This is how the conversation unfolded…
We are alone in the car, driving home from a soccer practice. My son is old enough to ride next to me in the front.
I tell my fourteen year old he needs to get more sleep because he’s missing his 7 am bus and Husband ends up driving him to school.
His reply, “I don’t know why I’m so tired, I get 8 hours of sleep.”
I suggest, since he is growing, he needs closer to 10 hours.
“Then what do you need, if you’re not growing anymore?” He asks.
“You only need 6.” He tells me.
I have to think about that one. No way do I feel I could live on 6 hours a night.
I feel brave and bring up my depression, which, on occasion, I’ve talked briefly about with him. “The medication I take for my depression makes me tired.” I laugh, think of my regular habit of afternoon naps, and explain, “I don’t sleep a lot because I’m depressed, I sleep a lot because of my antidepressants.”
Son asks, “What would you be like if you didn’t take your medication?”
Wow, that’s a loaded question. How very astute of him to wonder. I’m pleased he is comfortable enough to ask me and that our relationship is upfront about my mental illness.
“I get really angry and I’m pretty mean to everyone.” I pause and think how not to say too much but to say enough. “When I’m depressed I also feel like no one likes me and I know that’s not true because I have many people who do.”
Son doesn’t say anything so I go on. “A few months back I got off all of my medication and I was complaining and yelling a lot at all of you.”
He still doesn’t say anything so I continue, “I got on a new medication for depression and it is also helping me not feel as hungry as my other antidepressant, so that’s why I’m trying to lose weight.” (Son has been my number one fan with regard to me getting healthier.)
He still doesn’t have a response so I open up a window into his world. “You may know people at school who are depressed. Perhaps they keep their head down and don’t look up at others. Or you might notice a kid who’s acting out and verbally angry at everyone.”
Son tells me that he doesn’t know anyone like that. He mentions a girl in one of his classes who is “always joking, dancing and talking.” I ask her name and he goes on to tell me that she is like a GLEE character. She talks about GLEE all the time with his English teacher, who also likes GLEE. I think he might have been telling me she is gay but I’m not sure. He states, “She could be on GLEE right now.”
I say, “It sounds like this girl is self-assured and knows what she enjoys.” I don’t know if I said the right thing because I’m not sure where he was going with that girl. Perhaps that she is different. If so, I hope my response shows I appreciate differences.
That ended our conversation about my depression. It feels good that I can talk to Son honestly about life’s hurdles. I hope these talks prepare him for whatever he encounters in his future. All I want is for my children to be empowered with knowledge that doesn’t stigmatize mental illness and ultimately allows them to make thoughtful decisions. ♥