Mommy, do you get depressed?

I had a long, relaxed, very connected conversation with my daughter at bedtime tonight.  This is a good thing, since I often beat myself up for not feeling connected enough to my kids, for not taking enough time with them, for not enjoying them enough, for not doing the things that a “good mom” does.

It was a great conversation until I suddenly found myself in the middle of a conversation about mental illness.  After a rough therapy session today, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to tackle this one with any objectivity.     

And then there was the question that stopped me dead in my tracks. 

“Mommy, do you get depressed?”

UGH.

Yep, that’s a punch in the gut.

I’ve thought a lot about the fact that someday, I would probably have to talk to all of my kids about my depression and the genetic components that might put them at risk.  But I didn’t think it would come up quite yet – after all, my oldest is only 10.  And I certainly didn’t expect it to come up tonight.

So I’ll be honest – I wasn’t at all prepared.  I told her that yes, sometimes Mommy gets depressed.  But that I’m working on it.  For being only 10, she has always been very perceptive in picking up things that I think should fly below her radar.  So the series of emotions that crossed my face throughout this conversation?  Trust me, they didn’t go unnoticed.  I have often joked that parenting her is like parenting a little psychologist.  In this case I felt like I was trying to explain depression in very vague terms to…a psychologist.  But how much can she really understand?  I shudder to think of how much she picks up on…what she has already sensed.  We talked about how Mommy gets “agitated” a lot.  I know full well that my agitation is linked to my depression – it’s one of the things about depression that I find so maddening.  It would be one thing if I were just sad and mopey.  But to be pissed off all the time, at those I love?  Let’s just pile on to my already monstrous sense of guilt over how I’m letting my family down.  So to have my daughter tell me that she wished I didn’t get agitated so much?  And that sometimes she gets scared because if I’m agitated, then the whole family feels agitated?

What should I possibly say to that???

I can’t process any more of this tonight.  It’s simply too hard.

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7 thoughts on “Mommy, do you get depressed?

  1. Hugs, mama. I can sense my 5-yr old gets scared when my temper flares. But all we can do is try our best to manage our symptoms and explain to them it's not their fault. I'm sure I'll be having that conversation with my little man in the coming years.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughts. It's tough to balance being honest about mental illness…without overwhelming our kids or causing them to worry. In the end I guess this is one of those conversations that evolves over time (kind of like the sex talk 🙂 ) – at different stages, our kids will be able to understand different pieces about our mental health.

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  3. I'm guessing that by the time she asks the question she probably already knows the answer, so by being honest you're showing her that it isn't a taboo subject and probably reducing her worry rather than increasing it. Well done for finding the strength to be honest rather than side step, especially on such a tough day.

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  4. Thanks very much. My heart sinks at the thought that she already is aware…but such is my reality. I suppose it would be foolish to think that I'd be able to hide it all these years. But you're right – kids fear the unknown most of all, and maybe it set her mind at ease a bit by asking about it.

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