- Mommy has a boo-boo/Mommy is sick/Mommy has an illness: The exact wording will change dependent on her age, but I want to explain to her that Mommy is sick. I won’t share the science behind it because, well, I still don’t comprehend it all. But I want her to know that it’s my illness that makes me sad, not her. Mommy’s illness makes her mad, not her. Mommy’s brain isn’t working right and, sometimes, that makes Mommy not work right. But it’s okay. Mommy will be okay and sometimes I just have to cry to feel better. Sometimes tears are a good thing.
- Mommy’s illness isn’t your fault: It is so easy for children to blame themselves when their parents are upset. Sure, I could pretend I will be perfect all of the time. I could pretend that my depression will never affect my relationship with my daughter, but I would be doing just that: pretending. So instead of having this conversation in the midst of a depressive episode, I plan to start a dialogue about depression — aka “Mommy’s boo-boo” — with my daughter. I will start small, start with the little things like telling her I am sick, but as she gets older and wants to know more, I will share more. I will let her know it is a part of who I am. I will let her know it isn’t her fault. I will let her know what I know, and how I feel. I will let her in and try, desperately try, not to push her away. Does saying this mean I can be a jerk? No. But it does allow us to have an honest conversation which I can only hope will allow her to accept my apologies if — when — I screw up.
- You can’t fix Mommy but doctors and medicine can: My daughter, bless her heart, wants to make everyone feel better. I kiss her boo-boos and hold her when she cries, and now at two, she does the same for me, and many of her friends. While it is sweet, I do not want her to ever — and I mean ever — think fixing me is her responsibility. And so I will tell her that. I will explain to her that I am seeing doctors to help me feel better. I will explain to her that I am taking medicine to make me feel better. And I will explain to her that just as I cannot cure her ear infections, only a doctor and antibiotics can, she cannot cure my depression.
- Mommy loves you, always: Most important, I will tell her this. Children need to know they are loved; they need to hear they are loved. With depression, children may feel unloved because mommy is crying or daddy won’t get out of bed. So as difficult as it is sometimes, and even though it tends to make me cry more, I always tell my daughter I love her, in the midst of a depressive episode or not. I tell her I love her, and she is my world. I tell her because actions do speak louder than words, and sometimes my actions suck. But I tell her because she deserves it. She deserves an explanation and an apology. She deserves a hug and kiss and an “I love you.” Because I do. I always do.
October 8, 2015 at 11:27 AM EDT