Recently Sophia has forced me to listen to a popular local radio station. Normally, I enjoy what I call classic rock (or 80s rock which makes me feel old now that it’s called ‘classic’). I gave in to her request being that her recital songs play on this station and I wanting to be a cool mom decided to learn today’s music. Honestly, with what comes next it wouldn’t of mattered what radio station was on.
On our day off, Presidents Day, my 8 year old daughter and I had a day of fun. This day included the most fun activity of all… visiting my psychiatrist. Note sarcasm. Because of this I had to go to CVS to pick up my monthly medications. Sophia was with me. While we waited for them to be filled, Sophia was perusing the magazines… Then she asked…
“What’s going on with Bobbi Kristina (Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter)?”
Tough one. How do I explain this, mental illness, anxiety, depression and ultimately suicide to an 8 year old who suffers from anxiety herself and tends to turn everything into a catastrophe?! I thought about this for a minute.
Some of you will diagree with me about talking to Sophia about this but being that she can read, suffers herself and has just witnessed her mother’s breakdown, I felt I had to tell her something.
I told Sophia that Bobbi Kristina suffers from Depression like Mommy does. I then explained that some people who suffer from Depression feel that the only way to escape their pain and sadness is by taking their own life. I quickly followed that with…
“Don’t worry, Mommy is not going to kill herself. I’ve never ever had those thoughts. I’ve only had thoughts of running away. I NEVER had thoughts of killing myself.”
I had no idea what would follow as Sophia’s Anxiety Attacks can be triggered by almost anything and forces her to freak out at a moments notice.
Then she asked about herself. I told her for Mommy Anxiety is a major cause of my Depression but I’m an adult. I told her I know what to look for in her and right now Anxiety is her only issue.
Luckily, my explanation was enough for her and no anxiety attack followed.
Well, Sophia is a big thinker. She constantly thinks about everything. In the car this morning listening to her radio station, the DJ started to list off some news items starting with Bobbi Kristina and how she was still on life support but getting worse and her organs were beginning to fail. Sophia perked up and once again asked about her.
I explained that Bobbi Kristina must have been really depressed and tried to take her own life but she didn’t succeed. She then asked if she was okay. I told her that although she is still alive, she did a lot of damage to her body and most likely she will die soon.
Sophia then asked, “Mommy, are you going to do that?”
“No sweetie. Mommy is not going to kill herself.”
She then told me how she was going to talk with her therapist about this at the next appointment and added that maybe she shouldn’t listen to this radio station.
All this has left me in awe of her. At 8, she’s picked up news by reading magazine covers and by little snippets on the radio. I can’t hide everything from her. Most of me wanted to brush off the topic and lie to her telling her Bobbi would be okay but I just couldn’t. This little girl has seen me shaking, crying, dry heaving, delusional. She’s seen me at my worst and is old enough to remember and know Mommy is sick. This little girl suffers herself with Anxiety which makes her nauseous and delusional. I had to tell her something.
Mental Illness is real. It affects all ages. It plays with your mind. It plays with your body. Unfortunately, it can occur in children. Unfortunately, children can witness their parents. My child both suffers and has witnessed her mother’s suffering. I chose to explain it to her in a way an 8 year old would understand. I chose to break the stigma.