Sunday Reflections: Today, I am Pooh Bear (reflections on depression in the life of tweens and teens part 2)
Thirteen years ago today, at 4:45 pm or thereabouts, I gave birth to my first child. As I pushed her out of my body and they gave her to me hold, I thought this is the most glorious moment I will ever know in my life. A few days later, I spent the entire day crying. I walked around my house and could not with any sheer force of will or determination get myself to stop crying. I cried while I loaded the dishwasher. I cried while I took a shower. I cried and I cried and I cried. My mother and my stepfather talked about it in hushed voices as I silently went through my day, tears streaming down my face.
It wasn’t always like that. Sometimes I would rock her to sleep at night and marvel at this wonderful little person that I was holding in my arms, amazed that I had a part in creating such a magnificent thing. There were moments of glory in between the moments of feeling lost and fearful and overwhelmed. And tired. I was so desperately, desperately tired. It was a tired that creeps into your bones and I think never leaves. Parenting is exhausting in ways I never imagined the human body could be so exhausted.
This was not my first and it was not my last episode of depression. I sunk once again into a dark pit of despair when I lost my second child. And then I sunk into the pit once again when I gave birth to Thing 2. It happened again when we moved. And it is happening now.
I have thought a lot over the years about mental health in the life of teens. Of course I think about the teens that I have known, that I do know, that I will know who struggle with mental health issues. But I also think a lot about what having a family member who struggles with mental health issues has on a teen. And this summer, I have been thinking it a lot as we work together as a family to navigate this dark season of my psyche. I can’t help but wonder, does she remember it happening when she was 4. Or when she was 6. Or when she was 8.
On the morning of the day when we were having a small, intimate memorial service for our unborn baby she was 4. I remember sitting at the table with her and eating breakfast before church. This small, precious child grabbed my hand as tears streamed down my face and spoke softly, “I love you for God” she proclaimed. To this day it is one of the moments I remember most in my life. If our inner lives were really like the movie Inside Out, it would be one of my core memories; a hint of joy mixed with overwhelming sadness.
This summer has been a weird summer for us. As I sank into a dark pit of depression and anxiety and panic attacks, The Mr. came down with a serious case of pneumonia and pleurisy. Together we made an awesome pair of parents. But the family that climbs its way out of a pit of despair together stays together, or at least I hope that is the case.
So as we approached this time in which we would celebrate one of the three people I love most in this world, I couldn’t help but wonder what this summer has been like for her. I am a writer. I don’t claim to be a good one, but I have always written out my feelings. I have journals and journals full of epically bad and melancholy poetry. I have this blog. So I asked The Tween, now The Teen, to write about her feelings. And she did. This is what it has been like for her to have a mother trying to climb her way out once again of a period of depression and anxiety . . .
“My mom has suffered from depression off and on ever since she lost Casey, her second child. I was only four when Casey passed away. She told me the only reason she didn’t stay in her room was because of me. When Thing 2 was born mom’s depression didn’t show as much but then Dad got a new job in Texas. We had to move all the way to Texas and Mom’s depression returned. She she only wanted us to be happy when she was telling me about her depression. Now that mom and dad have jobs in different states, her depression is more visible than before. It’s the same reason as when we moved to Texas. She just wants us to be happy. She still carried on with her normal every day tasks. She still gets up, eats, and takes care of my sister and I. Some days her depression is barely noticeable. On others she just makes it seem like nothing is wrong. Usually she keeps her mind busy with us or her works, that’s when it’s least noticeable. When she doesn’t really have anything to occupy herself with is when it gets the best of her. She asks me if I think it is affecting me but I don’t feel sad or unloved. Actually, I feel the exact opposite. I know that I am loved by many people and I love them all back. Sure sometimes we all have depressed days, but we still keep on going. If we didn’t we would all lose ourselves. So I don’t see my mom as another person with depression, I see her as the woman who was brave enough to continue life. In the end I am not ashamed, I am blessed to have this woman as my mom.”
Today, I am Pooh Bear, full of simple hope and love, waiting in my thoughtful spot for Christopher Robin. This child, my heart, is brave and strong and compassionate and kind. I am glad that today I am in a position where I can celebrate her. If there are tears running down my face, they are today tears of love and joy and pride and gratitude. My family, my children, this child, have walked with me in the times when I have needed someone to walk with me. I am so honored that on this, her 13th birthday, I get to call this child mine.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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