo Girls and tried to center myself.

I had grabbed the PJMask toy Jackson wanted to show at show-and-tell so he would still have that. When he stopped crying and I stopped wanting to toss him out of the car we had a discussion about not hitting our brother or anyone in the head with a heavy backpack because it could cause serious injury. With Declan chiming in, “But I okay Mama.” “Yes but what if it hit you in the eye? That would have been bad.”

Then I apologized for throwing the backpack inside. But said people who hit other people in the head with backpacks do not get to bring backpacks to school for show and tell. There were apologies by Jackson to Declan for the head injury and to me for yelling at me and for essentially being a little shit. I also explained that the minimum of bringing a coat is a thing that we do in the Northeast in the Winter. That his teachers would be upset if I brought him to school with no coat.

When I got him out of the car at daycare and hugged him and set him down, he shivered and said, “I so cold Mama,” and immediately asked to put the Spiderman fleece on.

I was thinking a lot of things in my head in that moment. None of them G rated or PG or even PG-13. But I calmly put on his Spiderman fleece. I got Declan out and we went into daycare.

Show-and-tell was a success and when I got home I asked Jackson if he told my wife, Mommy, about this morning. He said yes. My wife said, “He said you threw his backpack.”

I shook my head. Of course that’s where his version would start. Not the fifteen minutes of his own screaming and meltdown that led up to it.

This is life with four year old twins. By the time I’ve walked in the door at work and the woman across the hall greets me I feel like I’ve been through hell. I told her the whole sad story and she was hysterical laughing. Then I started my day with clients.

These boys. These moments. They are chaotic and crazy and I literally can’t make it up. Because I don’t have too. The reality is nutty enough. Then tonight Jackson snuggled with Rajha. Rajha is my cat. Moreso then Maddy. I mean they are both my cats. But Maddy has warmed up to my wife and my sons very easily. She’d be fine without me. Rajha, not the case. She’s obsessed with me. She is actually poking her head over the computer screen at this very moment trying to figure out why I’m paying attention to the computer and not her.

Tonight, when I saw Rajha with Jackson, looking resigned and somewhat content, I thought wow, that little shit. In one day he’s made me lose my mind with anger and frustration and then completely melt me as I watched him finally win over my cat. He’s been trying to get her to like him since he was born. Tonight she laid with him.

It was a sweet moment. About as sweet and lovely as this morning was ugly and chaotic.

Kids. When people say there’s no handbook they mean it. It’s not just handling the bad moments. It’s reconciling the bad moments with the good. It’s being able to move past this morning of horrible-ness to have an evening of happiness. It’s wanting to toss him out of the car this morning and then snuggling with him in bed tonight kissing his nose and smiling and telling him I love him so much. That’s a lot of emotion in one day. For me and for him.

In case I didn’t portray this morning badly trust me. It was bad. So extra.

Tonight. So good.

Tomorrow? My best guess…chaos…crazy….and at some point some magical moment of love…which is why I keep them around. Those little lovely moments where I melt and realize I’ve created these two humans who are totally awesome in so many ways and who reach my heart in ways that no one else can.

PCOS & Endometriosis Recipes

One Week Meal Plan Endo/PCOS Paleo

There was a lot of moving parts when I was doing this meal prep- but it took me under two hours to complete three different meals with a yield of roughly 10 meals. I was cooking for myself and my wife for the week. The three meals are:

Turmeric Turkey and butternut squash

Skirt Steak with Kale and Sweet potato

Honey Roasted Chicken Thighs with Roast Broccoli and sweet potato wedges

This is how I did it with an air fryer, dutch oven, one cookie sheet, 9×13 pan, and one large frying pan.

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs/boneless and skinless
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • fresh basil
  • fresh cilantro
  • Extra virgin OO
  • avocado oil
  • ground turkey
  • butternut squash cubed
  • two large sweet potatoes peeled and diced or wedged
  • 2 bunches fresh kale
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • turmeric
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • black pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • bacon cooked 1-2 strips

You can do any of the following in any order I suppose but this is what worked for me:

Do all your slicing and dicing. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the sweet potatoes into the air fryer- toss with avocado oil, chili powder, cumin, garam masala to taste. I have a large air fryer- but needed to run it a couple times with stirring in between. Set for 400 degrees for 10 minutes and start.

