How do you manage your child's depression? Hell, how do you manage your own depression?
When you pick up your child from school and they tell you they are having a very depressed day and that they want to go cash out some of their money they earned this summer to treat you to sushi, how do you react? What do you say?
Honestly, my fear jumped into my chest immediately. We are still so close to the times earlier this year when depressed days were not discussed and I almost lost him. We didn't have a vocabulary for it yet. I hadn't recognized it was time to teach him some new "feeling" words.
I still feel very reactionary when he tells me he is feeling depressed. I don't ever want to lose him. All of this hits me square in the heart in the 10 seconds since he got into the car and said depressed. I am still in the kiss and go school line just sitting there.
The adult in me ask if it is based on something that happened during the day? His reply, "nope, just one of those out of the blue days."
I don't want to believe him, surely someone said or did something. You don't just get depressed, except in our family we do.
You can lecture them for sure. Who doesn't love a good lecture, right? I have been on the receiving end of those heart felt dialogues where every question is gauged and weighed to see if it merits the emotions I am feeling. Today, I decide to just keep my mouth closed and my ears open.
I have a check list of things to do instead of sitting and being depressed. He does as well.
Listen to happy music, dance, call a friend, call your mom, essential oils, go for a walk, pet a dog...
I keep my jumbled thoughts to myself and remind him my belly is messed up due to my ear infection and the antibiotics and offer to take him to the grocery store to get a take out sushi box so I can just eat some soup. He concedes that my dinner offer will appease him.
In the grocery store, he grabs a bag of cookies. I start to open my mouth to mention that we don't eat our feelings, except in our family we do. We also drink them, don't voice them and/or soothe them in the arms of a lover (good, bad or unknown). Some of us have been known to self soothe themselves into quite the shit show all because we can't seem to find the damn list of things to do when you feel depressed or overwhelmed.
It is really difficult to find a consistent friend to call on when you suffer from mood disorders. The drama gets old really fast to most people. The repetition seems almost personal and intentional if you don't suffer with depression. Finding someone to just be with you in that moment is very rare and special.
I had a friend laminate a small version of a list of "what to do when you are feeling depressed" for me many decades ago.
I used that laminated card to make lines of cocaine on a couple of occasions. I should stop and take a moment to thank the Gods that I am alive to tell my stories. There came a day, when I had to drop the card in the trash at a gas station so I didn't find it in my wallet and start thinking of how much easier things would be if I could just escape reality for a little while.
The problem is you have to have enough experience to know that you can make it to through the depression and that it is worth drudging through. That takes time and patience and endless repetition.
I will admit, I don't always want to leave the weight of depression. Sometimes it feels like bouts of depression are the only time I get to sit fucking down. Then there are the days the weight feels inhumanly crushing and I get scared I can't get the weight off of my chest, that I stayed too long.
Depression can be so very heavy and sometimes it doesn't seem possible or worth trying to move through it. Some times, even after you find the list, and you are holding it with both hands, staring at it intently, the magic just doesn't work.
My mind snaps back to my son and I realize it was a long holiday weekend with his dad, who isn't quite on board with the meds and their importance and our kids need for routine. Busy holiday weekend, weird schedules and I kinda saw some of this building, but then I got sick and had to come home.
I am happy tonight is a group therapy night and when we get in the car I causally mention that this might be a good question to ask tonight to see how people his age deal with getting themselves out of a long day of funk. All I can do is keep walking my walk and showing him what this adult does.
He is a year away from being a legal adult and I am actively working to remind myself that I can be a person he reaches out to when he needs help or I can teach him responsibility and accountability for his actions. It is such a slight of hand, the difference between the options. Most people don't notice when you stack the deck in their favor. If you are a care giver for someone with mental illness you know about stacking the deck in their favor. It offers a chance that the day will go well. I didn't notice or comprehend until I started attending the care givers group. There are no lectures, only slight head nods by a diverse group of adults who also once held onto the magic list like a lifeline. We all have access to the same information, but until you come to a group, you don't realize you are not alone in being pissed at that stupid list. There is no need to read the list out loud each meeting, we all have it memorized.
I know my son is very smart and learns by doing. He is a hands on type learner. He will walk through the steps several more times before he feels confident he can get through a bout of depression. He will have to try all of the tricks to figure out which ones will work for him and which ones won't. He is very hard on himself and I know he has his own internal dialogue in process, so today I gauged it is safe to listen and not speak. He is capable of figuring out the next step he needs to take, he alerted me to his mood and after filling his belly he got himself grounded again after some wobbly steps and get his homework completed.
I can't fix this for him, but for as long as possible, I will keep my arms out and open for him.