Six months before her twelfth birthday, my daughter Nora (not her real name) started suffering from anxiety.
Over the course of a few months, the anxiety got worse (with terrifying speed, despite counselling and medication). Nora became severely depressed.
Our lives changed completely as we struggled to deal with what was happening to our family.
Before she fell ill, Nora was a happy, confident, funny, cheeky girl with lots of friends. By the time her birthday came around, Nora’s depression was so bad she no longer spoke, she was unable to get out of bed or get herself dressed without help. She barely ate and had lost so much weight we thought she’d have to be fed through a tube. She was self-harming and extremely suicidal. She had to be hospitalised more than once.
Nora also developed ‘psychomotor retardation’, a condition that slows down your thought processes and body movements. It is, apparently, commonly seen in people with major depression. Believe me when I tell you it isn’t something you ever want to witness in your own child.
Several times a day, Nora had horrific meltdowns, when the weight of what she was enduring simply became too much to bear. These meltdowns were the only time she spoke, repeating the same three sentences over and over:
Please let me die.
I’m can’t do this; it’s too hard.
Make it stop; please, make it stop.
We are a family of four: mum, dad, Nora and her older brother. When Nora became ill and I realised we may lose her, all I could think of was that number. We are four – a square not a triangle. If there’s no Nora, who are we? I still haven’t worked that out; I hope I never have to.
I’ve gone from being a busy, working mother to full time carer. I don’t regret giving up my job. I don’t regret a single thing if it means I can get my girl better again.
Parenting a sick child is never easy. Parenting a child with a mental health illness comes with its own peculiar set of issues. It can feel lonely and overwhelming.
I started this blog because I believe it’s important we talk honestly about mental health. Reading other parents’ experiences has helped me enormously. If I can do the same for someone else, that will mean something.
At the time of writing this, Nora is still not speaking, has constant thoughts of suicide, and remains severely depressed. On the positive side, we have seen some improvements. She is eating more, and she has started to have days that are better than others. Of course, even these good days are very far removed from the girl she once was and the life she once had.
And yet…we are 100% optimistic that Nora will make a full recovery. She is an amazing girl and, more than anything, I want her to have the amazing life she so deserves to have. As part of a family of four, not three.
This blog is dedicated to her.