“Did you have to stop medication while you were pregnant?”
In the last ten years writing about mental health issues, these two questions keep surfacing, especially among young women who dream of pushing a baby stroller to the park and disciplining a toddler and yet are daunted by a history of serious depression. Every time I answer them, I do so with a different perspective and new research.
Yes, I was terrified to have children.
Not only was I not crazy about passing on nifty genes that could predispose my offspring to depression and anxiety, but I questioned my capability to nurture a living creature. All of my plants were dead. However, I experienced in my twenties a period of relative stability. So I thought that the days of crippling anxiety were long gone, and that the suicidal ideations of my youth and teens had been permanently fixed through antidepressants, therapy, and exercise.
Truth be told, if I had endured in my twenties the kind of severe, suicidal, and treatment-resistant depression that I have experienced since giving birth to my son, I’m not sure I would have had children. It would have felt irresponsible. Pre-kids I didn’t know that staying alive requires so much work, time, and energy that depressed mothers don’t have. I love my kids with every fiber of my being, and I do the very best that I can. However, I feel that they deserve a mother who was emotionally present for them, especially in those early years. I have enjoyed a few good stretches over the years, and I am starting to feel good again now. However, for the majority of their young lives, I was merely existing—trying to survive—not living, not enjoying them. And that saddens me to no end.