There are days I feel like I don’t know how to be a parent with depression. It’s hard to hear your kids say things like “Mommy is always sick” or “Mommy is always at the doctor or in the hospital”, or the one that really stings “Mommy, why can’t you just get out of bed to play with me.”
Nothing cuts me to the core deeper than when my boys say those things to me and I feel like I am failing them as a mother. Nothing will bring me to my knees in tears faster than wondering why my boys have to suffer at the hand of this awful disease. If they only knew the depth of my love for them and the true depth of the desire in my heart to be able to get up and play and be there with them… oh, if they just knew.
But there’s another part of it, too. There’s parenting with depression when you have a chronically ill child. I’ve nearly lost my son to anaphylactic reactions, I’ve called 911 more times than I care to remember as he’s been blue and gasping to breathe, and I’ve sat by him in the hospital and handed him off to surgeons more times than I can count. My anxiety and depression is heightened when he’s sicker and going through a trying time.
Add new diagnoses for my son, upcoming surgeries, changing seasons, rain, less light, and you have a recipe for disaster for me. I have my light box that sits out to try and up my vitamin D. I have my handful of medications, my therapist visits twice a week, my psychiatrist every two weeks and the support of friends and family, and still it often feels like it’s not enough. I have fulfilling work, a book deal, things I do to keep myself busy, advocating for mental illness and some days it seems to overtake me still.
But, it’s my kids who suffer most. It’s the boys who have a mom who is irritable and constantly overwhelmed by anxiety that no amount of medication and relaxation and breathing (or even prayer) can seem to tame. Sometimes I feel like they get the short end of the stick in this life. Their childhood seems to be filled with mom going to the doctor or the hospital and her not having the energy to play with them or take them to the creek to look for bugs and creepy crawly things or play in the dirt. I guess I should count my blessings that they have a dad who is super involved and loves to spend every waking second with them in the dirt, playing games and wrestling on the floor.
Home cooked meals are hard to come by because just making it through the day right now is a chore. But, at least I’m making it, right? Maybe I should cut myself a little slack. The kids probably won’t remember that they had yogurt and pre-packaged meals for dinner, but instead hopefully one day at least they’ll know their mom just fought to be here for them. Some days that’s the best I can do, but how awful it feels to feel like these innocent children are getting so much less than they deserve. To know that they are also suffering at the hand of the disease of depression and anxiety, though second hand. To know that they are not having 100% the childhood they fully and rightfully deserve because their mom has been plagued with an illness no one deserves.
I hope it makes them more compassionate and not resentful. I hope they learn and know just how much I love them and that I fought a lot of battles just to be here in the ways that I am, even if it doesn’t seem like it is/ was enough. I hope that they are understanding of mental illness in their lives.
Parenting with mental illness is filled with guilt and questioning and feeling inadequate. But, I guess I’m doing the best I can and that’s all I can do.
I hope one day I won’t feel like this anymore. I hope that if you are a parent who struggles with depression that you will know that you are not alone. It’s a terrible disease and we just have to fight. Waking up and being here may be all we have to give, but it’s better than nothing.~Lindsay