September 9, 2021
[00:00:00] Cindy Lopez:
Welcome to Voices of Compassion, CHC’s podcast series providing courage, connection and compassion, highlighting topics that matter to our community, our parents, families, educators and other professionals. My name is Cindy Lopez, and welcome to today’s episode where we’re talking with a parent about her journey with her child regarding anxiety and depression. You know anxiety and depression can be isolating and as a parent, you can feel alone and pretty helpless as you watch your child deal with that anxiety and depression. So, if you’re worried about your child and you’re not sure what to do next, it might be helpful to reach out to other parents who are on a similar journey. So listen in today to hear from Kimm Angel, a mother who openly shares her journey with her child: what she knows now and what she wishes she knew then, welcome Kimm.
[00:00:57] So Kimm, I’m wondering what was going on in your family and how did that lead you to starting this journey with your child?
[00:01:06] Kimm Angel:
Thanks for having me. It’s been a long road, it’s been a long journey, with my daughter, she’ll be 17 next month, and the anxiety and panic attacks started early on, around the age of five. We had a home invasion which clearly caused some trauma and from that day forward our lifestyle was living a life with a child with anxiety. She had therapists, we moved through the years and as she came into her teen years things got worse, daily panic attacks, she went through self-harming. We later sent her to a residential treatment for three months and through that process, she was able to process the trauma behind it, which later led to depression.
[00:01:55] Cindy Lopez:
As a parent, I can imagine how hard it would be watching your child go through all that, and it probably brings on some of your own worries, your own self doubt, for example, what am I doing wrong as a parent? And I’m sure that’s normal, whatever normal is and that’s probably a typical response from parents. How did you know that there was really something you needed to pay attention to and that you needed outside help?
[00:02:21] Kimm Angel:
So, it kind of goes back a few years even before the depression, cause she was seeing a therapist the entire time, and early on we discovered the anxiety just at first we thought it was social anxiety because when she would be in crowds she wouldn’t talk, she wouldn’t look at people and we even went through a process of getting her evaluated for Asperger’s, but then we just kind of put that aside and went on with anxiety and that’s when we did therapy, but later in her teen years, that’s when it was hard, like I mentioned the panic attacks, they weren’t open, like you wouldn’t as a parent, you wouldn’t notice. And she was getting a lot of headaches and we went to our pediatrician about her headaches and that’s when she mentioned, like, these can actually be panic attacks and they look different in everyone. So we went to a psychiatrist and that’s when they finally diagnosed her with PTSD and things weren’t getting better. We discovered she was self-harming and we did a DBT skills group, which was so awesome in so many different ways, but the main takeaway from DBT that helped our family was communication. It really helped us understand each other, my daughter and I as far as how I see things as a mom and how she sees things as a teen, struggling with all these challenges. And then later, after DBT things were getting better, it was just steady: the panic attacks were still happening. We had a few incidents with self-harming and at that point I just didn’t know what to do. And we had previously, about six months prior, talked about sending her to a residential treatment, which was a hard no in the beginning. Probably the day I dropped her off was one of the worst days I’ve ever experienced. I remember dropping her off, driving away and just pulling over for two hours and just crying. Like you said, as a parent, what did I miss, what did I do wrong. And immediately called a family member, and she’s like you’re doing nothing wrong, she’s in a safe place right now, she’s getting help. And at that point that’s where I’m like okay, this is good as far as, yes it sucks, but we’re in the right direction. And that’s where it really started, the big changes when she came home, huge changes, good, it was all good, but there’s times where we questioned was this the right decision.
[00:05:09] Cindy Lopez:
Sharing your personal story can be really difficult and so we really appreciate your openness and candor. So you found out about DBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, that’s what DBT stands for, it’s a therapy that’s really designed to help kids in these kinds of severe depression, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors. And it’s just a good communication practice anyway.
