my 20 year old daughter says she wants to die - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 22 Old 10-27-2013, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello. I just joined because I really could use some help. My daughter told yesterday that she wants to die, which as you can imagine, has me panicked. I asked her what made her feel this way, and she responded with a shrug and "I just do." I don't know if that means she genuinely doen't know why she's so depressed or if she just didn't want to tell me. I didn't push. She said she didn't necessarily want to kill herself, but that she just wanted to die somehow. I've been looking up therapists in our area so I can get her some professional help, but I don't know what else to do. Since the conversation yesterday, we haven't spoken. I have no idea what to say. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around her, like if I say anything wrong, I might set her off and drive her to suicide. I don't want to ignore the issue, but I really don't know how to help, and I'm afraid of losing her.

 

Please, if anyone can give me advice on how to help her, how to talk to her, or anything at all, I'd really appreciate it. Please.

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#2 of 22 Old 10-27-2013, 10:06 PM
 
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oh mama. i am so sorry. 

 

keep that search up and find a therapist soon. keep searching even after you find one in case that one does not work (try if you can find a recommendation from someone you know)

 

print out the crisis line phone numbers in your area and give it to your dd. most important if she lives on her own or does not live with you.

 

it is absolutely fantastic that she has opened up and told you. i would go back and talk to her. and express your feelings. i know that's hard to do. but tell her the exact things you have written here. without making her feel responsible for your feelings. ask her what you can do. 

 

sometimes just sit and share the silence.

 

but its VERY important you talk - even if it feels difficult or odd at the moment. 

 

if you express you are scared, she probably would express her fears too. 

 

sit with her and tell her the path you would like to pursue. and then ask her what else you can do. 

 

remember the first step of healing has already begun. she opened up and told you. 


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#3 of 22 Old 10-28-2013, 02:35 AM
 
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First of all *hugs* and I am so sorry you are going through this.

I dealt with depression and suicidal urges for 6 years, and tried my hand at it twice when I was 20 and 21... just so you know where I'm coming from.

Yes to everything "meemee" said.

The fact that she said she "just wants to die somehow" is a good indicator that she is not in immediate danger, (according to hospital psych evals). As you keep the dialogue open, noting whether it sounds like she actually has a plan nor method in mind, and asking outright is an important indicator of how immediate the danger is.

Finding a therapist is good and important, if she is up for it, ask what characteristics and or style she thinks would be helpful or what she definitely doesn't want. This could be useful in weeding out therapists via email/profiles. The first therapist probably won't be the perfect fit, that doesn't mean therapy can't help, but personalities and need/expertise have to fit, so it can take a while to get a good match.  Going in with this in mind can help prevent despair.  If she really feels in crisis, then she may have to settle temporarily for someone to keep tabs on her status/help keep her safe.

 

If you can let out your emotions around this when you are away from her, and stay calm and receptive when she shares, it will  be easier on her. You can still verbalize that you are scared for her or it makes you sad that she is dealing with such dark thoughts, but if you get really emotional about it, she may feel the need to protect you by hiding her thoughts.

 

Frequent check-ins are a good idea. It can be as simple as a text that says "thinking about you".

 

"I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around her, like if I say anything wrong, I might set her off and drive her to suicide."... You cannot take on responsibility for her depression or actions. If she were to try to hurt herself, no-one would be at blame but mental-illness. The most you can do for someone is just be there. You cannot fix this. Let her be sad or angry or quiet, and don't try to fix it, just be with her in it. In conversations about these things, just reflecting back what you hear her saying and asking about what it's like to experience such things is usually a good approach. 

 

I think these blog posts can be really helpful for understanding depression. In fact you could share them with her and ask what parts she identifies with.

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

and

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

 

I am open to answering any questions you have. Obviously, I can't tell you what is going on inside her head/feelings, but I've had a lot of years of thinking about and experiencing this stuff. 

My thoughts are with you.

