A Letter To My Children About My Depression

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
about depression

Dear Children,

I try to be a good mother to you. I’ve memorized your favorite books, the ones we read over and over and over. I hang your artwork on the refrigerator so you can see how proud I am. I let you play with glitter. We bake cupcakes and I even let you crack the eggs, though I know I’ll have to pick shell out of the batter when you’re done. We play Hot Wheels. I try to always be happy for you.

But, sweet babies, I just can’t.

See, there is something wrong with my brain. The best way to explain it is this: Imagine there are special potions that get poured into your brain. These potions help make you happy. The vast majority of people have these potions, and they can laugh and dance and play games. My potions dried up. I don’t have enough of them anymore and that means it’s very hard for me to do the things happy people do. Not having those potions is called depression. When you’re depressed, it’s hard to laugh, dance, and play games, even though I want to. I cry sometimes. I can’t help it. It’s because people with depression don’t have the special potion.

That means sometimes when I’d like to be sweet, I just can’t. I get stressed out because I’m depressed, dear hearts. So sometimes I yell. I yell a lot more that I’d like to. I know you count as yelling anything in a harsh voice, and I do that a lot too. Sometimes, when you do something so simple as ask for a glass of water in a whiney voice, I say, “Fine!” in a voice that isn’t very kind. I’m so sorry for that. I don’t want to or mean to. It’s hard for both of us: You feel unwanted, and I feel guilty that I made you feel that way. It’s a lot of sad feelings. Being depressed is like that.

Sometimes I get very upset about things that shouldn’t upset me at all. For example, you’re a kid. You play. And when you play, sometimes you make a mess. Messes are only a problem if you don’t clean it up. But when you have depression, the mess becomes the problem. I yell at you to clean up a lot. I might threaten to take your toys. You get angry. I get angry. It’s miserable for both of us, that much anger. Depression does that, too.

And sometimes you might see me cry. I try not to let you. I try very hard. I cry in the shower most of the time. But some day, you might see it. Like the other day, when you wouldn’t clean, and you kept coming to me and saying your brother wouldn’t clean, and your brother kept coming to me and saying you hit him or hurt him, and it degenerated into you saying no one ever helped you while your two brothers played in the hallway. I cried then. You crept away, unable to deal with my tears. You shouldn’t have to. You came back later and told me you were sorry and you loved me. You gave me a hug — a child’s attempt to comfort me. You shouldn’t feel like you have to comfort me. I don’t want you to feel that way. Without depression, it wouldn’t happen.

Some days are black days when the depression comes early and stays late. On those days, I only feed you easy food — which often means PB&J — and you watch way, way, way too much TV. I resent being asked to read books. I let you build forts out of clothes baskets and do the things you aren’t allowed to do normally because I don’t have the energy to tell you no. I don’t have the energy to do anything. Depression does that.

Depression doesn’t mean we can’t be happy sometimes. We can make cupcakes and splash in mud puddles. We can eat watermelon for breakfast and play tag in the front yard. I’ll even pitch baseballs for you. But sometimes, depression makes it hard to do anything fun. It makes me angry, and stressed, and sad. It makes me feel like nothing.

I’m sorry, darling. I’m sorry for every iota of suffering you put up with because of my depression. We’re doing everything we can to treat it, and eventually, something will work. Then I won’t feel these things anymore. This is not permanent.

But until then, I’m sorry. There’s one thing, though, that depression can’t take away: my love for you. I love you to the moon and back. And one day, I promise, I’ll be better.

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