“Daddying” with Depression

The hardest thing to do when you’re suffering from depression is get out of bed. You lay there, maybe having slept, maybe not due to all the thoughts running a hundred miles per hour in your head, and feel as if each of your limbs weighs more than your entire body.  The thought of facing another day isn’t just torture, it seems absolutely pointless.

That’s when you feel a little hand lay itself on your face, with a little voice asking you for something to drink.

Parenting with depression is a constant mental and emotional tug-of-war.  You feel like you have nothing to give, yet here’s this little person who needs you to give all that
you have.  All you want to do is stay in that bed, but staying in that bed isn’t an option.  You find yourself constantly assaulted by your thoughts, stuck in your own head, but there’s someone who desperately needs you to come out from inside yourself.  You do for him because you have to, because you love him desperately, but at the same time feel like it’s just that much more weight causing you to drown inside.

It’s difficult to put into words, and even more difficult for others to understand.  Children are seen as the ultimate joy, almost as if they’re a panacea capable of snapping anyone out of whatever funk they’re in with a smile or some silly thing they do.  Depression isn’t a funk, though.  It’s a pervasive feeling of hopelessness and inadequacy.  You look at this child who adores and needs you, and for the life of you, you can’t figure out why.  You can barely hold yourself together.  How can you do for him?

That’s where you have to make the choice, the hardest choice imaginable for someone with depression; the choice to live. One of the most common professions of love from a parent is that they would do anything for their child, up to and including dying for them.  For someone with depression, that’s not a hard choice. The hard choice is choosing to live. Fighting the pain and finding a way to truly live, not just for this
little person, but for you.

It’s not enough to just go through the motions.  Just showing up to feed them, clothe them, get them to school, take them to play dates, or catch their games isn’t
enough.  As a parent, your primary responsibility is in showing your child how to live.  You’re his guide in the world, and whether you feel prepared for it or not, you’ve got the job.  The only thing that scares a parent with depression more than the depression itself is the thought that they are going to pass it on to their child.  That’s where that choice previously mentioned comes into play.  If you truly love your child, if you truly want to do right by him, then you have to take the steps to get healthy. Counseling, medicine, exercise, whatever it takes.

We teach our children more with what we do than with what we say.  They pick up and absorb everything.  That means they’re picking up on your pain.  You have to show them
it can be beaten, that it’s possible to get knocked down again and again and still get back up.  You have to learn to believe in yourself because that’s how he’ll learn how to believe in himself.  You have to walk the walk.

Of course this kind of responsibility scares the hell out of you.  Of course it feels like that much more weight drowning you.  That’s when you need to look at your child.  Really
look.  That child is your life preserver.  Your child has enough hope for both of you, all the hope in the world.  Hold on to that.  Use it to keep pushing, to keep trying.  Let your child’s belief in you propel you forward, and you’ll both grow to live better, fuller lives.

Now. It’s time to get up.  Bubby needs his drink.

If you’re having thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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