I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into this so soon in my blog, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe I can help someone else by sharing my experience. I think I will do this in a series of shorter posts for many reasons, one being I only have short bouts of time to write.
Where to start? Looking back I can’t tell you when I first recognized that there was a problem. Hindsight is truly 20/20. If I knew then what I know now….So many cliches are frighteningly true. Our daughter has always been shy, but she always had a small core of good friends. We have moved several times over the past 11 years because we are volunteer ministers. Our children have adapted and thrived in every place we have lived. The last 5 years, we have been in the same location, so this is something fairly new to us. For the most part, we have lived in smaller towns that have 1 main road. We now live in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. This was a culture shock, to say the least. Of course the schools are very different here. The number of children in her 5th grade class was far greater than the number of children in the entire school she had previously gone to. We knew there would be an adjustment period. However, she did great! Both our older kids thrived in school; academically and socially. So what was the problem you ask?
Gradually, our daughter spent more and more time alone in her room. I wasn’t concerned at this point because I was exactly like this when I was her age. (LIGHT BULB; a big, bright one. My first clue.) She would go to school her happy self and come home miserable. It was like her joy was being sucked right out of her. Now this was about a year after we had moved here. Everyday after school, it was like she was in a deep depression, but throughout the night and into the morning she was more herself. Hmmmm….depressive behavior? It must be a hormone/pre-teen thing. (Don’t judge me.) By the 7th grade she was missing weeks of school for weird illnesses. She was always sick with a headache, nausea, strep throat, something. We had her tonsils taken out and that helped some, but she would still get these awful headaches. The school would call and mail letters saying she needed to get back into school or they would fail her. Mind you, she was a straight A student without even going to class. That holiday break was it. Neither one of our children returned to public school. I am not saying that is the answer for everyone. That was the answer for our family. As a result, she had less and less headaches and enjoyed being home. We ended up having another student join us for awhile, and they are still close friends. Everything seemed great! This was 2 years ago.
Several months ago, I learned something about our daughter that I never knew. One day after therapy she confided in me with something she had been wanting to talk to me about for 2 years. Something that broke my heart and made me want to wrap her in my arms and squeeze her with all my might. However, I was driving and could not do that. So we cried together. My sweet, wonderful, amazing daughter had been fighting demons without my help, without me even knowing. During the time when we first began to homeschool, you know, the time everything seemed to be great? She was cutting herself.
I felt helpless! All I could think to say was how sorry I was that she had to go through that alone. She admitted she had only done it for a short time and stopped because she knew in her heart that it was not what God wanted for her life. I couldn’t believe she hid it so well. She was with me all the time. She was home all day and we spent so much time together. She explained how she told me she burned herself reaching over the toaster and needed a bandage. I felt so stupid for missing it. I felt lost. How could I miss that? How could it be happening right under my nose? Was I blind? Did I not pay enough attention? I could not blame myself. It wasn’t my fault, but I felt like I had failed her.
I have jumped a head a little bit, but I wanted to get the point across that disorders can go unnoticed. It doesn’t make us a bad parent, spouse, friend, or whatever. I’m thankful that it was short lived and she overcame it, but looking back it was only the very beginning of something more. It was her responding to both, cyber-bullying as well as bullying at school. I am not going to get on a soap box and preach about putting a stop to bullying. We know it exists and we all know it’s a problem. This is my story of how we, as a family, helped my daughter through it and get to a better place.
So that happened about 2 years ago and I had no idea how serious this all was. When I went to school, we didn’t have the same issues. We had our cliques, but it was definitely nothing like a scene from Mean Girls. I truly had no idea how mean these kids truly were. But we’ll talk about that later. About a year ago, our daughter wanted to try a vegetarian lifestyle. I am vegetarian, so I did not think anything of it. I figured she was influenced by my eating habits. No big deal. I also had her and her brother do a research paper on teen nutrition and exercise. I thought it was important, and they needed to work on their research skills. Well, learning a lot about the importance of nutrition and becoming a vegetarian, our daughter made some extreme changes in her diet and little by little started changing her body.