Bringing Up Baby

My mother loves to learn more than anyone else I know. Whether she’s reading a book on mindsets or taking an online course on the brain, she’s constantly seeking out new ways of looking at the world around her. She’s a problem solver by nature, thankfully, because when I was a kid I threw her a pretty big parenting curveball.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 11. By that time it had completely overshadowed my life. Depending on the day, it would either render me catatonic, unable to leave my bed, or it would reduce me to an inconsolable mess of tears. I was just a kid, so I didn’t have the language to articulate what was happening to me. All I knew was something was off. Through years of therapy, trying different medications, and learning coping methods, I have learned a lot about depression and how it affects me specifically. My mom has been there with me every step of the way. She’s been there to take me to the doctor, go on walks with me, and sit in bed and read my favorite books to me when I told her I didn’t know who I was anymore and didn’t know if I could keep going.

Though today I still have up days and down days, I’ve learned a lot about how to stay mentally afloat. It occurred to me that, throughout the years, I never knew how my mom was feeling. She always remained my stalwart. I decided to ask her some questions about her experience.


Has your perception of mental illness, and depression specifically, changed from when I was diagnosed to now? If so, how has it changed?

Yes, my perception has changed. I used to think of depression as more of a “sadness/happiness” dichotomy. Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you’re happy. Now I think it presents in different ways – sadness, anger, fatigue, etc. – depending on many factors. I think you exhibited some symptoms even when you were little, but we didn’t recognize it as depression, and the symptoms never lasted very long. It’s easier to see things in hindsight.


What are your thoughts on different methods of treatment (therapy, medication, etc.)? What have you learned about treatment over the years?

I believe very firmly in the mind/body connection, which is why I encourage you to take care of yourself (exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, get enough vitamin D, etc.). My opinion of medication has changed, though. I used to think that I never wanted my children to be medicated, but I now know that medication can be an important tool in the toolbox. I still believe the other methods are important and should be part of a comprehensive regimen, along with therapy and medication.


What have you learned about yourself?

I’ve learned that I can’t be happy if either of my children isn’t happy. There’s an expression that goes, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” Boy, is that true for me. I’ve learned I have to let you navigate this journey, even though there are times when I want to take charge and try to fix everything. I know that I can’t do this because it’s not something that can be easily fixed, and I shouldn’t because when you’re driving the train, you’re learning lifelong mental health management skills, which is so important, so you have to do it for yourself.


What have some low moments been for you?

The one I remember most is when you were in 6th grade. The depression has really manifested as a debilitating sadness, and I didn’t know what to do to make it better for you. I remember driving to Staples one night because you needed a new binder for school, and it was snowing on my drive home. I put the brakes on suddenly, and the car went into a spin. I was so scared for those few seconds, which seemed to last for hours, but I didn’t crash, and was able to drive home safely. When I got home I went up to my bedroom, lay down on the bed and sobbed until I had cried it out. Everything felt so overwhelming and I felt so helpless as a parent.


How would you say our relationship has changed over the years?

We’ve definitely gotten closer. I’ve been so impressed with you and what you’ve done to manage your depression and the coping skills you’ve developed. I think we’re more honest with each other than we would have been if you didn’t have depression.


What have you learned about me?

I’ve learned that you’re very creative, and talented, and funny, and strong, and that you’re all that despite your depression. Or maybe because of it. Some people believe there’s a link. I’ve learned that you’re resilient. I’ve learned that you’re incredibly determined and motivated to be as mentally healthy as possible, and I’ve learned to trust you and follow your lead.



I want to thank my mom for being so generous with her thoughts and stories. Though I certainly don’t always make it easy for her, I’m aware of how lucky I am to be so close to her; it can be so hard to do alone. If there’s one thing I hope this conversation can provide, it’s a bit of insight into how to talk about mental illness with the adults in your life. This wasn’t the most fun conversation I’ve ever had with my mom, but it was the first. Many of its kind have followed. Each one has only brought us closer.