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#4 of 22 Old 10-28-2013, 03:16 AM
 
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As someone who has also struggled with this my whole life, I second all of the above - it is excellent advice.  Particularly...letting your emotions out separately so you can be calm and receptive with her.  When people have (totally normal!) scared and upset reactions to someone talking about their depression, it is overwhelming - and the person who is depressed often feels the need to protect them by just not saying anything (also, it feels like there is no point in talking because the more upset or shocked you are the more it feels like you could never understand...).  So calm and receptive is huge.  Also, I LOVE both of those links - super helpful. 

 

Also, I wholeheartedly agree you have to be careful not to take on responsibility for her depression or actions. It's not about you, it's about her. You do not need to walk on eggshells, just be receptive (clear your feelings out to make room to receive hers, if that makes sense). 

 

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#5 of 22 Old 10-28-2013, 06:08 AM
 
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Originally Posted by SkimMilk View Post
 

Since the conversation yesterday, we haven't spoken. I have no idea what to say. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around her, like if I say anything wrong, I might set her off and drive her to suicide. I don't want to ignore the issue, but I really don't know how to help, and I'm afraid of losing her.

 

I think that this is a good thing to tell her, as calmly as you can, something like, "I called some therapists for you. I haven't spoken with you about this, because I'm not sure how to help and I'm afraid to say the wrong thing. I love you and I'm taking this very seriously." She needs to know this, because it's possible that she thinks you're ignoring the problem. 


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#6 of 22 Old 10-28-2013, 10:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for the advice, everyone. She's back at school today (her college isn't too far from home, but she still lives on campus), so I just sent an email to let her know I'm not ignoring this. I will call her later this evening, because this isn't a conversation I want to have in front of my co-workers. In the email, I included those blog posts (which were very helpful to me, so thank you), the numbers for suicide hotlines I had found, and I told her I was looking into finding her a therapist. I also told her that I love her and I am going to help her in any way I can and that I would call later today so we can really talk about this.

 

Thank you all again. I'll post again once I've talked to her.

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#7 of 22 Old 10-28-2013, 11:58 AM
 
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Great Skimilk. thats great news. you've set the path so both of you can have a conversation. 

 

i am replying to remind her to use the counsellors on campus as a resource - IF she so desires or needs. 

 

it is important for her to know she is not alone at this time. that there is always someone around and someone to talk to. 


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#8 of 22 Old 10-28-2013, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I had the conversation with my daughter. I wasn’t sure I wanted to post this, but I’ve had time to process and I think getting it out would probably be good for me. Plus, I said I’d give you an update. 

 

Anyway, thank you for the links, ZAMsmama. She really liked the blog posts you gave me and seemed happy I had read them. She said that was one of her favorite bloggers, and she’d read them both before. I think that really helped get the conversation started because she related a lot to the blogs. First, we talked about getting her help, and she’s nervous, but willing to go to a therapist. I also asked about her school counselor, but she’s heard of instances when kids were kicked out of college for being suicidal (which seems ridiculous to me!). Then we just talked about her feelings. She told me that she can’t pinpoint a specific reason for why she is depressed. She said “I’m just really unhappy. I don’t know why.” Later, after I expressed how worried I was about her, she also told me “You don’t need to worry so much about me. I don’t actually plan to kill myself. I just have the desire to die.” That wasn’t as comforting as I think she intended it to be. I tried to get her to talk about this more, because I admit I really don’t understand what’s going on in her head. She then told me that she often fantasizes about dying, and said “when I walk across a street, I’m hoping I’ll be hit be a car, or if I’m walking alone late at night, I’m wishing that I’ll get shot. I don’t have the strength to pull the trigger myself, but I would love for someone else to do it so I don’t have to keep living.” After that she started sobbing and said  she regretted telling me that, and saying "I'm sorry" , saying she didn’t mean to upset me. I made sure to tell her that I was very glad she told me and that she could tell me anything. 

 

A lot of what she had to say was really upsetting to me, but I still feel like the talk went pretty well. She was actually willing to talk to me, which I was nervous she wouldn’t be, and at least she knows she has me to support and love her. This is just so hard, I hate seeing her so unhappy. I wish I knew how to fix this.

