My kids always ask me what I’m scared of the most and I’m never really sure how to answer them because I don’t want to scare them by my real fear. I usually say I’m scared of something bad happening to them. I can’t tell them the real truth that what I’m really scared of is dying and leaving them to navigate growing up without me. It’s not that I don’t think my husband would do a good job, I know he would, but I saw how hard it was for my dad to be a widowed, grieving single parent and I know what it’s like to live with two parents and then just one as my mother died when I was sixteen.

I’m afraid of leaving my kids to finish growing up without me because I know what losing my mother did to me. I fell face first into depression as a teenager and my dad didn’t have the help I needed because he was going through his own grief of losing his wife of twenty-one years. I worry about my kids falling into a teenage depression because I lived it, endured it, I lived on while it strangled me daily.

The shock of my mother’s death really never wore off. There was the daily morning stab the moment I opened my eyes forcing me to remember again and again she was now gone, that she was dead. I lost all interest in my normal teen activities she was a part of with me. I had been in dance since kindergarten, but I quit not long after she died because I saw no point in it anymore with her not there with me to help dress in dance costumes and do my hair. I stopped studying and I no longer tried in school. School was easy for me so I managed to still graduate with honors, though it was the lowest level of honors, but I didn’t care. It was too hard to care about school work with a dead mother.

I started doing many risky behaviors including going to parties and my choices became what I used to consider to be the bad choices, but again, I didn’t care. I couldn’t function as I once had and I put myself in many unsafe situations, but again, I didn’t care. I am amazed I’m still alive. I believe I am alive because of luck, and by the grace of God.

She died twenty-five years ago and I’m healthy now, but I can still easily dive into those deep, dark swirling pools that are my memories of teenage depression. I spent many hours agonizing and writing down my feelings silently screaming inside alone and tortured as no one knew what I was going through. I had friends to talk to, but no one really knew how low I was at that point in my life. I needed help and not only did I not understand that I needed help, no one noticed I needed it either, so no one helped me in the way I needed it. I didn’t care about much so I did whatever I felt at the moment and just tried to keep going. I didn’t even realize I was in a depression as a teenager until I was about nineteen and somewhere I read the signs of teenage depression; I realized that had been me for three years and at nineteen I still had many of them.

I told one trusted family member when I started to heal how I believed I had depression and she brushed me off and told me I couldn’t have been that bad. Her response confused me. I knew depression ran in my family. I thought I had figured out what was wrong with me and she told me I was wrong. I wasn’t sure how to feel, but at the time I figured she must be right and I was wrong. I did not seek help and I let go of those thoughts and kept trudging on with my life.

I was lucky because I did heal with time, but if I had gotten help I know the healing would have happened faster. I now know as an adult and a mother, I was a depressed teenager and the one person I reached out to did not validate me.

I can’t tell my kids now when they ask me what my worst fear is because I know it would scare them to think I could die. Maybe someday I will be able to tell them my worst fear, which is undoubtedly for me to die and leave them alone without me. I fear the possibility of teenage depression if I’m not here to help them. I fear they will struggle and not find help. By the grace of God, I pray nightly that my young boys never have to go through what I did without a mother as a child.

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Julie Hoag

Julie Hoag is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan. In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a pediatric nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. http://www.juliehoagwriter.com/

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