May is mental health awareness month and I pledged in May to overshare on instagram stories while I go to my therapy appointments and any struggles that may come up over the month due to my depression and trauma. Its’ been difficult oversharing such private manners and a bit uncomfortable but the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been wonderful and encouraging (some of you have let me know that because of sharing my experiences you have gone to therapy and some started meds and seriously that makes it all worthwhile) Anyhoo, today I decided to tackle something Nick and I had to deal with and sought outside help for- how we explain to our girls about my depression.
My depression has been going on for a little over two years now and there was a time period when it was very precarious and I was very sick. When I am “very sick”, It is all my symptoms of depression to the thousandth degree and was daily (nowadays I have off days but not daily) . Therefore, I had an inability to “fake it” in front of the kids for a bit and we thought it was important to talk to a therapist with the kids and figure out how to best explain, comfort and provide them security while I was severely depressed.
My kids are 5 and nearly 8 now, so when we got help with them, they were 3.5 and 6 (ugh so young) anyhoo, part of our explanations were dumbed down and have developed over time as they understand more.
- We explained my depression is an illness, just like any other sickness. Mom has an illness in her head and it can make her sad and cry. I see a doctor just like any time you get sick so they can help me get better.
- When Mom is sick, it is NOT because of anything you did.
- My therapist asked the kids, what can you do when Mom is sad? And the girls said hug her, tell we love her. The therapist told us it was important for the kids to also feel like they could help me. And, in a depressive state, I have to force myself to give them some positive feedback if/when kids reach out to me with one of the tools they think works. She explained this would give the girls a sense of control and not feel helpless when I was in a state.
Most of the time, I hid my crying episodes in a closet or a bathroom if the girls were around. However, in the times I inevitably cried in front of them, they listened to the therapist and run to me and hug me and say I love you and smile. I smile back and they usually run off very happy, as if they did their “job” . Before we talked with a therapist, they would get sad and say please Mom don’t cry (ugh) I am so glad we sought a therapist for them and it helped our situation.
I know the girls do not wholly understand what depression is but they know I see a doctor and she is helping me get better so that I am not sad all the time. The girls do not like when I am sad and are a bit sensitive to it, and we also discuss “NORMAL” crying/sadness and say it is ok to cry and sometimes I cry because I miss my Mom, I stubbed my toe, I watched Tangled and that is ok. Everyone gets sad, everyone cries. The girls have seen me at my worst and they thankfully understand it is ok to cry and understand that my depression is a different type. I am so thankful for that and believe it is our openness to discuss the depression that helps them with their understanding.
As the girls get older, I will explain more in detail to them, but the basics are- Mom is sick, and the sickness makes her very sad. She sees a doctor, exercises, eats healthy and takes care of herself to get better. Mom is not sad because of anything you cuties did and I would love a hug from you!
We do not need to reiterate this now, as they know and understand it at this point. But, I remind them here and there if they ask why I went to the doctor (my weekly therapy appointment ) I say it is the doctor that helps Mom not be sad.
I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, just a person who has depression and sharing my experiences. If you are suffering from depression/suicidal thoughts, please reach out- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
And know that you are not alone, xo