We all know someone that suffers from depression or maybe we are going through it ourselves. In my case, I had no idea the impact of depression until my mom was diagnosed with it. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. That’s 5% of the world’s population.
So when I say depression isn’t a sign of weakness, I say it because it affected the strongest person I know. My superhero suffers from it and I couldn’t help her.
To give you some back story, my mother was a single mother since I was 8-years-old. She worked long hours to give my sibling and I all the basic needs and more. To be honest, I never saw her crumble, even though there were hard days. She still gave us time and made us feel important. So a little over a year ago when she finally decided to retire, we were all excited. The kids couldn’t wait to spend more time with Grandma.
The months passed by and I noticed some changes in her behavior. Her initial excitement had disappeared and her future plans were on hold. She couldn’t explain why she was going through this. Things didn’t seem right to me when she said she wasn’t sleeping much. She attributed her lack of sleep to her age. Then her appetite disappeared. Red alerts started going off in my head, so I asked her to please visit her doctor. Getting her to the doctor was a hard step for her. But the hardest part was to embrace her diagnosis.
Saying it out loud was hard for her. “Weak!” She said, “I never thought I was this weak.” When she finally opened up to me, I had no words, I knew that anything I could say wouldn’t be right. The phone calls were frequent. Many times I wished I could just jump on a plane and go see her – she needed me and I wasn’t there for her. My guilt made me feel inadequate to help her. So I was glad that the rest of the family jumped in to the rescue when I wasn’t able.
The hardest day came, when she said she had gone close to 48 hours without sleep. The medication wasn’t working. She felt like she was going crazy – all these thoughts were going through her head. “I should end it all,” she said, “I’m ready to go.” Those words broke my heart in million pieces. The woman that has given me so much was in pain and I couldn’t do anything for her. I couldn’t take it away. For what I know now, that night was the hardest for both of us. We both cried ourselves to sleep. While I was praying for relief, she was praying for answers.
As soon as my eyes opened the next morning, I had it in my head that I needed to get a plane ticket for her. We had talked about it during the past few weeks, however, we couldn’t find the right time or price for the trip. Suddenly there it was. A flight for the right price and just in time for the holidays. This was meant to be, she was coming to spend the holidays with us. My phone rang and I felt a tug in my heart. I didn’t know what we would encounter that day. To my surprise she sounded better, and dare I say, even optimistic. I said, “Mom, you are coming here for the holidays.” Her response? “I was waiting for that.”
As we are going through this journey together. Here are the things I learned being the child of a parent that suffers from depression:
- Be present: That word means more than just being there physically. Make yourself available, even when our lives seem so busy all the time.
- Just listen: So many times, I have found myself with no words. Even encouraging words can be meaningless at times. So just listen, you don’t have to have the answers.
- Parents are also human: As I said before my mother is a #momboss, the real superhero. The reality is that she is as human as I am. I see her in a different light now. Her diagnosis didn’t make her less in my eyes. It just strengthened how I feel about her.
- Love them even more: Yes, I love my mom. Maybe I used to forget to say it. Not anymore, she needs to know now. I can’t wait for the future, because the present is what counts.