Thinking back, in conversation with others, about the phases my eldest has gone through, has spurred on a serious whirlwind style re-cap of the last five years since I became a mother.
At first, I was seeing it all in a self-centred way. Phrasing it like I was a victim (although sometimes it did feel that way, I fully admit it was/is a self absorbed, immature kind of way). How I labelled her third year the traumatising threes. Then I’d go on and think about how I did not even have those fantastic fours which was the pep talk to get me through those threes.
You’d swear she was a tyrant. Which she wasn’t. She was normal.
These days, I see snippets of who she is becoming and she is just so wholly beautiful my heart swells. She is nearly 5.5 now. Still whinge-y and wild but I’m so proud of her. She has come a long way, through social anxiety, intense shyness and of course, this tiny little person has lived through her mothers depression. A trauma of its own.
And it is this sudden realisation where I stop in my tracks. A big dead heavy STOP and my breath sucks in deep and I hold it for a long moment; only for it to slowly stutter out of my lungs as if there were clumps of earth in my trachea. The kitchen tears away from my psyche and suddenly I’m standing out on a dirt road in a bland desert. The twisted crunch of dry hard stones under my boots has a grating echo vibrating through my body. The air is hot and dry, suffocating. There is no wind. No sound. No leaves rustling. An empty void giving me the space for this realisation to take hold.
She is here five years and I was severely depressed for the first 2 years of her life and then (milder, thankfully) again after I had her sister.
There I was. So deeply stuck in my own crippling, heavy, world of depression that I never even took stock to measure how this little one was suffering too. I was so focused on my own surviving that I disassociated from hers.
Imagine coming into this world to a mother who fights daily, those thoughts that are trying to take her out of it.
I only heard it there recently, for the first time, a new narrator in my head.
It said ‘I want to be alive’.
What a smack that was. To hear, for the first time in… as long as I can remember, a new inner voice. One that actually wants to be alive.
That is intense, I know. In recent months I’ve been working to find the root of this and it seems to all fall back on the car accident I was in when I was ten. I had what some might call a near death experience. Or, well, a death experience. I just remember being sucked back into my mind and waking up, instantly alert, to give people my home phone number.
A fearful memory that subsequently has led me to teach my eldest my phone number, back when she was just aged three.
It’s since then that I’ve had this overriding feeling. Was it fear? Is that what suffocated my will to live? By live I mean to live, not just be alive. I’ve mastered staying alive through depression. I have never shared this aspect of depression with you before. That way of thinking lives on the shameful side of the depressive spectrum.
Really though, what I really came back with, was premature self consciousness. Self consciousness and an immature mind do not live well together; and I think that is what they mean when they say, ‘let kids be kids’. Leave them in their ignorance, for that is peace. I lost that peace, violently, when I was ten.
There are worse traumas; war, abuse, grief. So in one way I struck it lucky. On the other side of that coin, though, it was left for a long time because it was easy to dismiss once the physical healing took place. I never looked at it as a trauma. It was just something that happened. Once my physical body recovered and I started, as a coping mechanism, living as if a chameleon, it was easy to forget the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma of the experience. It didn’t help that I never verbalised it. How could I? I came back into my body in survival mode. I didn’t trust life. I didn’t trust myself. I had lost faith. Everyone around me was clueless because my coping method is silence. Pretend everything is under control. Blend in.
The voice that says “I want to be alive” does not mean that I have been saying that I want to die all this time (although there have been times, during my darkest hours). I’ve just never wanted to live. It was like, staying alive was a battle enough, a burden. To actually LIVE always seemed out of reach and much of my living has revolved around the quest to be healed.
Finding the originating factor of the depression has been a blessing. I’ve been able to see that before that time, the accident, my hazy memories are happy, content and easy going. That who I was before the accident was a settled, secure child; well protected, loved and supported.
It is easy to blend in through childhood and adolescence because you’re busy. You’re busy being directed into adulthood by guiding hands. It is only when you become an adult that the shit hits the fan because, well, you are alone. No matter how much support you have, you are alone when navigating your inner world. Until then, you’ve been told what to think, what to feel or, more aptly, what not to feel; and what to be.
So there I was, lost in my inner world while this little one went on about her traumatising threes, ferocious fours and so on. Being born onto a depressive is a trauma. It is not war, or abuse or grief. Although, maybe grief lives there at times, especially in more severe lifelong cases.
They have a right to be angry, or insecure. Or both. It’s a good thing. When they stand up and fight. When they moan, scream and whine. It means they’re safe. They know they are loved. Coming from my perspective, it is the silence that is worrisome. Silence comes from fear.
It is a natural process, those terrible twos, threes, fours, fives and beyond.
There is a whole person evolving inside this tiny being, trauma or not.
It is precious.
I am truly grateful for the honour to bear witness to it,
and to live for it too.