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#9 of 22 Old 10-29-2013, 07:35 PM
 
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To the OP- I didn't realize college is in the equation. Your daughter should NOT talk to a school counselor, or any school official, about this. I've known two people in different schools in different states- one public, one private- who were forced to take a "mandatory medical leave" because they said similar things- they weren't actively suicidal, they were no threat to themselves or anyone else, but the school still essentially kicked them out. You can find a lot of news articles about it as well (I'm having a hard time finding them because I'm not sure what to look up, but I recall quite a few). They're covering their asses because schools have successfully been sued when a student committed suicide. (they've also been sued for kicking people out based on mental illness- but then you and your daughter would have to be ready to go to court over this, she'd still be missing time from school, it'd still set her back and I highly doubt it will help her mental health) It's also related to fear of school shootings.

 

It sounds like standard depression. This is very common for college students. If that is the case, then I'd be far more worried about the risk that this will impact her schoolwork/work because she's showing no signs of being actively suicidal or self-harming. One of the biggest problems with depression is that it destroys your ability to find motivation- to go out and do things you used to love, to do your work, even to get out of bed.  Even if she's doing well now, if she has a flare-up or set back, it could make it very difficult for her to keep up with her work.

 

It could be something else, so if she's able to get diagnosed outside of school- then she'd know what she's looking at. If you and she are both pretty sure that it's depression, though, she might be able to talk to a school counselor about just being depressed in a more generic way, not mentioning anything about wanting to die- just talk about feeling unhappy and not knowing why, etc. Depression is pretty common and her school counselors have likely dealt with it and know how to address it, although more hair-trigger schools have kicked people out for having depression it's much less likely.

 

It'd be better if she could see a therapist she can speak with openly and without fear of facing problems, though, so if her insurance will cover out of college counselors- I'd look into that instead.


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#10 of 22 Old 10-29-2013, 09:42 PM
 
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I'm so glad you have been able to have those talks, it's wonderful she has someone so receptive and trustworthy to stand by her in this. She probably won't ever be able to tell you "why" because there isn't necessarily an answer.
I agree that school should not be involved at all. If at some point she needs to drop classes then ask an MD for a generic medical leave note and get a "hardship withdrawal". I was threatened with "school discipline up to expulsion" when my university found out about my suicide attempt and had to go to 6 sessions with their (totally useless to me) counselor, who was still a student herself. This was at a huge state university in a part of the country where seeing therapists is pretty socially acceptable. I know someone who goes to a small private U nearby who was kicked out of dorms for a similar situation. I would not share with her how very real this risk is, but just so you can steer away from those "resources".
It sounds like you did a great job with those talks. I would avoid saying "I'm worried about you" for the same reasons you let out your emotions away from her. The "I want to know" and "I'm so glad you told me" statements are great.

I wish for you, and her and so many others that there was a way to just "fix this". It very often gets better, sometimes fairly quickly (never feels fast enough) and sometimes after years and years of suffering. Often there are seasons of good and seasons of darkness that slowly morph back and forth. The most you can do is stay steady by her, and maintain hope for her future, even when she can't. Definitely assist her in finding help in times like this where she is seeking it, but you will also do well to find a way to step back and not try to solve things and just love on her whatever state she is in.
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#11 of 22 Old 10-29-2013, 11:10 PM
 
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WOAH!!! i had no idea such bias existed against mental illness in the university. wow they will throw you out?!!! that is just too shocking. 

 

does the same exist in public schools? in elem, middle and high school? can they hold your school records against you? that would seem soooo unfair. 


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#12 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 05:12 AM
 
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Universities get really twitchy about mental illness because they're considered to be in loco parentis to resident undergrads. Elementary, middle, and high schools (except boarding schools) don't face quite the same situation, and don't act the same way. That doesn't mean they're never awful, but the causes are slightly different, and the way they're awful won't be the same.

I agree that the OP's daughter should find a counselor who doesn't work for the school. A therapist who doesn't work for the university, and takes her insurance. That's research a concerned parent could reasonably do, so that's one thing the OP might want to offer. Decisions about how else to tackle depression can then be taken up with a pro, in a way that will be much more focused on the daughter's best interest then the university counseling center will be able to manage.
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#13 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 06:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks again, everyone. She's staying away from the school counselor, but she'll be going to a therapist outside of school. I found one I think might be a good fit for her (and my daughter agrees), and I've set up an appointment for her. I'm going with her to the first appointment at least, because she has pretty bad social anxiety and hates going to new places. I'm not sure she'd actually show up for her session if she had to go alone.

