The Struggle is Real

“Oh my God, are you filing your nails?”

The stylish guy behind the counter at BC Surf & Sport looked up from his casual slouch. “First I bit them, now I’m smoothing them down.”

Not missing a beat, my teenage daughter continued. “So, is that, like, your personal nail file or do you all share it?” Two other young male employees, looking just as hip as the first, had sauntered over to join the conversation with this outgoing, plenty-hip-herself potential customer.

“Oh, no, it’s the shop file. We have to fight over who gets to use it.” All three of the guys chuckled.

“I hear ya,” said my daughter. “The struggle is real.”

The struggle is real? What an odd thing to say. Perhaps it was a trendy phrase among the young and cool, something I hadn’t yet heard my daughters use around the house.

The thing is, the struggle is real.

My teenager has had a rough couple of weeks. She’s a senior and will graduate in May. That is, if she can muster the will to get out of bed in the morning; if she can trick herself into believing that it’s worth it to go to class, to finish her assignments, complete the required service learning hours and supplementary reflection paper, to graduate because she has a future that’s worth living; if she can dispel the anxiety that obliterates her days when she’s forced to think about what’s coming next–a summer job, leaving for college, a lifetime of expectations to be capable, competent, optimistic, and excited about life.

For her, the struggle is real.


I try to understand. I try to hide my dismay and disappointment when I find her hunkered down in bed when she should have been up an hour ago for school, when I get yet another automated call from the school reporting her random absences, when she says she’ll take care of timely business later because she just can’t deal with things right now. I try to suppress my natural parenting instinct of taking away privileges or at least letting natural consequences play out – as would be effective with most teenagers – for some of the things she does and doesn’t do.

But what good is it to take away her car, her means of getting to school? Sure, she could ride the bus, and that would be the perfect consequence for most teens who have trouble getting to school on time when driving themselves, but for her, having to ride the bus, as a senior, would be another good reason to stay in bed. And the joy of driving, of being independent, is probably the main thing that’s getting her to leave the house these days. Grounding doesn’t make sense when what I really want to see happening is her going out more and interacting with the world and spending time with friends. And should I cut back on her already minimal weekly spending money when doing so might result in her being more anxious, less hopeful?

The struggle is real.

Luckily, my daughter makes fairly good choices within the confines of her disorder. Her depression has not resulted in any run-ins with the law. She is not failing her classes. Like she says, she’s got healthy ways of coping, her music, drawing, art. She always finds the time and plenty of humor and love for her sister. She is open about her depression and willing to explain what she’s going through for those of us who don’t get it, who can’t possibly imagine not embracing each new day and what the future has to offer. These past few weeks, as she’s mourned her childhood and confronts her future, she’s felt more anxious and out of control than ever.

I’m always fighting myself.

I don’t feel like I’m on my own team.

I have my coping mechanisms in place – playing guitar, drawing, writing, walking – and I have plenty of time to do those things now, but what about when I go to college? I’ll be so much busier. How will I find the time to calm myself down? I’m already freaking out about it.

I know I miss some classes, but you have to understand that, for me, going to most of them is a huge accomplishment being that I can barely get out of bed.

Every time I’m happy, I feel like I’m just faking it. I know who I really am, that the bad feelings are going to come back.

I feel like you deserve a better daughter. You should have a smart daughter, someone who gets really good grades.

I’m so afraid this is hereditary and I’m going to give it to my kids. I don’t want them to suffer. I’m keeping a journal so that when they become teens I can look back on my writing and hopefully remember and be able to help them get through it.

I listen. I see her tears. I feel the bubble wrap in which she’s encased herself, that protective layer that keeps her safe, but simultaneously keeps me from her. I’ve helped her get a diagnosis, medication, counseling. And yet I cannot give her what it is I truly want to – optimism.

She’s going to have to discover that on her own. And find a way to let optimism rule.

And I cannot give myself the one thing that would help me to understand her better, that would allow me to more thoroughly accept and support her. I cannot give myself depression. And for this, I sometimes feel guilty.

