Depression and motherhood do not mix. Before I was married I was aware that my offspring could possibly carry the same genetic predisposition that I have for depression. I don’t mean the “blues” or feeling sad for a couple of days; what I do mean is months of feeling hopeless, helpless, sleeping in excess, and feeling completely alone.
Unfortunately for me, I produce a low amount of serotonin which is needed to maintain a cheery outlook, and to just feel balanced. Add some generalized anxiety to this and you’ve got what has been my life for the past 20 years. I have learned great skills in dealing with it and know when I need to re-group. I also have very supportive family and wonderful friends. I am actually lucky as I have only dealt with a few instances of clinical depression and have come out the other side each time. What works for me is talking and medication. There it is…no stigma.
2. My Daughter
My daughter is one of the happiest people I know. I constantly watch her in amazement. I see her easy-going demeanor and I wonder, where the hell did you come from? My husband is not exactly laid back and I bring the depressive/anxious traits into the mix, so how did we end up with this happy, sparkly child? It baffles me on a daily basis. She is not overly dramatic when something does not go her way and accepts things in a positive way. She is by no means perfect, but I can’t imagine her ever being sad for a long period of time.
3. My Worry
What I do worry about is me. Winter is a hard time for me: the short days, the cold, the darkness. It has always been the most difficult time of year for me, as it is for many people with a history of depression. When I am moody and sad, I am hyper-aware of the effect this may have on my daughter. My dear husband bears the brunt of this but my daughter is very perceptive and is always listening (even when you think she isn’t).
I don’t want her to ever feel she is doing something wrong and causing my poor mood, which is typical of children of depressed parents. This has been further complicated by the past year of fertility treatments which haven’t yielded any positive results. I have been on a hormonally medicated whirlwind and while it has been an emotional rollercoaster for my husband and me, I am sure our daughter experienced some of it for herself, too.
When my husband and I switched our daughter from a daycare to a preschool at our local JCC, her class size more than doubled. She was having a hard time adjusting to this change and in her second week, she broke down crying, saying she missed her old school and that this new school was too big. I cringed. I never liked being in large groups, especially in school. I immediately worried that if we made her stay in this larger school, that later down the line she would end up depressed.
Kind of ridiculous, right?
This is how I think, though. There is always that worry in the back of my mind. Needless to say, we kept her in her new school and a couple of weeks later, she was the mayor there with everyone saying hello to her, giving her hugs, etc. She needed the time to feel comfortable in a new setting (completely normal for a 3-year-old, turns out). Even though my mind jumped to the extreme, my past treatment and good sense stopped me from actually acting on it. I knew it was in her best interest to keep her in this amazing place. It was not about me, it was about her.
5. Moving Forward
I will continue to worry about my daughter’s future, in every aspect of life. I know I have to make a shift in my thinking as my daughter is her own person. Although we share genetics, it does not mean she will suffer as I have. I simply need to be there for her, whatever the future holds.