This week, instead of our normal “Meet the Blogger”, we’re reading a bit more about SA mom blogger Lucia’s struggles to parent through depression.
The intent of this article has got to do with how I mother through my depression and in some instances using it to be a better parent than I think I could be without it…a bit of a weird statement I know – how can a disease make me a better parent right? Well, maybe it’s part of accepting the disease as a part of who I am. I’ve always tried to distance myself from the disease, as I believe that I’ve been cured…but I understand that it’s not really something you get cured of – you learn to live with it and recognize your symptoms so you can start preempting your emotions and reactions and warn those around you, if they care enough to stick around through your ups and downs.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression by some Dr when I was 19…I was put on Antidepressants and anxiety meds. I was told that I’m bi-polar….when I’m up, I’m UP and when I’m down, I’m DOWN. No in between, which isn’t necessarily true, because most of the time when I’m neither up nor down, I’m neutral – which is by the way the worst state to be in.
I used the antidepressants for about 6 months and then took myself off it. Whether I was on it long enough to actually do what it was supposed to, I don’t know, but it made all my emotions feel ‘fake’. Like I knew not whether I was happy because I was really happy or because I was on pills. I stayed on my anxiety meds for a bit longer and always had a back-up stash for those emergency situations. During an argument with my boyfriend I got so worked up that I just couldn’t handle it anymore and ran to get some meds. I could feel an anxiety attack coming on. 15 minutes later I couldn’t care less what we were arguing about. He still cared though and wanted some kind of closure to the argument. He asked me to stop taking my anxiety meds every time we had an argument and just work through it together. I told him I don’t know if I could handle it. He didn’t back off…he assured me that whatever I do or say we’ll work through it together. I’ve never let anyone see my full self until then. He saw me, he handled me throwing grocery bags at him in a parking lot in front of a mall, he knows the darkest me and he stuck around. We’ve been married for 12 years and are still going strong. We have 4 beautiful kids together. And because he’s seen all my ugly and stuck around I believe it gives me the guts to teach my kids to love all of themselves – and all of others.
Until the age of 16 I believed my parents to just be that. My parents. I didn’t see them as emotional human beings – especially my father. I knew he was a recovering alcoholic but I didn’t really comprehend the addiction or the emotions of this man. I guess I saw my mom a little more as an emotional being because I saw her cry once or twice by the age of 16…The turning point came when I wanted to go to a party and my dad said no. I asked him why and he said the standard “Because I said so.” It wasn’t a good enough reason for me. I said that I’m going unless he can give me valid reason to stay. He looked at me and told me because he needs me at home. I asked him what for? My chores were done and he was just watching TV so how could he possibly need me. He explained to me that he’s depressed and just needed his family to be around him…not necessarily doing anything with him, but just be around. I gaped at him…what? I sat down on the couch and asked him why he’s depressed and we had a conversation around depression etc. I suddenly understood some of my own feelings but didn’t say anything to him about it. I then asked him to please let me know whenever he just needs his family and be honest with me about what he’s going through. We watched movies together for the whole day and since then had a more honest relationship. I still often feel that he was the only person in my family that truly knew and understood me. He passed away almost 9 years ago. Lucky for me I have a husband that are fully invested in knowing and understanding me, otherwise I don’t know how I would’ve coped with his death and absence in my life.
I’ve been a very emotional mother. Having 4 kids is no joke. I decided to be me to my kids and not some made-up version of a mother that society crams down their throats. They know I’m not perfect and they love me anyway. They’ve seen me cry, shout, laugh and uncontrollably giggle. We’re mostly doing it together…my husband have chosen to call me passionate instead of bi-polar…which helps to de-stigmatize the disease. I explain my emotions to my kids. If I can. Sometimes I just tell them I don’t know why I feel the way I do. I especially try to explain anger to them as it’s a symptom of depression. I try to back off them a bit more when I can feel anger building up, but sometimes the wall breaks and a shouting match ensues – for which I always apologize after. I know shouting is one of the worst things that can happen to a little kid, and believe me it’s not the best thing for a mother either, but it happens. Not that much that it’s damaging our relationships, but enough for me to want to do it less…because ideally I wouldn’t want to shout at my kids at all…at least I’m not throwing grocery bags at them. They know my limits…they stretch my limits, which is good. We go for longer and longer periods without incident. I don’t use traditional depression or anxiety meds, but what I use works for me. It makes me calmer and increases my patience. I don’t see myself cured, but I’ve learned how to live with my depression and anxiety without the use of antidepressants. I get judged either way by people – depressed and on antidepressants have a stigma as much as depressed and using cannabis does. The only difference is that only one of them actually works in helping me live with depression and the other only have the pretense of helping…It’s different for each person and I know that there are people who get helped by antidepressants, it just didn’t work for me.
I go through periods of using a lot of cannabis and some periods of using none at all. I can go months or years without using and then I can have periods of using daily and periods of only using once a week. You can’t self-regulate antidepressants as you need. The last psychiatrist I saw luckily never suggested medication, probably because I was clear upfront about not wanting to be on medication. He helped me however with finding constructive ways to deal with my symptoms when I could feel them coming on. Practical ways, and one of them was to let my kids know when I feel sad, or happy, or scared…and it has helped me build stronger relationships with my kids. And I hope that it’ll help them to always know that they can talk to me about their emotions and with what they are going through. Too many times people bottle up their emotions, especially from their parents, and it all goes wrong…
Too often we hear of stories of teens that commit suicide and their parents thought they were happy and healthy. Too often we hear of mothers who struggle alone with their depression and feelings of guilt. I know my children are still very young, 8, 6, 5 and a 4 month old. But hopefully by being open and honest from a young age to them about my struggles, they’ll always see me as human being with emotions an won’t one day be caught by surprise when they are teens and I react in an emotional way towards them. Hopefully they will always know that they can be open and honest to me about their emotions and struggles, even when they are hormonal teenagers. They are all girls so that comes with it’s own set of emotional and hormonal struggles. I hope that it teaches them to turn to God for help and not to humans, because they’ll know that even their mother is a fallible, weak human without God’s help and grace.
It might seem strange to mention God now, but once again, the judgement that happens when you admit to relying on God rather than medication is sometimes overwhelming in today’s world. A lot of people also can’t reconcile the idea of using cannabis whilst professing to love God, yet have no problem with the use of alcohol. The overwhelming evidence of alcohol being more addictive and detrimental to your health completely escapes them and they solely make up their minds based on propaganda and the one or two articles claiming the negative effects of marijuana. They ignore the research articles done on the positive effects of THC or cannibinoids found in marijuana. Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, cancer and others have been reported to show improvement with the use of marijuana. CNN report, list of 700 diseases and articles related to the use of marijuana to improve conditions 700 diseases, Common illnesses
I pray my most fervent prayers and do my most revealing Bible studies when I’m struggling with depression. And when its going well I am thankful to God for guiding me through it once again I praise and worship Him for it all. I can see Gods’ hand in my life long before I was a born again follower of Christ. I can see it in my life everyday. I believe He knows all and guides us to follow the path He lays out for us, and He gives us tools to help us along the way.
I pray that one day I will live in a world where I neither get judged for suffering from Depression, or for the use of marijuana to help me through it. I pray that my children will know that it doesn’t have to be a disabling disease and that you don’t have to suffer in silence or feel like you shouldn’t talk about it for fear of being judged wrongly by others. I pray that the stigma of the disease and of the cure will be gone.
And I pray that I can always give the best of me to my kids, but that they will love me even when I am at my worst. Because I am not perfect, and I don’t want them to expect me to be…