Redwood City, CA

I Found My Daughter’s Secret Instagram Account And Began To Stalk It

Modern Parent

Right around my daughter’s 14th birthday, she developed symptoms of depression, and the nightmare future I had envisioned the day I discovered I was pregnant came true.

I had depression. I struggled with it since I was 18 and was convinced that it would be passed down when I got pregnant. Since abortion was out of the question, I became determined to become the perfect parent to stave off depression in my own child. The question of whether depression is nature or nurture is a fuzzy one. I had no control over the nature aspect, but I did nurture.

When my daughter became “depressed,” I completely blamed myself. I became desperate to help her. I became so desperate that I did a terrible thing and almost an even worst thing.

A few years later, my daughter was still depressed, seeing a therapist, and on medication. She said she hated seeing a therapist and hated being on meds, and if the depression didn’t alleviate soon, she threatened ending her life. Meds and therapy weren’t working. One of the biggest reasons for her depression was that she had no best friend. And the only way for me to fix that was to become her best friend, but I was her mom, so that was impossible.

One evening shortly after her 17th birthday, I was on my Instagram account (which I rarely am), and a friend suggestion popped up that looked an awful lot like my daughter. Clicking on it in curiosity, I discovered a secret Instagram account my daughter kept where she could have a safe place to talk and bitch to her friends without fear of her parents seeing it. I had found the Holy Grail for a parent or, rather, Pandora’s box. What I should have done at that moment was forget it ever existed. And I would have if I hadn’t been so worried about her.

For the next couple of months, I would secretly check her account to look for signs of “cries for help” and thought I had found one. In one post, she was ranting about her therapist. Apparently, her therapist hadn’t been focusing on her, blowing off her problems, and they’ve been talking about other stuff like social issues and taxes. She said it was a shame cause she could really use some advice “bc [she] fucking needs all the advice [she] can get.” This was useful information. I knew now I needed to get her a new therapist. But I also realized she desperately looked for guidance and knew she would never take any from me being her mom. So I had an idea, a terrible idea that got as far as finding pictures of another teen on Facebook and making, yes, making a fake Instagram account. I was about to catfish my daughter.

But I didn’t. I realized that by having 0 followers on the fake account, it was all much too complicated to pull off. Would I have to make other fake accounts that would follow my catfish? And there was no way my daughter wouldn’t eventually find out, and any good that may have come from my daughter bonding with this fake person would be undone the instant she’d find out that her new best friend was a catfish created by her mom.

So I gave up on the catfishing idea (thank God) but continued to check her secret account for those cries for help. After we broke up with her therapist, I let her go therapist-free for a while but then found a post where she said she missed her therapist because it was nice to have someone to vent to once a month. Yet when I asked her in person if she would like to find a new therapist, she vehemently refused. Now I was confused. What did she really want? I felt she was lying to me, but her Instagram account portrayed the real her.

Then not long after the new year, I discovered something horrifying. In one of her posts, she bragged about getting through all her classes by cheating on the midterms, and I was beside myself. But how could I approach her without her knowing I knew about her account? I had a plan in place, but my husband, a teacher, was impatient and angry, so he directly confronted her about the cheating, admitting that we knew about her secret account. Now all was ruined. Now she knew, and whatever good I was trying to create out of such a terrible act would be trampled by the bad that would come from her knowing what I had been doing for months.

But I got off relatively easily. She was actually more terrified of being grounded for “cheating,” which she insisted she didn’t go through with rather than mad at me for spying on her. I thought for sure this would cause her to lose all trust in me, and to try to regain her trust back, I vowed to her that I would delete Instagram from my phone altogether and never, ever, ever recheck her secret account, and I made good on my promise.

After this incident, I came to realize that I needed to let go of the crushing responsibility I put on my own shoulders for my daughter’s mental health. I needed to let go of wanting to “save” her or “fix” her. I needed to let go of wanting to be her best friend. I needed to realize that we all suffer, and suffering makes us who we are, and although it is painful to watch your own child suffer, it’s what must happen for them to grow. I heard recently that if you help a butterfly out of its chrysalis, so it does not have to struggle, it will actually die. The same goes for our children. We cannot shield them from their suffering but only be there to pick them up when they fall or come asking for help.

Since I’ve let go, my relationship with my daughter has greatly improved. I am her mother now, and no longer am I trying to be her best friend. She has a peer for that role now, and I couldn’t be happier. My daughter’s “depression” has completely dissipated in the last few months, and I’m beginning to wonder if it ever was actually depression or just loneliness.

My daughter has many secrets from me now, and I’m okay with that because I don’t need to know every detail about her life. I trust that she will come to me with anything serious. It may feel like the gap is widening as she spreads her wings and begins to leave the nest, but I think letting her go ensures she will return.

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