I wasn’t just a teen bystander to my mom’s depression; I was a champion of presence.
When I was a teenager my mother had depression. The depression grew in her because of a business situation that went bad. My family’s financial state was heavily impacted. My mom had convinced my dad to support the business, so she blamed herself when the business fell apart.
She struggled with coming out of her depression. It affected her daily life and ours. I was a sixteen-year old girl full of knowledge and hope. I talked with her at great lengths about how she could get over her depression.
I had lots of suggestions and I thought my mom could do anything. She would say I was wise for my age and that I was indeed right with my insights. I would walk away feeling like I fixed my mom. I thought I was helping.
Perhaps I was helping, but perhaps I wasn’t. She agreed my positive viewpoints were right, but she still couldn’t rise out of her depression fog. It confused me because she agreed with me yet she didn’t get better. I began to realize that although she knew in her head that I was right, she didn’t believe it in her heart. Just knowing she could get better was not enough.
The head is entirely different than the heart.
My mom amazed me. She tried many different routes to try and heal herself. She read self-help books and the Bible. Her arsenal to fight depression included therapy sessions and medications. We went to the therapist as her family support. We said we didn’t blame her for any of it. We told the therapist we were at peace about it all and we thought that was all that was needed. Our thoughts were there, done. It should be over now.
But it wasn’t.
That was not what she was looking for in the way of help. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to help her defeat the depression. What the head knows the heart doesn’t always get.
My idealistic teenage mind thought her depression was more like a light switch. I thought once she knew we didn’t blame her for anything she could just flip the switch to off and not be depressed anymore. I fought hard to reason with her heart to show her everything was ok. Her brain understood but her heart wasn’t convinced.
My heart was bursting with so much hope and energy. I thought I could fling that positive hope and energy out of my heart, through my mouth and it would stick to my mom. I still naively thought our conversations could heal her.
I kept talking.
Her depression continued.
She lived struggling through it daily while life went on without her. I would talk with her each day. I’d see a glimmer of joy and hope in her eyes; I felt instant success. My busy teen life would take me running off to live in the moment full of joy that I had fixed my mom. But the next day I’d find her in the same sad way. The depression held her down hard and wouldn’t let her heart keep the light I shared with her. She held that light just for a few moments only to have depression squash it out.
I worried about my mom. I tried to do things to help her. Things she never knew I did like taking extra care to turn off lights around the house to reduce household costs and reduce her worry load. I tried keeping my room cleaner and my laundry in the right spots to help her have less to do. I thought all this would help her and maybe scratch through that tough depression shell she was encased in. My thoughts were maybe if I did extra around the house, if I was more mindful in how I carried my young self that these actions would help her.
I’ll never know if they helped or not because I can’t ask her.
I lost my mother to death when I was sixteen. I fell into a depression of my own. Living with my own depression taught me what depression was really like. I understood why my mom’s heart reigned over her head. I finally understood she knew she could get better and she wanted to get better, but she was powerless to. Depression held her prisoner in its strong stony cage just as it held me. She couldn’t get out because coming out of depression is not just an act of will or simply wanting to come out of it.
There is so much more to it than that.
It takes help on all fronts of a person’s life. It can swing up and down based on daily hardships. Depression makes us not care about some things and care too much about others.
Depressed people don’t want to be depressed. Depressed people don’t like being depressed. They are stuck in it, trapped and alone. I know this because I lived it and I survived.
I wasn’t just a bystander to my mom’s depression; I was her champion of presence. She wasn’t alone because I was there with her. Daily. I was her witness, her cheerleader, her light and hope. I was her ever-lasting champion enduring the time with her. I don’t regret a minute of it. She knew I was there for her and I always would be.
No matter what.