Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

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Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

New member from the US.  Every time I google forums for help, this Aussie board pops up.  So, joining you mates (silly American here attempting local chat).  BTW, I've never done forums or internet postings like this.  But, I feel a need to go somewhere to write this with hopes of insight, learning from experiences, and perhaps a little bit of hope.


It's been 13 months since my now 13 year old daughter had depression enter her life.  She is a lovely girl - strong social life, loves Jesus, perfect child all around with no environmental aspects influencing her depression that we can identify.  After 12 months of counseling and 2 intensive outpatient programs for depression, her life continues to be wrecked by this "ghost" we call depression.  Our hypothesis is that it is chemical/adolescence stuff combined with hereditary.  She attempted suicide 2.5 weeks ago.  Thank God, it was an ill attempt and she immediately regretted it.  However, it was significant....ambulance, hospital stay, and recovery taking its time.  Her fear gave her temporary motivation to fight; as my wife and I feared, that is phasing out and the "ghost" in her continues to make her life so difficult.  Short of her going to a residential treatment program, we have tried just about everything we know of.  We did a full neuropsychological evaluation, we've done blood work, we've ensured fitness, diet, sleep, we've eliminated the self medication of social media, tried multiple medications, prayed and prayed.  But, she remains in this dark spot.  My wife and I continue to fight the recommendation that most in the mental health field recommend - residential treatment.  My daughter has a strong and healthy group of friends, a strong support group at our church, a good relationship with her entire family.  But, I am starting to question if we can give her what she needs at home - I hate even writing that idea down.....that we may not be able to care for our daughter.  That has always been my mission in life.


Worse, I am falling apart.  I've always been the strong, fix it and persevere guy.  But, I have lost it.  My wonderful wife has become the powerhouse in the family, but, she is struggling and I am letting her down.  After my daughters suicide attempt, my 16 year old son is struggling having missed half of the school days in the past 2.5 weeks.  What gives?!


Over the past 3 months, I've gone through the process "mad at God", forgive and reconcile with God, and seeking personal growth through this life experience knowing God grows us through difficult times.  Thank God that started 3 months ago because I'm not sure how i would have handled the past few weeks.  


I am fearful of this place I am in.  I fear not being able to maintain my job.  I have gone from being productive and enjoying every aspect of being unproductive and nearly unable to do life.  I know God's got this, he's got my daughter, son, and wife.  I really do know that....but, just struggling to climb out of the paralysis of not knowing what to do.


Wow - I laid it out there, perhaps some therapy in just writing that.  Sorry mates for the downer post, but, I was drawn to this board in reading some of the other posts and felt it was a safe place to lay it down.


God bless.

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Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

Hi John,


I'm fairly new to these forums (in fact this is my first post).  As a Dad, I know some of your pain.  My son was 11 years old when he first tried to commit suicide.  He's battled mental health and behavioural issues for many years, sometimes going through periods where things seem to improve and other times going downhill again.  I also know what it means to be a man of faith and wrestle with this stuff.  Christians aren't immune to dealing with issues of mental illness.  It's ok to be mad at God, he can take it.


I hear a lot about what you are doing for your daughter and mate, you are doing everything humanly possible as a father for her.  I know you might feel bad because you're in place of despair, but having been what you have been through, I'd be more worried if you had no reaction at all.  You've been through something extremely traumatic and life sometimes "beats us up" and leaves us bruised and broken for a while.  It's ok to not have it all together. Healing, especially emotional healing, takes time.  As a Dad, it's natural to want to protect your children from harm and it's a horrible feeling when you realise your ability to do this, as a human being, is finite.  But it sounds to me you are 100% doing everything you can right now.


I'm no expert, but residential treatment in Australia for someone of her age would be short term and a last resort.  I think probably residential treatment is more prolific in America whereas in Australia community treatment is pursued more often.  That being said, I think the overriding issue is one of safety.  If she is at risk of attempting again at least you know that there will be people in a residential facility to keep an eye on her. It's just doing the best you can right now to assess the level of risk.


