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My Valentine

When your life partner has multiple mental health diagnoses (in my case, some treated effectively, some not at all) there are times when you can’t help but muse about what might have been.

Yes, I admit it. Occasionally I find myself fantasizing about what it would have been like to be married to someone who’s a fully functioning adult at all times. Someone I could always count on not just to “be there,” but to be a steady rock. Someone I could travel with happily, instead of struggling to survive his panic attacks when faced with unfamiliar situations. Someone who could look at difficulties and face them head on, rather than hiding and hoping they’d go away.

At those times I look back thirty years and wonder…would I have done things differently? I don’t know. There have been plenty of good times mixed in with the copious bad times. We have three absolutely awesome children together, and his influence had a lot to do with that – I sure didn’t raise them alone (though it might have seemed that way during the worst of times).

In the end, he’s still my valentine. But when I found a “make your own conversation heart” website, I couldn’t help but get just a little snarky, in the spirit of the upcoming holiday.

heart (1)

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heart (2)

Gotta keep that sense of humor.

-Amy

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Deflated.

All right, I’m giving in to a little moan.

Having experienced seasonal depression for several years AND having lived with my husband’s depression for most of our marriage, I’m recognizing some ugly signals in myself today. Exhaustion, lack of interest in things I care about, extreme irritability, generally a “meh” attitude.

I’m pretty clear on where this crap is coming from. An emotionally challenging, wringer of a week last week. Some disturbing news regarding my husband and the new career he loves so much – something that’s been dealt with for now but could create disaster at any point in time. A huge bombshell when I got to work this morning, which will lead to an unimaginable change from here on out (not tragic, but still – change is hard).

A Mother’s Day that mainly served to underscore the fact that my family is moving on. Which they should, of course. They’re turning into mature, healthy adults. But I’m painfully aware of the seismic shift in my role.

And, not least of all by any means, an unintended Mother’s Day surprise yesterday that completely knocked the wind out of me – a crying jag by my husband, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a few years. I walked into our bedroom yesterday afternoon to find him sobbing. Expecting to hear that something devastating had just occurred, I went into crisis mode. The real story: He’d come across a cache of notes and artwork created by our children when they were very small. And, as has happened many, many times over the years of his depression, he was instantly filled with regret and remorse for the many years of deep depression that – in his mind only – kept him from being a present and engaged father.

I’m working hard to process all this stuff without freaking out. I’ll do some deliberate damage control by getting some exercise and much-needed sunshine this afternoon. I’ll work to get a handle on some big projects looming at work.

But still, I’m a bit shell-shocked. Depression casts some long and heavy shadows.

-Amy

Mothering and Mental Health

Many of the people I care about most are genetically predisposed toward depression. That includes our three children.

As they got into their teen years, it was a subject we brought up repeatedly. Now that they’re all in college we check in with them regularly, knowing that a shocking percentage of college students experience depression and anxiety.

In the last few months, my mothering and mental health skills have been called into action for all three kids. Several months ago our oldest recognized in herself symptoms of depression and anxiety, and took appropriate medical action. Thankfully she kept us informed all the way, and we provided as much long-distance support as possible. Just over a week ago I discovered, however, that she hadn’t been coached in the importance of NOT running out of depression and anxiety meds. I used all the electronic media at my disposal to keep in touch with her, encouraging and reminding her to get her prescriptions refilled ASAP. And did my best to channel my anger toward the on-campus mental health clinic in an appropriate direction.

Also about a week ago our son broke the news that he was struggling in one of his classes. He loves the class, is highly motivated, and was proactive about taking care of the problem. But alarm bells went off in this mom’s head. It was while in college that his brilliant father, with every opportunity in the world open to him, fell off the deep end into a lifetime of depression. So we had intentional conversations with our son last week, praising him for being open with us and looking for the help he needed, reminding him that he can always come to us and that we’ll always be on his side.

Now our middle daughter has hit a low point in what has been an extremely difficult year for her. She’s at the top of all her classes, is self-motivated, and truly loves learning. Unfortunately, poor health that led to surgery a couple of weeks ago has brought her down. She’s exhausted, over-stressed, and beating herself up because just now she can’t work up to her own (too-high) standards. We had a long mental health pep talk this afternoon. I’m hoping she came away with some understanding of her need to accept where she’s at, give herself a break, and simply do the best she can under very difficult circumstances. Being all too familiar with the symptoms of depression, I’ll be watching her closely as she regains her physical health, to monitor whether her emotional health improves, as well.

Being a mother is a lifetime job. Being a mother of children who are at risk for depression raises the stakes.

-Amy

Beginnings and Endings

As a mom, I’ve always been acutely aware of the preciousness of every moment, every stage of our children’s lives. That’s not to say I’ve always enjoyed every single moment – there are quite a few tantrums, misbehaviors, and bad parenting decisions I’d like to have avoided entirely. But from the beginning I’ve had the sense that the time with our most bestest creations, our three kids, would fly by with breathtaking speed; that they’d be moving on to their own lives long before I was ready to see them go.

That has certainly been the case. In just over a week, our youngest leaves for his freshman year of college and our oldest leaves for grad school (thankfully our younger daughter has chosen to live at home for college – it’s a joy to have her with us still, though she’s got a very full academic, social, and community schedule). In my mind it was just a few days ago that they were splashing in mud pits in the back yard, covering Barbies in aluminum foil and launching them at top speed with a bungee cord, and filming their own versions of the Harry Potter movies.

As the day(s) of departure draw closer, I’m struggling. Tears are near the surface much of the time. And I’m already worrying about this year’s version of Seasonal Affective Disorder – my guess is that these life changes will make the season more difficult than ever. There’s definitely a “happy light” in my near future.

A post on “The Isle Child” hit me hard this week, as it addressed so much of what I’ve been thinking about. Check it out at http://islechild.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/the-940-saturdays-of-childhood/ and browse around while you’re there – it’s worth a good look.

one-story.com

one-story.com

We’re having “lasts” all over the place at this point. They started in the spring as we had our last moments and last events at the high school where we spent so much time over the years. This week there was our son’s last voice lesson at home (I listened carefully, enjoying his beautiful tenor/baritone voice, and knowing I wouldn’t hear it again until the first time I can make the trip to his university for a performance). Next week the lasts will flow constantly. I’m not sure Kleenex produces enough tissues to get me through the next couple of weeks.

Yes, I know there will be many “firsts” coming up, as well, and I will intentionally enjoy them as I always have. To be honest, I wish people would quit telling me that. I need to wallow for a bit. After all, a 22-year era is drawing to a close. It deserves some emotional attention.

But I don’t want to wallow for too long, because I know from experience that depression (the contagious kind that comes from living with a depressed person AND the seasonal kind that comes from my own body clock) is waiting to pounce. One way I’m planning to avoid prolonged wallowing and creeping depression is creating the diversion of a personal blog that I’ll debut once the two big moves are completed. If you’re interested, you’ll find it at http://momgoeson.wordpress.com/ For now it’s just a placeholder, giving me something to look forward to that’s fresh and new.

Here’s to all the first and lasts in our lives…
-Amy