This very moment, I'm blinking rapidly just to stay awake, but every night when I lay to sleep my mind does not, and cannot, stop racing. The obvious bags beneath my eyes may tell you part of my story, but not the important parts and definitely not the reasons why sleep evades me even when I'm so obviously exhausted. From my children. From finances. From work. From the stresses of just being alive. This, along with a laundry list of other "minor" symptoms, are some of the struggles only moms with major depression can understand.
My war on depression began decades ago, when I was younger than both my children are now (5 and 10). As far back as the days my younger brother arrived, shaking up my world without a care, I knew something was off inside me. The chemical imbalance stems from a strong family history of mental illness, more prominent in the females. Regardless of my external triggers — a lifelong identity crisis, a turbulent home life, issues with being overweight for which I was bullied, and lack of self esteem — I seem to have been born with the deep weight of void.
I say this just as I found my 10 year old daughter curled up in a ball on the floor. She's been having issues with friends treating her unkindly at school — cliques and cattiness that's eaten away at her — among the gradual transition into puberty (i.e. hormonal triggers), so things haven't necessarily been "smooth sailing." However, this time something was different. Earlier that day, she mentioned in passing how difficult school and learning had become. Her inability to concentrate and listen had gotten her in trouble. Being this sort of spitfire, free-spirited creative, I didn't think much of it because she's generally a thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent girl who has managed good grades and appears to be well-adjusted. Then again, this could be the exact phrasing outsiders might use to describe me, unknowing of all I struggle with every single day. The anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all part of me before I step out of bed. It's a lot to carry, and more than a lot to hide from the world.
So, in that moment and before my daughter muttered a word about what plagued her, I knew. In her eyes, I saw the younger version of myself. The one who'd cry herself to sleep. The one who sleeps with tissues under her pillow even now, because old habits die incredibly hard. My bright-eyed baby confessed she'd been feeling so gloomy, it'd begun to cause her pain in physical form. In an instant, I had flashbacks of a culmination of recent days she complained of neck and shoulder pain, being tired from little sleep, stomach aches, headaches, and all things I've experienced as a depressed child and adult. It was, is, an unsettling, guilt-ridden feeling to know that I've passed this disease onto her, or to think of all I've been through to feel a little happier only to fear that she may experience the same, frustrating journey.
Once that conversation ended, I tried my very best to leave my daughter with a hope that she can, and will, feel better. Though, to be honest, my encouragement feels like a betrayal. In the last six months, I've had medication adjusted four times and am right back to square one with another. Every woman in my family still struggles with the ongoing battle with depression, and the stigmas attached, so to know my child is about to embark on a similar path? Well, let's just say I feel absolutely responsible. I'm angry with myself for not providing her with the best chemical makeup, the best words of encouragement, and the best example of a mother. Because at the end of the day, I'm still fighting the war, too. Here are some of the struggles I continue to fight my way through, knowing my kids are watching with hopeful eyes that it can and will get better. I have to hope, for the sake of my daughter's mental health.