Explaining the Unexplainable

Dear Mr. Dad: I am a single mom of a 14-year-old daughter. Throughout much of her childhood I suffered from severe depression, which went undiagnosed until very recently. I’m getting treatment now, and I’m feeling much better. However, my daughter thinks I was pretending to be sick all those years. That really hurts, but how do I explain to her what was really going on?

A: What a difficult situation for both of you. I get a sense from your letter that she either doesn’t know that you were depressed, or simply doesn’t understand what depression is. Or both. As a result, she believes (mistakenly, of course) that depression isn’t a “real” illness and that it’s “all in your mind,” or something you should be able to just snap out of.
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