[00:05:34] Kimm Angel:
DBT was definitely more than anything, a life changer in our deciding future treatment, like you mentioned, the communication, it created a safe place, after we did the skills group, for my daughter and I to have open conversations and being very transparent and even discussing residential treatment or when we have medication changes, and we’re so open with each other and there’s a trust that was built behind that, and if she doesn’t want to go up on a medication I understand because she’ll give valid reasons. Even residential treatment, she’s going away through three months, it’s hard for a teenager but she understood what that meant for her future of just living a healthy lifestyle and giving those tools and resources to her, but if I would have brought that up before DBT, it would just be a hard no. There would be no understanding and I can just picture myself in that situation where I’m like, you must do this, and she’s like, no I won’t, like I see that, I can like visualize it, but this was a, “this is how I’m feeling.” And it really created that safe place for us and when we had that safe place, it created a safe place for the rest of the family to accept because there was no miscommunication. It was, this is what she wants, this is what I want. And her being very confident about that decision, it was a lot easier for the other family members to be supportive and help us.
[00:07:08] As a parent, I had my own individual therapist, but I sought out a different therapist just so I can have this place of just focusing on our family challenges, and it’s so important to take care of yourself while you are trying to encourage and grow with your daughter or your child and create this safe place for a healthy life. And it’s really hard going back, I remember people, well, “what are you doing for yourself” and I’m like, are you kidding I don’t even have time to brush my hair half the time. And just, those are things that when you’re in that moment of crisis, you don’t think about yourself, but also giving that opportunity to have a therapist that, that is taking care of yourself and helping you through it. Just having people, family members close, people that you know don’t have any judgment and are just there to listen or I need you to vent back with me, I’m emotional, cry with me, it’s so important to have a community beside you, regardless if it’s your church, parent support groups, families, friends, and it doesn’t need to be a huge group just find a few selective people to help you through it.
[00:08:25] Cindy Lopez:
So you’re trying to work with your child and make sure that your child has all of the resources and support and help that they need, but you’re kind of going through it too as a parent. So it’s important to figure out what you need in order to be able to help or support your child. If you’re a parent dealing with your own anxiety and depression how do you keep that separate from your child’s, do you have any thoughts about that Kimm?
[00:08:53] Kimm Angel:
Wow, that is a great question because that was a huge struggle and still continues to be a huge struggle for myself. I do have a history of depression, especially in my teen years and younger twenties and you know, it comes out here and there, to be able to separate that as a parent and not go off your own experience, because again, everybody is made different, everybody processes different and when my daughter first started experiencing the depression side, I immediately reacted and called every doctor, called CHC and talked to our care managers. It was so scary and that was because I was basing the situation off of my feelings and my experience. And when I finally realized that I need to put myself separate, but also take care of myself, that’s when I saw her coming to me more often, and it’s really hard and it just has to be done. It’s unfortunate and that’s also another place to use your community, your therapist, to help you through. And even after I never really had much anxiety before, but of course because of the situation and crisis and as a parent the anxiety levels are still just over the top and that again is where DBT comes in. Um, I was just telling a friend the other day, cause she’s like I go 0 to 60, like how do you do it? And there’s times where I fail, but as I start, I really pay attention to my levels of just emotions, and when I see it just even a tad off, I shake or I feel a yucky pit, I immediately remind myself, this is not about you, what’s the real issue and what do you have to address? And just making sure you address it, with teens, they understand, and they don’t want to be dismissed and even the depression, my daughter doesn’t like to communicate. She’s just, she’s very internal, she internalizes most things, and I need to know what’s wrong in my brain, that’s how I work. And just a few weeks ago she had a panic attack and I sat there and I listened. It was a good hour or longer, and I didn’t give any feedback other than, “this does suck, I am sorry” and the next morning she came to me and she just said, “wow I don’t know what happened there, I went from 0 to 60.” It was like she noticed she caught herself. I believe it’s because I gave her that safe place to just vent and nobody solve her problem, nobody tell her how wonderful and awesome she is, because she is, but sometimes they’re just in a place they don’t want to hear it and they need to vent just like we do.
[00:11:48] Cindy Lopez:
Thank you for tuning in! Just a note, before we continue on with today’s episode, we hope you’re following us on social media, so you don’t need to wait a whole week between episodes to get engaging, inspiring and educational content from CHC. Our social handles are linked on our podcast webpage at podcasts.chconline.org.
