Sliding Towards the Pit of Depression

Mental Health

…Continued from yesterday.

“You received a package while you were in Argentina,” I reminded Sarah as she settled back into her room at home.

“I did?”

I handed her the bag. “It feels like clothes or something.”

“Oh, yeah.  I ordered a bunch of clothes on line.  I don’t even remember what I bought, it was so long ago.” She ripped open the package and started pulling out the contents.

“Did they mix your order up?” I joked as she held up each item. Tank tops with the back cut out, short shorts and a Duck Dynasty t-shirt.  Sarah refused to wear any pants shorter than capris, and she only wore tank tops when exercising. To my knowledge she’d only seen Duck Dynasty once, and she had never shopped at the store in question.

She looked at the invoice.  “No, I ordered this stuff, but I don’t know what I was thinking!”  She shook her head and shoved everything but a hat back into the bag.  “What a waste of money.  I can’t believe I bought this stuff.”

“Maybe you can return it,” I said as I wandered out of her room, still shaking my head.  Conservative dresser Sarah buying short shorts?  Incomprehensible!

A few days later, when Sarah had once again declined my offer to go jogging, I asked her, “Are you still taking those pills?”

“No. The doctor tapered the dose because I was doing so much better,” she replied. “I haven’t taken them since I left Argentina.”

I gave her a worried look. After her initial happiness at returning home, she appeared to have hit a wall again with her plans. She had decided to return to Walla Walla in the fall, but still couldn’t make up her mind about a major. She struggled with eating too much and had lost her motivation to exercise.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Sarah assured me. But she didn’t seem fine. She hadn’t had any luck finding a summer job in our very small town. A good friend from high school had urged her to apply to a position at the same job she had—selling books from door to door. On the one hand, I didn’t know if Sarah would enjoy working for a conservative organization. On the other hand, I knew she would be safe and in the company of friends.

Sarah applied for both the salesperson job and a job at a local hotel. Since she had experience, we hoped the hotel would call her in for an interview. They didn’t, and the other job did. They even told her should could show up a few days late so that she could attend her sister’s graduation. But by this time, Sarah seemed less enthused about the sales job.

Because she didn’t have any other options, Sarah reluctantly packed her car and traveled to California with us for a five-day visit with Laura and her husband while I attended a teacher education class. Laura and Louis would graduate from college on Sunday, and from there we would all go our separate ways. Sarah to Oregon and Pedro and I to North Carolina for a much-needed vacation. After two weeks, he would return home and I would spend an additional three weeks studying at Western Carolina University.

The hotel called for an interview a few days after we arrived in California—but Sarah had already committed to the job in Oregon. Pedro and I stayed in the conference site hotel, and so we only saw Sarah once during this five-day period. Her mood deteriorated rapidly as the time for her departure neared. During breaks in my conference I would go out to the lobby and try to answer her texts. (Don’t laugh, but we actually text each other in complete sentences with proper punctuation—it’s an Ojeda thing)

Sarah Ojeda: Mom, I think I don’t want to sell books this summer and I just want to go home and get a job there. I might still be able to get the hotel one. I’m not ready to sell books and I’m not in the spiritual position to do it now!

Anita Ojeda: Call your father—I’m in a meeting ;). And remember that things weren’t peachy king at home, either.

Sarah Ojeda: Ugg Mom I just don’t want to do anything! I have no plans still for after this summer and I feel so lost and unmotivated to do anything at all! I don’t know what’s wrong with me!!

Anita Ojeda: I’m still in my meeting—I’ll be out soon :). What’s up?

Sarah Ojeda: I feel like giving up! I’ve been giving up and wasting so much time! I can’t get out of the mindset that I don’t want to do anything hard or use my brain and I’m mad at myself!! I’ve slipped into a dark hole and I can’t get out! I’ve become 100% selfish!

Anita Ojeda: What are you going to do about it?

Sarah Ojeda: I don’t know!

Anita Ojeda: No person can force you out of the pit. If you’re comfortable wallowing down there, well, there’s not much anyone can do. Have you started binging and purging again?

Sarah Ojeda: Just bingeing.

Anita Ojeda: So, this visit to the pit is not as deep as other times. Good for you for recognizing it sooner. Now build a bridge and get over it. It’s ALL in your mind! You ARE capable of making good decisions. You don’t have to be perfect. No one (including God) expects you to be perfect.

Sarah Ojeda: I want to be Laura. I want to be anybody but me! And it’s all because I don’t want to do hard things and I’m so lazy!

Anita Ojeda: So make a plan to be you. The you you want to be!

Sarah Ojeda: I want to be happy.

Anita Ojeda: You are in late adolescence—a time when scientists have determined that people can reinvent themselves.

Sarah Ojeda: And I want to make others happy but right now I’m being too selfish. 

Anita Ojeda: If you want to be happy—choose to be happy. Choose to do something NOT selfish.

Sarah Ojeda: I want to be you! You’re so smart and hardworking! Everyone in the world but me is at this point.

Anita Ojeda: But we ALL had to start somewhere with nothing.


Looking back now, I feel like a jerk—not someone with wisdom and understanding. I confess that my need to have Sarah safely employed for the summer so that I could continue with my own plans overshadowed my ability to see how desperately unhappy she felt.

Learn to tell the difference between spiritual oppression and depression. #mentalhealth… Click To Tweet

All too readily I believed her when she said that her problem was because she was ‘selfish’ and ‘unmotivated.’ I stood by blindly while my daughter took her first step over the edge into the pit of depression.

