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Depression, my daughters, and me

I was really relieved when I read this piece by Jamie Wallace about her (and her kids’) Daylight Savings Time Whiplash. I wondered if it was why my mood slipped a few pegs, and why Elsa was acting like a premenstrual teenager, but I thought it was probably just coincidence. I suspect now that the DST thing is the reason.

Which seems crazy. I mean, how can one hour’s schedule adjustment have that big an impact? But for me, anyway, my body doesn’t just take sleep disruptions in stride the way it used to. (Hence the reason why my trip to France this past Fall triggered a depressive episode.) And I guess little kids are just naturally sensitive to this kind of thing. Although maybe some are more sensitive than others.

Before I go any further, let me just preface what I’m about to say by stating, very clearly and unambiguously, that I do not think that either Elsa or Clio have ever exhibited any evidence of having any sort of mood disorder, depression, etc. All of their behavior seems perfectly normal. Even the weirdly weepy mood Elsa was in earlier this week, where at one point she got into bed and started crying, explaining that it was because the night before I hadn’t let her have warm milk with honey when she was having trouble sleeping. (The fact that she’d had trouble sleeping was news to me; she’d never called me or even asked for warm milk.)

BUT, I confess: because I have depression, and because Alastair’s got some himself, I can’t help myself from wondering and worrying that one or both of the girls is going to end up with some kind of mood disorder, too. And when they seem sad or lethargic for no apparent reason, I can’t stop myself from wondering — even though I know it’s absurd — is this some kind of sign of things to come?

I hate the idea of the girls having to deal with depression, and I can’t help feeling a little guilty about this genetic legacy we’re giving them.

On the flip side, I also worry about being over sensitive and hyper-vigilant. When they’re older, going  through, say, the natural mood swings and challenges of adolescence, I don’t want to hover around them, spouting off diagnostic criteria: Do you find it difficult to concentrate? Do you find you don’t take pleasure in activities your normally enjoy? Are you feeling irritable? Are you sleeping more or less than usual?

But if, for either of them, the “within the range of normal” spectrum of feelings and mood slips into the depressive zone (and Lord knows, there’s no strict way to be sure) I don’t want to miss it, and therefore not be able to offer the right kind of attention and help. I don’t want them to suffer unnecessarily, or worse.

Something else I wonder about is: when do I tell them about my condition? When do I explain what it is? During my most recent, blessedly short-lived period of depression, I did tell them that I was feeling sad, and went a little farther than that to say that sometimes Mommy gets sick in a way that makes it hard for her to be happy and relaxed and have fun.

But another time, when Elsa saw me filling my pill case up as we packed to get ready for a trip, and asked me what they were for, I didn’t say they were pills that helped me not feel sad. I just said they were medicine that I had to take so I wouldn’t feel sick. So, of course, she asked if she should take some too. Which actually made for a good discussion about what different kinds of medicine are for, and re-emphasizing the importance of not taking medicine herself.

But what a weird thing it will be when my daughters discover, or I tell them, that I take medicine to regulate my moods. (But, I’ll also be telling them out of the other side of my mouth, they shouldn’t drink or do drugs to feel good, because they’re dangerous, and it’s a totally different thing. Trust me.)

I’d be curious to hear from any parents out there who have mental illness or mood disorders, on any of this stuff.

Back to the present: I think we’ve all come through our DST adjustment. Moods seem to be back on track, for all of us. How did you do?

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Photo: Rucativava via Flickr

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