Bonus: Do my mental health struggles change how you see me?
In this bonus episode, we meet 17-year-old Caroline. She was hospitalized multiple times for self harm and attempting suicide. Now, she is doing a lot better, in therapy, and taking medication. Caroline wants to ask her mom Kellie: after everything we have been through, has your view of me changed?
Looking for resources? Visit ineedtoaskyousomething.org for info on how to strengthen relationships, deal with traumatic events, and get help.
Dr. Monica Band is the host of this show and consultant with the Jed Foundation. Chrystal Genesis is our supervising producer. Giulia Hjort and Rachel Lightner are our producers. Andi Kristindottir is our engineer. Tess Novotny is our associate producer. Mixing and original music by Bobby Woody. Additional music by Andi Kristinsdottir. Special thanks to Kelsey Henderson. Jackie Danziger is our VP of Narrative Content. Executive producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs.
This series was created with The Jed Foundation, a non-profit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults. Find ways to manage your emotional health, cope with challenges, and support the people in your life at jedfoundation.org.
This series is presented by Hopelab, a social innovation lab and impact investor supporting the mental health of adolescents, ages 10-25, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. Learn more at hopelab.org.
This series is also presented by the Stupski Foundation, returning resources to the communities it calls home in Hawaiʻi and the San Francisco Bay Area by 2029 to support just and resilient food, health, and higher education systems for all. Learn more at stupski.org.
This series is also presented by the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Learn more at luminafoundation.org.
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To follow along with a transcript, go to lemonadamedia.com/show/ shortly after the air date.
Caroline, Dr. Monica Band, Kellie
Dr. Monica Band 00:52
Hello, this is Dr. Monica Band. I’m the host of I need to ask you something, we weren’t able to cover everything we wanted to in this series. So we created 10 extra episodes that you can listen to by becoming a laminata premium member. For our series. These episodes are a mix of mental health concepts with important takeaways, or sessions we really wanted to share with you but couldn’t fit into our regular series. For example, you can learn about gender euphoria, perfectionism, and how to ask for help. I want to give you a sneak peek of what they sound like. So today I’m bringing you a snippet of an important conversation between a mom and a daughter, Caroline and Kellie. When Caroline was in the ninth grade, she was dealing with a lot. She was always held up as the model student. She got top grades was great and sports was really struggling with her mental health. Caroline had always presented as a happy, friendly and studious teenager, she was scared to let her friends and family know about the challenges she was going through. Eventually, she turned to self harm, and was hospitalized multiple times. She was also hospitalized for attempting suicide. She was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression. These days, Caroline is doing a lot better. She is now 17 in therapy, taking medication and feeling more stable and positive about her future. Caroline’s mom, Kellie has supported her daughter through everything. They have always been super close. But during this period, the relationship changed. With that. Caroline came to us with a question she’s been wanting to ask her mom.
So after getting diagnosed with mental illness, and going through all this struggle, I was wondering how your view has changed of me. Based on everything we’ve been through?
I would say yes, my view has changed and standing on the other side of this journey. I’m so proud of you. Number one, I’m just in awe of how much work you have done to help yourself and to help other people. But if you’re talking about during the time we were going through it, my opinion of you did change. Caroline has always presented as a happy go lucky, overachiever, studious, perfect child. So when this was revealed to me, I mean, I was literally just completely shocked. My opinion didn’t change in a bad way. But I think what I realized is that because she was such a responsible young lady, I wasn’t checking in with her as much as I probably needed to, you know, she’s so responsible, but she’s a child. So I think that in hindsight, even though we were so, so close, I missed some of the signs. Some of them, you know, she will tell you, she hid them really well. Some of them I just missed, and as a parent, that’s hard to say. Yeah, so my opinion did change. We’ve had to kind of change our relationship a little bit. But you know, she’s still the same wonderful child who I’m just so very, very proud of.
Dr. Monica Band 04:34
Thank you, Kellie, for just leaning into that. Being honest. And I think what you’re describing too, is the complexity of a feeling right? And I’m hearing this tension with recognizing that you certainly view your daughter in a very high esteem that you recognize that she is capable of so much, and I think it sounds like to and school was performing very well and knowing like oh How I didn’t see some of the signs or I didn’t check up as often as in hindsight. And so I’m appreciative this question as we’re starting to dip our toes into it. To that end, Caroline, I appreciate you asking the question and bringing it up, I hope that can be modeled to other people. And I would love to hear just your initial reactions to some of the things that she had shared.
