As many of you already know, I began seeing a counselor recently to help me sort out my life and try to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy. During my last session the counselor asked me how the twins were dealing with the separation and I was ashamed to admit the only time we’d talked about it was last year right after our initial separation. I never brought it up again after that because I just assumed that if they needed to talk about it or if they had questions about it they would ask me.
The counselor then asked me what they thought about what I was going through. I told him that as far as I know they have no idea what I’m going through. I have certainly made no effort to tell them I’m suffering or why. I explained to him that I thought I should shield them from as much of this as possible as they’ve already had a rough time and I just wanted them to enjoy their childhood and not worry about the fact that their father is crazy. The counselor said he understood my intentions but then said he thought I was unintentionally teaching them some bad habits by not showing emotions and sharing my feelings.
I thought about it and realized that he was right. I don’t want the boys to be afraid to show emotions or think that it’s wrong to feel. I don’t want them to think that they shouldn’t share. I don’t want them to think they should be loners as I have been most of my life. More importantly, I want them to know that they can come to me when they need to and we can discuss anything they need to discuss whether it be feelings, problems, or just idle chit-chat.
The counselor encouraged me to have this discussion with them and to let them know that I have mental illness. He thought it would be good for them to know that I am suffering, but I’m also doing everything within my power to contain it, treat it, and remain strong for them. And I, again, agreed with him. Also, the more I thought about it the more I realized that they are now the same age I was when I was initially diagnosed with depression. Their mother, I believe, is bipolar, though she’s never been officially diagnosed to my knowledge. My mother is bipolar. Mental illness runs in the family and I decided that they need to be made aware of it and know what to look for if/when they start to experience symptoms of it.
So we had our talk last night. I told them that I have depression, that I’m being treated for it, and that I don’t want them to worry or stress out about it. I just needed them to know. I also told them that I neglected to treat it for a long, long time and that I was wrong for doing so. I listed off the symptoms of depression and told them if they ever experience any of them I want them to tell someone. Me, their mother, a teacher, a school counselor…just anyone.
When I was done I asked if they had questions. They had a couple, but my favorite was, “Do they have to go inside your skull to see if you have depression?” I tried not to laugh, but a slight chuckle escaped my mouth before I could rein it in. Kids come up with some of the funniest shit and mine are no exception.
I then took the boys to see my mother and asked her if she’d be willing to talk about her experiences with mental illness and she did. She told them about her manic episode and that she’d been on antidepressants for over 23 years. She told them about the symptoms she still experiences and reaffirmed what I had told them. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but somebody needs to know if either one of them start to experience those symptoms so that they can be treated.
I hope the boys took our words to heart. I have my suspicions that one of them is already suffering from depression and I’m going to keep my eye on it as school starts again just to be sure. I had to lose everything before I finally started treating my depression again and I don’t want them to repeat my idiotic mistakes if I can help it.