Why do people like this have children in the first place? How will the children feel when they grow up and learn that they pushed their mother onto antidepressants? it’s also cowardly: popping pills as an easy way out, instead of facing up to the responsibilities of adulthood.
Mark Latham writing for the Financial Review “Why Left Feminists don’t like Kids”
Hi, I’m the Mamanator. I have a university degree. I am happily married to my best friend. I have worked in emergency services administration, the public service, customer service and hospitality. I have volunteered with arts groups, theatres and community services. I have acted, danced, sung, debated and protested in public. I love sci-fi, fantasy and historical crime. I harbour a guilty love of The Simpsons. I am a budding greenie and homesteader. I am about to open a Family Day Care. I am a feminist. I am a stay-at-home parent. I love my two children with an intensity I did not know could exist. I have dodgy ankles and shoulders, some trouble with my hearing, a sulphite allergy, asthma and depression.
I have just gone back onto antidepressants.
I have had bouts of depression all my adult life. Much worse in my late teens and early twenties, I felt like I had it under control recently. Fortunately it is quite mild. I have not taken any medication in years, instead I’ve done yoga, meditated and watched my diet as well as checking in about four times a year with a psychologist. I have learned my triggers (clutter, certain types of people, certain topics, flu, lack of sunlight) and avoid them where possible. I have learned to recognise the signs of early depression for me (isolating myself, stopping talking much, disappearing into fantasy worlds, finding my nearest and dearest trying to show me love annoying or scary) and attempt to head it off before it gets worse (positive thinking, meditation, walking, alerting someone and talking about it.) This won’t work for everyone, but it works for me, right up until it doesn’t. Sometimes no matter what I do to try to head it off a but will simply overtake me.
My kids don’t sleep, you see. I love them so so so much, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do not sleep. The Lad did not sleep through the night until he was 2.5, and he still wakes up 1-2 times most nights. The Lass on a VERY good night will wake up 3 times, most nights she wakes every 90 minutes, on bad nights she wakes every 45.
There have been heaps of studies about what lack of sleep can do to you (if you don’t believe me do a Google search, I am not linking, I’m too tired.) Among the things it can do is making chronic conditions flare up. Like asthma, like migraines. Like depression.
Depression is an illness, it effects more and more Australians in particular and westerners in general. It is in many ways a First World Problem, but that does not mean it should be dismissed as not a real thing. It can be fatal, as we all saw earlier this year when Robin Williams lost his struggle with it. Even if not fatal it can do serious damage to careers, relationships and lives. Asthma is in many ways a First World Problem, but that does not mean we treat it any less seriously.
Having depression does not mean I love my children any less, my husband any less or my life any less, just as having asthma does not make me love them less. I do love them, and I am where I want to be right now. Sure things could be better, the Dadinator’s job could be more secure, I could have a few more close friends and family members nearby, the kids could learn to bloody sleep, but by and large I am content with my life.
I certainly plan to be upfront with my children should they ever ask about this period of our lives. I will explain that a condition flared up under pressure and I took medication to help me deal with it. There is no point in them feeling guilty, any more than they should feel guilty for the pains of labour, the complications from pregnancy or the bajillion dollars we will spend feeding, clothing and educating them. These are all things we agreed to undertake and risk when we decided to be parents. I know I was a bad sleeper as a baby, and I don’t feel guilty about it as I had no control over it and no idea I was causing my parents distress. I can sympathise now when my parents reminisce, especially as I am going through the same thing, but I do not feel overwhelmed by guilt. I don’t think my kids will feel guilty either.
Like Mr Latham I genuinely enjoy my time at home with my children. I am glad his kids have such an involved father. I do hope he changes his views, especially as it is not out of this world impossible that one or more of his children or he himself may suffer a mental illness at some point of their lives. I love to hear my kids’ laugh too. When I hear them laugh and I do not feel filled with joy I know I am starting to get depressed and I need to look after myself. I have a sunny and cheerful disposition to the point of being a bit of a Pollyanna most of the time, if this starts to change I know to seek help, just as I breathe more deeply and reach for a puffer if I start to wheeze.
To be absolutely clear, depression is NOT a personality trait and NOT a symptom of laziness or being dissatisfied with one’s life, it is an ILLNESS and needs to be treated as such, whether that is with medication or not.
So I am on antidepressants. I probably will be until the kids start to sleep, or get old enough that they are no longer waking me if they wake up. I feel much better on them than I did a month ago, and right now they make me better able to do my job and raise my children.
The ones who don’t sleep.