i don’t live for my kids

A couple of days ago, when I started my 25 to 30 countdown, Lilian asked if having children has impacted my will to live.

The most simple and direct answer is no.

I don’t answer this question lightly; I’ve actually thought about it a lot. Since having children, a lot about how I live my life has changed. I generally don’t do risky things, like rollercoasters, or cruises. It could be that I’ve become more risk-adverse as a result of getting older. But I think it’s because I don’t think I should take unnecessary risks because I have kids to take care of. I would never want them to say, “My mom died when I was a kid because she was on a rollercoaster that fell off its track” or “she caught a stomach virus on a cruise in the middle of the ocean and couldn’t get any medical care for 5 days while they floated back to land.” That just sounds dumb to me.

I also don’t smoke; don’t drink excessively; eat a vegetarian diet; and do yoga. I try to model “good” behavior around my children, showing them the type of people I want them to be. I think I’m more polite when I’m with them. I definitely cross at crosswalks and wait for green lights. I don’t curse when I’m around them. I generally alter “me” when I’m around my kids.

But I don’t live for my kids. And when I’ve been in the darkest of my depressions, my kids have not been what has brought me out.

My worst two depressions occurred while I’ve been a mother. Well, the first happened as a mother-to-be, when I was pregnant with Big-A. I was in hell – an unplanned pregnancy that derailed my plans to go to law school in California, a hot-ass summer on the second floor of a small wall-to-wall carpet, not married and not sure that I want to be. I hadn’t been on anti-depressants in a year or so. I’d thought I didn’t need then anymore. But at the tail end of my first trimester, I could hardly get out of the bed to go to work. Washing my hair – I only had a TWA – was a chore, washing my body an adventure. I wasn’t eating. I had no energy. So I made the decision to go on drugs. We weren’t both going to survive.

And everyone had a (negative) opinion about it.

“I just don’t agree with it.” “What is it doing to the baby?” “Hummp. [teeth suck]”

I’d like to say I did it for him. And I guess a part of me did. He was a part of me; we were inseparable. But I know in my heart that I did it for me. I was in pain. I was hurting. I was suffering. He was getting what he needed – I loved him.  I hated myself. I was going to die. He would have just been unfortunate collateral damage. I went on the drugs to save myself.

***

The next time I sank that low I sank lower. Big A was 3, Little A only 18 months. I checked myself into the hospital. And again, having them didn’t make me want to kill myself less. It probably made me want to do it more. Depression is a liar of a disease. It told me that they would be better off without me. That in my state I was hurting them. In my state I was ashamed to look them in the eye, ashamed at what I thought they saw of me. Depression lied about what my children thought of me. When people say depression is selfishness I agree with them, but not in the way they think. They say it because they think its a choice, something one can snap out of if they just stopped being selfish. But I know that depression is selfish because its a liar, its a distortion of reality to where everything becomes about you and your badness, your shame, your wrong.

Just like in pregnancy, my will to live was about saving myself. I thought someone was trying to kill me, and she lived in my body. Walking into that emergency room was about saving myself. That meant to live for me. I wasn’t thinking about not wanting to leave my kids motherless or anything like that. I left them. I took them to day care and then I left.

I love my children with all my heart. My husband too. And my mama, my daddy, and my brother. But I don’t live for any of them. I live for me. I don’t think it could be any other way. You live for others, even those you love the most – what happens if they leave? Die? Disown, abandon, just decide they aren’t ever going to talk to you ever again? Depression for me is about overcoming negative thoughts about the essential badness of me – not just as a mother, but as a person. I had to understand my own worth as a person, on my own terms, loving me, accepting me, to battle depression. I couldn’t do that depending on someone else’s life.

So I live for me. And only me. And me is that little piece of God on the inside, the God I have in my heart that I love a little bit more than anything else. I am absolutely devoted to my children. Please don’t misunderstand. I work for them. I co-op for them. I clean for them. I read for them. I give hugs and kisses for them. I stand out in the cold for them. I spend money and time for them. But I live for me.

 

Oops…forgot my birthday wish:

#2: Pretty personalized stationary. (Maybe something like this. Or this.)I can say with confidence that I have beautiful handwriting and would love some personal stationary to write beautiful letters to my friends and family around the world to recapture the lost art of letter-writing.

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