I’ve said this in prior posts, but hopefully writing it over and over again will help me to know better how to tackle it.
I hate that my depression affects my kids.
Because I know it does.
According to Mark Gold, M.D., author of “The Good News About Depression” (say what?), studies suggest a 40 to 45 percent rate of psychiatric disorders, mostly depression, among children of parents with mood disorders.
I wish I could ignore those stats and not believe that my tears trigger anxiety in my little guys.
But I can’t.
Which is why one of the most touching moments of my weekend with my guardian angel–and there were many–was when I heard her explain depression to David and Katherine.
“I used to be sad and cry like your mom did,” she said, “but now I have a doctor and medicine just like your mom.”
“Don’t worry when your mom cries,” she continued, “because she will call me, and I will help her feel better.”
I can’t even write that without tearing up.
It makes me think of moments like the afternoon David earned his last yellow stripe to get his yellow belt.
Five four-year-old boys were sitting in “level eight” karate pose on the olive green and red padded mat of Evolutions Gym in Annapolis.
“Who knows the rules?” asked Mr. Joe, a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and a Master Tactical Instructor.
“No pushing,” yelled one Karate midget.
“No talking,” said another.
“We control what?” asked Mr. Joe.
“Our bodies,” said the kid with an orange belt.
“Our mouths,” said everyone, cued by Mr. Joe holding his index finger over his mouth.
“And . . .” Mr. Joe pointed to his head.
“Our minds!” the five screamed.
If it were only that easy, I thought. I was fighting the usual war inside my head. Even though I had relegated 20 minutes in the evening to list in my journal all the negative messages I told myself (an exercise my therapist recommended), insults still sneaked into my head about once every half-second.
The boys hadn’t even stood up before I began my battle against the voices.
You’re stupid. You’re lazy. You’re weak.
I reached inside my jean pocket, clutched my medal of St. Therese, and fought back.
Shut up! Shut up! Jesus, be with me, I said as I concentrated on my breathing.
Inhale, one, two, three, four. Exhale, one, two, three, four.
Meanwhile, Katherine wouldn’t leave the water cooler alone. A typical two-year-old, she was filling up paper pixie cups with water and dumping them in the trash.
“Stop it!” I scolded her, picking her up. She threw a tantrum, of course, head and legs thrust backward. Two moms shot me the “you have no control over your kid–you need Super Nanny” look.
Stressed out, I headed to the playroom, or the “pink-eye pit,” designed for difficult siblings of disciplined karate kids.
You’re a horrible mother. You suck at it. You’re not cut out for it. You’re not cut out for anything.
Stop it! I’m a good mom. Jesus, be with me, I fought back again. Concentrate on your thoughts. Appreciation. Appreciation. Think of everything you have to be grateful for.
According to Dan Baker, author of “What Happy People Know,” appreciation is the antidote to fear, and fear (of not having enough or not being enough) causes depression and anxiety.
I tried to do what Baker calls the Appreciate Audit. I thought about all the things I was thankful for. I didn’t know where to start. I had money to pay for this karate class. I had two healthy kids, one so healthy he could kick the hell out of the sheet of plastic Mr. Joe held up for him, and the other so healthy I could barely restrain her during a tantrum. I had all my limbs, legs to walk to the water cooler to get Katherine and arms to tie David’s white belt with nine yellow stripes. I had all my senses, eyes to see Katherine throwing the pixie cups filled with water into the trashcan, eyes to see the stares from the other moms who apparently have their kids under better control.
I was only three items into my gratitude list when I caught sight of a mom plugging away at her laptop computer. Her son was seated at the while kids’ table reading quietly to himself.
Now there’s a mom who can multitask. You could never do that. You’ll never write again. You couldn’t hold a job if you wanted to. You’ll never amount to anything.
I started to fight back again but felt defeated. My eyes were wet, ready to burst into Niagara Falls at any minute.
Come on. Don’t give in. Control your thoughts. Jesus, be with me!
My stomach began to shake, then my legs. Before I knew it, I was trembling and on the verge of a bona fide panic attack.
Look at you. You are pathetic. You can’t control your thoughts. How are you going to drive home like this?
Visibly shaking with tears now running down my face, I picked up Katherine and headed to the bathroom.
On the way I read all the inspirational framed prints that lined the wall outside the main gym.
The first one was about determination. On the bottom of an image of runners crossing the finish line was a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Believe in yourself. You must do that which you think you cannot do.”
We arrived back to the karate class in time to hear Mr. Joe tell the five kids to use their “black belt spirit.” I felt like I had just flushed mine down the toilet, never to be retrieved. I couldn’t hide my red eyes, but I was able to restrain further tears.
David bowed on his way to the front of the class to be awarded the yellow stripe. And then, upon directions from Mr. Joe, ran to give me a hug.