Trigger warning: This episode discusses teen depression and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, you are not alone. If you are in crisis, please call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or dial 911.
Recently, the CDC released a statistic that blew my mind – nearly 3 in 5 teen girls say that they feel persistently sad or hopeless. While these numbers certainly spiked during COVID, they remain elevated while we continue to deal with the after effects of COVID’s impact on mental health across the board.
In today’s episode, I am sitting down with my teenage daughter Susie to discuss her mental health journey and how it has impacted our family as a whole over the last six months.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- [06:12] About Susie
- [06:56] A look into Susie’s mental health journey
- [09:33] What sparked Susie’s depression spiral and eating disorder
- [14:45] Looking back to Susie’s darkest season
- [18:23] Susie’s experience at a treatment facility
- [25:04] Her major breakthrough while at the treatment center
- [26:45] What provoked Susie’s rededication to God
- [28:50] How Susie has progressed since leaving the treatment center
- [31:28] Struggles that Susie is still facing post treatment
- [32:17] Why so many teen girls struggle with body image
- [34:29] Susie’s best advice for teen girls struggling with mental health right now
- [37:37] A prayer for teen girls currently struggling with depression and mental health
- [43:05] A preview of next week’s conversation
[06:12] About Susie
Alicia’s daughter Susie is a 15-year-old water polo player and swimmer. She enjoys hanging out with friends, going shopping, and sleeping.
[06:56] A look into Susie’s mental health journey
Susie shares that her first recollection of feeling unhappy in her body was while trying on swimsuits at around 10 years old. She was able to let those feelings go for a while, but they resurfaced during her first season of water polo, when she began to wonder why her body didn’t look the same as other girls her age.
This caused her mental health to spiral into depression, where she would binge, purge, and at times, not eat at all. Eventually, she reached a point where she was so unhappy that she felt like she no longer wanted to be alive.
[09:33] What sparked Susie’s depression spiral and eating disorder
Susie has had ongoing struggles with her mental health since she was 13. At this time, she felt like no one was listening to her. Those feelings took root and eventually triggered a panic attack. This led to Susie feeling suicidal, and she was taken to the hospital for emergency care.
After the hospital visit, she worked on her struggles with a therapist for a little over a year. Susie began to feel like she was making progress, but then she suddenly lost her grandma to COVID. She continued to see the therapist to work on her mental health and healing, and ended therapy before the summer of 2022 as her mental health had been improving.
However, when Susie started water polo that summer, everything immediately went downhill. She began the cycle of binging, purging, and not eating again, and would tell her parents she had eaten earlier at school and wasn’t hungry. Alicia was worried these were signs that her eating disorder had come back, but she wanted to trust her daughter when she told them she was fine. Eventually, Susie admitted that she had an eating disorder.
[14:45] Looking back to Susie’s darkest season
Fall of 2022 was a very dark time for Susie. All she wanted to do was lay in bed, be on her phone, and not talk to anyone in her family. Her behavior began to cause arguments with the people who loved her.
During that time, Susie felt like no one understood what she was going through or took her seriously. Her mental health struggles began to make her feel like she was trapped in a box and couldn’t escape. Because Susie was having suicidal ideations, Alicia brought her bed into their room so that they could keep an eye on her while they searched for treatment options.
Although it was hard to hear, Alicia was thankful that Susie shared her feelings with her so that she could get her the help she needed.
[18:23] Susie’s experience at a treatment facility
After searching for treatment options, Susie went to a 30-day treatment center, a large neighborhood house that only housed 6 kids at a time. The facility offered various types of therapies including art therapy, equine therapy, and more.
Susie resisted treatment for the first few days of her stay because she didn’t want to be there. After a while, she decided that she needed to just make the best of it so that she could truly heal.
Susie shares that she believes something that really helped was that they were not allowed to wear makeup at the treatment facility. There were other restrictions that seemed to help as well: no phones, a limit of 15 minutes of TV per day, and they were only allowed to listen to pre-approved music, read pre-approved books, and play card games during their time at the center.
Going without phones for a full 30 day period allowed Susie to really step away from the day to day and explore what she enjoyed and what she didn’t. She found herself becoming really close with the other people in the treatment center and by the end of her stay it almost felt like a big sleepover each night, but she notes there were still tough days along the way.
[25:04] Her major breakthrough while at the treatment center
Going into the treatment process, Susie did not consider herself to be a Christian. About halfway into the program, something changed and Susie started leaning into God.
Once Susie embraced God, she felt that she really started to become her true self. She was no longer afraid of being judged by others.
[26:45] What provoked Susie’s dedication to God
Every Thursday, the teens at the treatment facility had to watch a TED Talk. Susie didn’t really enjoy watching the TED Talks, but there was one that stood out to her. It was about a girl who lost all of her limbs and was going through a very difficult time. During this time, the girl heavily relied on God to get her through her struggles.
