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Living With Depression Has Been Hardest On My Kids

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

I've had severe depression for half of my life. The first time I thought to myself, "I'm depressed," I was 14 years old. The next morning I woke up from a dream where I dreamed that my eyes were bleeding, and that I was slowly dying. I wrote about how I felt relieved during this process in my journal, and realized I might actually want that to happen. That is when my battle with suicide began. I never told anyone at that time, but I would write about it. I couldn't tell my friends, because they were always talking about other teenage girls we knew who were swallowing pills, and cutting wrists. I didn't want to be included in those conversations, because I didn't want to be That Girl in their eyes. I didn't want them to shame me the way they were shaming these other girls we knew. So I kept it to myself. For years. But now that I'm mom to two children, the fact that my depression makes me suicidal weighs heavily on my parenting.

In the process of keeping my suicidal thoughts to myself over the years, I grew up. It's an interesting journey to carry the weight of suicide and depression with you as you grow into new versions of yourself. I constantly prayed that I'd somehow grow out of wanting to end my life. I'd pray that something so beautiful and good would happen to me so that I could stop thinking about knives or stepping into traffic. In college, I was sexually assaulted multiple times and raped by men I trusted. Living through this only made my desire for death stronger. Then I met my ex-husband, and though I knew I was still depressed, the longing to end my life went quiet. I was relieved because I thought true love was the first step to being happy. I thought happiness would erase my depression.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

Having a baby a year after getting married threw me into something I thought felt like eternal bliss. I was over the moon, and I couldn't get enough of my baby and husband. It felt like the world existed just for us. I was happy. And looking back, I remember this period of time so perfectly. Day after day, I watched baby sleep, I kissed my husband goodbye when he'd leave for work, and I savored how lucky I was. I felt free. When I got pregnant again when our daughter was 5 months old, I couldn't believe our happiness was only going to expand. But then I miscarried the baby, and the depression came crawling back.

We didn't talk about my "sadness" until they were a bit older, but my daughter used to climb into bed with me and just lay beside me. She used to tell me it would be OK. I both loved and hated her care.

At first, I ignored it. I didn't cry, I didn't let myself feel the sadness. I focused on the baby I did have, and I fought like hell to stay in a place of gratitude. Every once in awhile I'd fantasize about dying because I felt like I failed my unborn baby. Then I got pregnant again just weeks later and I began to disconnect. I was afraid. I didn't want to go through the process of having another child grow inside of me only to lose them. I didn't want to mourn that. I didn't know how I could survive that pain all over again.

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I slipped back into my depression after my son was born. I thought he was precious, but I didn't feel connected to him. I was miserable. I wanted to die. Eventually I came out of the fog of my depression for a couple months, but then I slipped back in. Ever since then, I've remained in that cycle. There were times when my children were 2 and 3 that I couldn't get out of bed to feed them and my daughter would do her best to make sandwiches for herself, her brother, and me.

I could look at my children and know I loved them more than anything, but I didn't want to do this anymore. I wanted to be done. I wanted to give up.

We didn't talk about my "sadness" until they were a bit older, but my daughter used to climb into bed with me and just lay beside me. She used to tell me it would be OK. I both loved and hated her care. Riley was just 3 years old and although I didn't want her to have to take care of me, I couldn't take care of them, let alone myself.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

I could look at my children and know I loved them more than anything, but I didn't want to do this anymore. I wanted to be done. I wanted to give up.

I don't know how to tell my 6 and 7 year old that they are my everything, but that the urge to hurt myself is so strong and I feel so weak. How do I tell them I'm afraid I might hurt myself for a reason they can't understand?

I talk to my kids about my depression now. They're older — 6 and 7 years old — and I tell them how overwhelming life can become for me, how I see everything with a grey filter when I'm in a bout of depression, how I forget what being happy or even being sad feels like. We talk about my numbness. They ask questions, and rarely ever look afraid or worried. But I don't tell them about my feelings on suicide. I don't know how to talk to them about it. I don't know how to look them in the eye and tell them about the great love I have for them, but how I also feel as if I need to die most days.

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I stand on edges of sidewalks and I imagine all the ways I might be killed. I stay in bed some days just so I won't have to walk past the knife block, or see the painkillers I have leftover from various surgeries. I don't know how to tell my 6 and 7 year old that they are my everything, but that the urge to hurt myself is so strong and I feel so weak. How do I tell them I'm afraid I might hurt myself for a reason they can't understand?

When I get to a place where I want to die, and it's all I can think about, I usually call my ex-husband. He's talked me off the edge many times. I want to be able to handle this beast on my own, but I'm not capable. I feel guilty and terrible about placing this responsibility on someone else, but he never complains. Instead, he talks me through my thoughts. He reminds me of our children, of who I am despite the depression and suicide, of all the good I have given us all all. I barely believe him, but I cling to what he tells me. Each time, I hope it will finally set in. This time, I tell myself, will be the last time. But it never is. I want to be a strong and capable parent. I want my children to see me as a person who can beat an illness, but how do you beat an illness that exists in your brain and convinces you things that don't actually exist? It's an endless uphill climb.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

Beyond the darkness my depression brings with it, I still have my good days. And my good days are so very good. I don't know how long they will last, so I treasure every last second. The good days are my victories. I celebrate with my children. We adventure. We plan wild trips. We dress up. We cuddle. We make cookies. We dance. We do. Anything and everything. In those moments, I am so present. So alive. I relish the way they say "Mommy," the way they fight over who gets to hold my hand, the way they say, "I love you." And I remember why I'm still alive, and I'm grateful for each breath that follows.