Stir honey, 3 tbsp olive oil, and chopped fresh basil and chopped fresh cilantro in a bowl. Toss all the chicken thighs in the bowl and coat them all. Line the baking dish 9×13 with foil. Empty the bowl into the baking dish. Neaten them up so the thighs are all even-ish and drizzle any leftover sauce onto them. Pop them into the oven uncovered and set timer for 45 minutes.

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Honey Glazed Roasted Chicken Thighs with fresh Basil and Cilantro

In the dutch oven on the stovetop- melt coconut or avocado oil. Add 1 small onion, the ground turkey- cook for a few minutes. Add the butternut squash and turmeric, onion powder and some garlic powder, black pepper, and I added extra fresh basil. If it’s not moist enough add 1/4 cup water or chicken broth. I crumbled up some bacon I had leftover from the morning and added that too. Let it cook. I did uncovered for 5 minutes, then covered until cooked through. Then I added one of the bunches of kale that I chopped up.

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Turmeric Ground Turkey Butternut Squash and Kale

Meanwhile- the potatoes have gone through their first round, open the air fryer, stir them up, add oil if needed, then put back in at 400 degrees for another 10 minutes.

Chop the broccoli heads into little pieces. Put on foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with some black pepper. Put into the oven. Set timer for 10 minutes.

Turn on the frying pan (keep checking the ground turkey in the dutch oven, probably add the kale now) and put a little bit of coconut oil in it. Slice the steak into strips and put on the frying pan. I used onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and some chili powder. Cook it through.

Likely broccoli will beep now- stir it around and put back in another 10 minutes.

Check the sweet potatoes. They are probably done. Do another 5 minute round if they need more time.

Take the steak off when done. Chop up the second bunch of kale. Sautee in the leftover steak juices.

Start filling food containers with portions of sweet potato wedges & kale & chicken thigh, sweet potato wedges & broccoli & Steak strips, and the other containers will be servings of the turkey/butternut squash/kale mixture.

Like I said- there are a lot of moving parts but if you keep track of the cooking times, set more than one timer, and have enough containers to just start filling as the food is completed you should come out with some nice meals for the week. They are all paleo compliant and everything except the chicken thighs (because of the honey) are Whole 30 compliant. They are all auto-immune paleo compliant also.

 

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Skirt Steak, roasted broccoli, Sweet potato wedges
PCOS & Endometriosis Recipes

Green Smoothie

My sons call my smoothies by color- my favorite smoothie is the “brown smoothie” but Declan is partial to my green and my pink smoothies also.

  • 1 or 2 bananas
  • kale fresh about a cup or a cup of spinach leaves
  • 1 tbsp nut butter (peanut or almond are my go-to’s)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 3 ice cubes
  • unsweetened almond milk to desired consistency

This is also one of my staples. Key here: if using kale let it blend a long time to get the chunks out! kale smoothies can be smooth you just have to blend them longer and make sure there’s enough almond milk. I make sure the liquid line is at or above the food line. The dash of cinnamon makes it delicious. If I have frozen avocado on hand I’ll use that or frozen peaches instead of the ice cubes.

Very versatile, light, yet filling.

People always ask me about protein powder. I don’t use it. I don’t like it. I think it’s too expensive. I’d rather get my protein from my food sources than a powder. I drink this a lot during the Summer by the pool for breakfast.

PCOS & Endometriosis Recipes

Spiced Latin Chicken Soup Paleo/Whole 30/PCOS Friendly

Very versatile- add whatever veggies you have in the refrigerator.

To be WHOLE 30 compliant- no sugar added to crushed tomatoes (read the can) and bone stock instead of boxed chicken broth.

  • I used 6-7 chicken thighs, you can use anywhere from 4-8 depending how much soup you want
  • some coconut oil or EVOO
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup water
  • 1 sweet potato peeled and diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1 small/medium onion peeled and diced
  • 1 small bunch kale or greens of choice (spinach)
  • 1 container broth/stock of choice (I used low sodium chicken broth)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped green chiles (less or more depending on the flavor you want)
  • 1/2 or 1 tsp dried garlic or 3 fresh cloves minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • dash red hot pepper

I love soups. You can do this in a slow cooker- low setting for 6 hours.

I just used my big soup pot. Cooked the chicken thighs first mostly through they were a little raw still inside- in a dutch oven in 325 for an hour (mine were frozen though so raw would take less time).