[00:12:12] Cindy Lopez:
So Kimm, it sounds like you’ve learned a lot about how to support your daughter and how you communicate with each other. And it sounds like you got some good tools like DBT, for example. So just so our listeners know we use DBT at CHC, and if you’re ever interested in learning more about that, please contact us. We also have an IOP, which is an intensive outpatient program for teens. So please look at our website and find out more and we actually have some scholarships for the IOP. So if financial consideration is a barrier, we can help you with that. You can find more at chconline.org. So Kimm, your daughter sounds like she processes more internally. I’m probably one of those people who does that too, right. And then there are others who process externally and want to talk through everything. So how did you talk with your child about this and how did you communicate with her?
[00:13:12] Kimm Angel:
It’s really hard, I believe almost for every parent when you know something’s going on and you just want to know, like, just tell me everything, and then you have the child that internalizes everything. And through that we created these boundaries. My daughter had said, I need to process things, I’m not going to tell you everything, and when you come at me, I shut down even more and it makes things worse. So there, I knew I needed to keep this place of, I can only go so far. I can only ask her a few times and then so for what I asked was that I just need to know if you’re okay or if you’re not, and there is different levels we set for each other and we try to stay away from you know the medical terms because those sound so much more scary, but um, it was I’ll talk later, which is basically, I’ll get through this on my own, we’ll figure it out later. Then there was, I need you and that’s just a safe place for me to sit there and then there’s like I don’t know what the heck is wrong, I’m scared, and she will say these things like I’m scared. And that means I need to put myself in there and really help her finding tools. She’s definitely dysregulated and then she’ll even go as far as we need to call the doctor and have an evaluation. And with that, when she gives me that, I know my place, I know not to get into it, and it’s only going to cause more harm than good, but we definitely needed to create a space where as a parent, I felt comfortable to leave her alone. So that was how I started the communication.
[00:14:56] Cindy Lopez:
That’s pretty impressive that she was able to do that and to know what kind of level she was at and to be able to ask for help, that’s impressive.
[00:15:10] Kimm Angel:
I believe the key for that is really participating in their therapy sessions, DBT skills skills group or whatever it is and take it seriously and putting it first and not as a parent being like, now I have to go to DBT. I know it can happen because there’s times where I didn’t want to go, but I knew it was going to benefit my daughter. And it’s stressful as a parent, but leading by example of what you want your child, how you want them to participate and act, you need to put that first because it is lead by example. Even the rest of my family, her dad and my older daughter were just, they didn’t think they had to be involved. They didn’t know much about therapy or anything of the sort prior, and it was really hard to get them on board. But when you lead by example, it starts with you and then your child, and then other people will see it. And it was just recently, I think it was the same panic attack we had a few weeks ago and inside I was internalizing my anxiety and stress, I’d forgotten like what resources to use, like what are the best resources to get my daughter out of this situation because it was kind of scary this one and I had FaceTimed with her dad ‘cause he lives out of state, so even being part of these, panic attacks, we’re going to discuss with my child, that dad is going to be involved. And through that he said, wait doesn’t she like ice, and I’m like, yeah, I forgot, and I ran downstairs, got ice and I know it sounds so simple, but for him to express that and be part of the treatment and make it successful, and us just going through this, it brought me to tears. We don’t have the best relationship all the time, and it was great for him to be part of that and show that he is fully into it. I believe my daughter saw that too, like dad is on board too. And it wasn’t that he wasn’t for any other reason than he just didn’t know much about behavioral health in general.
[00:17:20] You’ve alluded to this a little bit with your daughter. I’m just wondering how receptive she was to seeking help. You mentioned when you were thinking about residential and when you brought that up with her the first time she pretty much said hard no. I’m wondering just how receptive she’s been the whole way along, you know when you started DBT did you have to back off a lot or how did that work?