Yeah, so if I were to put myself in my mom’s shoes, I definitely would not blame her at all for missing some of the signs, because I made a very big effort to keep it hidden. And this was just my big secret lingering over my head all the time for these few months, I feel like it would have been very difficult for her to catch. And I think that’s something good for her to know, in that I don’t like, fault you at all for not knowing. And I’m really grateful for when you did find out we made like such a great plan, we had so many little things to monitor what I was doing. The first thing I remember is like using that whiteboard on the back of my door, and like using a one through 10 scale to just convey how it was feeling without me having to go up and say something, because that’s something I struggled with the most was verbalizing what I was dealing with. And communication was definitely an issue. Because if I said it out loud, it kind of became more real. And I was definitely in denial about it to some degree. So I think that I’m really grateful for my mom and the relationship we have and how she dealt with it. And I think that there would definitely be so much of a burden initially, which is what I think I also feared, not only the burnin will also dislike judgment from not just you, but anybody that I told.
Dr. Monica Band 06:59
There’s a few things that I’m noticing both of you mentioned, and initially when you started relaying fear of judgment, to your point, I think many people can relate to that. But I wonder how much more that that felt real when struggling with perfectionism or struggling with needing things to be a certain way, and trying to extend some control over that. And so I’m tying the a few things together, because both of you have used the word perfect to describe the way in which you certainly Caroline kind of hold yourself or maybe academically have performed. And I think there’s something to wanting to maybe have have some sense of control over that the way you’re perceived.
Yes, so before I made the decision to ask for help. It was definitely something I planned out. It was probably a few weeks before that I reached out to my teacher and kind of clued her in that something wasn’t right. And this was during online school. So on Zoom, this teacher in particular would reach out to students and say, like, Hey, how’s your day going? Like, I hope you’re doing well. And it was such a nice thing. And it really attracted me to her personality, initially, and just her being a very empathetic person. So a few weeks before I said, Is there any way I can talk to you after school, on Zoom, because we were in a hybrid school at that time, or it was like one week online one week in person. So I made that appointment. And I kind of tried to come up with like a little speech of like, I could just explain what was going on. Of course, when I got there that flew right out the window. And I was just completely struck with fear. And I started talking just words weren’t coming out, it was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Because once I say it out loud, it becomes real. That’s the thing I feared the most because the person who was most important to me in my life is gonna figure out that I’m not who I’m portraying myself as. So my mom was called by this counselor. And I think when she came in, that’s when like, my world exploded, and it was like, Oh my gosh, this is actually happening right now.
Dr. Monica Band 09:25
At the time, what were we so scared of when it came to this idea of mom knowing?
I think firstly, because she’s my best friend. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship in the sense that we had something very special. I didn’t want any of that to change or for her to be like very extra precautious or just focusing more on the problem in me than the actual me, I think because she’s the person I knew the most. It was more so I didn’t want her to To be troubled by all of this pain, and also by going to someone I didn’t know as well, they’d be able to respond with a more objective and reasoned not as emotional state of mind so that we could actually fix the problem, which I know that if I went to my mom, she gets emotional. And then I get emotional. And then it would just, I feel like I just crumble into a million pieces. So I think initially, I wanted that like, solid plan.
Dr. Monica Band 10:34
Yeah. And you didn’t say it this way. But as I’m hearing this part of me thinks, oh, okay, there was a part of you that wanted to maybe in your own mind, protect mom from, you know, some of these feelings, and not change the dynamic or the nature of your relationship as it was. Because to your point, use the word best friend, I think it is very special in your own mind, and not wanting that to change anything. And so I get now where your question initially was coming from, Mom, there’s many things that your daughter had shared, you’re welcome to react or respond to any that come to the top of your mind. And I would also love to get your perspective on those, particularly two initial calls, it sounds like that you received first for self harm, and then suicidal thoughts. Would you be able to share your experience there?
You know, all of this is kind of like flooding back and I am feeling kind of the emotion that came with it. I will never forget that. That day ever, ever because it was a turning point. It was. Our life is different. Now. I was outside working in the garden, I had my cell phone and her guidance counselor told me need to come down to the school. Your daughter has been self harming. And I said, No, no, you must be mistaken. I mean, I truly was just incredulous. Like, you’re wrong. You know, I was trying to be tactful, but she said Missy, but you need to come in. And even as I was driving there, I just thought that there has to be some mistake. When I to get there and realize the truth. It was devastating. I mean, it was an at Carolina, I hate to say this in front of you, because I don’t want you to to ever feel guilty. But it was my whole world had been flipped upside down. So yeah, it was shocking. And I hope that you felt some freedom from that. revealing it. From that point on, I was able to see the dark cloud that had come over her, and that had just kind of enveloped her, which was heartbreaking. But obviously, I needed to know and it was shocking.
