Teens and Secrets; Never Assume You Know
I know, I know...teenagers are infamous for keeping secrets. But there are secrets and then there are "secrets". There are the kind that lots of teens have; they tried beer at a party, they have a crush on the boy in their English class, they got a piercing...the there are the ones they keep to themselves, the dangerous ones that if revealed would shake the worlds of those that love and protect them, family members that stay awake nights praying for their safety and happiness.
I found out about these other secrets the hard way last week when my sixteen year old daughter was admitted to the hospital due to suicidal ideation brought on by her inability to function or fit in in even the most superficial way.I found out that she was suicidal and had been for a sickeningly long time. I found out that she had been cutting herself because she felt unimportant, invisible, and undeserving of love. I found out that she often felt as though her life experiences weren't real, that she dissociated as if she were watching herself in a movie. And equally upsetting found out that the bullying she endured over three years ago left these and many other scars that I as her mother never dreamed if.
Now, I have three children, and I had always thought that my relationship with my daughter was extremely close. I had thought that even as a teenager, she told me almost everything, and I took great pride in the fact that she felt comfortable enough to come to me with her problems in the past. I thought I knew my daughter...
I was so wrong.
In fact I really don't know her at all. This depressed young woman with the downcast eyes and self-hatred, this can't be the same girl that drove in my car with me just a few weeks earlier, with windows rolled down singing along with me at the top of our lungs to a Pink song, oblivious to the strange looks from the passengers in other cars. This can't be the same girl whose love of animals compelled her to volunteer at the shelter with me early on Saturday mornings, even though it was the one day she had to sleep late. How could this be the same girl who had friends, who seemed so proud of her new part time job at the supermarket and who was always there to give advice and a shoulder to cry on to anyone in need from her friends to her sisters friends to grieving elderly family members at my aunt's funeral just a few weeks ago?
It has been mind-boggling to say the least, for me and for everyine who knows my daughter.but I have learned one thing for sure; I will never again assume that I know everything important there is to know about my daughter, or that an inappropriate or unusual behavior she engages in is just a "teenage thing". I have seen firsthand that what we think we know about people is not ever all there is to know. There must always be more, there are probably secrets that we may never know; but as a mother it is our duty to investigate to the best of our ability anything that doesn't sit right with us, even if it means ruffling the feathers of our child. We cannot let our egos cause us to be complacent or brush things off. I've always been if the mind to pick my battles especially as my kids became teens, assuming there were going to be many of those. But now every foreign nuance, every uncharacteristic behavior will be scrutinized and analyzed and gone over and over and rehashed during sleepless nights, until I am sure, until I am absolutely positive that it is not something that will lead my child down this path again.. because this is not somewhere anyone wants to be.