Sophia’s Mental Health Journey. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty when it comes to children’s mental health.
I’ll first start by saying I am not a licensed psychiatrist and the information I disclose here is based on multiple resources to include, but not limited to, therapy sessions, group counseling and individual conversation. I also have received full permission from my daughter to share her story. This is PARTS of it, but certainly not all of it. She’s come a long way.
My Child is Too Young
Looking at a child, it’s hard to think that anything besides the “what’s for dinner?” worries could be troubling their seemingly innocent minds. I mean especially a young child. It’s almost “bad parenting” if you have a child who is exuding signs of mental illness before they’re socially deemed “old enough.” Think: abused children. Yet Sophia’s mental healthy journey began at 6 years old.
I can assure you, that you can be doing everything in your power to do the best you can and it still not be enough. Wanna know why? Because that’s life! Don’t be ignorant to it and do NOT let your pride of being “socially acceptable” or a “good parent” overshadow the true necessities of mental health recovery in children.
Sophia’s Mental Health Story
Sophia’s Mental Health Journey started with counseling when I moved to South Carolina in 2017. This was right after I had my massive breakdown months prior. She made a comment to my sister-in-law while we were evacuating for Hurricane Irma that she wished she wasn’t alive. She was 6… what had I done wrong? It was obviously my fault right?
I immediately went into damage control mode and was resentful of anything and anyone that took something/someone away from us. That clearly wasn’t a realistic approach and caused more damage. I then contacted her pediatric doctor and got her into behavioral therapy weekly. Her therapist and I took a “one team” approach and worked hard to help develop her coping skills and encourage her confidence.
I’ll never forget sitting in the office when he told me she had secondary PTSD. I was caught off guard seeing as I have PTSD (Complex PTSD to be exact, but wasn’t diagnosed as Complex just yet) and immediately said “I don’t know how to handle that nor parent that.” He smiled and said “that’s why we will work as a team.” I worked hard to fix my mental health and she did the same all with the support of therapists for her and for myself.
She ended up “graduating” in April of 2018. We now had a 7 year old that could not only identify, but give examples of assertive, passive and aggressive language/statements. She was starting to gain self confidence and decided to do all star cheerleading.
Everything was better… Ha, WRONG!
Trust your mom gut! Sophia’s Mental Health Journey was still a work in progress. In December of 2018, I was a “hands on mama” who was adamant to do all the Pinterest-y things for the Holidays. My husband had 24 hour duty on a Saturday so I had all the baking planned and friends coming over to enjoy the fun. What I wasn’t prepared for was my youngest daughter coming to me in tears saying that Sophia told her she wants to die and that she will rip off her arm so she bleeds to death.
*Cue panic* I immediately go in to comfort her and I cry asking her if she understands the severity of what she’s saying and how mommy can’t fix that and I can’t lose her. She starts to cry as well. I tell her she needs to apologize to her sister because she scared her and she agrees. She tells her sister “I’m sorry for scaring you, i won’t pull my arm off, i’ll just die in a car accident.” *Face meets wall*
I HAVE FAILED!
I’ve failed. That is what was going through my head in that very moment. I couldn’t manage my own mental health so how the heck was I going to manage hers?! What about the judgment from outsiders? What about the stigma? What about the mom-shaming? So many what abouts that my head just kept spinning.
Therapy Round 2?
Sophia’s mental health journey is still not finished. I immediately called her therapist and he got us in to see her again. We determined she had separation anxiety and that her dad leaving was a trigger for it. Fun fact, he’s a marine and him not leaving isn’t an option. We developed more coping skills and determined many ways to help overcome the anxiety and worry-ridden thoughts overwhelming her. Heck, we even laughed that she had no clue how she would rip her arm off.
She graduated her therapy again and I was confident that we had this under control. I finally could breathe and be a “normal parent.” Ya know, the kind that is upset their kid won’t eat broccoli. What… that doesn’t exist? Probably not, but if it does it’s not in my parenting realm and ironically enough my kids favorite vegetable is broccoli so the irony is astounding.
In walks 2020
2020 had been a hard year for so many people in a wide variety of ways. Honestly, it was going great (aware of my selfish view) in my opinion because I’m a home-body and I don’t mind staying home and with my family. I also have been lucky to have those I love and care about stay safe during this pandemic.
I guess 2020 was jealous that I wasn’t enduring in the pessimism that so many others had to manage and the universe throttled it’s ability to spiral me. Cue to one warm summer night where my youngest daughter again comes to me hyperventilating saying her sister wants to kill herself. She’s now 9 (almost 10) and I thought things had been going great with the confidence she gained from all star cheer. Heck, she had recently started wrestling as a “side hobby” outside of her cheer and then she was actively focused on wrestling becoming her main focus. This is important because it becomes her saving grace. And if you follow me you know how active she is in it now (and I wrote this the first week of December so I’m merely doing small updates on it right now.)
I confront her with the information that her sister presented me with. She is crying and I am trying to figure out how I handle this now. I asked her if she wanted help and she said yes. She ended up going inpatient at MUSC Charleston where she was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and MDD (Major Depressive Disorder.) I felt like I had been punched in the gut. She had been in therapy off/on for half her life and STILL I was “failing” her in the mental health aspect. Sophia’s mental health journey was proving to be a mountain to climb.
