For the past few weeks I've been blogging about my thoughts and experiences as someone who is struggling with major depression. My hope in coming out as someone who is dealing with mental illness was to break down the stereotypes; demystify the labels; and reach out to others who may be feeling the same constant, stabbing, stomach clenching torment.
In my most recent post where I grudgingly accept that my diagnosis has no permanent cure, one of the comments by another survivor of this merciless illness not only elaborated upon her own mental loop of sadness, but she also expounded upon the repercussions of depression on her role as a mother. Although I have had those same thoughts, shame that I have allowed my illness to sabotage my idealized version of motherhood has prevented me from tackling this particular aspect of depression.
My reader's comment not only validated the reason I have lately been scratching and picking at the bloody scabs of my psyche, but for the first time, I felt a kindred connection, not only with this person, but with all mothers who are battling their own psychological goblins.
It is true that during the most severe bouts of my depression, my only concern is for myself. I don't attend Parent/Teacher Interviews; I'm not concerned about my teenagers skipping out of school; I don't look at their report cards; I have yet to attend one of my youngest son's hockey games. Being called selfish, uncaring and cold hearted by family members who cannot understand why I just can't get out of bed and make my children a grilled cheese does nothing to motivate me. Along with the suffering that envelops me in its immobilizing cocoon, the knowledge that my children deserve more than "half a mother," (to quote my reader), further fuels the refrain in my head that I am inadequate and worthless.
In what I consider to be a healthy stand for myself and for other mothers grappling to stay upright, reevaluating what my role as a mother really is, and accepting what I have done successfully rather than focusing on how I have failed my kids, has officially been incorporated in my treatment. Yes, during the most severe times in my life when I was bedridden for months, my body moulded into the mattress, not only did I not even know how to be a mother, but I didn't care. Strength and what little energy I had, was poured into staying alive.
But during these worst of times, my children, the older ones aware of my illness, the younger one suspecting, were never very far from my side. My bed became a haven where my kids would bring their school books and study; or listen to Youtube on their Ipods, sharing with me what they thought would prompt a smile from me, even if ever so slight. Curled into the fetal position, every nook and cranny of my contour allowed for a little body to snuggle in, where, in the midst of my slicing pain, I would breathe in the scent of the miracles God had given me, no doubt to give me hope and keep me alive.
By no means would I wish any children to have to live with the rollercoaster that mental illness inevitably steers through our lives. However, despite the unfairness that my kids have to live this through me, I can say that four more humans are educated as to what constitutes a mental illness. They understand that when I am well, I will give them all of me that I can. And when I am sick, they know that it is my health issue, not a result of their behaviour.
Life isn't always fair. I'm sad that my kids had to learn this lesson so young. But inevitably it will make them more tolerant towards mental health issues, and when it comes down to it, I believe this is my calling.
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