I have been open with my children about the fact that I am treating my Depression with anti-depressants. There are several reasons for this.
1. My children are not idiots. They know when things are wrong. My oldest once drew me a picture of a sea turtle and said, "Mama, when you are feeling sad you can look at this, think of me and smile." Crap. To have a three year old be more aware of your mental state than you are is a rude awakening. That sent me back into treatment.
2. I want to give the message that being treated for a mental health issue is not something shameful or something that needs to be hidden.
3. The grown-ups around me do not necessarily think carefully before they start talking about serious issues in front of my children. I don't want my kids wondering what the heck people are talking about when they ask me how I am doing. Children are perfectly capable of making up the most horrific realities when they are denied real facts.
4. There is a hereditary component to Depression and both sides of my children's family have a history of mental illness. (Whose family doesn't?) I would like to introduce a family history of actually treating the Depression. So I would like them to find the idea of receiving mental health care services as routine, or at least unremarkable.
That said, there are times when I wish I hadn't said anything to my children. Like when one of the members of our Quaker meeting committed suicide after a long battle with Depression. Honestly that scared me. Because people kept talking about how hard she fought.
I have been fortunate in not having to deal with suicidal ideation. And I have also never sunk so low into Depression as I did in the first major depressive episode I experienced in high school. I have very few memories of my senior year when I was spiraling into deep depression. I let so many things fall away before I sought help. I was tired of being in treatment. I had already been through outpatient therapy for an eating disorder. I wanted to be done.
I was so determined to be Better that I let go of study and reading and music and friendship and the energy to do anything at all. It took all my power just to get up, drag myself to school and collapse on my bed when I got home. There was no learning happening. I was not connecting to anyone. There were no thoughts in my brain. This was not a fun place to bounce back from. I never want to do that again.
However, I have been engaged for a long time in a sort of yo-yo diet of on again, off again treatment. And I am declaring that I am done with that. I am not saying that I will necessarily be on medication forever, but that I will seek regular care and oversight for this chronic condition: steady, constant, thoughtful treatment of this stupid-ass condition that wants to eat my brain. And the thing is, I like my brain. It is one of my favorite things. It contains many of my best qualities.
Ugh. This feels all choppy and discontent with itself. I'm putting this blog post to bed.
Quaker, teacher, parent,