Friday, March 3, 2017
I am going to be a little personal here as I would like to reiterate on my last post about aging.
In a lot of ways, yes, I am getting in touch with my youth but in a lot of other ways, I am grateful for some of the more harrowing experiences I had as a child as they shaped me into the adult I am today. Some of my experiences with my parents helped shape the mother I am today with my son. You see, I come from the generation where my parents shrugged off mental illness. It wasn't discussed because you "didn't want to get thrown in the looney bin" and I want to hopefully encourage others to have a discussion with their children. For me, I was probably around the same age as my son (school-aged) and wasn't a teen before I started displaying symptoms of having anxiety.
According to my parents, depression and anxiety were "just a phase" or I was being a "typical teenager" and I would "grow out of it" I am sure for many young goths, these terms are the bane of our existence. I know it was for me! Here I am, in my late thirties, I still have these issues and am I am still goth. Sorry mom and dad, it wasn't just a phase, after all! I don't want to come across as I am bashing my folks online, I do realize today that my folks did the best they could BUT I personally refuse to put my head in the sand about this when it comes to my child. I simply want to write about the importance of being able to communicate with your children about their emotional well being. I grew up in a household where my father thought a cup of tea would solve everything and my mom shrugged it off. Looking back, I realized that perhaps things could have been different if someone in my life told me they understood or that they had some empathy towards me. I would also like to point out, as contradictory as this may sound, I personally have a hard time respecting anyone who uses their situation as a crutch to justify bad behavior. I was guilty of this. It sucks having any issues but it doesn't mean that it gives anyone the right to make excuses for being an ass. I can be the most sympathetic, understanding person on this planet BUT I have a hard time helping people who try not to help themselves. I know when under the knife so to speak, it is hard to want to get help for yourself when you feel like shit but it IS doable. As a parent, I also wish to teach my kid that yes, you can feel whatever you want but it is how you behave that is important. Sometimes, one must take responsibility.
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Over the years, I learned the hard way to deal with my ailments without any desire to have a pity party around me. I am very fortunate to not require medication (although I am very open to the possibility should I ever require it) for my situation. I learned how to cope with it
Being a parent enabled me to be more self-aware of MY emotional well being, after all, how am I to care for someone dependent on me if I were to be a basket case? There are times I don't want to get out of bed and I have a hard time managing my anxiety but I remember my son and it helps me. I have a pretty valid reason to really be proactive with this but I do realize that I am lucky.
Now that I am a parent myself, I am paranoid that my child may have anxiety. Remember, I was roughly his age when there were warning signs with me. I have seen some red flags (I could be wrong) but out of respect for Philip, I do not wish to go into details or specifics. I would much rather feel stupid over having an irrational fear of my kid's mental well being than him going down the same road I did when I was younger.
The point of this post is to stress the importance of being able to talk to your children. Please don't make the same mistakes my parents made. This is something that might not be a phase or shrugged off. I get it. For someone who has never had a mental illness, it is hard to understand. I know my parents today regret not listening to me. It broke my father's heart to see me in that depressive state and he blamed himself for it. Start a conversation. It doesn't have to be about anxiety or depression. Ask your kids how they feel and really listen. What I wanted the most when I was younger was to have someone who understood me or at least listen to me and I didn't get that. I remember this and don't want to repeat the pattern. I made it very clear to my little one that I understood some of it. I also stressed that I may not understand everything as I am not in his head but I made it very clear that I will do my best to try to understand. He has my empathy. His feelings matter, they are important. I may not like how he can react to some of his feelings but I will never judge him for having them. I will correct bad behavior though. I made it very clear that he can come to me for anything. He is safe with me. That is another thing. Make sure you listen to the little silly things now because to a child, they can be pretty big. If you don't listen to their silly kid problems now, what makes you think they will talk to you about more serious issues later on?
Again, I don't blame my parents anymore as I know they did the best that they could do but we are no longer in the eighties and nineties. I am sure there will be a day where my little one points out any mistakes I made, I am waiting to hear them! I discovered so many resources in my area that are available for not only my kid but for me too! Let's move forward. If you are a parent with a child with any form of mental illness, don't be ashamed. My depression and anxiety made me a very creative, kind, empathic person. If I were given a choice to have a life free of anxiety and depression, I wouldn't take it. It helped shape the person I am today. I know where to find beauty in the dark.