Michelle is a self-love and wellness coach on her personal healing journey. She empowers others through her experiences.
New school year, new challenges
I have been struggling with my daughter since she started 7th grade. From the first day of school, she had been missing classes. I started a new job, therefore, wasn't there in the mornings anymore to send her off on the school bus. When I would ask why she was not getting on the bus I would get reasons like,
- I missed the bus
- I had to go to the bathroom and couldn't hold it
- I didn't want to go
I got angry and lectured her on how her education was important and informed her that I would not tolerate her missing school for petty reasons.
The emails still came in - she was absent in certain periods. I eventually found out that she was skipping gym class. I was furious. She explained to me that she had bad social anxiety and felt like she was being constantly judged by her peers. As the calls and concerns from the school started pouring in, I relayed the message.
I understood her anxiety because I lived it as well. I knew I had to discipline her but I also knew that I had to have empathy and understanding. Instead of punishments, we talked, I told her about my own experiences, and gave her tools to face her anxieties. We talked about self-love and living in her truth. I reminded her that none of us are perfect and that people will always judge us no matter what we do.
For a while I thought we were just dealing with social anxiety.
I mean, I remember her coming up to me a few years ago, after having done a search on Google, and telling me that she thought she was depressed. I dismissed it. Not because I didn't care but because it wasn't the first time that she had googled something and said she had it.
Our doctor visit shed some light
After many efforts and many lectures about her education, I received a call from the schoolboard asking me to get her officially diagnosed for anxiety that way they could start a plan to help her at school. During this visit, I learned that my daughter felt depressed and had suicidal thoughts. She also admitted that when she gets angry, she feels tempted to get violent and hurt other people (although she has never followed it with actions despite her anger directed at her sister oftentimes).
I didn't react much but this was new to me. I mean, I get it, it's not really something she'd come to me yelling off the rooftops. I just felt bad for not knowing. How could I? I'm a mom - not a mind-reader.
I also felt a tinge of remorse because I felt like I should've listened when she told me she felt depressed at 9 years old and not have dismissed it. Maybe if I would've listened then, it wouldn't have escalated to what it is today but again, I'm a mom - not a mental illness psychic.
There's no point in dwelling in the what if's. What is important is that now I know and now I can do what I can to help her.
On the weekend, my youngest was gone to her dad's and my oldest stayed home with me. We were hanging out on the couch watching tv when she asked me if I'd give her a massage. I guess she had completely forgotten about the cuts on her arm because she took off her sweater without hesitation. As she talked, she moved her arms up and down and I saw them. She had four scabbed over cuts on her forearm. My heart tightened in my chest and my eyes grew big. Fear is what gripped me. But to my own surprise, I didn't lose my cool. I didn't get angry. I felt instant sadness and love for her. I casually asked what I was looking at. She said, ''Oh, that was done like a month ago, I haven't done it since.'' I asked her what tool she used to do it. ''A knife from the kitchen,'' she responded.
I didn't have more questions in the moment. I just held her tightly and told her that I loved her. I told her that she shouldn't be hurting herself and that if she ever feels the need to react in a harmful way to come to me and I would help her through it!
Yesterday, I asked more questions. It was scary and uncomfortable to have this conversation with my twelve year old but it's the only way to help her. I need to know everything and I need to stay calm towards her answers if I want to keep this open and trusted relationship with her. I have to remind myself that it is not about me or what I think in the end, it is about her truth. I asked about the reasons behind harming herself. She said that she felt suffocated by everything. School, siblings, nagging mom, friends, all of it has been heavy on her.
I followed that answer with a reminder that if something is bothering her, even if it is about me, that I am always available to listen.
I had one last question. Had she cut anywhere else on her body. She said no. She said that she wanted to cut on her neck but that it would show too much. I looked at her trying to hide my fear and asked if she knew how dangerous it is to cut herself. She looked at me with the expression, ''yeah, that's the point.'' I said okay and let her return to her room.
As a parent, we need to make sure that our children have a safe place to go to when life gets too much. We may not agree or approve, but we should ALWAYS love them and guide them towards healing.
Your children are already ashamed, hurting, struggling, hating on themselves, and jugding themselves. What they need from you is to know that they are loved regardless and that you will be there to catch them if they need you to. You cannot heal for them, control them, or make them see something they don't.
My healing plan
My healing path for myself and now for her is simple in writing but hard work in practice.
