The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, the old saying goes. It’s an obvious statement, of course. Unless an apple tree is at the top of a hill any apple that falls from it isn’t going far at all.
My tree has dropped three apples, so to speak. None of them have fallen far from the tree. To be frank, I’d bet money the genetic engineers of Jurassic Park cloned my “apples” directly from me if I didn’t know better. I can see my likeness in their jokes, their intelligence, their behaviors, and their personalities. But nothing quite dissected how similar we are until I read a short essay today.
I was talking with Baby B about meds and school when he mentioned an essay he needed to turn in for English tomorrow was finished. I inquired more about it and found out that the topic he’d chosen for this essay was mental health. I asked if I could read it and he acquiesced.
And I was blown away.
I was taken by the content of his essay. It could easily have been written by me. It was like staring into a mirror and seeing my reflection, yet somehow knowing that the person staring back wasn’t truly me. Moreover, I was taken by how well-written his essay is. It’s not that I doubt his talents, but when I was his age I wasn’t quite as crafty with words as I am now (and I still have some of my senior writing projects to prove it). I was impressed by his articulation, punctuation, and vocabulary. I saw a bit of my own writer’s voice in his piece.
I asked B if he minded if I shared his essay here. For a couple of reasons. The first? I’m very proud of what he’s written and, like any proud parent, I want to show off what he’s done. The second reason is far more important, though. Just three days ago B was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I’d had him evaluated because in the last few months I’d noticed some erratic moods in him – the same sort of moods I used to have before I began taking meds. That was it, though. That was the only reason I could offer his doctor when I asked to have him evaluated. This essay, however, lays out all the things I didn’t know. All the things he’s suffered in silence. All the things he’d kept to himself despite knowing both mom and dad fight similar wars.
I want this to be read by any parent who has been diagnosed with depression. I want those parents to know that your child may be suffering even if he/she isn’t outwardly showing any symptoms of depression. Depression is genetic. My mom has it. I have it. At least two of my three boys have it. My message to parents with depression is this: have your child evaluated for depression and anxiety even if you see no symptoms. My only clue was mood swings, but that was but one grain of sand on a mighty beach. In the past week I’ve discovered that beach and I’ve been hard on myself for having never seen it before.
Please learn from my fail.
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” Robin Williams said that. On August 11, 2014, millions mourned his passing as he took his own life. The world knew him to be one of the funniest men to grace the earth with his presence, and yet, even he could not escape the ever-tightening grip of depression.
Looking back, I first began to exhibit symptoms of this ominous mental illness in sixth grade, long before I could even comprehend the idea of depression. My motivation to perform important, even trivial tasks plummeted. I was eating less, I became antisocial and morose. My family was always there to help me, but I pushed them away, drove a wedge between me and everyone else around me. In the following years, I picked up habits that have both hindered and helped me, but after consulting with the voices in my head, I can now confidently state that my mental health, or lack-thereof, is the worst and best part of me.
Music has played a prominent role in my life for as long as I can remember. When I first became overwhelmed with sadness the only thing I desired, other than someone to guide me toward happiness, was to drown myself in music. I walked through the halls of (my middle school) with my headphones blaring mellow acoustic rock. My classmates noticed at times that I was distant. Often, my peers heard my music and immediately came to the conclusion that wistful music was causing my unprecedented mood swings. It was quite the contrary though. Indeed, I did listen to sad music, but on a certain level, the lyrics resonated with me. It helped me realize that I was not the only one pushing through life with a weight on my chest. It was not until my sixth-grade year was coming to an end that I was presented an opportunity to learn to play guitar. I had little motivation to do anything, but this felt different. It gave me the chance to be a part of the music that had been counseling me so often. Music spoke to me and I spoke through music. Every song was like a therapy session.
Writing has become a recently developed tool I use to cope. I began writing in my sophomore year of high school. I was not outstanding, however the quality of my work was not my focus. Content is where I lived. I wrote how I felt, indirectly. Symbolism was rampant in everything I wrote. In this, I was able to create alternate realities, where I could be someone else. I had to become the characters I wrote about or the piece did not feel real.
Depression did not only affect how I conducted my life in the physical world around me, it also greatly changed my outlook on life; not for the better. I often fantasized of ways my life might end on a particular day. Not suicide. Suicide, to me, always stuck out as a coward’s way out. See, I wasn’t trying to die, I just was not making a conscious effort to stay alive. Most days were spent adrift in thought, thinking of how other’s lives might be better if I was not in them. My parents both struggle with joint custody ever since they separated. Being in the middle, trying to appease both parents has been more than stressful for many years. Often times, I wondered if they would be better off with me not around. Around this time, I developed one of my favorite coping mechanisms: sarcasm. My teachers and classmates were not as enthusiastic about it as I was though. It is not a healthy way to cope by any means, but it brings a sense of humor to otherwise morbid situations.
To others, I may seem insensitive. In reality, I have gained a rather sensitive outlook toward others. Having experienced the feeling of worthlessness, it brings me almost to tears when anyone around me is in a state of anguish. I try my hardest to make everyone feel confident in themselves; to never let anyone else’s opinion bring them down. Furthermore, it has forced me to take a step back from all situations before making a decision. I have become more aware of other people’s feelings, with an understanding of society as a whole, not just life from my perspective and people like me. Everyone is fighting their own battles. What may seem trivial to one person, might feel like the end of the world to another. It depends on where you come from and how you grew up. Everyone experiences stress in different ways.
Just a few days ago, I was officially diagnosed. Of course, living with depression has a special way to make a person believe they are at fault for any wrongs in their life. It was a relief to be told that I am not to blame for my mental instability. After speaking with my doctor extensively on the matter, my parents and I decided that it was best that I take medication to help balance the chemicals in my brain. Depression revealed the best part of me. Now, moving forward, I can still be the caring person I have learned to be, without the crushing density of hopelessness weighing me down.