Kaeli's Story

With a desire to help others, Kaeli openly shares her story and has given her blessing for me to publicly share the following experiences. 

 

In January of 2019, our daughter, Kaeli, attempted suicide. She was fifteen years old and had been struggling with extreme anxiety and depression for nearly two years. In the year leading up to her attempt Kaeli regularly cut her arms, legs and stomach and she refused to accept help from anyone because she didn't believe anything would work.

 

What we learned from her experience was that one form of treatment was not enough to resolve the problem. Mental health is complex and is impacted by every aspect of our mind, body and spirit. The following is what has helped Kaeli to feel the best she's felt in years. 

As gut wrenching as this experience was it is one that I will forever be grateful for because it caused us to shift our focus.

I sat with Kaeli and told her the following, "I realized that my greatest fear isn't that you will die. Don’t get me wrong … I’d be heartbroken, but I’d know that you’re no longer in pain. My greatest fear is that you are going to live a life of misery and that you're going to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate. I realized a long time ago that making decisions based on fear never ends well and yet that's all I've been doing for the last several months. Not any more. I want you to live a life of happiness and joy. I'm no longer going to fight to keep you alive. I'm going to fight for you to live a life you love."

 

Several months after this conversation Kaeli and I discussed it and she told me that her initial response was anger because given her mental state at the time all she heard was that I didn't care if she lived or died. However, as her dad and I spent the months following her attempt demonstrating our commitment to fight for her to live a life she loves, she began to realize that rather than fighting us, she needed to fight the darkness inside. We both agreed that that’s when we saw real change start to take place. 

**Disclaimer: We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing the experiences we had in the hope that it will provide ideas for those who are facing difficult times.**

The following are the approaches we used to help Kaeli fight for a life she loves. 

 

  • Decision Making:

    • Kaeli’s dad and I involve her in more decision making to help her feel a sense of control.

      1. This does not mean she makes all of the decisions, but she does have a voice in the process. 

  • Open Communication:

    • We have more direct and honest conversations about her physical and mental health.

      1. We work very hard to be compassionate and understanding while also holding her accountable.

  • Support Systems:

    • We have always been aware of and involved with her friends, but we have been intentional in establishing an open line of communication with her friends and their parents. 

      1. Kaeli’s friends all know they can reach out to us if they are concerned for Kaeli or if they are having struggles of their own. 

      2. We have oftentimes reached out to the parents who Kaeli is close to and asked them to check in with her or allow her a safe space to go when she’s needed a break from being home.

  • Quality Time:

    • We are more intentional about spending quality time with Kaeli one-on-one and as a family. We also give her plenty of space when she needs it. 

  • External Acknowledgement + Self Awareness:

    • We are more intentional and specific in acknowledging Kaeli’s accomplishments while also pushing her to challenge herself through learning more about herself, trying new things and exploring her talents.

      1. Read books to help her better understand herself and that she's not alone in what she's experiencing

      2. Summer Youth Theater Camp

      3. Speaking Engagements

      4. Summer Wilderness & Horse Ranch Camp

  • Don’t Take it Personal:

    • It isn’t always easy, but when Kaeli is struggling and feeling intense emotions we’ve had to learn to not take her outbursts personally.

  • Nutrition:

    • This remains to be one of the hardest ones, but vital to wellness

    • Reduce foods high in sugar and preservatives

    • Increase foods with high nutritional value

  • Naturopathic Doctor (ND):

    • We met with a ND who discovered Kaeli needed to be placed on a series of vitamins and supplements due to:

      1. Kaeli's body wasn't processing vitamins and minerals correctly which caused her to have several deficiencies. One of which was Vitamin B. We learned that the two most common side effects related to not having enough Vitamin B are extreme anxiety and acute sensitivity to one's environment. The two things Kaeli has struggled with since she was a toddler. 

      2. Kaeli's lymphatic system wasn't properly detoxing which was causing a buildup of toxins in her body. This can impact the production of serotonin as well as damage the serotonin receptors in the brain. 