Screw you Mom-Guilt & Mom-Shaming
I wanna say a huge screw you to mom guilt and mom shaming. I was doing everything I knew to do and that is okay! Again, I spoke with her therapists daily and told them that I don’t know how to parent this but that I’m trying my best. We took a “one team” approach again and worked hard to achieve her being sent home and resuming outpatient therapy.
10 days… 10 days later I finally got to see my daughter again. She seemed different, but the same. I hadn’t seen her since she left. They had started her on some medication for the PTSD and MDD, with the plan of removing her from the medications and recovering from both the PTSD and MDD.
Over the Hard Part, Right?
WRONG! I’ll never forget sitting on her bedroom floor showing her everything I had done to her room (I cleaned, purged, organized, redecorated, rearranged, etc. her whole room as a coping mechanism) and she went to open a box and said “ouch! I have all these cuts on my fingers. You don’t know this but I used to cut myself all the time but I haven’t in a while.” Her younger brother quickly says “It’s true. I watched her but I was scared to tell you.” Y’all they said this like they were telling me their order for Wendy’s.
How on EARTH do you feel like you are doing a decent job parenting when you find this out?! I had so many questions. How? Where? Why? With what? She had been doing it on her fingers to disguise it as a “paper cut” and was using a steak knife from downstairs. She did her wrists once but figured I would see it and get mad. Sophia’s mental health journey took a turn dealing with something I had never dealt with!
Y’all, I’m a stay at home mom right now, so how did I not know what was happening in my own home? I had many therapy sessions surrounding my mom guilt, fears and more regarding my children and their mental health. I have worked hard daily on my own mental health as well as my kids mental health. Remember, I promised transparency.
ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS IN MENTAL HEALTH!
I’m not telling you this for sympathy, I‘m telling you this because if your mom gut is acting up OR your child seems off ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS!!!! With this pandemic EVERYONE is having a hard time with their mental health. Mental health doesn’t care about your age, sex, finances, ethnicity, etc. You are NOT a bad parent for seeking help. I’m not a physical therapist so I can’t help my kid walk again after breaking his femur so I take him to PT… that should be the exact same view you take on yours and your child’s mental health. You’re not a psychiatrist so you take them to one to help their mind recover!
Another thing that is pertinent to understand is that PTSD is not just combat related. Not only that, but PTSD can be caused by a traumatic event, but the traumatic events can be relative. For example, you and I can experience the same situation and it could traumatize you but not me therefore you could develop PTSD from the situation but the fact that I didn’t doesn’t discredit nor minimize your diagnosis or illness. Sophia’s mental health journey and diagnosis of PTSD and MDD are gradually progressing.
Update: Sophia’s Mental Health Journey written date 12/9/20
I want to let y’all know she is doing well. We took a mental health recovery vacation and God really had things planned out for us. He moved Sophia’s heart so much that she opted to sing karaoke. Y’all this kid had zero confidence not long ago and now she’s willingly doing karaoke in front of a ton of strangers?! Who is she?! Of course she sang a Billie Eilish song called “Ocean Eyes.” I took a video and when I tell you it brought numerous people to tears I’m not lying. Not because she sang amazing, heck I don’t know if she even hit one key right, but because if you knew her journey and how hard she has been fighting you couldn’t help but get emotional!
The confidence continued when she was asked to do an exhibition match in Orlando. TK Wrestling was hosting an Iron Sharpens Iron wrestling tournament on Rokfin and they wanted Sophia and another girl to wrestle to bring awareness to girls wrestling. She did it and won! She was all smiles and is patiently awaiting her belt and singlet from ISI! Again, cue the tears.
Is she perfectly better? Heck no. This is something that I pulse check with her almost daily. I’m transparent with her about my PTSD and I go to bed each night not asking God why but thanking him for all the trauma I have endured because I was meant to be her mother. I am not too proud to ask for help when it comes to my child’s mental health. I’m not too scared of what others will think to ask for help. I am pushing forward each and everyday and reminding myself that God made me and knew what I would need as a parent to be the best I can for my kids.
She’s currently on medication and seen weekly outpatient. We’ve made it almost 2 months (5 months as of the day I’m posting this) without any self-harm or suicidal ideation. These are HUGE wins! If you feel alone in the battle against your own mental health or a loved ones please don’t hesitate to reach out. I will not judge you. I will not share your information. I will merely listen and offer an unbiased and understanding ear that will encourage you as much as I can.
Update: Sophia’s Mental Health Journey Posting Date 3/3/21
I wrote the above article on December 9, 2020. It took me awhile to really get to a place of calm and confidence to share her story. She sat with me and read it. She let me know things I should add and reminded me of things she didn’t want shared…yet. She’s 2 more sessions away from graduating therapy. She is mentally strong and physically strong. She is someone I look up to and hope that I can be half as brave as she’s been on this journey. So when you see this ‘beauty’ out there, don’t be mistaken by ‘the beast’ that she brings with her to every match and every trial of life. #SimplySophiaStrong Stay tuned for an even more amazing update on my Platforms tomorrow, 3/4/21… the only day in the year that is a command ‘March Forth’ Instagram and Facebook