Dr. Monica Band 12:59
How are you feeling right now? Kellie sharing that?
I feel fine. I you know, at the time, we kept this very private. So it was very hard for me at the time to kind of internalize all of this and figure out what was going on. But on the other end of this, I just see how far she’s come. And that’s why I want to do this. I want others to feel that hope and to know you’re going to be okay. There’s help.
Dr. Monica Band 13:41
I think too and hearing the way that you pivoted from sharing your own experience but checking in to with Caroline and saying hey, I hope you felt a sense of relief. I hope you felt a sense of freedom and unburdening yourself with that so that other people could understand including myself what was going on for you? I hear the check in there and I see the check in. And both of you are in your own ways trying to protect each other, I think trying to care for each other throughout this whole process. Do you notice that Caroline, do you notice that Kellie?
Yeah, yeah, we’re both very emotional people. Okay, I cry at commercials, I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I’m so you know, her initial reason for not telling me was she thought I’d be too emotional. I am a Michelle, but I’m not gonna lie. I agree with me that she felt like she couldn’t come to me. And even after the situation was revealed, when we’d be in the hospital or something like that, the doctor would say, would you like your mom to step out? Would you like to speak to me individually? And she would always ask me to leave? And I would, I would look at her like, No, I’m okay, I can handle it. I can stay. But yeah, we are in the business of protecting each other, I think for sure.
Dr. Monica Band 17:02
When I hear you say, you know, I can handle it, I can stay Caroline, was it a question of whether your mom could handle it? Or was it a question of whether you could handle it?
One was definitely the protection thing. Another was me being able to talk to someone I was never gonna see again, so that I could be like, Okay, this is the severity. I don’t want to sugarcoat anything, for the sake of maintaining an image also, personally, like, I felt like, if I could just get it all out to this professional, who does this every single day. Like to them, it’s not going to be that big a video. Like it’s just something that happens all the time. So I think that that solid plan is still something I needed during those most emotional times.
Dr. Monica Band 17:55
Yeah, thank you for that. I want to go back to something we talked about earlier, which is both you finding ways finding solutions kind of pivoting and evolving with each other to communicate period, right? Like in how to Caroline help you in moments where you are struggling in something yet you had mentioned early on, and I’d love to hear how you came to this idea or even suggestion, Kellie, I’m assuming it was your idea to with the the whiteboard or the board that you both communicated. I’d love to hear how you came to that initial solution.
Yeah, so after my first hospitalization, one of the staff tech there came up with an idea to have like, a thing on the refrigerator. That was like red zone, green zone, yellow zone. So we kind of modified that into like, a scale number. So that’s where that inspiration came from.
Yeah, I mean, unfortunately, that plan was a little bit short live, because the numbers were very low. Because as she revealed earlier, she became suicidal. And, you know, I got to the point where I, you know, I would see a one or a two up there and I didn’t know what to do. We had also safeguarded the house, anything sharp was put away. All the medication was locked up. You know, I’m thinking, how did it come to this? How is this happening? To My sweet daughter, you know, I was just my mind was boggled. I didn’t. I mean, it was so extreme, and it was something our whole household had to get used to. It was challenging for sure. Honestly, we became so so much closer, which was surprising to me because we were always very close, just going through this entire journey together. So do you still feel like you you would come to me, Caroline?
Yes, I definitely feel like I would because we’ve already been into that territory before. And it’s not something brand new this time. It’s something that like, it’d be really sad if it happened again. But now that we’ve been through it, we have options. There’s a plan, it will be definitely really sad to bring it up. But I 100% would go to my mom this time, knowing what I know now.
And let’s be clear, you did have some setbacks?
Yeah. 100%? Yeah. Because the period of time between my first hospitalization and my second was like, probably five or six months. And we thought it was good. But then it kind of just deteriorated again, to some degree, I feel like that time was a blur.
Yeah, I mean, I, it’s so hard to understand mental illness. There’s such a learning curve. And to me, you know, sometimes I wanted to shake her and say, Why are you doing this?
Dr. Monica Band 21:04
Kellie? You know, it’s, it’s different when there might be an external threat or person that you can kind of shield your child from? But in this case, it’s it’s slightly different. And how has that been for you to try to protect Caroline?