My question would be, what are you doing to look after yourself?  Are there others around you who you get support from?  Are there others going through similar experiences?  This can sometimes be a struggle in Christian communities as everyone seems to "have it together" but the reality is, many Christian families are going through similar things and it sometimes takes someone to be vulnerable and open up the conversation.  Find people of faith that understand the complexities of life.  Sometimes the "easy" answers in church circles are unhelpful.....the bible is full of examples of great people who often struggled, even with depression. Don't be afraid of getting counselling and treatment for yourself and taking time to do the things that re-energise you.  Love yourself as you love your daughter.   


Keep going mate.  You're a great Father.  God is proud of the job you are doing.  I'll keep you in my prayers.



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Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression


Thank you so much for your response.  Your comments giving me "permission" were encouraging in an unexpected way.  This feeling of paralysis and brokenness is so overwhelming.  I've been in this sort of place at various points during this ~1 year process, but, it is just so heavy right now.


Also, your comments about taking care of myself are so true.  I started counseling for myself back in January, which after a few months, my wife and I started doing counseling together.  In that cycle, all recent counseling is focused on my daughter and our approach as parents.  My "rock button" was on July 7th this year.  At least that is when I admitted it to myself, I admitted it to my wife, I started wrestling with God to reconcile my anger with him.  I'm grateful July 7th happened, because God and I have been spending time together every morning (for hours most mornings because I don't sleep well).  I'm grateful that day happened before the event of 2 Sunday's ago because I could not have handled the past few weeks without him.  I am lucky to have a good church that accepts "messy life"; they are real people.  The hard part is not so much sharing, but, accepting what follows.  Perhaps my stubbornness or me being more accustomed to be on the other side of helping people, but, I have really struggled receiving support.  And finding what support I actually need has been confusing.  So many good intentioned people offer support, but, they know my daughter, they are confused and stunned as I am.  They look to help me, but, it feels "crowded" when they are around and I need the space.  They also don't know what to think of me in this place - the "broken me" is a stranger to them.  It gets uncomfortable, I feel like I have to show them strength, and move on...back to the unhealthy isolation.


Between July 7th and August 25th (the event), I made myself the priority and (naturally), I was a better support to my family.  Then August 25th happened and it broke my world, how did I not see it coming, so many emotions.  I slipped back to anger, isolation, frustration.  But, I picked up my Bible 2 days ago and got back to it - focusing on my own healing, relying on God, and was reading a book from Rick Warren that led me make this post.  Seems silly, I could reach out to my church community, a friend, our counselor, but, this felt like an easier step.  One step at a time I guess. 


I've found writing stuff down holds me accountable to breaking down what's in my head/heart.  I journal in my quiet time.  But, thought I'd bring it to a forum knowing others are processing the same stuff. 


Brother, thank you for sharing, for encouraging, for permission, and reminders.  Thanks for sharing about your son and your wisdom gained from your experience.  God grows us from life experiences, he draws us closer to him through grief, he develops our character through life experience (good and bad), and he gives us experience so we can help others having been in those places before.  Thank you for sharing yours, it is helpful.


Take care.

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Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

Hi John,
Its heart breaking just to read about the situation in yr family, you and your wife must be so devastated! Though my situation is only mini version of yours, 2 boys, 1 gone thr' anger management, the other 1 just starting self harm....I totally understand how hopeless we can feel as a parent.

It is very brave of you to share here as I know men are finding it harder to seek help (I am woman and have a strong husband so I understand a bit how strong man think), men are the support pole of the family and they find it hard to share their heart brokeness not to say seeking help. I struggle to help my husband to see we all have weakness and its ok to admit there are times he might need help.

