Self-care for parents

It’s ok to hate depression

It’s ok to hate depression. Depression’s a jerk. But hating Depression, at least in my experience, won’t help.

When Depression first showed up at our door, I actually felt sorry for her. I told my daughter, “It’s ok, let her in. There’s plenty of room here.” I made up a bed and assured her we’d get her back home, back to where she belonged, as soon as we possibly could.

She looked so much like my daughter that I was easily fooled by Depression. Fooled into thinking she was just a sad, lost child. That she was just passing through.

What I didn’t realize was that Depression had plans. She wanted to stay indefinitely. Drive a wedge between my daughter and me and pry her from the world inch by inch. And then she wanted to take down the rest of us.

When Depression first showed up at our door, I actually felt sorry for her. I told my daughter, "It's ok, let her in. There's plenty of room here." I made up a bed and assured her we'd get her back home, back to where she belonged, as soon as we possibly could.
Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash

Depression is cruel.

While she didn’t speak to me at all at first, Depression whispered all kinds of horrible things to my daughter. Spread all kinds of lies. Night after night, she’d fill her head with criticism and doubt, keeping her up and then taunting her through her waking hours.

Over time, Depression got bolder. She’d lash out at me, unprovoked and venomous. She’d tell me I was ruining my daughter’s life. That my daughter’s unhappiness was my fault. That I had failed my daughter.

That I was a failure.

Depression is greedy.

It wasn’t enough to be besties with my daughter, Depression wanted more.
She wanted my daughter’s very essence it seemed.

She drew an invisible line between my daughter and the world, and coloured her grey while the rest of us basked in shimmering gold. “Look,” she’d say to her. “You’re not like them.”

Within months of arriving she robbed my daughter of all her light and laughter and hope. All the the things that made her who she was.

I started to see only Depression in my daughter’s eyes.

Depression is irritating

A terrible house guest. The kind that would put her feet up on the coffee table and leave her coat on the floor.

She routinely ransacked my daughter’s room. Made it almost unlivable at times, with clothes strung out, dirty dishes and bed sheets falling off the bed. They’d hang out there for hours, declining dinner and conversation, just the two of them huddled in the dark and chaos.

Sometimes, I’d try to coax them out. I’d make Depression’s favourite food, or buy her new clothes, knowing full well her reaction would only disappoint. That she would never look me in the eye and say thank you like she meant it.

Other times, I tried to ignore her, to carry on as if she wasn’t there. No matter how hard I’d try, Depression found a way to crawl into my thoughts, like an earthworm, soft and pliable, flaunting her five beating hearts to my one broken one.

Most frightening, Depression is dangerous.

A risk taker.

Or maybe it was my daughter. It was hard to tell who was influencing who in the darker days, but one thing was clear: together they got into things. Bad things. Drugs, alcohol, razors. What else?

Together they sought out new friends. Other teenage girls they found online with friends of their own just like Depression, and a penchant for destruction.

Depression was powerful. Intoxicating. Simultaneously frightening and irresistibly attractive to my daughter, who’d do almost anything Depression told her to do.

Believe me when I say, I had good reason to hate Depression.


Hating Depression didn’t help

My hate only made her stronger and more confident. It only made me hateful.

If Depression was here to stay, I had to learn to live with her. To welcome her into the family without sacrificing bits and pieces of all of us. I had to become stronger and wiser, more flexible. The adult in this relationship.

And so, I began to read everything I could find about Depression. I learned her history and weaknesses, her tactics and how to anticipate her strikes.

Though she now looked identical to my daughter, I eventually learned how to tell them apart. Who was in the driver’s seat at any given time. I curated my responses accordingly, making my moves when Depression was distracted. Arming my daughter the best I could.

All the while, I built up my own defences, reclaiming the parts of my mind she’d come to occupy. And with every corner cleared, I fortified the walls so she couldn’t get back in. I filled my head with mantras and gratitude so there was no more room for Depression.

Most, I enjoyed playing mind games with Depression. I’d gloat when my daughter went for a run, joined us for dinner, or cleaned her room, relishing the look on Depression’s face. I could see how these acts of independence unnerved her. Maybe she wasn’t as strong as she thought.

Maybe we are stronger

There was a tipping point. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point I started to believe we could win this war. That the tables were turning.

There were times, for instance, when it was clear that Depression didn’t even know what she was after. She seemed satisfied just to be noticed and respected. For us to pay her reverence.

We learned, with some surprise, that she loved a good debate and responded positively to being challenged. She loved especially to be called out on her lies. I think she approved of the courage and effort it took to stand up to her.

And after months of trying different medications to guard against Depression, we discovered her kryptonite. It softened her. Took the edge off. Knocked her out long enough so my daughter could sleep and rebuild her strength.

Day by day, we wore Depression down. Weakened her resolve while we strengthened our own.

I no longer hate Depression

It sounds crazy, given the pain she caused, but in so many ways I’m grateful Depression came into our lives. I think sometimes, maybe it was meant to be. Her finding us. Us getting to know her.

Before Depression, I walked through life on the snow’s crust, my feet breaking through the surface only occasionally. I see things more clearly now. I feel things more.

Like a hug from my daughter that hits me deep in the marrow of my bones. Or the purity of joy and gratitude I feel when the family dinner erupts into unrestrained, impolite laughter. It is by far my favourite thing in this world.

Now that I know Depression’s out there, lurking in the dark, I live more mindfully. I talk endlessly about mental health to protect my kids and try to ensure a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep and regular exercise.

Where I used to accept a state of being without question, I now ask Why? and What if? What else is there that I’m not seeing? Is there some other thought I could think?

Depression has a way of skewing reality, of bending the world to her will and taking shape in ways you never thought possible. While this new world view is challenging to accept, it’s a gift.

All these things Depression taught me, they’re gifts if I choose to look at them that way.

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