Q:  Convincing Mom I Need Professional Help

i need some advice. i am a 18 year old female and have suffered silently from depression as long as i can remember, but it has gotten really bad in the past 2 years. i have periods of depression that can last for months at a time that are getting progressively severe, and i have periods where i feel like i have all the energy in the world and can do anything, but i cant focus or concentrate which isnt normal for me. i cant deal with it on my own anymore, but i dont know how to ask my parents for help. my mother has also dealt with depression and she has always told me to just make myself be happy, but it doesnt work. do you have any suggestions on how to talk to her and convince her that i need to go see someone?  Janine

Dear Janine -- 
My first thought was, well, you're 18, you can go find somebody on your own if you have to.  Ask a school counselor for a referral, perhaps?  Ask a friend's parent whom you trust, whom you think might know of someone?  Ask your primary care doctor for a referral?  If you're in a big city, you could start with the Harvard list of specialists in bipolar disorder (although of course we don't know that diagnosis is correct until someone gives you a full evaluation). 

But if you must talk to her to feel okay about doing something like this, how about sending her to a website about your symptoms (which sound so far like bipolar II) and see what she makes of it; tell her you took the questionnaire there and it sounded pretty likely (which it may).  I wrote the site for people who might otherwise be pretty skeptical.  (If this works, let me know; I hope it might). 

If that sounds unlikely, there's always writing: "Dear Mom -- thank you for all the energy you have devoted to raising me.  I know you always tried to give me your best (as that's true of almost all mom's, in their way).  It wouldn't be your fault or anything if despite that I still had some struggle with my mood.  I hope you won't write this off to not trying hard enough myself.  I've done some homework and have convinced myself it's not my fault either; and that there's help out there for people with mood experiences like mine.  I would like to tell you more about that experience, because I'm going to go get some treatment and I'd like for you to know what I'm doing.  You don't have to support it; I just want you to know.  Love, J'"... or something to that effect.  What do you think?

Dr. Phelps

Published April, 2001