So I really think you are very brave! You are responsible, loving and caring dad and husband who does all it takes to help the family! I am sorry that I couldn't offer any constructive suggestions as I don't hv such experience, but I will pray for you, your daughter and your family as I am a devoted christian too. As you said, God must be listening and He knows and feels your hurt with you. Though we might not know why all this happen and why He doesn't help, we can only trust in Him. One of my favourite line from a pastor "though we don't see God's hands, we have to trust His heart".

Keep sharing here whenever needed, I am also new to this forum, there are things really nobody can help, but venting and knows that others understand is big help already.
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Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression



Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.  Yep, I'm that guy you describe!  I sought help about 6 months into this process with my daughter.  I became aware of the fact that my "strengths" (problem solving, level head, analytical one who seeks solutions) were hurting rather than helping.  Plus, they were actually putting distance in the influence I could have with my daughter.  I knew I needed to learn how to parent this situation for the betterment of my daughter and support to my wife.  About 4 weeks into that counseling process, that counselor in Feb/March laid it on me and nailed me to a tee!  She was awesome and I loved that she did it.  But, I am thick headed....I always want to revert back to solutions.  God is humbling me quite a bit.  He is teaching me self reliance is a bad thing, when I have learned my whole life that is what men do - provide, solve, protect.  God did not cause my daughters depression, but, I have to remind myself he is using it to work on me.  And, he will use it with my daughter, my son, and wife.  I had the unfortunate experience as a teen that my older brother had problems (drugs/behavior) and younger sister was severely depressed.  But, honestly - those experiences shaped my whole life.  They led me to Jesus.  Led me to find my wife.  Shaped me as the dad that I am.  While a rough experience as a teen, I'm counting on God to do the same in this rough period - shape my son, shape my daughter, and grow my wife and I.  


As I write these things above, I want to point out - I am more writing them for myself....telling myself...convincing myself....reminding myself.  First time "forum poster", so, I should be careful using it as my personal "journal" :-). 


But, like you said Maruko - it is helpful to process what's in your heart and head.  You mentioned your post did not have "constructive suggestions", it totally does.  The empathy and understanding alone gives me help.  Your encouragement to share is empowering.  You mates are likely in bed now on the other side of the world, but, the reading your comments over here in the US are starting my day off with an encouraged mindset.  So, thank you!



Parent Community Champion

Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

You sharing is heartbreaking @JohnT . It is difficult to support our vulnerable children through these struggles and you are so strong to endure, look for help and share. 


I wanted to share this wise paragraph from John Piper,


First Corinthians 10:13, “No testing” — and you probably know as a student with your Greek that the words temptation and testing are the same in Greek — “No testing has overtaken you but what is common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond what your ability is, but with the testing he will provide a way of escape” — and then here comes the key phrase — “that you may be able to endure it.”

The issue is one of endurance, not just escape. The escape is the capacity to endure. Know that he’s got you in this season of testing, and he has got you there not beyond your ability to endure.


You have probably read it 100 times. You might find this article worthwhile.


I don't think I actually have much of value to say so feel free to skip the rest. 


I agree with all the other wonderful answers. It is important to look after yourself if you are to continue to be the rock on which your family is built. It can be really tricky to find that balance, I'm afraid. It can also help to dedicate as much time to all the members of your immediate family as your daughter too so that they can support each other. You will all need your own time and chance to find joy in things.


During these struggles it can be tempting to just live moment to moment. It can be tempting to stop planning for the future or next event. This is totally understandable and is why school seems less important to your son etc. Maybe you can plan for small things to look forward to that aren't focused on depression...


With our kids we still expected them to contribute to the family. Feed the dog and then go back to bed, unpack the dishwasher then retreat, hang out your washing repeat. Not big things but stuff that made them feel important to the family. We also found that they responded well when they had an activity that made them feel worthwhile or joy. Perform, volunteer work at the animal shelter, helping the choir teacher in the background, singing at the old folks home, mentoring younger scouts, fundraising. All stuff that could be done on the quiet and will variable commitment. If they felt needed, they seemed to perk up a little, however, ours haven't attempted suicide yet so knock on wood. 


