To My Future Children, From Your Mom With Chronic Anxiety and Depression
With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s hard for one to ignore the constant reminders to order flowers, buy personalized scented candles or find the newest recipe to properly serve breakfast in bed for the ultimate ways of spoiling mom. But then there are the other side notes to Mother’s Day — for the aunt, the like-a-mom, the female mentor, the moms of the four-legged, because they, too, do a thankless job. But all this Mother’s Day talk hasn’t just got me thinking of what I need to do, but rather what motherhood really means. And specifically, what it means to the mom who has the extra burden of a mood disorder, or has a child with one. Having no children myself, yet, I pen this to my future kids, for reassurance, as a short guide and as hope, of living with a mom with a chronic mood disorder.
Sophia Loren once said, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” While this no doubt is truth, the reality is, I have to think twice, or maybe 10 times on a simple decision as to where to grab dinner because being someone with anxiety and depression, I overthink everything. I also tend to get nervous, whether it be meeting new people, going to a big event gathering, or simply from watching the news. And I get triggered by sad movies, by shows that try and depict mental illness (though they can never seem to pinpoint it just right!). And then of course, being someone with a diagnosis of chronic depression, I may have low energy, be tired and go through spurts of being out of touch with life, apathetic to any sort of stimuli.
And please know, I’ve tried everything to get well. And I will continue to try anything that brings any sort of hopeful outcome because I need to know if it will work. If eating beets can make me have more energy, I’ll do it, even though I don’t like them at all. If it’s a new prescription medicine, I probably have already tried it, but will do so, again. If it’s meditation, yoga, or anything holistic, yet a little wacky in my book, I have and will continue to try it because I’m a little wacky myself without a mood disorder! If it’s a new trend of nasal sprays or IVs of medicine on the brink such as ketamine when I’m desperate for relief, I have, and will try that, too. And when all seems dark and gloomy, and it all just seems pointless, I will still try, and not for me, but because the greatest gift I could ever have would to be a mom. And no side effects, diagnosis, panic attack or mood swing will stop me from trying to strive to tackle the temptation to give in to the monsters of my mood disorder because I have you.
And yes, your mom is a worrier, so please excuse me if I am extra cautious, if I watch a little to closely while you play on the lawn, if I secure pillows around you so you won’t fall hard on the floor or if I check in on you or a sibling in the middle of the night to make sure you’re still breathing. If I’m a helicopter parent when you reach a more independent age, it’s OK to tell me. I’d rather raise honest children than ones who have to face elephants in the room, or feel like they have to be on egg shells. If any of my comforting compulsions embarrass you, you can tell me that too, as it just makes me more aware of what I need to keep working on. But I hope if I teach you anything, it’s to be kind, to be compassionate and its to work to stamp out the stigma that I hope you never have to face. And yes, I may not always be the best at everything, and the ailments of depression and anxiety may envelope me at the spur of the moment, but please don’t see me as just a depressed worrier. I hope you can look at me as a warrior because I fight this battle every day, never knowing when a threat inside my thoughts may come on and wage war.
And because I am your mother, I will work diligently hard to make sure you are as mentally healthy, as you are physically healthy. I will hope and pray you do not get any genes of mental illness passed on to you, but if you do, always remember it makes you no different — it does not entitle you, or belittle you. And if there comes a time, when life just becomes too overwhelming, when you feel like giving up or you face a trial where intervention is needed, never be too embarrassed or ashamed to tell me. Because being all alone in this, or any fight, is not something I would ever want for my children. I’ve been in the darkness of mental anguish, I know it all too well. So, whatever the ailment, whatever the situation, whatever the environment, be it a therapist’s office, a camp out in bed or even in a psych ward, because I, too have been there, never think twice about calling out to your mother. Because it’s in those moments, even if too proud or afraid to say it, when we want our mom the most.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Dakota Corbin