“Mum, why do you look so sad?”
This was the question my 10 year old daughter asked me yesterday while we were sat on the sofa sharing a minute of calm in what is normally a pretty hectic mad house.
“Do I? Ah I’m just tired sweetie,” was my mumbled reply. It was a lie. I have depression and was having a really foggy day that day. She looked at me with a sort of puzzled yet knowing look that made me think she didn’t believe a word I was saying. I couldn’t take her gaze any longer so I jumped up quickly asking who wanted a biscuit.
Once in the safety the kitchen I grabbed the biscuit barrel down from the shelf, and it took all my strength not to blubber over the custard creams. Just breath I told myself, don’t cry don’t let the kids see you cry.
You see I thought I had been doing a pretty good job at keeping my depression from the kids. I have been holding things together and taking my tablets like the doctor said. I was getting through each day and gradually starting to feel better.
But my 10 year old daughter saw right through me. I was exposed. She could see a deep sadness etched in my face. Despite my makeup. Despite the home cooked dinner awaiting her after school. Despite the bedtime stories and snuggles we shared that day. She could see me.
It’s a strange thing really when I think about it. No matter how hard I try to paint over the cracks they are there. And people that know me well must be able to see them despite my best effort to hide it all behind my blusher.
Even my 10 year old daughter sees it.
My depression is part of me, it doesn’t ever go away even when I am having a good phase. It’s always there. It’s etched in my every wrinkle and smile. And she didn’t know what is was, but she saw it.
So I have decided that tonight when she gets home from school we are going to share a slice of cake and I am going to talk to her. I will follow her lead and answer any questions she may have to ask me no matter how awkward I may feel about it. Because I know- that she knows I am hiding myself from her.
And I don’t ever want her to feel that whatever she is going through or however she is feeling is something that should be hidden away from others. My daughter has Dyslexia and this can really affect her self-esteem. So I don’t ever want her to feel that people won’t accept her for being honest with them. Our mental health and hidden challenges should never become something that can be brushed over with makeup like it doesn’t exist.
I am not ashamed of my depression. How can I be? It’s part of what makes me who I am. And in lots of ways it’s really helped me. Because there is real magic in speaking to someone who just gets it. Just understands how you feel and doesn’t need anything in return other than your understanding. It connects people, and it’s very powerful when you can make a difference someone else by sharing your own story. It doesn’t mean we are weak when we say things are tough sometimes, it just means we are human.
She needs to know that in darkness there is always light and true strength of character is shown when we accept and embrace the differences we all have. She needs to hear the positive things about my depression. She needs to hear I am proud to be me, and maybe then she will be less anxious if she knows that I may look sad sometimes, but I am OK!
Sometimes in life as adults we feel bad when we don’t have all the answers and we want to magically make everything better for our kids, pretend like it is all hunky dory. But I don’t want any of my children to grow up ever feeling ashamed of who they are. I want her to be proud of herself, and proud to overcome any challenges that life throws her way. And I can’t do that by pretending it’s not happening to me in the here and now.
Her innocence yesterday made me realise that I need to be more open with my kids, In order for them to learn to love themselves I have to love me. They need to see that love means opening ourselves up to other people, not hiding how we feel from our loved ones, and being accepted for who you are unconditionally.
My depression will ease- it always does. And it may ravage me again at some point I am certain. But the difference is that next time when my children ask me why I look sad I will be honest with them. I am not ashamed of who I am, and I am going to try my hardest to help my daughter love herself for who she is and never ever to be ashamed of what makes her- well her- whatever that may be.
(This post can can be found on The Mighty)