How I Explain My Depression to My Kids

What is depression? It’s a good question, but based on who you’re explaining it to, your reply can be quite different.

When my kids ask, “What is depression?” I tell them it’s when I just don’t feel like myself. That it’s hard for me to be happy and enjoy the things I usually enjoy. That depression makes me tired. That depression makes me want to be alone at times. They reply, “We can make you happy, we can play games and go outside and maybe even tell jokes.” These replies are coming from a 13- and 15-year-old, so I feel like it’s OK to explain to them why I might seem “off.” I always make sure they know it has nothing to do with them, and that I love them no matter what. They may not quite
understand, but really who can if you don’t have it?

It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, which means you can’t see it like a broken bone or a cut. Because of that, it can be hard to understand, not only for your kids, but for your spouse, family and friends. Plus, until recently, mental illness wasn’t even discussed much. It was often considered a “secret” or seemed “shameful.” I am not ashamed to admit that not only do I have depression, but I have anxiety as well. I worry constantly.

I am thankful to have a supportive spouse who is there for me, though he doesn’t understand what I feel. He will stick up for me, and he will love me no matter what. I will keep trying to get ahead of my illness by taking medication and seeing my doctor regularly, and he will help me through. Mainly though, I have to help myself and push my self-pity and anger aside. It is an upstream swim for sure, with many ripples and deep pools along the way, but it is a swim I continually take for all those who love me and for myself to survive in this world.

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