SONIA PATEL, MD - WHY THIS CHILD & ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRIST WRITES
We both watch the rain pepper the glass of the large window overlooking the east Honolulu mountains—this sixteen-year-old girl and me. We’re in my tiny office. She’s sitting on the black leather sofa across from me. And after many weeks of Friday appointments, she’s just revealed that her mother left her alone in the middle of Ala Moana when she was five. And never came back. The only other person who knows about this is her father. Fortunately, he’s been kind and attentive to her. Unfortunately, she’s been plagued with low moods and constant negative thoughts, including thoughts of wanting to die.
Many more weeks of therapy...
She begins to understand that underneath everything, she’s been blaming herself for her mother's abandonment. She assumed she wasn't good enough for her mother to stay.
She felt worthless.
And all these years, nothing has filled what feels like a giant void in her soul. She's tried many different things to fill the emptiness.
Drugs and alcohol.
These things have worked temporarily. Until her thoughts of being worthless surface again.
Weeks later still, she begins to comprehend the idea that maybe there is nothing wrong with her. Maybe it wasn’t her fault that her mother left. And that the giant void in her soul was her unresolved grief over her mother’s abandonment.
Next came weeks of learning to appropriately grieve her mother. Build her self-worth. Create a new identity. Make positive self-care decisions.
Learn to love herself as her mother should have loved her.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to guide teens through these kinds of self-discovery journeys. I began writing for many reasons, one of the most important being to perhaps reach out to other teens who struggle with difficult circumstances. Maybe my writing can touch their souls. Help them. Inspire them.
Maybe. Just maybe.