Saturday, January 9, 2016

Depression’s Legacy

 Originally published on March 28, 2008...

I have had this post written in draft form for a couple of weeks. I have been hesitant to publish it because it is so personal. I was afraid of revealing so much. But, in the interest of furthering awareness of what impact Depression can have on our lives and the lives of our loved ones…


I said in “Meeting My Mother” that we found we had much in common. Indeed, we did. Depression. Depression leaves its marks in us by a genetic connection and in its effects on parenting.

My mother’s mother suffered from Depression (off and on) her entire life. At one point, she was hospitalized. In those days, electroshock therapy was more commonly used than it is today. They used it on my grandmother and wiped out 2 years of her memories. Somehow, my grandmother managed to raise 4 children and work a full time job that she held long enough to retire from. I don’t really have many stories of how this effected her parenting, but…

I can tell you this story of how Depression affected my mother’s parenting.

My mother was the youngest of those 4 children. As the youngest child, she did not get experience in helping raise younger siblings. My mother married my father at the tender age of 16. A year later, just after she turned 17, I was born. My parents were living in another state and so my mother could not easily consult with her mother on the raising of children.

My mother tells me that the doctor quite specifically told her to feed me a set amount at set times. She says she followed those instructions exactly. She goes on to say that I cried and cried. She tells me that sometimes she could not stand the crying and so left the house (and me in it) for periods of time.

Finally, her mother came for a visit and when she saw the situation, told my mother “The baby just needs more food!”. My mother said this was a big help.

From my perspective, at this pre-verbal stage in my life, I cried and no food or comfort was delivered. I cried and no one was there. I learned that I could not count on anyone outside of me to take care of me. My mother tells me that as I got to be about 3 years old, I became quite independent. She says I would roam the neighborhood and from time to time, come back to check on her!

My mother says she does not remember much more of this story as she was also Depressed during this time. Knowing Depression as I do, I can see how she would not know how to cope with a crying baby and not know what a toddler was capable of or what a toddler should be allowed to do. I can see how she could forget so much. Depression affects our ability to concentrate, cope, and remember.

Does this perhaps contribute to my lack of faith in God to answer my prayers? I don’t know. I only know that later in my childhood, I did believe in God. I believed in God for years…eventually, though, I gave up believing. I gave up because he did not seem to answer my prayers.

Soon after our reunion, my mother told me this story. She said that if the telling would help me understand myself better and promote healing, it was worth it. I will be forever grateful to my mother for her courage in telling me what she remembers of this part of my life. She did not sugar coat the telling, she did not spare herself in the telling.

In the early 1990’s, I engaged in therapy for about 3 years. The information from my mother was a big help in my healing. Although, some things can never be comepletely healed and there will always be scars. I continue to find it extremely difficult to count on anyone other than myself.
Lastly, a poem I wrote while in therapy in regards to this phase of my life:

An Infant’s Song (written by me, October 20, 1992)

Alone. Again. Still.
Awareness of Aloneness.
Strange, at a stage lacking
Separateness.
To be alone, but not
Separate.
Something is missing.
Only I exist, but
Something is missing.
Only I exist, there should be
Completeness.
Something is missing.
I cry for the Universe to
Feed me.
Nothing is there.
I am alone.
I cry.
And cry.
An eternity passes.

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