Depressed 15 year old daughter - I'm struggling to cope!

(8 Posts)
Milla37 Thu 08-Nov-12 16:30:31

My daughter is 15, her father died suddenly from meningitis 2.5 years ago, and she seems to be suffering from a sort of delayed grief depression reaction. She's always had problems with anxiety/panic-type issues, ever since she was very small. For about 1 year she's been cutting her arms and bashing her hands (although this seems to have subsided a little recently), has suicidal thoughts, and can veer from hyperactive behaviour some days to very depressive moods on others. I'm convinced that she's much more aggressive and prone to cutting when she's coming up to her period. Her school attendance is terrible - she usually managed no more than 3 days a week (the school are not terribly understanding of this, which puts her under more stress, which in turn affects her behaviour and emotions).

She sees a psychiatrist and CBT psychologist via our local CAMHS, who have also put her on Prozac (I don't feel that this helps much), but recently has taken to not coming home on school days when she's supposed to be seeing her psychologist, just getting a friend to phone me to say that she's not going as she can't face talking to her. It's so frustrating when I've fought so hard to get her the appointments in the first place!

I also have 3 other children, the youngest is age 4, who have witnessed so many of her "meltdowns" and some of her cutting - it's becoming harder and harder for me to deal with it all, and it's affecting their behaviour too. I sometimes feel that she's using the cutting/expression of suicidal thoughts as blackmail or a way of getting my attention. Any thoughts/comforting works gratefully appreciated....I love her so much but I'm now getting to the stage (when she's at her lowest) of feeling that I'm so exhausted & can't deal with it any more & (awful as it sounds) I need to "offload" her onto a hospital or someone else who can deal with the problem....but I know that could be the final straw for her.

This situation is putting a huge strain on our family, not least my partner (father of our 4 year old).....help?!?!?!

Brightspark1 Thu 08-Nov-12 21:26:26

I really feel for you and your DD. Coping with a depressed teen is really hard especially when they are self harming. I'm beginning to believe that there is a link between menstruation and aggression and self harming. My DD's problems started at the same time she started her periods. Unfortunately, recovery is a slow and uncertain path; talking therapies can work but I've found that teens find it very hard to open up face to face with someone, even a mental health professional. For my DD, drama therapy and art therapy were more effective when she wasat her worst, it's worth seeing if your local CAMHS can provide this.
Don't rush into hospital admission, though I understand why you would be thinking of it, living with a depressed teen is exhausting and drains all your emotional reserves. For some it can be the answer, but my experience is far from positive.
Difficult as it might be, try and look after yourself, do something nice for yourself, coffee with a friend or just going for a walk, anything to get some space and recharge your batteries.

johnnybear71 Thu 08-Nov-12 23:26:34

Hello milla, I can totally understand why you want some respite and it may be obvious and you may have already tried but maybe a family member from her fathers side could give her a weekend....I don't know if that is an option but If it is she may be able to share some grief. I can only assume you were not with her father when he passed away (please forgive my assumption) and she may feel that she can not talk to you fully as you can't feel her pain. I understand your worries over prozac and feel they are not very effective in bereavement based behavioral problems. Self-half and suicidal thoughts are indicative of not being able to communicate her feelings and coupled with the onset of puberty will be a very difficult time for her. I can only echo the great response from Brightspark and agree that hospital admission could be as helpful as harmful and as hard as it is I hope you find that strength. I have posted a link that you may find helpful and also please don't dismiss the help of your local authority early intervention team. On a personal level I want to wish you good luck and to say that I will keep a thought in my heart for you and hope you all beat this. www.childbereavement.org.uk

SarryB Fri 09-Nov-12 12:32:50

My father died suddenly when I was 11, and I also suffered a delayed grieving period. It didn't really hit me until I was about 14.

To be honest, I hid my depression, self-harming, bulimia and insomnia from my mum. I have no idea if she really knows the half of what was going through my mind at the time. I am now 26.

I agree with Brightsparks - try to find out what it is that inspires her. I never saw a doctor, but would lock myself in my room and sew on the sewing machine like a mad person. I found it a great creative outlet, and eventually began to sell my pieces and ended up going to art college later on. If she can find an outlet, whether it be writing, art, singing, working with young children etc, it will do her the world of good.

It was so hard losing my dad. I used to hate the idea that he was buried, and all I could think about sometimes was maggots eating his body. People would say 'it's just his shell, your dad was the soul inside that'. That really didn't help, his shell was what I knew most, the rough skin on his hands, his ginger beard, his grin.

Just be with her, and there for her when she needs you. Tell her that she doesn't have to tell you anything, but if she does want to, you're there to listen.