[00:17:47] Kimm Angel:
I definitely had to back off a lot, or I had to really think it through how I was going to approach it. Originally when she started therapy at a young age, I want to say she was eight or nine and you know, it’s a young age, they don’t want to talk about it. And I told her if you go see this therapist, you can talk to her about whatever you want. By law she can not tell me unless it’s something she was going to harm herself or others – that means you get to say whatever you want about me as a mom, when you’re mad at me, you get to tell her anything. And she literally said, sign me up.
[00:18:26] So you just have to be really careful, right. Like knowing your child how can I get them to go and not manipulate them, how does this benefit them. So I was very careful of how I approached things. If the first time was a hard no, I would sit back, okay, how am I gonna approach it again? In DBT, somewhere in there, I remember them saying, how are you going to address this situation, and I think there’s five things, and am I willing to lose my integrity, is this going to go against my beliefs or is this something I’m going to fight for in a battle and just, it’s going to go down. And I know there’s a few other important ones, but just that was helpful. I mean, we didn’t start DBT till way later, but it reminded me of how just really being careful of how you approach things. And even coming back later with a different heart, a different everything, and choosing to be transparent, because there have been times recently, more recently as she gets older in her teen years where I’m like, no, this is what we’re doing. And I don’t do it often, but she knows that we mean business.
[00:19:35] Cindy Lopez:
So Kimm I’m wondering if there’s something, as you look back at your journey. And I know that it’s still an ongoing journey but as you look back are there things that you wish you knew now that you didn’t know then that would have been really helpful?
[00:19:51] Kimm Angel:
I have always taken it seriously, but I always questioned myself when things would arise as far as anxiety um, and people meaning well and telling me she’s a teenager, she’s seeking attention.If I could go back and just have that confidence of that’s okay, if that’s what it is, we need to address it and connect with your doctor and even that first doctor you connect with, if you still have that pit and they say everything is fine, you seek out another opinion and we did that. There were times, I think we went through three psychiatrists and at one point I thought, well, maybe it’s me. And we’ve turned out with one of the top psychiatrists within Kaiser. And I had no idea, but I chose him because he just understood our family. And that’s what’s important is when someone can connect with the whole family, and another thing as a parent, just creating that safe place with your child, of communication, and I understand that fear and the panic, and it is so scary, but when you go put that aside and approach your child in a calm manner, or even understanding, or even grace, or even telling them I’m having a hard time, they see you as a parent that understands not just a parent that’s trying to tell them what to do. It’s just important and leading by example, and the one thing I think that was helpful with our family in general, regardless if as parents you have a great marriage or you’re divorced is for you guys all to be part of it, mom and dad, and siblings to a certain extent of course. My role and my family, I kind of lead the medical issues, mental health challenges, that’s just how my family works, but I still CC’d every email I sent to every single doctor to her dad. And he may have not have read them up first, but by the, I would say second month of her being in residential treatment, he was understanding it. I remember in one of our sessions, we mentioned DBT again, he’s like, I don’t know what ABC, what is this like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, he was frustrated, but kind of making a sarcastic moment at the same time, but at the end like he really understood what it all meant. And it wasn’t me sitting down with him, it wasn’t our family therapist sitting down, it was him being more curious each and every time of reading that email, this keeps coming up and that keeps coming up and even sending him articles of just what they’re experiencing and Psychology today always has wonderful things. You just do a search and it brings up the most recent treatments and explanations of how to talk to other parents, so just really getting on board with that other parent to the level that’s healthy, you can’t force it. You can’t force it with even your child, you have to come kindly and approach it kindly and with lots of grace.
[00:23:12] Cindy Lopez:
Just a reminder for our listeners, you can check out DBT, DBT skills groups at CHC and our IOP, which is our intensive outpatient program online on our website, chconline.org. We also have parent support groups and you can find out more information about that online as well. And another resource is that we have free parent consultations. So that’s a 30 minute consultation with one of our clinicians about what’s going on with your child. You just talk about what’s going on and they provide some guidance and advice regarding next steps so it might be a good choice for you to do that right now, too. Please view us as a resource and check us out again chconline.org. Thank you for sharing your story with us today, Kimm, and thank you for your time and to our listeners, thank you for joining us and we hope you’ll join us again next week.
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