This I Believe
I believe in the power of resiliency to change a life.
This is a story about resiliency, bravery and my daughter. I am not really sure
when she started to be anxious. Was it in first grade after her dad and I
divorced and her favorite aunt died? Was it moving from her home with her dad
and me to an apartment and realizing she would be going back and forth between two
homes for the next thirteen years? Or was it later when I told her I was gay and her
life once again changed dramatically? Perhaps much later when we were standing
in the kitchen and she confided in me about her very real anxiety? She was thirteen at
the time, not an easy age for many, but my daughter was not faint of heart. She
was tough and gentle. Yet were her teenage years more traumatic than her
I wanted her to be heard and taken seriously. I believed in
therapy, so we found a child psychiatrist and went for an appointment. She
listened to what my daughter had to say and recommended medication and therapy.
She discussed the medication aspect with her dad and he and my daughter were
both against it. Two and a half years later, once again standing in our kitchen,
she told me she could no longer turn off the voices by herself.
We called the same psychiatrist. It was December. We were Chanukah shopping and, though I do not like the technology that has taken over our lives, I am so grateful I had a cell phone that day. The psychiatrist called us back and she offered two choices:
tomorrow at four or in a month. My daughter said “Tomorrow at four! I am not going to
make it a month!” I said we would see her tomorrow.
A few thoughts ran through my mind; how has she made it this far, literally
HOW? She now not only felt anxious and depressed but also phobic and paranoid. This
was not your run-of-the-mill teenage down-in-the-dumps. This scared me! My
beautiful daughter was really suffering. I prayed help was on its way. The next
day we left the doctor’s office armed with a prescription which I knew she would
gladly take for relief alone!
This was not the first glimpse I got of my daughter’s awesome strength and
resiliency. How had she managed to get up every day, go to school, maintain
average grades, have friends, go back and forth between two homes and deal with
mental illness? I was awestruck by her and I told her so. This beautiful young
woman got up, every day, obsessed and paranoid, every day, and did what most teens
felt was their struggle -getting good enough grades to go to college. I don’t
think she even had a dream about college at that time, being so consumed about how
she would get through the day. I swore to her she would never have to be on
this journey alone.
Thirteen months after the second visit to the psychiatrist, she told me again
that she felt OK, but she was feeling so paranoid that she needed more than the
medication could provide. She felt life had more to offer. We found a therapist
who specializes in anxiety disorders and set up an appointment, connecting to another life
line. I found myself wondering again, how had she survived the last year? I know she did not do drugs. I know she did not drink alcohol. In fact, she told me she tried it and it did not make her feelings go away. I know she was not sleeping around. HOW was this beautiful, young woman still waking up every day, dressing, putting
on makeup and going to school? Really, how was she functioning?
I used to think the doctor saved her life. I believe my daughter saved
her own life. I believe in her amazing faith and her ability to want to be better, to do
whatever it takes to live with being a young woman with mental illness.
I believe that this struggle that has somewhat defined her life has paved the
way for her to be strong and brave and resilient no matter what life will hand
her. I see this beauty and resiliency and know what a gift I have been given to
know my daughter.
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