The Mighty Logo

'Daddying' With Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

The hardest thing to do when you’re struggling with depression is get out of bed. You lay there, maybe having slept, maybe not due to all the thoughts running a hundred miles per hour in your head, and feel as if each of your limbs weighs more than your entire body.  To me, the thought of facing another day isn’t just torture, it seems absolutely pointless.

That’s when you feel a little hand lay itself on your face, with a little voice asking you for something to drink.

Parenting with depression is a constant mental and emotional tug of war. You feel like you have nothing to give, yet here’s this little person who needs you to give all you have. All you want to do is stay in that bed, but staying in that bed isn’t an option. You find yourself constantly assaulted by your thoughts, stuck in your own head, but there’s someone who desperately needs you to come out from inside yourself. You do for him because you have to, because you love him desperately, but at the same time feel like it’s just that much more weight causing you to drown inside.

It’s difficult to put into words, and even more difficult for others to understand. Children are seen as the ultimate joy, almost as if they’re a panacea capable of snapping anyone out of whatever funk they’re in with a smile or some silly thing they do. Depression isn’t a funk, though. It’s a pervasive feeling of hopelessness and inadequacy. You look at this child who adores and needs you, and for the life of you, you can’t figure out why. You can barely hold yourself together. How can you do for him?

That’s where you have to make the choice, the hardest choice imaginable for someone with depression — do I choose to live or not? One of the most common professions of love from a parent is they would do anything for their child, up to and including dying for them. For someone like me with depression, that’s not a hard choice. The hard choice is choosing to live. Fighting the pain and finding a way to truly live, not just for this little person, but for you.

It’s not enough to just go through the motions. Just showing up to feed them, clothe them, get them to school, take them to play dates or catch their games isn’t enough. As a parent, your primary responsibility is in showing your child how to live. You’re his guide in the world, and whether you feel prepared for it or not, you’ve got the job. The only thing that scares a parent with depression more than the depression itself is the thought they are going to pass it on to their child. That’s where the choice comes into play. If you truly love your child, if you truly want to do right by him, then you have to take the steps to get healthy.

We teach our children more with what we do than with what we say. They pick up and absorb everything. That means they’re picking up on your pain. You have to show them it can be beaten, that it’s possible to get knocked down again and again and still get back up. You have to learn to believe in yourself because that’s how they learn to believe in themselves. You have to walk the walk.

Of course this kind of responsibility scares the hell out of you. Of course it feels like that much more weight drowning you. That’s when you need to look at your child. Really look. That child is your life preserver. Your child has enough hope for both of you, all the hope in the world. Hold on to that. Use it to keep pushing, to keep trying. Let your child’s belief in you propel you forward, and you’ll both grow to live better, fuller lives.

That said, it’s time to get up. Bubby needs his drink.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Halfpoint.

Originally published: August 2, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home