When Jaxen was born, it was very obvious I am his mother. He has my eyes, my cheeks, my stink eye. He has his daddy’s chin, his daddy’s toes, and his daddy’s stubborn streak. Before I held him, I would wonder what he would look like, what traits he would inherit. Would he have dark, curly hair? Are his fingers and toes going to be webbed? Would he be able to see the big “E” on the eye chart?
He was born completely healthy and is growing into a wonderful little boy. He’s extremely bright, loves to dance, and giggles at Godzilla. I would go so far to say that Jaxen is a happy, well adjusted little boy, which is a huge relief as a mother. Especially a mother who suffers from depression. Because always in the back of my mind is the thought, will he someday struggle to get out of bed? Will his arm tingle when he’s anxious? Will he be able to focus and succeed? IF he does experience this, will I ever be able to forgive myself?
With adding Hunter to our family, these thoughts have intensified and with the need to adjust my medication it has truly started to sink in that forever on my medical chart will be the designation of a mental illness. Which irritates me, even though it should not. Also on that chart is allergic to penicillin and keflex, chronic tonsillitis, and a bad leg; none of those seem to bother me, so why does having a mental illness rub me the wrong way?
Possibly because I don’t feel mentally ill. Honestly, I believe that I’m very intelligent and able to do whatever I put my mind to. I have a successful career and strive to move forward. There are goals I wish to achieve, as a mother and a wife that I won’t give up. Surely, if I had a mental illness I wouldn’t feel so strongly about bettering myself. Except, that is exactly how this is working out.
There’s definitely a certain amount of shame that comes from the outside world. I’m not going to hide from the world that I’m made up of Dr. Pepper and Zoloft; why should I? I’m certainly not the only person on the entire planet who needs medication to help keep their head on straight. So why do we act like anyone who takes an antidepressant is weak and ridiculous? And heaven forbid they see a therapist! If only everyone got to talk about themselves for an hour each week, heck even once a month, and I mean really talk about themselves, all the dirty and painful things that they shrug off in middle of the night when they can’t sleep; the empathy level of the human race would explode.
I’m not saying that we need to wear shirts that say “Hi my name is (blank) and I’m bipolar” but perhaps we could be a little more thoughtful when someone expresses a struggle they are having. Perhaps check in on a friend who has just gone through a big life moment, even if it was a happy one, like having a baby (FACT: postpartum depression can manifest any time in the first TWO years after a baby is born). I’m also not saying don’t go looking under every crying emoji for a person going through a crisis, but the more we work on developing that empathy muscle, the more we can grow together. My biggest fear is that I will pass my fear of having a mental illness along to my children, rather than them being secure in the knowledge that their mother loved them deeply.