Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Teens and mental health: a personal perspective



I have been very quiet on this page, in recent months, for a variety of reasons. Life has taken over, as it often does, with its ups and downs.
Whilst I have been doing some work as a mindfulness tutor and Connected Kids trainer, a lot of other stuff has been going on in my personal life, which has taken priority. 
One of these priorities has been this lovely young lady, in the picture. This is my daughter, who has given me full permission to write about our experiences. We are going to put together some information to help both teens and parents who might be experiencing similar challenges to those we have faced as a family, in order that we might help them. So, if you or a child in your family have been experiencing some mental health issues, please continue reading.
First of all, I want to explain that I don't claim to have all the answers; I am not perfect (who is?); I make mistakes and I learn from them; I practice what I teach.
My daughter has always been what her primary school head teacher called "a real live-wire" from as young as reception age. She is a very bright, feisty girl with an abundance of energy which was - and still is - often a bit of a challenge to manage - both for her, and for me as her mum. I have been teaching her a lot of meditation and mindfulness techniques from as young as three years old. Some of these techniques have helped her, others haven't. However, it seems that as we are in the midst of hormone fog and teenage boundary-pushing, things have turned a little bit pants at times. I often remind her to take some slow deep breaths, when she is starting to show signs that she is becoming out of control with her emotions, but my gently saying, "just notice your breath, take the next one deeper" - to be met with an infuriating daughter shouting "I AM BREATHING!" followed by tuts and strops. Sometimes I can't help but laugh, which sometimes diffuses the situation, but sometimes just makes it worse.
This beautiful girl has been struggling in the past few years with depressive symptoms, has dabbled in self-harm, is dark and withdrawn and has episodes of panic and anxiety. Still I work with her in learning to understand these feelings, emotions and moods which overcome her like a massive wave that sinks her momentarily. Still I teach her to work with it and use her meditation skills and methods to help find the anchor within. Sometimes she can, sometimes she can't see it, sometimes she kicks back at me in rebellion.
We are waiting for CAMHS to see her after her initial assessment, where we are waiting to see what the plan is. She seems to have a lot of features of ADHD, but until we have been seen by the consultant, we are hanging in mid-air, waiting to see what happens next: a mindful experience in itself.
So I do wonder if some out there are reading this and thinking, "she teaches kids meditation but her daughter has this going on - she can't be any good at her job, can she?" - but I see it differently: I believe that my daughter's mental health would be far worse if I hadn't taught her the techniques I have, over the last 10 years - this is backed up by a comment from a professional mental health specialist nurse who said my daughter would be in a much worse place without my expertise.
So as things have developed over the past year or so, I've concentrated more on helping my daughter, connecting with her as much as I am able to, and tried hard to access the care she needs from other professionals.
But as ever, this girl continues to be one of my greatest teachers, and I will continue to learn.
I'd be interested to hear from you about your experiences and shared knowledge - please do contribute - but bear in mind my daughter will read this, too, so try to keep comments encouraging and helpful to all.

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