Teach your children well
The youngest of three, Casey did her own thing, her own way. Popular, athletic and prom-queen pretty, she is quick-witted and outgoing, with a sarcastic sense of humor. When it was time to go to college, we weren’t concerned about her becoming a “girls-gone-wild” casualty because of her focus on academics and general self-assurance.
But things turned out differently. Casey was bullied at college. The bullying she endured was cruel and intentional and only for reasons those responsible will know.
Casey thought she could handle it. Her downward spiral went unnoticed; the little things snowballed into something so much more monstrous than an 18-year-old girl could handle. She started to have back pain. When test results came back normal, I knew something was terribly wrong. She started to self-medicate, and her grades slipped as the bullying worsened. At first, she refused to see a therapist, but did ultimately meet with the college’s director of counseling, and with her permission, I sat in on the session. He asked a life-altering question. “Casey, did you have a plan?” Responding yes, she proceeded to tell him about it. With 20 days left of her freshman year, her father and I and brought her home to get her help.
Did we witness the early warning signs of Casey’s descent? For those who look for signs, what does it really look like? The scary thing is it may look like nothing.
My little girl wanted to die, and I had no idea. Casey never said she was thinking about killing herself and never said a word about the bullying. Did we witness the early warning signs of Casey’s descent? For those who look for signs, what does it really look like? The scary thing is it may look like nothing.
Casey described her world as this: You eat, but you aren’t able to taste your food. You try to write your paper, but all you think is, “What’s the point?” You try to get out of bed in the morning, but you just can’t escape sleep’s magnetic hold. So you sleep – to escape the thoughts, the fear, the overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Should I end it all? More questions follow. What does it mean to be alive? Why am I here?
Treatment + resiliency = hope
Casey was in a crisis. She needed hospitalization, a safe environment until she no longer had suicidal thoughts, but she refused to go. She worked with outpatient services, thinking that with meds and therapy she could get better on her own. We went to all of her appointments and made sure there was a safety plan in place. But she didn’t feel any better.
Casey was brave enough to finally check herself into Four Winds in Saratoga, NY. The first couple of days she planned her big escape, but by the third day, she began to accept treatment and started to heal. Diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal ideations, Casey was discharged with a safety plan, a plethora of prescriptions and a few emergency phone numbers. The team of clinicians assured us she would be fine, but there would be bumps.
She learned that, in the face of depression, choosing to live or die, you can choose joy and meaning. Casey learned that resiliency is a muscle to build up and draw on when needed.
The last two years, there were indeed bumps with several suicide attempts. For so long, she felt the overwhelming sadness would never leave. However, she learned that, in the face of depression, choosing to live or die, you can choose joy and meaning. Casey learned that resiliency is a muscle to build up and draw on when needed. In that process, she figured out who she really is, becoming the very best version of herself. Casey is much better today. She completed a full year of college; has plans for the future; and is working as a server in a restaurant. She laughs again.
We teach our children about strangers, drugs, sex, alcohol, to do the right thing. But do we teach them about mental health or suicide prevention? With Casey’s permission, I am sharing her story because it could happen to anyone. Educate yourself and your child about depression and suicide. It just may be the most valuable information you ever need to know.