Watching my son suffer with depression breaks my heart. I see the sadness in his eyes, the lack of emotion in his voice and the pain on his face. As his mom, I would give anything to take it away from him. Absolutely anything. I’d take it on as my own, pay for any cure, go wherever, if it meant he’d be cured. Life, however, doesn’t work that way. More importantly, it isn’t about me — it’s about him.
There is no easy or quick fix. If you know me personally, you know that I don’t give up easily. When it comes to my son and ensuring I give him the support he needs? I’m all in. That’s the ‘easy’ part because it’s a natural reaction, it’s instinctual. As parents, we protect and love. I’ve learned through my own therapy, though, it’s not enough. Love & protection don’t cure depression. That’s a harsh reality for a mom who makes it her job to “fix it”. What I’ve also learned is it’s not our job to cure our children, the work is theirs, just as the work to cure our own trauma is ours. It is painful and it is personal... but it is ours. Separate... individual, but if we think about it from a bigger picture perspective— in a sense, isn’t it collective? Isn’t it often times generational trauma? We didn’t know better so we didn’t do better. Not because we didn’t love, but because we didn’t know. And it hurts. It hurts because they hurt. The best gift we can give our children? Healing.
How do I support my son? It’s little things. It’s consistency — checking in with him. Asking how he’d doing. Making sure he’s honoring his therapy commitments. These are things I do regardless, but when someone is struggling, it’s important to acknowledge what they’re going through and not add another thing to their ‘to-do list’. So, I let him know — “How are you today? Checking in to see if you need anything. No need to respond if you’re overwhelmed today, just want you to know I’m thinking of you.” He can tell you that I usually always know when something isn’t right. I follow my instincts and check in. He may not open up in the moment and he might not need me, but I want him to know I’m there. Whatever capacity. In whatever way. I don’t want to let him down.
I also remind him that he’s human & that it’s okay if he’s having a bad day. That he’s worthy of happiness and healing. That perfection doesn’t exist. It is a myth, a fictional North Star that we can’t reach. On bad days, I let him know I’m sorry he has to be so strong when he’s not feeling his best. I remind him to express gratitude for things both small and large. I remind him that he will heal. That he will find things to soothe his soul. That his therapy will help him and doing “the work” will slowly heal wounds... both known & unknown. More than all of that, I tell him I look forward to the day I see joy in his eyes, happiness running amok.
I’ll support him as he heals by being here in the ways he needs, I’ll honor and respect his boundaries, and I’ll continue to love him. This isn’t scientific. It isn’t perfect, but I remind myself that perfection doesn’t exist. And I encourage all of you to remind yourselves of the same thing. Often.