At this point, both Pedro and I couldn’t comprehend Sarah’s angst—after all, it was so out of character for her usual sunny disposition. She had always had a firm grip on who she was and where she wanted to go.

Our last evening together as a family, someone stole Sarah’s mountain bike from the bike rack on her car. I hoped that the theft would not foreshadow the kind of experiences she would have that summer.

To be continued…

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Anita, this post is so helpful — sharing conversations, genuinely revealing your worries, your thoughts about your daughter’s situation — we need to read and to hear the process of working through sadness and the horror of dealing with the hard days with our kids. I appreciate that you do this with such grace.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Giving Thanks Is a ChoiceMy Profile

  • Thank you for sharing your story.
    It seems to me that struggling with depression is one of the most difficult things in our lives.
    Romi recently posted…Day 5My Profile

  • This is a beautiful story, Anita. I’m eager to follow it through. I keep thinking about my daughter as I read y’all’s posts. (As far as I know we don’t have this issue.) But as a teenager her moods swing all the time … and she’s still finding her way. I appreciate your honesty in sharing what’s going on … I hope to learn some good tools to use with my girls.
    Dianne Thornton recently posted…Give WITHOUT Expecting Anything BackMy Profile

    • The teenage years are so hard–so much harder than when I was a teenager! May God bless you and your daughter as you forge your relationship now into an adult friendship later.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Fight Cancer and Stand with GodMy Profile

  • Oh my goodness! Being a parent is so hard but when you are dealing with depression or other mental health issues you are being hit from all sides by the enemy. I guess I didn’t realize this story took place just a little over a year ago from what you have described.

    BTW- texting in complete sentences – I used to do that but not so much now. For you though – once an English teacher always an English teacher. Love you!
    Mary Geisen recently posted…Becoming Brave ~ Day 5My Profile

    • I’m glad I’m not the only English teacher nerd out there ;). Yeah, the story is pretty recent and it’s taking all my brave to share it! Thank you for traveling alongside us!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Doubts and Decisions in ArgentinaMy Profile

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  • Oh dear! This is so touching!
    Hoping to read the conclusion.
    Loads of Blessings to you
    Ifeoma Samuel recently posted…When You Struggle to Let God Hold Your HandMy Profile

  • First of all I always love your writing voice. I hate that this has to be such a difficult topic, but you express all of it so well in a way that is so easy to “see”. The journey you are taking us is such an important one and you certainly can’t beat yourself up for your response to Sarah. How could you have known? My mom did the same thing with me. I really hope that God will give me grace and wisdom with my children if they go through difficulties with mental illness, depression, or anxiety attacks. Reading through something like this certainly does shed light for many parents so that there can be more awareness. Great job.
    Messy Mom recently posted…God is in the DumpsterMy Profile

    • Thank you, Natalie–it’s not easy, and my wish is to save some other parent or friend or brother or sister from what we went through. Sometimes, we are most blind to the pain of those who live in our own household.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Out of the Frying Pan and Into the FireMy Profile

  • THIS: “Looking back now, I feel like a jerk—not someone with wisdom and understanding. I confess that my need to have Sarah safely employed for the summer so that I could continue with my own plans overshadowed my ability to see how desperately unhappy she felt.” I so understand where you are coming from. When my sister was first diagnosed, I wished I had caught the signs early. I wished that I had been kinder. Don’t be so hard on yourself friend! Thank you for opening up your readers ears and eyes to what depression can look like. Love you friend!!!
    Tara recently posted…There in a Baby’s Cry!My Profile

    • Thank you for the validation and encouragement, Tara–people generally understand how to take care of a person with a medical condition (and to recognize it when it happens), but they generally don’t get illnesses of the mind and spirit. I know I certainly didn’t!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…The Problem With Flashbacks and CancerMy Profile

  • I’m on the edge of my seat! What an important topic to write about! I’m all about trying to keep people from sliding into that pit!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Sharon, and for your encouragement. That pit is a dark and lonely place, and the more of use who learn to recognize signs of slippage the more people we can draw back from the edge!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Out of the Frying Pan and Into the FireMy Profile

  • Anita, what a story! Now I have to come back and read the rest! But it is difficult as we lead our children to know exactly what to say or how much to challenge when they fall into these thinking patterns. I think you encouraged her well. To be continued…!
    Ruthie Gray recently posted…Day 5: The Taxi Hat – How to make memories in the carMy Profile

  • Praying for your baby girl, Anita. May the love of God wrap her sweetly bringing her into all He has for her life.
    Sheila Kimball recently posted…When you feel like giving up…8 tips to help you cope plus a free mentoring sessionMy Profile

  • You have hooked me on your story, you sneaky blogger! 🙂 I am anxious to read the happy ending that I hope is coming… but in the meantime, you are giving me a lot to think about. Thank you for your transparency here.
    Sarah recently posted…day 4: definitely NOT flourishingMy Profile

  • This must’ve been such a sad and lonely experience for both Sarah and you. I totally understand you couldn’t offer her the support she needed – neither could my parents when I was severely mentally distressed. It is hard to understand the pit of depression or other mental illness when you aren’t in it yourself, and when you are, it is hard to communicate it to others.
    Astrid recently posted…Life Events and My Mental Illness #Write31DaysMy Profile

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