Heat up the coconut oil, add the onion, sweet potato, pepper, and garlic- sautée for a few minutes.

Add all the cut up chicken- cook if still raw.

Add the crushed tomato, all the spices, and the broth. Pop the cover on and walk away. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Cut up all the kale and add it on top. Stir it in. Depends how crispy you want the kale. I turn my heat to low to let it sit for 10 minutes then I turn it off. But I like it mushy. If you want it crispy turn the heat off sooner.

This soup is amazing. You can add cilantro and a slice of avocado on top if desired. You can add black beans or chickpeas instead of the chicken for a vegan option with veggie stock instead of bone broth or chicken broth. It’s reminiscent of chicken tortilla soup minus the tortillas.

PCOS & Endometriosis Recipes

My Favorite Smoothie Recipe

Every day I make a variation of the following:

If you are following Whole 30 they don’t like smoothies…it is compliant without the peanut butter and unsweetened cocoa though. It is paleo compliant with compliant unsweetened cocoa.

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 avocado (I keep a stock frozen- yes messy and time consuming, worth it to always have them on hand though)
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • If I have it I use PLAIN greek yogurt if I’m dairy free I don’t use it- I have used plain almond milk yogurt too.
  • Frozen strawberries and/or peaches and/or desired frozen fruit (No sugar added)
  • Unsweetened almond milk to desired thickness

I usually fill up my blender with all the stuff. Then pour the almond milk until it’s just above the top level of the food. Then I blend until it’s done. I fill up a nalgene bottle with this and have it for lunch at work. If I’m hardcore fasting I’ll have it after 11 AM, and a second one before 7 PM and that’s it for the day with maybe some soup.

lesbian mom · mom of boys

Moments that Make a Parent

We made it through Christmas. I hosted family here Christmas eve, had an asthma exacerbation requiring a lot of steroids and breathing treatments, croup in one of my kids with stridor at 1:30 AM….my wife then got diagnosed with Influenza A…and the list of fun goes on!

Overall Christmas Eve was a lot of work but nice and Christmas morning was fun even though I was exhausted and couldn’t breathe. That night found me standing outside holding my son while he took deep gasping breaths in the cold air waiting for the coughing and breathing to ease. I wore a long sleeve t-shirt and my underwear. It was freezing.

I heard a loud seal cough and that gasping raspy inhale from down the hallway. I didn’t think about getting some sweatpants on. I just grabbed him and carried him down the stairs and outside.

My wife brought him a popsicle and eventually his breathing eased enough that we could go inside into the warmth. I remember thinking as he was clutching his arms and legs around me and resting his chin on my shoulder that this moment is one of those parenting moments.

It’s done in the dead of night. Freezing cold. I didn’t freak out because I treated a lot of kids over the years for croup. Always the same thing. Bring them out into the cold air and/or give them a popsicle. If they still have stridor, then bring them into the emergency department.

I knew the drill. I wasn’t scared. I was exhausted yes. Fighting my own asthmatic cough yes. Freezing yes.

That moment you get to be the rock. Adulting in a way that provides a safe space for your kid when they can’t breathe and they are scared and have no idea what’s going on or what to do for themselves.

As they get older we get fewer and fewer of these moments.

I remember thinking of my Dad in that moment. I thought Christmas would be really hard without him this year. It wasn’t easy. But I was not overcome with heavy grief the whole time. It was more intermittent pangs. It wasn’t until I held my son, all 43 lbs of him, in twenty degree weather waiting for his breathing to ease. Rubbing his back and telling him he would be fine.

That’s when I missed my Dad. Because I would never have a moment where he could be my rock ever again.

It’s not always the big holidays that bubble up the grief of losing a parent. It’s those small, unsung moments, where I’m the Mama and my son needs me. Knowing if I ever need my Dad, I won’t have him there.

So many of my friends have lost their parents this year. My facebook feed filled up with beautiful family photos in front of big Christmas trees, with captions like, “Merry Christmas, Miss you Ma,” or “Missing my Dad this Christmas, blessed to have my children to keep me busy.”

Somehow I’ve reached the age where many of us have young children, and many of us are losing parents. It’s not what I imagined the defining feature of age 34 would be, but here we are.

Losing my parent has made me grateful for these moments as a parent. I want them to be instilled in my kid’s memories. These moments that I was their safety net. I want them  to have those so that when I am gone one day, hopefully many years from now, they will find themselves with their own kids and remember how I made them feel.

