When I was pregnant, I had all these visions in my head of what my future child would look like. I wondered if my baby would be a boy or a girl. I wondered if he or she would have dark hair like my husband and I, blue eyes or brown, my crooked nose or his…
I also dreamt of what my baby would be like in the personality department. Shy and intelligent like my husband, outgoing and creative like myself? I never thought about whether or not I would pass on my history of Depression to my child… not until after she was born. When Postpartum Depression hit, I never imagined I would survive. I didn’t think my marriage would survive. Apathetic, alone, desperate and helpless, I yearned for the day that I would feel somewhat normal again and honestly never thought I would see it. I cried. I cried oceans of tears. Then one day as I was sitting, sulking about how pathetic I was the thought came to my mind… what if I passed this on to my daughter?! I didn’t want to live anymore. You only want the best for your child(ren) and what happens if you passed on to them your worst!
At first it was the Postpartum Depression I was worried of passing on to her. Images flashed in my mind of her huddled in a corner with tears pouring down her face repeating, “I can’t! I just want to die!” with my grandchild wailing in the background. Where was I? Right next to her on the floor crying. Crying out of guilt and blame. Crying out of another bout of Depression I surely would fall into. I spoke about this with my therapist and his question to me was, “What can you do if this happens?” Instead of worrying so much about a future that may or may not come true, what could I do now?
I applied this logic. I got over the fear of passing on my Postpartum Depression to my daughter. I was happy in thoughts with her until the next Depression episode hit in 2008. It brought all those ugly thoughts and images back into my head… and new ones. Now I worried incessantly about passing on Depression and Anxiety in general to her. She would be screwed. Seems like with each generation, the number of times one suffered from Depression increased (at least in my ill mind). I now pictured her as a teenager with a knife to her wrist going back and forth in her head of whether or not to slice her flesh and end the pain and confusion. So much guilt built up inside of me. Years of therapy to come to terms that it may happen but I shouldn’t dwell on these thoughts.
Fast forward to this past winter, my latest and one of my most severe bouts of Depression. Once again images flashed in my mind about passing on this horrid illness especially as my daughter is now almost 9… only 5 years younger than I was when first diagnosed. At this time she has already been given an Anxiety diagnosis so my worry has already begun. Therapy for her has been a little bit helpful but like her mother she is stubborn and doesn’t want to do the work she needs to do to develop her coping skills. Yet another thing I passed to her that I wish I didn’t. Pictures in my head flash from her teenaged self holding the knife to her wrist, to pacing her college dorm room with fingers tightly wound in her hair, to her huddled on the floor with a screaming baby with a pillow over her head trying to block out the screams. All of it seems like it will be a reality for her. I know that these images may never actually occur but I see so much of myself in my daughter.
I gave her so many personality traits… she’s stubborn, strong-willed, emotional, impatient, anxious, a worrier… all of these traits that have hindered and hurt me, has caused mass confusion in my brain… fireworks of thoughts, explosions, and eventually emptiness and exhaustion. Over and over and over again. Taking a positive approach to this, she has also inherited my qualities of being caring, loving, creative, sweet and silly.
If I apply the logic my Therapist has told me repeatedly, “What can I do about it know?”, I realize dwelling on what may be will just cause me to miss out on her life and my own. So for now I watch her. I watch her grow taller, smarter, more amazing. I watch that her anxiety stays under control. I research and watch for Depression traits in children. I teach her about my illness and how it makes me think and act. I ask her principal at school to place her with a teacher that could handle her Anxiety diagnosis. She knows she has an open door policy with the School Psychologist. She is more learned in the area of Depression and Anxiety then I ever was at her age. There is more hope with her. More hope that she will recognize her triggers long before her mother ever could. Hope that she will go get help quicker because she has seen what can happen first hand.
I guess ultimately I hope I passed on the quality of hope to my daughter… to always feel hopeful and never to experience her mother’s helplessness. My hope has conquered and won over my helplessness… a helplessness that has kicked down my door 6 times. My hope is my Warrior. I hope I passed my Warrior on to my daughter!