Parenting With Depression - A Fathers View By Brian Whitten
I am a husband. I am a father. I am an employee of an oilfield company. In most areas of my life I am rather busy, but parenting takes the most of my time and attention. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I am always a parent to my two children. I don’t have a reason to not feel happy and joyful. But unfortunately for me depression doesn’t need a reason.
For a regular 35 year old man, I sometimes have thoughts and feelings that don’t seem all that regular. The happiness and joy I feel periodically feel less familiar and genuine than sadness and apathy. For as long as I can remember I have felt this way and have lived my life, for the most part, medically untreated. There was a brief time where I was medicated and under the care of a psychiatrist, but at that point in my life for several reasons I was unwilling to continue the treatment.
When my daughter was born and I became a parent in 2011, there was a feeling of pure joy and happiness, and again in 2015 when my son was born. I truly felt and still feel that a parent was what I was born to be, and I take the responsibility extremely seriously. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children’s safety and happiness, but for the better part of their lives I haven’t been fully able to be present for them. Saying this out loud is a great source of shame and guilt for me, but when I am depressed I don’t want to be around anyone, especially them. I don’t want to burden them with a version of their father that isn’t able to experience happiness, and the isolation that accompanies those thoughts can feel like a prison.
I spend time alone in my bedroom, or hiding in the bathroom. With the extra pressure of entertaining the kids along with dealing with my reclusive behavior, my wife feels the strain of having three kids in the house instead of two. Just as I am unable to be present for them I also am unable to be present for her as well.
I understand fully what it means to be a parent. I do. I truly do and am so grateful for each and every moment of my children’s existence. The funny thing is that all the happiest memories of my life as a parent have had to compete heavily with my depression, and that battle is an exhausting one. It was a little over a year ago now I finally decided to take some action against it.
I started seeing a therapist in June of 2017. What drew me to him was the fact that he said that medication was not an option under his care. Honestly, I never knew how much I stigmatized mental illness until it was suggested that I myself may have one. For some reason I find it so difficult to show empathy toward myself rather than to others. I know many people, friends and loved ones that live with mental illness. I feel no judgment towards them; in fact it makes me love them more. But when it came to my own struggles, there was a level of shame and self-stigma that I struggled to get passed or let go. I came to the realization that that this self-stigma alone was the main reason why I was unwilling to explore a medicinal treatment for my depression. This realization was one that really rocked my world, and paired with the months on end of depression with little reprieve I became desperate for relief.
After a few months of discussing it with my therapist, my support circle, and my family I made the decision to seek further medical treatment. At that point I was willing to try something different. Something I was even frightened of doing and swore I would never do again…be medicated. I wrote a poem about it after the first couple of days and here it is for you to read in raw form.
“So once again I am back on the medicine.
Sweating and shitting and chilling,
Not relaxing like chilling should suggest,
But more like I’m fucking cold, then I’m hot, then I’m cold, and then so on. The bottle says all of this is supposed to happen.
And the good doctor says that only twenty percent of the population experiences any relief with this treatment.
And I saw that the scale said two twenty, so I’m really hoping that I am part of that aforementioned twenty.
I’ve had a bit to eat recently, in fact I’ve had plenty,
I use food to help me cope when I’m in a bad mood,
And it certainly feels that way,
I saw that number on the scale and attributed it to my blues,
And immediately asked the nurse if I could take off my shoes,
The doctor wouldn’t stop talking; no he wouldn’t shut up,
Telling me I really looked sad and that he could really feel it,
And I couldn’t think of anything to say to appeal it,
Telling me about this medication and that medication,
And then I realized that he was giving me both of them,
I was apprehensive at first but he assured me that neither of them would get me fucked up,
When in actuality the whole thing has got me fucked up,
Take one pill for a weak and then take two,
What the fuck is that supposed to do?
The pamphlet says that the sweating and shitting and chilling should be gone before the next visit,
I want this to work so I am willing to shut up and listen,
To sweat and shit and chill; before bed take a pill,
And wake up and take a pill,
If it gives me a chance at being happy.”
That was written recently. Since then I have been having good days, and I have been having bad days as well. I am still experiencing the stress that comes from working full time and parenting full time. But even though I am uncertain as to whether or not the medication is working for me or not I am certain of one thing. I love my children. The greatest assets I have ever found in myself I have passed to them, and I am humbled by their tender and loving spirits. They give me the strength to love myself when my depression is beating me down. Every new day is a new opportunity to experience happiness., and to the best of my ability I am going to do my part. The struggle is real but my desire for joy and determination to be happy for my children and myself is real too. That desire is in my spirit and no struggle is stronger than our human spirit.
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