Growing up with a mental illness, struggling, dealing with society’s opinions, I don’t consider myself an expert, but somewhat seasoned when it comes to handling the emotional roller coaster ride that is like a stigma sitting like a monkey on your back.
I’m now 45, and I have thick skin, ready to handle anything. But never in my life did I ever think I would have to deal with teen suicide, especially when that teenager was mine.
As a mother, you prepare yourself for bad things to happen, especially where your children are concerned. It’s like “worry” is a t-shirt we put on the moment our babies slip from our bellies, and we are forced to let them face the world on their own two feet.
We stand, constant, with a safety net below them, just in case they fall. Ready to help them with anything that life decides to throw at them. Why? Because that is our job.
We are warriors.
We are prepared.
We are ready to do battle.
Or at least, I thought I was ready.
When I asked my child how he was doing and he said: “I’m fine.” I believed him. Never in a million years did I expect for him to hide what he was feeling, especially when those feelings ran so… deep.
This past week, I discovered my just turned thirteen-year-old had reached out on social media, asking for ways to kill himself. He even googled it.
My son has always been a sensitive boy. Kind and loving, he cares about the people around him, especially his friends.
Growing up with disabilities, he’s had to learn quickly how to cope with not only the way his friends see him but how society sees him on a whole, which in turn has made him a target for bullying.
It hasn’t been easy.
I did not want to live through the tragedy of my son dying, simply because he felt hopelessness or frustration. I was devastated. The idea that he wanted to end his life, or had at least thought about, cracked open a can of emotion and fear deep inside of me that no parent should ever have to experience.
So, I immediately took action.
The first step was to talk to my son. Not an easy feat. Say the wrong thing, you risk pushing your child further away from you. Kids don’t come with a handbook.
As parents, we rely on our instincts. And my instincts kicked me in a place where “tough love” and “listening with understanding” played a vital role in getting to the core of why my son felt his life was worth so little that he wished to end it.
Many teens think of ending their own life. More than we know. Some of the reasons why include, depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol or drug use, feelings of distress, bullying and irritability. Feelings of hopelessness, and feeling worthlessness. Even a family history of suicide is a factor that parents should be aware of when dealing with their
I spent an entire week doing nothing but worrying about my son. Crying when he couldn’t hear or see me. It’s so hard knowing that he felt the same way I did growing up, and yet with all my experience, I still couldn’t do anything to stop the pain inside of him.
My heart was broken…
During the week, my son opened up to us about what he was feeling. There had been a lot of changes in our life that seemed to be overwhelming.
- He’d been feeling lonely with no friends to hang out with.
- Our complex had a fire in the building his brother lived in.
- Because of the building fire, his brother had to move away to the next city.
- He was dealing with bullying at school.
- He felt depressed and unhappy as our complex is now under construction for the next two years.
Those were just to name a few of the things our boy had been dealing with and not sharing with us how he felt.
I explained to my son that taking his own life is not the answer, because although it feels as if things are bad right now, it will pass. Then I pulled him into my arms and hugged him close to me. I told him how angry his father and I would be if he was gone from our lives, how much we needed him, and how much we deeply loved him. I didn’t care that I shed tears in front of him, bawling my eyes out and telling him how very important he was to me and his father. These problems he’s facing – they are not. Together we can work through it.
Suicide is permanent.
After all, was said and done, my son agreed to get some counseling for his thoughts on teen suicide, and to continue to talk openly about his feelings, and to never seek advice from others online who can be malicious and cruel without realizing the consequences or weight of their words.
I knew as a mother with bipolar disorder that having a child with bipolar disorder wasn’t going to be easy. But I hope that through my experiences, talking openly and honestly with my son, getting him some help, and creating a space where he feels comfortable sharing his feeling any single time he needs, we will get through this.
As for this post…
My son agreed to me sharing this post about teen suicide and about our family. He wants other parents to know that when your child is quiet, withdrawn and that even if they are saying they are “fine” they aren’t. Dig deep. Be relentless and ask questions. It could mean the difference between life and death. Because sometimes love just isn’t enough.
My son told me that despite me loving him, he felt invisible at times. I had no idea he felt this way, and despite not wanting to know it, I needed to hear it. I needed to care enough to ask, even if I didn’t like the answers I got.
Have you ever had to deal with the topic of suicide with your kids? What did you say or do to help them?
( Photo shot of Google search by my son / Other photos by American Suicide Prevention. )