Oh, it was, it was so hard. I mean, as a mom, you want to fix what’s wrong with your child, you want to fix the situation? And, you know, do whatever you have to do to bring your child here on the other side. And when you can’t, it’s just heartbreaking. You feel helpless. I have to say, well, the times that she was in the hospital, gosh, that was a nice little break for me, because I knew she was going to be safe. I mean, I hope that doesn’t sound bad. But it was it was like a respite from that fear and anxiety that was constantly on the forefront of my brain.
Yeah, I would 100% say that makes total sense. Especially cuz we kind of kept it secret at the beginning.
I mean, mainly, we were keeping it a secret just out of Caroline’s wishes. But you know, there is such a stigma out there about mental illness. And Caroline had asked me to, once she started doing her advocacy work, she had asked me to tell the story on my Facebook page, she had started her own Facebook page to help people going through mental illness. And she wanted me to put the link there and have people visit and whatnot. And it was something that I hesitated about. Because as a parent, you don’t want judgment. And to be honest, if you’ve never had, if you’ve never been touched by mental illness, either yourself or having a child, a grandchild, a nice friend, you don’t understand that you just don’t I was there at 1.2. And I maybe would have judged another mom, I’m not gonna lie, I maybe would have done that. So I was very hesitant to put our story on Facebook, but I did. And I’m so glad that I did. Because I have so many people reach out to me, people writing on my wall, people sending me private messages, I’m going through the same thing. And it has, has turned out people from all over the country have total strangers have sent me messages, either asking for advice, or which, you know, I’m not the expert, but I can certainly give my two cents. People are suffering in silence. And the stigma is so great. And that’s just I think one of our main goals is to eradicate that stigma and let people know it is out there it is happening, especially to our teenagers. And it’s sad, and it’s scary, and we need to do something about it. We had no idea what we’re doing. It’s such a process.
Dr. Monica Band 24:18
You know, what I’m realizing in both in how you both have channeled these these messages in sort of, in an inspiring way to your own communities is that some people have this idea or there’s this myth out there that oh, if I talk about these things, it’s going to make it worse. And it’s something that can prevent people from having open communication. It can also feed the stigma of, of these things. You know, I’m curious to know for people who say things like, Well, I don’t want to ask my friend who’s struggling. I know they are, but I’m worried I’ll make it worse. What are your feelings about that?
I think that if I were to reflect back on the times when I was really not well off And if someone were to ask me how I was in that moment, I feel as though if I had not let them in, it definitely wouldn’t have triggered me, I think it just would have made me a little uncomfortable since I hadn’t opened up to that person yet. But if they were saying it from a sense of trying to console or just let them know that they’re there for me, I never really had a main experience where that happened. But if it were to have, I would have been so flattered and really appreciated knowing that this person isn’t scared to talk about this with me, and they don’t see me as like this out of touch off limits, scary person defined by my problems. So I really think that talking about it is 100% necessary, and it would actually help. And I feel like there are other circumstances though, where if someone is struggling, and feel like they might be triggered, they likely would not tell the whole truth about it. Because there may be uncomfortable but if a person is opening up to you, because you ask, like that’s amazing, and I think it really helps to open up the conversation.
Thank you, Caroline, and Kellie for opening up the important conversation around self harm and suicidality with me. If you struggle with self harm, or thoughts of suicide, or someone shares with you that they do, there is help available. You can find this episode and more unreleased conversations from I Need To Ask You Something by becoming a Lemonada Premium Member. As a member, you also get access to exclusive and bonus content from all other Lemonada podcasts. I NEED TO ASK YOU SOMETHING is a Lemonada Media original. I’m Dr. Monica Band, the host of this show and a consultant with the Jed foundation. Crystal Genesis is our supervising producer. Giulia Hjort is our producer, and Rachel Lightner is our producer and audio engineer. Tess Novotny is our associate producer. Mixing and Original Music by Bobby Woody, additional mixing by Ivan Kuraev. Special thanks to Kelsey Henderson and the members of our youth focus group. Maria Perry, […] Erica Familia, Kofi Green and Cloud Ben. Jackie Danziger is our VP of narrative content. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. This show was created in partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. This series is presented by HOPE Lab with, Stupski Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Visit I needtoaskyousomething.org or use the link in the show notes for resources related to today’s episode. Follow I need to ask you something wherever you get your podcasts or listen at free on Amazon music with your Prime membership