How Playing “House” with My Daughter Revealed the Depths of My Depression

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

I watched my daughter futz around in her “kitchen:” She was grabbing plates and cups. She put bananas in the oven and took eggs out of the microwave. While she wasn’t doing anything specific — she was just moving things, organizing things … disorganizing things — I could tell she was having a great time. We were sitting together, we were playing together, and she was having fun.

“Mommy. Tea?”

My daughter picked up her pink teapot and shook it violently. (She would probably refer to her actions as “enthusiastic” — if she knew the word, or its meaning — but since that plastic kettle nearly collided with my face, I’m going with “violent.”) The teapot began laughing and playing music but instead of exciting my daughter, it frustrated her.

Mommy! No working. No working!” she shouted.

I grabbed the Fisher Price pot from her hand, popped the lid open, and closed it. It began bubbling, boiling like water on a stove. My daughter smiled.

“See, it’s working,” I told her. “Here.”

I passed it back to her, and she immediately tilted it on it’s side to pour “tea” into a little lavender mug.

“Here, Mommy!”

“Oh, for me?” I asked, before taking a sip. “Thank you.”


“No, thank you,” I told her.

She filled my cup again. There. More.

Mmmmm. Thank you sweetheart.”


“No, no thank –” before I was able to get out the words, the tea “refilled” itself, and my cup floweth over.


To say this went on for awhile would be an understatement. In fact, I cannot tell you how long we sat there — exchanging pleasantries, clinking glasses, saying “Cheers,” and having tea — but it was quite some time. What stood out most about this moment wasn’t what my daughter was saying or doing or even how she was playing, it was the way I felt. Scratch that: It was the way I didn’t feel. You see, that entire afternoon was blur: a blur of repetitive play and vacant stares. Because while I was there — I was “playing” with her, and watching her — I wasn’t actually present. I was talking to her, but not with her. I was staring past her, and not at her.  I was engaged and “parenting,” but my mind was a million miles away. I was a million miles away.

Why? One word: Depression.

Depression is more than a list of symptoms … no bulleted list can describe what I feel like.
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According to Psychiatry.org, depression — a disease which affects approximately nineteen million Americans, or 9.5% of the population every year — “is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” Symptoms include feeling sad and hopeless, empty and worthless. You may experience a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and you may sleep less … or more. You may have suicidal thoughts and become fixated on death. And while depression is treatable, “it can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”

But depression is more than a list of symptoms, and no symptoms can describe what depression feels like. No bulleted list can describe what I feel like.

You see, I feel like I am locked in a glass room: Everyone can see me — and I them — and the world goes on as usual, but inside that “box” I am screaming. Inside I am crying. Inside I am dying.

And it doesn’t end there.

Depression pull and pulls and pulls until I am so far down in my “dark place,” so far down in the pit of despair, that I am no longer sad. I am just numb. I am standing in a place, an empty space, void of feeling and emotion, and I’m trapped. I am alive but not well. I am breathing but not living. I am playing with my daughter — I am having tea — but the cup is as empty as my soul.

My heart and my mind are somewhere else.

I am somewhere else.

The problem is, the very idea of “fun” is foreign when you are in the grips of a depressive episode.
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I remember sometime around cup three or seven or ten I started thinking: I should be happy. I should be smiling and laughing. I should be having fun. But I’m not. Why am I not?

I mean, I know why I’m not. (I’ve struggled with depression since I was 15 years old; this is nothing new.) But I still want to change it. I still want to fight it. I still want to have fun.

The problem is, the very idea of “fun” is foreign when you are in the grips of a depressive episode. Hell, it is completely incomprehensible, but even on a good day, “adulting” often stands in the way: How can we have fun when we are focused on cooking, cleaning, paying bills or completing homework assignments? How can we have fun when we have to work and go through the grueling paces of life?

Well, we find it in the little things: in the taste of a home cooked meal, in the comfort of late-night snuggles (with our significant other, or a throw pillow), and in the sound of laughter — our children’s, our parents, our friends, or our own. We find it where we can and when we can. Because we need to. Because we have to. Because it is what makes life worth living.

So while I couldn’t “snap out of it,” I did choose to stay with it. I sat on her woodland-inspired rug — between Minnie Mouse (pink dress) and Minnie Mouse (red dress) — and sipped tea. We talked and toasted and I drank cup after cup. Because while it was the tea I couldn’t taste, it won’t always be. One day this cloud will clear, and one day we will be having fun.

One day I will be having fun.

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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