 

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It sounds like standard depression. This is very common for college students. If that is the case, then I'd be far more worried about the risk that this will impact her schoolwork/work because she's showing no signs of being actively suicidal or self-harming. One of the biggest problems with depression is that it destroys your ability to find motivation- to go out and do things you used to love, to do your work, even to get out of bed.  Even if she's doing well now, if she has a flare-up or set back, it could make it very difficult for her to keep up with her work.

She has been struggling in school. She's thinking of dropping her Latin class, which is her favorite class. She's taken the same level Latin class twice before, and it has always been an easy A for her (the class is basically reading different Latin texts, so you can take it multiple times, and you will just translate something different), but on the midterm this semester she got a D.

She's in her senior year, and trying to get into med school, so I hope she can keep up with her work. I don't know what I can do about that though. I also know she's been second guessing med school, saying she doesn't think she can do it, and she definitely plans to defer for a year, if she gets in. At first, I was against it. I thought why waste your time like that, but now I know she really needs the break.

She's very smart, and normally makes all As without much effort, but yes, she's been struggling. Her grades started slipping last year and she had a few Bs, but it sounds like  she's becoming less able to manage her work. Again, I want to help, but I don't know how to help if she's not motivated to do the work.

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#14 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 06:58 AM
 
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Depression is absolutely a thing that might be affecting your daughter's grades, but another thing that might be having an impact is that the work genuinely got harder.  Pre-med is a really tough row to hoe.  First there's the weed-out courses that are designed to make people get bad grades and change majors, and then (taught by the same professors, who still think not everyone is cut out for medicine) there are really, really tough prerequisites for med school.  Organic chemistry, for example, which is famous for making people cry.  For someone who has a lot of natural talent and has always done well, training for medicine can be hideously bruising to the ego (but if you don't have a good helping of talent, or don't do well consistently, medicine may not be possible at all). 

 

One of the challenges of late college and post-college academic work is digging in and solving hard problems.  It is absolutely possible for students to get to that stage without being presented with a problem that they find hard.  The problem at that point isn't a lack of motivation, it's that you suddenly need a skill you never had call for before, and  everyone assumes you mastered in elementary school.  It's really rough. 

 

Dropping non-required courses might get your daughter more time, and there's something to be said for that.  On the other hand, it might cut her off from doing things she enjoys, which is not a good plan.

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#15 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 01:06 PM
 
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First, I think you are a great mom for being there, in whatever way you can. That is a huge plus. I am not sure this is standard depression, not wanting to pull the trigger but being OK with a car running you over. When someone is in severe depression, that is one of the signs, a complete lack of caring about what happens to the self. But still having the strength to try to pretend to the outside world that you are OK, that you are functioning. I convinced my husband for 1.5 years.

 

You might have to change priorities, and be ACCEPTING of that. She might also. Maybe Med school is in her cards - now, or much delayed in the future, or maybe not at all. That is OK. It is better to be healthy and not a med student than unhealthy, unhappy or suicidal and a successful doctor. I had a high power, high income job. Now I paint. And I love it. At the time I just kept trying to keep at that job. But now that I am not, I only wished I had stopped and gotten the help I needed a lot sooner. I don't have that job. But I am a much better mom to my two kids, a happier wife, and a much better friend. It's worth way more than all the money. 

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#16 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 01:40 PM
 
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Can she take latin pass/fail? I'm in a Japanese Brush Work class that I took pass/fail- it's basically 3 hours a week of meditation and very relaxing and enjoyable because I don't have to care what grade I get, as long as I don't fail. I don't know if it's too late for her to take it that way.

 

Like meepycat said- there's a lot of reasons that she may be experiencing depression now. Anti-depressants may help her. There are also a lot of suggestions about other ways of helping with depression- getting more exercise, getting out with people, etc. There are some herbs people have suggested.

