A Little Truth

I used to promise myself that I would never have children. Secretly, keeping close all the hurts I felt as a child myself, certain that I had no light or joy to share. How could I bring a beautiful, innocent new life into a world from which I felt so estranged? How could I possibly justify allowing another soul to be subject to my flaws, defects, insecurities and fears? How could I possibly take care of a child if I had failed so miserably at caring for myself? Me, who has suffered with severe, chronic depression since childhood? This girl whom I knew everything about, and yet, still had not figured out from where she came, nor where she should go. This Highly Sensitive Person. This Empath. This being with so many repressed memories and feelings it was difficult to sift through what was real and imagined, fact, fiction, or merely a perception skewed by age and understanding. I felt it to be an incredibly selfish act to subject a child to my particular brand of sickness. However I felt about the situation, the decision was made for me when, while on birth control, I became pregnant in August of 2009.

How do I explain what it was like to be me, in my head, my emotions, the numbness, confusion and fear of a girl trying to make sense of things that would never make sense? It is difficult to describe. It is a fog, or a cloud, that surrounds me. But it is knots in my guts and a fist round my heart. It is a huge, gaping hole where all my good feelings once lived. It is the spinning of my mind as it’s running wild, imagining monsters in the closets, under the bed, being frozen with fear. It’s feeling as if I just ran round the playground seven hundred times, dripping with sweat, heart pounding like mad, and the crazy colored spots won’t stop floating in front of my eyes. It’s like falling in a dream, stomach dropping and twisting, but you never wake up. It’s not knowing how to start, so you never do try. It’s the half-written report for your final exam, and seeing the look of disappointment on the face of your favorite teacher, over and over. It’s crying for hours, alone, in your room, when you realize your best friends didn’t invite you to the party, again. It’s the sadness and pain, the stabbing in your chest when a sister you love and admire yells in anger and frustration for you to stop making things up, stop being so selfish, just get over it, as if it is a choice. It’s the words and the faces of those people you love, disappointment, and disbelief, you’re not good enough. You’re lazy. You’re selfish and weak. You’re too sensitive. Your skin is way too thin. You have no reason to be sad, no reason to be down. There is no reason to be frightened, you’re always afraid. You are spoiled. You’re a baby. You’ll do anything for attention… You believe it all, take it all in, repeating, repeating for years on end. I am wicked and weak. I need to be saved. I cannot do for myself, I am broken and lame.

It’s funny, those promises we make to only ourselves. Those ones that we keep, until we don’t. Some things are bigger than our fear and regret. Some things are sweeter than what we expect. The doubt that I carried throughout my whole life seemed simple and small, outdated, contrite. At once, as I sat shaking in fear, it all fell away as I became newly aware. It wasn’t a question of “How will I cope?” It just Was. I just Did. The emotions I felt took time to sink in. It was the first time I could step outside of myself and see something besides my own fear. I saw hope and joy and laughter and love. It was the first time I could see those things without needing someone to convince me that they could be produced, with some effort, if only I believed they could. I was happy and scared, but not full of fear, for what having a child would mean. I would find out. So much can happen in nine months and so much did. Now, it seems like a story I read, about someone else and the struggles they had. The years gone past will always be there. And so, too, will the trials and struggle and triumph we’ve lived. Some things get easier and others never do, but we learn and we live and we just “Do”.

So, how do I explain to my sweet, six year old boy that, “Mommy cannot play today?” I have learned through trial and error, heartache and pain that little truths are best and easier to explain. Children are so perceptive, at least, mine is. If I once, by mistake, let a little sigh slip, my boy is alert and concerned. He is persistent in extracting some sort of hint as to why and what that sigh meant. I don’t tell him I’m sad, lonely or depressed. What good would that do to get him upset? He would, like I always did, take on the nurtures role and try to “fix”. It may sound sweet and kind, but to him it is not. It is poison for him. It isn’t my child’s job to take care of me. It is my job to nurture and care for him. I want my son to learn to nurture and care, feel compassion and love, but not at his expense. That would be me cementing the flag of codependency, which has sprouted in him, not deliberately. There is time, if I try, and I surely will, to undo the chain that I’ve unwittingly placed on him.

Being a parent is a thankless job. It is also the most rewarding position I’ve ever held. I learn something new everyday, about him, the world, myself, love, and even God. No, I have found it necessary to hand him small slices of truth, so he is able to digest, process and learn without choking on it. If he happens to ask why I’m not smiling or why I seem down, I can tell him without guilt that I’m not feeling myself, but it’s “okay”. Sometimes we don’t feel well and it isn’t his job to worry. We do our children such a huge injustice by confessing our problems, fears and insecurities to them. What purpose does it serve? Except to fulfill some sick need to be heard, understood, accepted or pitied.

I want to give my son the security that I didn’t feel as a child. He doesn’t need me to confide in him my darkest nightmares or express my fears of not being able to make ends meet. Above all else, I don’t want him to feel guilt for being a kid. I don’t want him to feel all the shame and sadness I did. I used to think I would be a terrible mother. I even pitied my future offspring. Today, this is not the case. I know I am a good mother, doing the best I can with what I have. Yes, I suffer, at times, with debilitating depression, anxiety and PTSD, but that isn’t who I am. Those are illnesses I deal with, they do not define me. Nor do they dictate my life as they once did, because I choose to live in the light. My goal is to raise my child to love, respect, feel compassion and empathy for the world around him and especially himself. Because, if he cannot love himself and take care of himself, I should not expect him to love and to care for others.

©2016  Erin Shearer


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