Safe, protected, and loved. If that is the legacy my Dad left me and I leave to them to pass on to their own kids; then I think we are doing alright. The grief becomes almost easier to bear because I know I’m passing him on to them in the best way I can.

 

Mental Health Stigma Suicide

“That could have been me,” One teenager’s response to suicide.

I see a lot of teenagers in my practice. I actually really enjoy working with teenagers. I often have parents in the room for most of the visit because it helps me see the family dynamic for one, and two I want parents to know how their kids are actually doing.

I want them to hear how their child is still struggling or not because they need to know. I am often surprised at the number of parents who I have to practically glue to the chair to get them to stay in my office. They seem skittish when we talk about depression and suicidal ideation. They will often ask to leave or if we can talk separately or not talk at all about suicide.

If there was an attempt in the past I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told that we need to discuss it without the kid in the room. I always respond with, “Well if they want to leave that’s fine, but they were there, so I’m pretty sure they are actually the best person to ask about it.” I’ve never had a kid leave. I’ve never had a kid not tell me what happened.

What’s fascinating about this interaction is that if I ignore the parent the child does too, and we continue to talk about their current and past mental health status. If a kid asks to talk to me alone or declines to answer something I always respect that. But over and over I see kids decline to have their parent leave and then talk openly about their depression and suicidal ideation.

Kids want their parents to know. I want their parents to know. Why do parents not want to know? It’s so rare for us to be let into the world of our teenagers- because they have their own world- so why would you run from that opportunity to be let in?

Don’t run. Sit your butt in that chair.

Recently it was one such moment. I was checking in with a kid I knew had been affected by the death of a classmate. The parents were sitting there after I ignored their questions about leaving. The teen and I kept eye contact and they said, “This may sound weird, but I just keep thinking, that could have been me.” 

I nodded my head, and said yes I can see that you’d have a lot in common. Both are/were very successful, hard working, and both wear/wore facades so bright that no one would think they are depressed and struggling to live.

It’s important to keep eye contact in that moment. To let them know I can handle them. I can handle the darkness of that thought. I see them. Eventually we moved on in the conversation and I looked at the parents.

They both had silent tears streaming down their faces.

That’s why I make them stay. They needed to hear that. They needed to know how badly their child struggles with the day to day that they identify more with a child who committed suicide than with anyone else.

I wasn’t going to write this post. But it’s been bouncing around my head since that visit. That very clear and distinct voice, “That could have been me.” The insight and wisdom of that one little statement said so meekly and with such fear. The way it tore through me and their parents.

I hugged my sons a little tighter that night. I maybe cried a little harder than I should have at Frozen 2 because I was thinking of all the teenagers who reach a point of wanting to die.

In 2017 suicide was the second leading cause of death in kids ages 15-24. Specifically ages 14-19 there was a 47% increase in suicide from 2000 to 2017 (Harvard study published in June JAMA).

I grew up in that space where kids are dying. Because this last wasn’t the first suicide in my hometown. When I was in high school 1999-2003…yes that means I’m 34…it wasn’t exactly an accepting culture. It’s been 16 years. I sorta hoped it changed in that time. But I don’t think it has based on what I see in my private practice.

Kids are still bullied. There are still mean girls. Athletes are still allowed to get away with more than non-athletes. I’m hoping there aren’t any teachers still having sex with students, but who knows.  

I don’t know what the answer is. But it’s not a coincidence that I opened a mental health practice and am known for taking teenagers just a few exits down.

I see all kinds. The weird artsy quiet ones. The high achieving three sport scholar athlete. The bullied. The bullies. They all struggle with their own demons.

We’ve lost so many children to mental illness. We will lose many more if there are not kids who are willing and brave enough to ask for help. To speak their truths.

We will lose many more if there are not adults and parents willing to listen and willing to start the conversation. Even if it hurts. Even if it feels uncomfortable and awkward. Because if you walk out of the office, you will miss that moment when they choose to let you in. And that moment can lead to more moments. Those moments can be the difference between life and death.

 

***** This is in no way meant to take the place of actual mental health advice/treatment from a licensed provider.

***** This is in no way meant to detract or cause pain to families who have lost their child to suicide. Even with treatment. Even with open conversations and a loving open supportive family there is still a mortality rate to mental illness.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Translifeline: 1-877-565-8860