 

Senior year is just a horrible time, too. I don't know if it's the same for her- but, for me, I never had any doubt I'd get into college. Up until now, I was confident in the future- but now, suddenly, I don't have that confidence. It's terrifying. I feel like I'm not good enough and no one will want any of the skills I have. I have no idea what will happen next year. I'm used to being depressed, though, so I'm just pushing through and gathering up applications and trying to keep myself on track. It's not easy, but it's possible.

 

Has she been accepted into med schools yet? If she gets accepted into good med schools, it might help her mood to have some security and reassurance. It still may be a good idea to defer for a year unless she's doing much better. If she's feeling overwhelmed now, she'll likely feel overwhelmed then- she needs to get a handle on her depression (either beat it, or accept it and learn to work with it) before she starts.

 

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First, I think you are a great mom for being there, in whatever way you can. That is a huge plus. I am not sure this is standard depression, not wanting to pull the trigger but being OK with a car running you over. When someone is in severe depression, that is one of the signs, a complete lack of caring about what happens to the self. But still having the strength to try to pretend to the outside world that you are OK, that you are functioning. I convinced my husband for 1.5 years.

 

You might have to change priorities, and be ACCEPTING of that. She might also. Maybe Med school is in her cards - now, or much delayed in the future, or maybe not at all. That is OK. It is better to be healthy and not a med student than unhealthy, unhappy or suicidal and a successful doctor. I had a high power, high income job. Now I paint. And I love it. At the time I just kept trying to keep at that job. But now that I am not, I only wished I had stopped and gotten the help I needed a lot sooner. I don't have that job. But I am a much better mom to my two kids, a happier wife, and a much better friend. It's worth way more than all the money. 

 

Well, standard depression as opposed to depression with something else. I've felt like that since before I was 10, most of the people with depression I know have similar feelings at least part of the time, it seems pretty par for the course when it comes to depression.


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#17 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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MeepyCat, the thing that makes me think that her poorer performance is due to her depression is that she is doing poorly in what is usually her strongest class, one that she said was an easy A. Like I've said, she's taken this class before, ad it hasn't changed.

 

AllisonR, I'll have a talk with her about med school and see if that's what she really wants to do. She's mentioned her doubts, but I think these come from a lack of confidence that she will be able to handle it. She still really wants to be a pathologist, but maybe med school isn't the best thing for her mental health. If she were mentally healthy, I have no doubt she would do well in med school, but with these issues, I'm not sure she can anymore.

 

sillysapling, it's too late for her to take it pass/fail. She called me earlier today after she had talked to the teacher. She told me that she's going to withdraw, but the teacher said she was welcome to informally audit the class. She was happy about this, because she can continue to enjoy the class without the pressure.

 

Sorry for my ignorance, but do you need a prescription for antidepressants?

 

She won't know about med school until February. I agree; I think if she gets accepted, that will be a huge weight off her shoulders.

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Yes, you need a prescription for antidepressants. Some primary care physicians will prescribe them. I think it makes sense, if she's having persistent suicidal feelings and/or thoughts, to get some kind of diagnosis from a psychiatrist or a highly-qualified therapist. (LICSW level?)  OCD and other mental illnesses can also cause obsessive suicidal thoughts. It's not always the right thing to get on Prozac or Wellbutrin. A lot of mental health issues manifest for the first time when people are college aged. I've taught college students off and on and you do see it a lot. 

 

It sounds like she's also under a lot of pressure. That's another reason to see someone--just to get checked out on what is really happening. If she has to take a semester off in her senior year after getting As in everything every semester since forever, no one is going to give her a hard time about that. She can still go to medical school after things have calmed down, if she wants to do it. My guess is, depending on where she's at school, school administrators will be on her side. I don't know where you are, so I'm not totally sure about that, but I'm reasonably sure. 


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#19 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 05:34 PM
 
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MeepyCat, the thing that makes me think that her poorer performance is due to her depression is that she is doing poorly in what is usually her strongest class, one that she said was an easy A. Like I've said, she's taken this class before, ad it hasn't changed.

 

AllisonR, I'll have a talk with her about med school and see if that's what she really wants to do. She's mentioned her doubts, but I think these come from a lack of confidence that she will be able to handle it. She still really wants to be a pathologist, but maybe med school isn't the best thing for her mental health. If she were mentally healthy, I have no doubt she would do well in med school, but with these issues, I'm not sure she can anymore.

