I was talking with my mom a while ago and I told her I’d been having some down days; struggling with my depression a bit. In a little plot twist during this talk, I told her I’m happy I deal with depression and anxiety.
Mom: I’m sorry. I’m sorry I passed this down to you.
Me: I’m not.
And I meant it. I still mean it. The struggle with my mental health is definitely not fun times, however it has allowed me so much. I am happy to be sad.
I’m Not Just a Crazy Crybaby
When I first went to the doctor for symptoms of what I thought was anemia, he actually sat with me for almost an hour discussing how I felt, emotions I’d experience, physical symptoms I had such as my constant exhaustion to the point I’d be in tears at how tired I was, not being able to sleep at night, sometimes just being overwhelmed by nothing; all that stuff. After this long talk, he told me it sounds like I had lived with depression for years but it’s only been recently that it’s been too much for me to “get through”.
Then I went to my doctor for the overwhelming feelings I was having. How can I describe it? It was overwhelming feelings of simply being overwhelmed: uncontrollable anger, uncontrollable tears, confusion, insomnia, panic at nothing. Again, we sat down for a long talk (I truly love this doctor, I mean how many would just sit and talk with their patients for this long trying to figure things out? None: absolutely NONE doctors would do this.) How long have I had these sleeping issues? The crying, the anger, the panic… how long? Well ever since I could remember, but at that moment in time, it was finally too much. After our talk, the doctor told me that, once again I’d probably been living with anxiety for most of my life and I just didn’t know. So you see, I’m not a crazy crybaby weakling; there’s reasons.
Growing up, it wasn’t the norm to talk about these things. I’m so happy that’s changed. Being told to just stop crying, toughen up, what do I have to be upset about can make a kid feel isolated. Thankfully the world is changing and now mental health isn’t such a taboo topic.
This is good.
I Get It
What if I didn’t live with depression, but The Boy still did? How would I be able to understand what he’s living with if I never had to deal with it myself? The feelings that your mind goes through are confusing and complex for as an adult, never mind as a child. The thought of him trying to make sense of something that truly doesn’t make sense kills me. When I tell him he’s not alone, it’s genuine and I absolutely speak from the heart when I tell him his feelings are okay. I can do this because I understand there’s no making sense of the emotions and of feeling those emotions are wrong so something must be wrong with me. I totally get that vicious cycle. All The Boy has to say: “I’m having a bad day” and I get it. When he says “I can’t explain why I’m not happy”, I understand.
What about when he’s overwhelmed? He doesn’t know why something totally routine and ordinary is sometimes too much for him to handle. But I do. Living with general anxiety sucks, but it’s a blessing. I have genuine insight into his anxiety and the train wreck of catastrophic thoughts it sometimes produces.
Thanks to my own mental health, my young son doesn’t have to explain his mental health struggles. He doesn’t have to try to explain feelings or emotions he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t have to because I get it. I am thankful for this. I am so thankful that The Boy doesn’t only know I’m on his side, but that I understand what he’s dealing with…because I get it.
Beyond our little family, I feel like my mental health struggles have given me the ability to empathize with everyone in my universe; my family and my friends: with the goings on in the world. I’d like to think I’d have the same empathetic heart, but would I really? I don’t think I would be willing to ever take that chance. Right now, just the way I am, I don’t need to understand what’s going on with my family members or my friends to simply empathize with their personal trials. For them, I don’t even have to get it, I am simply there. And they know this.
The horrors that happen in the world feel too hard for me to bear at times. The news makes me cry on a daily basis. But would I trade in how deeply I feel for humanity and understanding just what my sweet boy deals with if I didn’t have to live with depression and anxiety? No, I don’t think I would. So Mom, please don’t feel bad for possibly passing down this gene. It may hurt and I have my struggles, but I am definitely not sad about it.