Friday, October 06, 2006

Depression and mothering

I'll admit it. I read Dooce. I like her comic timing; I'm intrigued by her obsession with her husband's clogs; I like being able to read most of her posts in under a minute. Part of me, like about 200,000 other people, feels like I know her in at least a slightly personal way. That's why her most recent post, her 32-month letter to her daughter, took me slightly aback.

I was reading merrily along - funny plane trip story, check, story turns poignant and revealing, check, cute pictures, check, discussion of Leta's diet, check, analysis that the whole family will be glad they can go back and read later after Leta's grown up, check, sudden and cutting description of Heather's depression - wha? With just a few sentences, she nailed it. The end:

I had hoped that I would never find myself this low again — I would not wish this crushing emptiness on my worst enemy — but now that I am here I’m not quite sure what to do this time, except trust that you and your father will stick by me, will be here when I do feel better.

And so I apologize that my depression is a part of your life, but I also promise that I will do everything I can to fight it so that your memories of me are not painful. So that my memories of you will be in color.

My own mother suffered from depression, and there's really not much I feel like I can say about it. It was hard for her, and it was hard for the rest of the family. She resisted taking "happy pills," which to be fair, weren't quite as well-accepted then as they are now, and there is a part of me that has never understood that. She didn't want to artificially change who she was, and it was her decision. End of story. There wasn't the common lay acceptance then that depression has physical roots.

Now that I'm a mother, too, and I've had my own bout with milder depression after Celeste died, I can more vividly appreciate what my own mom went through and what Dooce describes. There is a spiralling pull of wanting to be a good mom but just not being able to do the things you imagine. Mix in an intense fear that your low points will be all your kids will remember. It's unforgiving. My heart goes out to depressed moms and dads, those in our family and those I've never met. I hope, as Dooce wrote, that they can also trust that they will feel better, and that their partners and kids will still be there. Years later, I'm still working on completely forgiving my own mom for not doing everything she could to mitigate her depression. Sometimes seeing things from both sides doesn't actually make it easier.

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