The struggle is real.

For both of us, and for so many more out there, it’s real.


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nerdinthebrain
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 08:36:52

    I think this may be the best post I’ve ever read anywhere. Seriously.

    I wish I had some helpful words, but I don’t. Your honesty and compassion and love are quite obvious…and I don’t think there’s much better for illness than honesty and compassion and love.


    • randee
      Apr 20, 2014 @ 11:07:42

      What? No helpful words? What you wrote, those were quite possibly the most helpful words I’ve ever heard. Everyone is struggling with something or another. That’s what we need to keep in mind at all times. Thank you for reading and commenting. It makes me feel that the message is getting out there.


  2. Trackback: The Spectacular Blog Award: A String of Pearls | Nerd in the Brain
  3. nerdinthebrain
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 09:05:36

    Hi again! I just wanted to let you know that I’ve given your blog the Spectacular Blog Award. That means I think you’re awesome. 😀


    • randee
      Apr 20, 2014 @ 11:19:11

      I just saw that. Thank you. And what I have to say is this: Your blog is pretty dang awesome, too. Love the blogging community! Thanks for spreading the word about struggles and talking about them. Much appreciated. And good to know about the Spectacular Blog Award. I will pass the love on.


  4. Lynette d'Arty-Cross
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 10:51:06

    Wow! Well done! 🙂


    • randee
      Apr 20, 2014 @ 11:20:26

      Thank you. This is what I was writing the night before the 5k I’ve been working on organizing for the past four months. This is what was on my mind.


  5. Anonymous
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 12:51:17

    Sent a special prayer skyward this morning for Addy as she faces leaving home and doing college. Next one is for you, Randee. Love to all.


    • randee
      Apr 20, 2014 @ 12:54:49

      Kind words. Thank you. WordPress only says “someone” sent this comment, so I don’t know who this is. If you see my reply, let me know.


  6. betunada
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 20:43:37

    good grief! and you “soldier on” seemingly imperturbably. and i tend to get thrown (even more so) out of balance with situations far less stressful than that you described. (i was scared when i saw the tag “…suicide” — hope not!) i wish you the best!


    • randee
      Apr 20, 2014 @ 21:51:12

      Well I always realize that others are going through much worse. I’ve caught myself saying a few times, “She’s not that suicidal” – and she’s not – but I realize that even if she’s just a little suicidal, that’s too much. It’s serious, it’s painful to watch. Really, she’s the one soldiering on. Thanks for reading, Jay.


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  8. nancy horyza
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 15:02:22

    Randee you will never understand Addy’s illness! What you see on the outside is nothing compared to the struggle within. I have ocd. Am on meds & doing as well as i can. It’s the loss of sense of well being. Until you lose it & hopefully get it back, then you know. I read the 2 blogs quickly & will re read when i have more time. My question. Timing. Strep throat & depression & initial anxiety- what order? A mental illness can be caused by a virus & or bacteria in the bloodstream. Or anxieties continual drain which depletes seratonin. The most important thing is that you got her help & the medication is working. Plus sharing may help another teenager under its grips. What do you mean- depression lies?


  9. randee
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 20:48:32

    Nancy, good to hear from you. Thank you for piping in and sharing. Addy has been depressed for about three years, but only on medication for nine months. She was on a really small dosage, basically nothing, so we recently increased it. The anxiety started when the depression did, but has gotten worse with graduation approaching and thought of leaving home and trying to be successful at college. She had strep just recently.

    Jenny Lawson writes about depression and how “depression lies.” It tries to make you think you’re worthless, that your family shouldn’t have to put up with you, that your friends don’t want to deal with you, that there’s no reason to interact with anyone, that the future isn’t worth living for. And Addy talks about how much energy it takes to fight these thoughts, to try to get beyond them, and that it just leaves her exhausted and unable to get anything accomplished.


  10. crvonwald
    May 12, 2014 @ 19:34:43


  11. Trackback: TEAM ADDY | A String of Pearls
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