08-23-2021 03:15 PM - last edited on 08-23-2021 05:17 PM by Janine-RO
15 year old daughter has no friends and thinks she is going to die before she is an adult
15 year old daughter who has been diagnosed with learning delays, and high functioning autism thinks she is an alien because of her indifferences and she has no friends. She is so worried that if she tries to attempt to make friends they will all make fun of her. She has anxiety, but she doesn't seem depressed. She just spends all day on social media and her father and I are always trying to get her to try new things, but too no avail. Her health is deteriorating rapidly because she won't get out of bed. She says she is fine, but I am worried about her all around being. When I do manage to get her to go do something she is scared to death if I'm not right within touching area. My health is deteriorating quickly as well as I've been in the hospital most of this year with GI issues and cancer scares. I want to be able to guide her on a positive path to finding her own identity, but I feel as though I'm running out of time, and her father hides by working all the time.
I’m sorry to hear about your health - what a challenge it must be dealing with your own serious health issues while also looking for ways to support your daughter.
It sounds like there are a number of things happening with your daughter at the moment which are worrying you - aside from her not having friends, you also mention that you are concerned that she isn’t getting out of bed, and is experiencing some pretty significant anxiety.
When you mention your daughter’s deteriorating health, I am not sure if you are talking only about her mental health (which is very important by itself), or if there are also physical concerns. These can certainly be related - often when someone is experiencing strong anxiety or depression they may stop doing activities which help keep them physically well (such as eating and drinking regularly; showering; getting some sleep; and physical activity). I would encourage you to take her to see a GP for a check-up if possible, or even talk to your GP about your concerns as a first step if she is not willing to go.
If you haven’t had an open conversation with your daughter yet about why you are worried about her, I would recommend this - it’s also important to get her perspective on things and find out what her concerns are. On the one hand, she says that she is fine, but on the other, it sounds like there are some things she has identified as issues (e.g. worrying about doing things without you, about making friends, and about her health). This suggests that you may be able to find some common ground in terms of identifying that there are some things about her life or how she is feeling which she would like to be different.
When someone is really struggling, small steps are more achievable than big ones - right now the idea of making friends may seem impossible to your daughter, and it may be more helpful to focus on small steps to improve her wellbeing - identifying small things she enjoys and finding ways to do these more, working with her on a plan to help her get out of bed each day, addressing any problems she might be having with sleep, etc. You don’t have to do all these things at once, letting your daughter choose one thing to focus on at a time can help her make progress without feeling overwhelmed.
It’s also important to acknowledge and validate your daughter’s efforts when she does do something, even if it is something small (as long as you can do so in a genuine way - teens know when we aren’t being sincere). When someone is feeling overwhelmed, even normal, everyday tasks can require a huge effort, and having someone recognise that can really make a difference.
Ideally it would be great to have her father on board with this as well and helping out, and I want to acknowledge how difficult and frustrating it must be that he is avoiding the issue. Addressing this issue with him is an option and could be helpful so that you aren't trying to do this alone, but sometimes trying to tackle multiple things at once (caring for your daughter and also addressing her father's role) can be overwhelming so you might prefer to focus on things with your daughter. Without knowing more about the relationship and situation I could not say which approach will be more helpful at the moment - and it is completely okay to decide based on what feels like it will be more achievable for you.
If your daughter is open to it (or willing to at least give it a try), talking to a professional might be a good outlet for her, and particularly if she is worried about making friends, they can discuss with her some of these concerns. Your GP can help identify local options to access professional help.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge that in difficult situations like this, sometimes parents can feel so much pressure to be supporting their child that they feel unable to take any time to look after themselves. It can get very draining to be constantly focused on how you can help your daughter, and it is okay to take breaks from focusing on what is happening with her to look for things that will help you feel supported - whether this is talking to a friend, doing a hobby you find relaxing, or just giving yourself permission to have an afternoon where you don’t get anything done.
Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.