Also something I say to parents of my students about mental health is if the child had a broken leg;

  • would you expect them to limp around without crutches?
  • eat more calcium and heal?
  • try exercises to improve strength?

When we can't 'see' the causes and symptoms of mental illness we tend to second guess ourselves a lot. Maybe residential treatment is the way to go because at the moment she is 'limping around without crutches'. Maybe it is better to try it and have it fail than second guess what ifs.


Another treatment I have seen be successful is EMDR. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.


And finally, I thank God that your daughter has such a great and supportive family. Imagine what would happen if she didn't. She is so blessed in this way. 


Sending you hugs and prayers. Take care. 

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Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression


Thank you for the support, quotes and articles.  The "depressed Christian" link was a good read.  


Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

Hi @JohnT, I just came to say welcome to the forums at ReachOut! Heart It is great to see that you have been enjoying your journey on here so far. I think there has been a lot of valuable experiences and insight shared so far which is always so amazing to see. With that being said, I wanted to pose a question to you for reflection. Is there any advice from the forums that you think you will take on board? It sounds like you have come a long way in your journey so far and have discovered a lot about yourself and your family already. I was also wondering if you have decided on any next steps for your journey? Thanks for sharing it all with us Smiley Happy
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Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression



Appreciate you checking in.  I don't think I've taken anything new in terms of my daughter, but, certainly received encouragement and hope my spirit needed.   Just writing it down can do that and having others respond in kind is helpful in itself.


DadFad and others said it - taking care of yourself has to be priority.  While obvious at different parts of this year + journey, it can be the hardest thing to do.  We want to pour everything into our kids that we have and when that is not enough, we want to empty ourselves in the hope it can help our kids.  But, that can be is a losing strategy with limits.  Our kids need our strength.  They need our level head.  They need the home to be a place of peace they are secure in as they work on themselves.  They are not capable of worrying about us.  I have learned over this past year those who suffer from mental illness have a very difficult and long journey, for some it may be there lifestyle.  I keep reminding myself of that fact and during this journey, one of the most important things I can do for my daughter is to keep myself healthy - spiritually healthy, physically healthy, emotionally healthy.  I have also been reminded of my limits.  I can't do this alone and God will not always "fix" things.  Sometimes, he just grows us - in character, in humility, and in relationship to him.


Taylor-RO, as you said - we have done so many things in therapy, medicine, environment, and through relationship with our daughter.  While I would have gladly accepted new advice on solutions - I got what i needed from people's response and that is the reminder and suggestions in taking care of myself.  


Thank you.

Parent Community Champion

Re: Broken Dad, coping with daughters depression

Hi @JohnT 


When I saw what you posted my heart went out to you.  To have a child going through that sort of darkness and to be powerless to shoulder some of that burden for her would be heart rendering.  

As a father you want to be able to protect and support your family but against and intangible foe like adolescent depression there is only so much you can do.

I would encourage you in that it sounds like you are doing all that can be done as a father but I know it would not console me much when I wish I could do so much more. 


The only thing I would say is that residential treatment does not mean you are failing your daughter or letting her down in any way.  Providing for her to have residential treatment doesn't mean you can't provide for your daughter..  I would say it is the opposite.  The fact that a caring set of parents you recognize you need to put your daughters needs first and are able to provide access to the residential treatment the professionals recommend.  


It does sound like you are having multiple professionals recommend residential care so it is not just an individuals idea.  Residential care provides an opportunity break bad mental patterns and is not about having failed to provide for you child but rather giving them a chance to reset their thinking.


It is very understandable the worry is impacting on the other parts of your life such as work and enjoyment.  As a good dad you prioritize your daughter.  This is right and proper IMHO. BUT realize that you don't have to do it alone.  There are others who love and want to help you and your daughter.   


It is not weakness to receive help and love from others.  It shows true strength to accept your feelings and allow others in.  By sharing you not only are uplifted you uplift those around you 


PaPa Bill