  • Concussion:

    • Kaeli worked with a specialized chiropractor to address the symptoms she was experiencing from a concussion she sustained.

  • Nervous System:

    • Kaeli reluctantly agreed to take aerial silks classes to provide heavy core exercises which calm the nervous system. 

    • Not only did we sign her up, but the only way she would agree to go was if I did the class with her. She now loves the classes - me, not so much. I barely survived the first class without throwing up, but the fact that I participated in two more classes before convincing her sister to take my place showed Kaeli that I was determined to be there for her no matter what.

  • Executive Functioning:

    • We learned that Kaeli's executive functioning skills are delayed which was contributing to her stress and anxiety at school. 

      1. We hired an Executive Functioning coach to help her learn skills and strategies as well as help her with homework when she needs it.

      2. Kaeli works with her coach Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for 15 minutes to do a quick check-in. She works with him for a full hour on Wednesdays. 

      3. Signs of Delayed Executive Functioning

        1. Disorganized

        2. Starts projects but doesn’t finish them

        3. Could be mistaken for ADD/ADHD

        4. Shuts down when overwhelmed

        5. Doesn’t know where to start 

        6. Doesn’t know how to break down and organize projects

        7. Tends to leave a trail of personal belongings all over the place

        8. Ability to keep up with school work deteriorates when the workload and project size increases (depending on school environment it could be between 3rd - 7th grade)

        9. Stops turning in assignments

        10. Starts referring to self as stupid

        11. Appears to not care about school, personal space, shared space

  • Psychotherapist specialized in High Empathy:

    • We worked with a psychotherapist who helped us understand how Kaeli's high empathy levels were impacting her ability to understand and feel in control of her own emotions. She provided us with a series of flower essences to support Kaeli's emotional well-being. 

    • The psychotherapist also had me use a mindfulness technique that involved me writing down every positive thing about Kaeli. From personality traits to behaviors to specific moments in time. 

      1. She explained to me that the more I focus on the good in Kaeli the more I would see the good. I found this especially helpful on the days that were trying, and trust me Kaeli's healing journey had some extremely trying moments. 

      2. I would be lying if I said that from the moment she decided to work with us that she was suddenly all better and everything simply fell into place. What I will say is that she has had more good days than bad.  

  • Energy Healer:

    • Kaeli started working with an energy healer who specializes in Reiki, Healing Touch and Native American healing practices.

      1. In addition to receiving a hands on therapeutic session, Kaeli spends the first 30 minutes or speaking with the healer about whatever is on her mind

      2. Kaeli began by going every other week. Over time she transitioned to once a month, but if she is ever feeling like she needs an extra session, we get her in for one.

  • Emotional Support Animal (ESA):

    • We worked with multiple providers to get Kaeli approval for an ESA 

    • We researched dog breeders to find the best option for an ESA

      1. We decided to go with the Cavapoo 

        1. A cross between Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle

        2. This breed is known to be loyal, smart, laid back, cuddlers who require minimal high energy activities

      2. We agreed the timing was ideal so that the dog will be properly trained to support her by the time Kaeli leaves for college

  • Developing Patience & Understanding: 

    • We have had to focus on developing patience and an understanding that not everyday is going to be great. In fact and some days will be exhausting and painful because it feels like she's slipping back into that very dark place and that she isn't doing anything to help herself. 

    • I have had my moments when I simply want to give up and say, "If you're not going to fight for your wellness, then why should I?" However, I've learned to step away and remind myself that this is a moment when she needs me to show her that no matter what I will always fight for her to live a life she loves.

While Kaeli is in a very good place and she has started sharing her story on stages with the hope of helping others, the reality is that just because she's better doesn't mean everyday is sunshine and rainbows. She is still an adolescent who has good days and bad, but what I love is that she recognizes that in order for her to have more good days than bad she has to stay focused on working at maintaining her wellness. She hates taking those vitamins, but she's learned that she likes feeling good more than she dislikes the vitamins. 

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