After hearing this story, a switch flipped for Susie. She thought, “If God can do that for someone else, why can’t He do it for me?” This thought made Susie want to start going to church and connecting with God.
[28:50] How Susie has progressed since leaving the treatment center
After leaving the treatment center, Susie was a lot more confident in herself and generally just felt lighter. She still faces challenging days since leaving the treatment center, but the skills that she learned there have helped her cope with the hard times in healthier ways.
Although water polo was something that triggered her depressive state at the beginning, Susie’s confidence in the sport has continued to soar since leaving the facility.
[31:28] Struggles that Susie is still facing post treatment
Susie shares that she is still a bit nervous about going back to swim. The season hasn’t started yet and she is finding that she is feeling really anxious. She continues to tell herself that she is racing against her own record, and not against anyone else. Susie knows this is something that she needs to lean on God for, that she can lean on His strength and rely on Him to guide her through these feelings.
[32:17] Why so many teen girls struggle with body image
Susie believes that social media plays a huge part in teen girls struggling with their body image. Body image is something that women can struggle with for most of their lives, so it is important to treat our bodies well with healthy foods and exercise.
After Susie came back from the treatment center, Alicia had to find a balance to help keep Susie accountable. She didn’t want to completely police her every move, but she also wanted to make sure that she didn’t fall back into previous ways. Together, they slowly rebuilt trust between them.
[34:29] Susie’s best advice for teen girls struggling with mental health right now
Susie’s best advice for any teen girl struggling right now is to tell someone how you are feeling so that you can get help. It doesn’t have to be a parent, it can be a friend or someone else you trust.
Susie also recommends taking mental health days as needed. These can really help you clear your head and prioritize your own needs.
[37:37] A prayer for teen girls currently struggling with depression and mental health
I want to end this episode by praying for our teen girls. Every young woman has a divine gift in them from the Lord. They have a divine calling on their life, no matter where they are spiritually. They have been created on purpose and with a purpose, and they have been seduced by the world and the enemy's lies in different ways.
Yet, there is a God who loves them, who is calling each one of them out differently in all of their journeys, and He can rescue them. There is no doubt in my mind that He has the power over all things, and can rescue even what seems like the most hopeless situation.
I pray you will join me in praying for this generation of young women who so desperately need to see the love that God has for them, and need to let it sink into their heart and change them. The girls who need to see and believe the reality that they are more than what they think they should be on social media. They are God's beautiful daughters who are created strong and beautiful in His image.
I pray that they can rise above these feelings they have and be resilient because of it. Join me as we pray and bring this to our Heavenly Father who is more than able to change, heal, and bring transformation.
Heavenly Father, what a gift it is to come to you and know that there is nothing in this universe that is stronger or bigger than you. You are the ultimate source of love and care and compassion and you love each one of these girls. You love this generation. You love this generation and are calling them in a way that no other generation has been called, to be strong for you and be your strong voice.
They have seen the emptiness of this world in a way maybe that no other generation has. I pray that they are able to see the emptiness, brokenness, and shallowness of the lies they are being sold, and that they are able to not fall into the pit of those lies.
For those who know God and have gone to church, this would be the moment that shallowness would allow them to point themselves to you. Whatever it is, whether it's just realizing that they're more than what their body looks like, realizing that they have a purpose, realizing that they don't have to depend on their friends for their security, that there is someone who loves them outside of all of that, I pray that they discover your love and truth.
I pray for the parents, grandparents, and other family members who have teen girls who are walking through this very scary and lonely road. Lord, will you please put your arms around them and comfort them through this?
Will you please show them how to pray for their girls and how to walk through this? We pray for these young beautiful women, that they would grow up able to seek out what is true, even though they can feel the darkness around them. I can see this picture of them being these beautiful sprouts growing in fresh dirt, just beautiful, fresh new flowers growing and maturing. I pray that your light fills them and strengthens them.
I thank you that you're the faithful God who does that. I am grateful that even in these moments of prayer that you're going to change hearts and bring hearts back to you. We lift this all up in your name. We thank you for the power of prayer and the ability to change the future by just coming to you and saying God, we don't know how to handle this or fix the situation but you do and we trust you with it. We love you. It's in your name we pray. Amen.
[43:05] A preview of next week’s conversation
Next week we will be discussing my side of this journey with my daughter and how to cope as a parent of a child walking through depression, an eating disorder and suicidal ideation. I will be sharing what was helpful in terms of mindset and actions, as well as some ideas from friends of mine who are still in this battle.
As moms, we have the power to be able to sway and encourage our children towards good. So much of this battle that they are going through we are carrying on their behalf because we love them so much. So don't miss that conversation next week! I will see you back here for next week's episode.
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