Part of my personal struggle as both a human being and a parent is with depression. According to various internet sources that sound really convincing, the phrase “black dog” was first used by Winston Churchill to describe this cycle phenomena that strikes millions of the world’s population.
I don’t like that metaphor so much, because I’ve always likened it to the tide. It’s that thing sweeping over and over and over you, and the best you can do is hang on and not get dragged out into the black, cold sea. The thing is, when it does roll out, the beach may look nice, but it’s always there–looming. Right now, I am dealing with my own tsunami.
Kids get wet, too.
I also have the added pleasure of being a parent, which means I can’t just lay in bed all day and hide. Not just a parent, but an only parent, having lost my husband (and their father) to suicide a number of years ago. See, the black dog tide is a familiar part of this household. I have always been open with my children about what happened to their dad and how depression is a disease.
What I didn’t anticipate is how this would impact them when mommy’s tide came rolling in again. I tried really hard to fake it, and as I mentioned previously, sometimes you fake it until you break. Which is what happened. I still try maintain as normal life as possible for them [with a lot of help from my tribe], but I underestimate how much children really see when you’re not paying attention.
Dear kids, we need to talk.
I finally had the candid conversation with my kids about what is going on. Why all the doctor’s appointments. Why the moodiness, the lack of joy, the tiredness, the agitation, the anxiety, and the overall malaise. I was silly to think they didn’t notice. Now that I spelled it out, it would have been really obvious to just about anyone, let alone two bright adolescents. They worry, which is understandable. Hell, I worry. They want to know what I’m thinking about, and if I really am getting help, and when it will get better.
Dammit, I wish it would get better, too.
I also wish I had good answers to give them–I just don’t know. There’s lots of questions your kids will ask you that you don’t know the answers to (“Why?” phase, anyone?), but there are questions you desperately want to have answers for, and this was certainly the case. It’s also hard to tell them that it will never be cured, just managed. It’s something that’s always going to be there, because I don’t deal with the situational-type of tide, more the life-is-going-to-get-you tide. With the extra-cold water full of sharp-toothed monsters.
Can we help?
That’s the killer question. So we talk about what it’s like to feel this way, and ways they can help me. [Less bickering. Yes, please.] They can be a little understanding if I don’t have the energy I usually do [who doesn’t need that?], and maybe be willing to spend the night at the grandparents if they need a break [because their mental health is important, too.]
Shifty asked, “Would it help if we remind you that you’re the best mom ever?”
Well, yes. That certainly couldn’t hurt.
Don’t know if I earn that title, but at least I try.