A message from Julia’s parents…
You can probably guess from the other pages on this website that we loved Julia very much. She was a wonderful, bright, clever, compassionate person, and we will miss her forever.
But there is another side of Julia that deserves to be known. Like many kids, she struggled with the demons of adolescence—peer pressure, self esteem, alienation, etc. But at the age of 13, while studying brain chemistry at school, she came to realize that her pain was more than normal. She felt she was depressed. She did the right thing and sought help. We will always be grateful that she turned to us, and that we honored her concern with early medical intervention.
But, even so, it wasn’t an easy or happy journey back from depression, and the last two years of her life were filled with emotional pain, fear, and doubt. She was hospitalized twice during this time. Each time was by her choice, in fear of what she might do to herself. She was cutting, and once she attempted suicide by an overdose of over the counter medication.
She was in therapy throughout this period. Twice she asked to change therapists and her instincts were correct. With the third, she found a compassionate, wise and candid professional, both trusting and trustworthy. At the same time, Julia and we entered an intense, six-month program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). It required three hours of therapy for Julia and two hours for us every week. Plus homework. Our DBT took place over the first six months of 2005. This demanding program, plus her individual therapy, had an enormous impact. Julia worked so hard at this, knowing that she wanted to get better. And she did.
Adolescence is hell, and parenting an adolescent can be nearly as bad. There were times when our conflicts came to an impasse that left us speechless and furious. Most every family encounters such times. Perhaps parents of several children learn, over time, how to do the right thing. We were amateurs with Julia, our first child, trying our best but never knowing for sure what the outcome might be. Eventually Julia came to understand and accept this. She knew that we loved her, truly and deeply. And she loved us.
When Julia died, she had been enjoying the best summer of her life. She had a Saturday job at Rush's Bridal in downtown Minneapolis, she babysat a family with three kids one day a week, and she was completing her Sierra Club internship as part of Unity Summer. She was looking forward to rejoining the Southwest High School Swim Team, after a first season was cut short by a shoulder injury.
Julia had emerged from the darkness of depression. She knew and often said that depression is all about brain chemistry. But she knew that medication is only half of the answer; that effort and intentionality are needed to manage from day to day and year to year.
Through DBT, Julia got to know other teens with depression. She had friends at Southwest and in her First Universalist church community who struggled with this disease. She was always open about her own condition and she encouraged—even insisted—that her friends seek the help that they needed. It is for this reason—in respect of her own courage and advocacy—that we offer this side of Julia.
She would want you to know that depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and that help is available. Let this be part of Julia’s legacy.