Opening Up To Mom About Depression

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a couple of years ago and I’m going through one of the worst depressive episodes I have ever had. My question is: what is the best way to say this to my mom? I am a minor and I am at a point where I think without professional help, I will end up making really bad decisions. I know my question is really stupid but to me it’s really difficult to talk to people about my depression. Sometimes I act very outgoing that’s only because of my short manic outbursts. I have problems with honest communication. I It is very difficult for me to carry on or even engage in a normal conversation with people who are not very close friends. I avoid big crowds or gatherings. Even with my close friends I never talk about my problems, let alone myself. I don’t know how to talk about serious things with my mom because I have an extremely guarded personality and I rarely show any emotion. I have not spoken to my father for just about over a year now after I found out he is a pervert and has been cheating on my mom.

So I have tried to cope without telling anyone but like I said, I don’t think I can cope anymore. It’s a whole combination of problems: I’m tired of living, I sleep all the time, I’m lonely, I can’t look at guys without thinking about what I discovered about my father, I feel like someone’s watching me all the time…and so much more.
I was thinking about forwarding to my mom an article I found about teenage depression but now I don’t think it’s a good idea. How should I tell her without having to directly talk to her? When I try to hint at it, she will tell me that “being down” will pass and everything will be fine when I go to college. To her, my depression doesn’t make sense because I am more privileged than the average teen (I live in a nice neighborhood, go to a good high school, come from a relatively well-off family) and because I don’t seem to have a clear “trigger.” How should I tell her that it’s not simply “stress from school” or “something every teenager goes through” or “a phase”?

A. Having an honest, face-to-face conversation with your mother is the best way to approach your situation but if you are not comfortable with this, write her a letter. Much of what you included in your letter to Psych Central would be appropriate to include in a letter to your mother. Elements of your letter should include:

  • your struggles with bipolar disorder;
  • your struggles with depression;
  • your struggles with passive suicidal thoughts;
  • the difficulty you face communicating and connecting with others;
  • your guarded personality;
  • your fear of talking to her;
  • your fear of not be taken seriously by her;
  • your fear of making poor future decisions without the appropriate professional help;
  • your belief that someone is watching you;
  • your feelings about your father;
  • the fact the you feel that you have no one to speak to, and
  • the fact that believe that you need and want professional help.

Make your letter very detailed. Don’t hold back. She needs to know the truth. The ‘details’ may be what she needs to be able to fully understand why you want to seek professional help. In addition, you should also inform your mother that you wrote to us at Psych Central. Show her a copy of your letter and my response. This may further help you to make your case. It also may serve to underscore the seriousness of your mental health needs.

If you write your mother a letter and she still does not take your concerns seriously, then the next step would be to speak to a guidance counselor or another authority figure at your high school. This individual may be able to speak to your mother on your behalf.

I believe that you are on the right track. You very wisely recognize that your symptoms are serious. You realize that professional help is necessary. I would concur. The next step is speaking to your mother. This may be a difficult task but it is necessary. The reality is that when you are under 18, it will be difficult to access professional help on your own. Your mother may not be fully aware of what you are going through. By speaking to her face-to-face or by writing her a letter, you will be informing her in a very detailed way about your struggles.

Please consider writing back and letting me know the outcome of your conversation with your mother. I look for to hearing from you. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Nov 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Opening Up To Mom About Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/11/12/opening-up-to-mom-about-depression/