 

On the Latin class - I really can't say from here, but I know that one of the things I've had happen occasionally is that I get stressed out about something like my performance in one class, and then I start flubbing "basics" in other areas.  Like once I'm out of my groove on one thing, I'm just out on everything.  It can get better, but it's hard to regroup.

 

I left your comments to AllisonR in because I wanted to touch on them a little.  Please, be careful how you talk about your daughter's depression, to her and to others.  You sound really pessimistic here, and were I depressed and hearing this about myself, I'd feel worse.  When you say "I'm not sure she can anymore," there's an overwhelming sense of the depression as a permanent and crippling force.  Of course you worry about how depression will affect your daughter's ability to pursue her goals and do well in school!  That's completely sensible.  But:  Depression is treatable.  Depression is a problem that many people can learn to mitigate and manage.  Depression is not necessarily permanent - some people have recurring depression, in between spates of good mental health, some people have occasional episodes of depression touched off by particular stresses.  It is very possible to get better.

 

It is a little unsurprising that a student with major social anxiety issues would have a rocky time her senior year of college, while applying to med school.  The application process requires students to be charming to strangers, repeatedly, and medical school, internships and residencies are not easy on the shy.  It's completely possible that what you're seeing is depression as a reaction to stress.  Therapy can really help.

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#20 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 05:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post
 

  Of course you worry about how depression will affect your daughter's ability to pursue her goals and do well in school!  That's completely sensible.  But:  Depression is treatable.  Depression is a problem that many people can learn to mitigate and manage.  Depression is not necessarily permanent - some people have recurring depression, in between spates of good mental health, some people have occasional episodes of depression touched off by particular stresses.  It is very possible to get better.

 

Yes, this! It's scary for you for her to get depressed, but if she gets help, she can still live her dreams and enjoy her life. 


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#21 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 06:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post
 

 

Please, be careful how you talk about your daughter's depression, to her and to others.  You sound really pessimistic here, and were I depressed and hearing this about myself, I'd feel worse.  When you say "I'm not sure she can anymore," there's an overwhelming sense of the depression as a permanent and crippling force.  Of course you worry about how depression will affect your daughter's ability to pursue her goals and do well in school!  That's completely sensible.  But:  Depression is treatable.  Depression is a problem that many people can learn to mitigate and manage.  Depression is not necessarily permanent - some people have recurring depression, in between spates of good mental health, some people have occasional episodes of depression touched off by particular stresses.  It is very possible to get better.

 

It is a little unsurprising that a student with major social anxiety issues would have a rocky time her senior year of college, while applying to med school.  The application process requires students to be charming to strangers, repeatedly, and medical school, internships and residencies are not easy on the shy.  It's completely possible that what you're seeing is depression as a reaction to stress.  Therapy can really help.

:nod:nod:nod:nod:nod:nod:nod:nod

 

Skimmilk Meepy brings up a HUGE point here. i am in the same boat as you - but just with a eleven year old. her teacher tells me dont look at her grades and think she is a failure. she is an A student who is going through hard times. if you take care of the hard times then she will be back on track. 

 

i notice with my dd she LOOKS up to me. the world can say anything to her and even though it hurts her feeling she can completely handle that. however if i say something - no matter how small, her world completely collapses. when she is in a fragile state she needs me to prop her up and believe in her that we can all come out of this in a positive manner. i have become dd's personal cheerleader. 

 

social anxiety makes everything else going on with her complete sense. she has to interact so much more than even high school - esp. with group work. 


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#22 of 22 Old 10-30-2013, 07:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so pessimistic, and I would never say that to her. I realize that this is treatable and she can get better, and I will do everything in my power to see that happen. I only meant that  while I know she is very capable, this is a big roadblock, which could affect her performance in med school, if she still feels this way by the time she's there. I don't see her as a failure in any way, I know that what she's dealing with is hard. I'm actually really proud of how she's handling this and asking for help. I wouldn't say anything like that to her; I know how much that would hurt her.

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