These are the pillars of the plan:
1. Learn to love yourself above anyone else - this helps tune out the opinions and judgments of others therefore giving you your power back. You choose who you are. Mirror work is great in this chapter. You get to spend time with yourself, look at yourself, and see yourself in a different light. Get to know yourself. I spent a lot of time doing personality tests and reading about my zodiac signs to get a deeper understanding of who I am to the core.
2. Live your truth - speak it, show it, and don't be afraid of others seeing it. In practice, my daughter and I were out running errands. she was wearing a sweater and it was really hot out so I offered to buy her a t-shirt since she didn't have one underneath her sweater. She exclaimed that if she wore a tee then everyone would see her cuts. I said, ''so? You did it - that's your truth. No point in hiding it. The situation is already surrounded by negativity, there's no need to add to it. Now, you just have to commit to not doing it again.'' Living your truth also helps with being honest with yourself as much as others.
3. Fogive yourself - you will make mistakes, it's life. In healing, you have to learn to forgive those mistakes instead of falling into a hateful cycle with yourself.
4. Healthy outlets - Find outlets and ativities that you enjoy and replace the self-harming or harming behaviors with those outlets. In the beggining it is extremely hard but with time, those activities will help you find meaning again. They will allow you to indulge in self-care.
5. Let go - of anything and anyone that hurts you or hinders your health. That means friends and family too. I know as a child it is harder to sever ties with family which is why it is so important for parents to make sure that the child's home is a safe place to live and allows for healthy growth.
6. Have faith - I don't mean religious faith. I believe in the power of the universe and the law of attraction. I send out positive energy to receive positive energy. I have faith that everything I go through is a lesson or a stepping stone. I trust the process and in what is meant for me. I turned to ''witchcraft'' and tarot cards for guidance. I had rituals and incantations that I would turn to for help.
7. You have the power - Manifest your life with your thoughts and actions. Everything you do should reflect what you want out of life. Focus on you and build a life that is yours to enjoy.
8. Reminders and affirmations - Self-talk is such an important component in healing. You can't always rely on others to be there for you so you have to be there for yourself. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Find some on Google and repeat them everyday.
9. Coping methods - These are very important when you are triggered by outside circumstances. Breathing, alone time, taking a walk, are all methods used by myself when I am feeling trapped within my mental illnesses. It is also important to seperate your mental illnesses from yourself - you are not depression, you feel depressed. Depression does not define who you are.
10. Self-awareness - Being self-aware allows you to pinpoint your symptoms, thoughts, and triggers, sometimes before they even happen. It allows you to detach yourself from your illness and differentiate your own thoughts from the thoughts derived from the illness and traumas. You can question all the beliefs you were taught to believe and choose to replace these beliefs with new ones. When you are self-aware - you know who you are and nothing can change that. This also allows you to be aware of others - their actions, the reasons behind them, their energy making it easier to decipher who is good for you and who isn't.
11. Manifestation - I truly believe that when you put out healthy positive vibes out, you get them back. I've had things happen to me that were answered prayers to say the least. The thing is, we have to get out of the lack mindset and the need for instant gratification. Manifesting what you want can take time. For example, I finally have a career with all the perks I had only dreamed of but it also took 10 years of vicious cycles and healing to get here.
12. Learn about your mental illnesses - forget the labels. Figure out the signs and symptoms and see where you lie within the labels. I live with depression, social anxiety, some bpd, ocd and other personality disorders. I read about all of them so that I could, not just know what I am facing, but UNDERSTAND it. This step is critical.
Heal yourself as well
We all want to be better parents and want to help our children become healthy adults but a lot of us haven't done the work necessary to be able to do that. A lot of us still struggle with our own mental health, battle triggers, and are crushed by generational curses.
I also battled depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts stemming from my childhood traumas which continued throughout life. I blamed my parents for a long time until I realised that they raised me through their own ill perceptions. I healed my traumas because I refused to put my kids through the same thing - sorry - continue putting my kids through the same thing. I could see myself becoming my parents and I knew that if I wanted to put a stop to all this pain, I had to be the one to learn how to heal.
In healing myself, I am able to help my daughters heal their own pain and teach them the steps to healing and a healthy life WITH mental illness. I say 'with' because the truth is, we are all suffering from mental illness one way or another.
Then, when they have their own kids, they'll know how to heal and lead healthy lives allowing them to teach the next generation.
Generational mental illness suffering stopped with me and generational healing starts with my girls.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Michelle Brady