Parenting with Depression and Anxiety
I’ve decided this will be a running theme for my page. How can you be a good parent (or “good-enough” as my therapist keeps insisting as I forever beat myself up), when you are too depressed to be a good anything? Maybe laying it down here for others to read will make it easier to heed the inner voice telling me not to say and do the crap to my kids that I am constantly hating myself afterwards for doing. Just this week it happened again. And lately it seems that it happens despite lengthy conversations with myself about how to handle a given situation properly because I do know how to do what’s right. I’ve had enough therapy to know that much. I go in with a plan and I manage to blow it up anyway.
Put simply I ruined my daughter’s “graduation” ceremony from Middle to High-School. She was sooooo excited the whole day and I’m afraid her “rational” exhuberance makes me edgy, to say the least. It’s hard to be miserable in the face of such unabashed joyfulness. It bugs me. I KNOW…I’M AWFUL (apologies to my therapist, but this is some well-deserved self-flagellation). The truth is, mostly thanks to her Dad, my daughter can be presumptive to say it nicely. My parents would have called it demanding and self-centered and they were wrong to do so, my broken spirit as a child being the result. My daughter is expecting that all her needs will be met on most days. She’s 14! I think all 14-year old girls are kind of like that, no? But on the day of her 8th grade graduation, she was feeling particularly like the center of the universe. And I, as usual, was feeling tired and grouchy and wanting to be left to wallow in my own dark mood.
When she started texting me at 2pm from school if we could go out to dinner for her special day I got annoyed because she wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was a school night and by the time the ceremony was over it would be 8 or 8:30, I explained. That was simply way to0 late to be going out for her younger brother and for Dad who has to get up at 5:30 am for work. I was particularly annoyed because she just broke her iPhone for the 2nd time in three months and she was texting me and arguing with me about it from her friend’s phone. So now, not only am I mean Mom but it’s all documented on her friend’s cell phone! This is when I had the self-talk. I knew she’d be a bit out of control this day and that she didn’t mean to embarrass me and that it was her special day. I was going to remain cool. Right. Great plan.
She comes in an hour or so later and starts for the 20th time that month to complain about what is for dinner. No matter what I say or how much effort it’s taken, she asks if we can have pizza instead. (Sometimes it’s even worse, that is, when the dreaded macaroni and cheese request is made). Of course I know she doesn’t mean to hurt me by being dismissive, even though cooking when I’m depressed feels like the equivalent of having a tooth pulled. Then before 10 minutes has passed, she’s berating her brother and sister for not coming to the ceremony. As if all these 2 young ones want to do is sit in the high school gym for 2 hours and listen to the teachers congratulate themselves and give enlightened speeches to a bunch of rowdy 8th graders who aren’t listening. Then, moments later, she stopped speaking to her sister for taking the piece of bread that she wanted. I said what I planned on saying earlier…”That’s enough now. I know you’re excited, but you need to take it easy.” The cliche “in one ear and out the other,” would certainly apply here. But then the final straw came.
Twenty minutes before we were to leave I went to change. I was told I needed to dress up. Had I known I’d have to sit in the bleachers (oh my God they are uncomfortable) I would have refused. But I went along. I was steaming from the ears a bit at that point and then she gets me good…she needs her outfit ironed. Ok, I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal. It isn’t. What kind of mother, good, good-enough, not that great even, would complain about ironing her daughter’s outfit for a graduation ceremony. It just came on the back of 10 other annoyances that hit me when I was in that mood. And I lost it. I remembered my self-chat, and I said screw that…it’s all about ME now. I told her she needs to think about other people once in awhile and not ask me just as I’m about to get dressed to iron (God I hate ironing). I told her if she asks me for pizza one more time instead of the of dinner I planned I will never buy pizza again. I told her if she was rude to her younger brother and sister one more time that week, she’d be staying in all weekend. And I got a million, “Okay’s” in repsonse. She looked taken aback. As if I was just completely insane to be mean to her on this day. She looked hurt. She, after all, was graduating from 8th grade. A very huge deal to her and it should have been to me also. She looked at me like I should have known all this and what the hell was wrong with Mom now….and she was 100% right.
Why is it so damned hard to do what’s right when you know what’s right? Why does this depression have to make me be my mother? Why, when you know these things does the illness get the better of you most of the time? Why can’t I beat it? If not for me, then for them? All I can do now is apologize and try again. I’m forever trying again. Maybe when she’s my age grading my progress, I’ll get partial credit for effort. It’s all I can hope for because if she feels about me when she’s my age as I do about my mother…I don’t think I’ll want to exist. God help me.