Milla37 Sun 11-Nov-12 16:57:58

Thanks for your great advice everyone. I read it from A&E last night - my daughter was dumped by her boyfriend on Friday & had a major meltdown yesterday, threatening to kill herself, waving a razor around, & she asked me to call an ambulance. She'd calmed down quite a bit by the time it arrived and we went off to hospital. The duty psychiatrist & psychiatric nurse were pretty useless (we had a huge wait & didn't see them until 1am, by which time my daughter was fast asleep & pretty groggy when they woke her up to talk to her). They decided that they wanted to admit her for her own safety but my daughter really didn't want to stay & I felt that it would actually be counterproductive for her to stay too. So we made a case & they were pretty reluctant to let her out, but eventually agreed, on the understanding that I'd supervise her carefully until her CAMHS appointment on Monday.

So.....it was useful to read your opinions on hospital admission. My gut instinct is that it wouldn't be right for my daughter, not least because she's a little phobic about that particular hospital due to her experiences aged 7 there, and again when her Dad died there suddenly 2 years ago. What I have heard is that it might be possible to get an NHS referral for a stay at The Priory clinic (we have one near us in Roehampton), and it is meant to be really good there. I will ask the psychiatrist tomorrow & see what's possible, if we decide that we're not getting anywhere with other strategies.

Brightspark - thank you, it's just so nice to hear from someone who's been through the kind of things that I'm experiencing. It's been very hard to get any time to myself as it's tricky to leave my daughter unsupervised (& she only wants me, as apparently I'm the only person that can help her!) but at your suggestion I've been trying to make just a few little "windows" for myself so that I can cope better when things are stressful.

Jonnybear - you are correct in your assumption about my daughter's father - when he died we had been separated for 10 years, and our relationship just before he died had been a bit "tricky", so I see what you are saying - it must be quite hard for my daughter to "share" her emotions about him. However, I have to admit how shocked I was at the level of grief I went through (maybe still am going through) about him, as we were together for 8 years before he left, and had been very close indeed at one time. Anyway, thank you so much for thinking of me, and for the weblink, which looks very useful.

SarryB - I'm so sorry that you lost your dad at such a young age too - it must have been awful for you, and it sounds as though you managed your grief and depression-related problems incredibly well all by yourself. That must have been very hard. I hadn't mentioned that my depressed daughter's younger sister was 11 at the time of their dad's death, and she's been a real "coper"....but I'm slightly concerned that things are bottled up with her too, and she sometimes gets quite jealous at the amount of attention I'm having to give to her big sister. I love your idea of looking for something artistic to help my depressed daughter - she's quite musical so maybe that's the thing, but I'm going to have a think about what she might find helpful.

But anyway, thanks all for "listening" & your helpful messages. Will post again soon, I'm sure......

Brightspark1 Sun 11-Nov-12 21:30:14

Sorry to hear about your difficult time this weekend. I brought back horribly familiar memories of nighttime trips to A and E, followed by endless waiting around for duty psychiatrists and CPNs, but you couldn't have done anything differently. I hope you get a chance to rest as you must be exhausted.
You mention that her behaviour seems attention seeking, I think that's undoubtedly true, I don't mean that in a negative or judgemental way. She is using this behaviour to seek the help she needs. As adults, it Is hard enough to manage the grief and loss that surrounds a bereavement especially of an ex partner . How much harder it must be for a teen at a crucial stage of her development to understand and express her complicated feelings of grief. She needs specialist bereavement support to work her way through her grief in addition to CAMHS support.
BTW I have PMd you, I hope you don't mind.

flow4 Sun 11-Nov-12 21:49:25

Milla, your situation sounds heart-breaking; I'm so sorry. sad

I don't have much to add, except to say that the daughter of a friend of mine was admitted to The Priory (NHS referral) for four months earlier this year. She found it really, really hard to be away from her friends and family, and to be so restricted: all new patients spend a few weeks at least being constantly supervised - they're checked every 15 mins, and are not even allowed to go to the loo unsupervised; and they're not allowed to smoke... It provided her with a massive motivation to re-take control of her life, because she was so desperate to get out of there as quickly as possible. So the Priory 'worked' for her smile

Sorry to hear you had to go to A and E - your daughter's situation sounds so similar to mine. My older sister ending up self-harming, attempted suicide several times, was admitted to hospital etc, but now she is working in London and all is well as long as she takes her medication! Your girls sound so similar to me and my sister.

I know that you are not neglecting your younger daughter, but try not to forget about her - just because she appears to be coping, doesn't mean that she is. Just be there, spend time with her (don't pressure her to talk about her dad if she doesn't want to) but make sure she knows that you will give your complete and un-biased love.

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