It’s four and a half months since Nora was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Without doubt, these have been the worst four months of my life.
Despite being terribly ill, Nora is now making a remarkable recovery. I have already written about this so won’t bore you again with the details.
At her very worst, I always knew Nora would get better. She is, without question, the most single-minded and determined person I know. It’s not just me who thinks this. Her father, brother and CAMHS care workers are all in agreement. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Caring for a child with a mental illness is scary and lonely. You will need as much help as you can get. Here are some of the things that helped me through the worst of times. They may not all be relevant for you, but one or two might help you along the way.
Friends and family
I am immensely proud of how our little family pulled through this together. Nora’s brother, four years older than her, has done so much to help and support her. From spending time with her when she was at her very worst, to cracking jokes and having fun with her as she recovers, he has been the best big brother she could ask for.
Miraculously, my husband and I seem to have dragged out way through this relatively unscathed. We really dug in and got each other through each day. We were there for each other and our kids when we all needed it most.
As for my friends, I have simply been stunned by people’s kindness. Many of you will be reading this and I want you to know your help, love and friendship were never more appreciated or more needed.
Soon after Nora fell ill, I discovered a singer I hadn’t heard of before. Her name is Camille O’Sullivan, and her music got me through some of my darkest moments. One song, in particular, resonated with me. I still can’t listen to it without weeping. It is raw and powerful and full of love.
Here’s a link if you’d like to hear it for yourself: Camille O’Sullivan singing Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. Put the volume up high, sit back and let the music work its magic.
Wise mental health professionals
I’ve written previously about our negative experience with one CBT counsellor, and the ill-informed paediatrician who ‘didn’t believe in mental illness’. On the whole, however, our experiences with doctors and mental health professionals have been overwhelmingly positive.
It’s important you know this. I’ve spoken with parents who are put off getting help after one bad experience. Please don’t let that happen. Your child has an illness that requires professional help. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can do this alone. Your child deserves more than that.
I know getting help isn’t always easy. In a previous post, I’ve listed some of the ways you can push to get the right help for your child. I hope it helps.
Having a care plan and sticking to it
A key part of your child’s recovery is their care plan. This is a schedule, put together by your child’s mental health team, that your child has to follow in the early days of their illness.
In Nora’s case, her care plan consisted of carrying out basic tasks such as getting out of bed each day, getting herself dressed and eating a certain amount of food. If this seems extremely simple, it’s not. When someone is severely depressed, carrying out even the most basic tasks can seem too daunting.
Having a bespoke care plan was hugely important. It gave Nora – and me – a structure for getting through each day. Over time, it gave her confidence to believe she could carry out basic tasks that she’d thought were too difficult.
Reading about other people’s experiences of depression
I read – and reread – Matt Haig’s brilliant Reasons to Stay Alive. I read blogs detailing people’s experiences of depression and mental illness. I learned as much as I could about Nora’s illness.
I knew almost nothing about depression before Nora fell ill. I’m still no expert but I’ve learned enough to – hopefully – support her as best I can.
The resources section of this blog lists all the books and online resources I found most useful.
I am not a religious person. When I talk about faith in this context I mean faith in my daughter. I never once, not even at her very worst, believed Nora wouldn’t get better.
This wasn’t always easy.
Several times, we were told by mental health professionals they had never encountered a child of Nora’s age with such severe symptoms. At one point, her CAMHS counsellor told me they were ‘flummoxed’.
It took over a month for CAMHS to put a care plan in place for Nora. They simply didn’t know how to treat her when she was first referred to them.
Yet somehow, through all of this, I always believed she would be well again.
Of course, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not naïve. I know that depression may be part of her life forever. I know she may get sick again. If that happens, I will hold onto the faith I have now.
Because I believe in my daughter. I believe in her strength and her determination. More than anything, I believe she deserves to live an incredible life, with or without ongoing mental health issues.