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My Daughter's Depression Made Me a Better Parent!

Do you ever just not want to the parent? You know, the responsible one? When Lynn and Riely were little I would say, “This is an ask dad only day.” (I am aware this was a luxury) I just didn’t want to have to think about or make decisions for anyone but me!

Just to clarify, I would not trade being a mom for anything!! Even on the hardest days, I know I am blessed to have my children.They bring me joy beyond measure!

But come on, what parent doesn’t have those moments when sheer tiredness, weariness, and fatigue set in? Times when one more “I need” or “I want” feels like an avalanche that will bury you? Those times when you just need a moment to breathe!

Here is wacko image of my parenting at one point. Imagine a beautiful sandy beach. Then picture big beach balls dropping out of the sky. It is my responsibility to catch them before they hit the sand! I am darting every which direction trying to catch them! Crazy, huh?

That is no way to live life, and certainly no way to parent!

Yet, this is how I found myself when this thing called depressionentered my daughter, Riely’s, life.

I recall a time I had shoulder surgery. I was given some pain medication to take when I got home. I was afraid to take it! The thought that I had to be lucid if Riely had a problem stopped me from taking them. I just wanted to take pain meds for a few days!

That “do not disturb” button on the phone is there for a reason. It sounds silly, probably down right ridiculous, but I was afraid to use it! I had a thought that I needed to be accessible at all times. This was a far cry from my style of parenting in the past.

At this point and time, I was in a tunnel! I had no perspective on how I was parenting.

Out of self-preservation I took a step back. I became aware of my irrational parenting. My fear of Riely harming herself permeated every fiber of my being. My judgement was skewed. At the time my vision was so narrow I couldn’t get a grasp on the big picture.

It took self-reflection (and counseling) to begin to revision a better way to parent.

The most vivid realization I awoke to was, only Riely could do Riely. (I hate it when I have to learn something that really seems obvious)Alan and I could provide resources and support. We could not prevent every action that she took. We could not control her thoughts.

I’m not sure why I believed I had so much control or responsibility in the first place. However, I know from talking with other parents of children with depression, I am not alone in this! But, I could not keep living this way without great damage to myself and my family.

Carving out time to care for myself became a priority. It sounds selfish, but it isn’t. It is a blessed gift to me. In the end others are beneficiaries of this gift. But the immediate recipient is me!

I learned to have “block-out” times. If Riely was not doing as well or seemed at a fragile place, I would let her know ahead of time I will not be available. I learned to use the “do not disturb” on my phone!

For my part, there are several steps that help me let go of the feeling of control and responsibility.

  • Recognizing when the feeling of unease creeps up and when I am feeling over responsible. The feeling of fear or “what if I am needed and Riely can’t reach me?” is a signal for me to stop, seek Wisdom, and recollect my thoughts.

  • I ask questions:

o What feelings are mine to deal with?

o What feelings are someone else’s that I am picking up on and carrying? Feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, disappointment, etc.….

o What am I projecting on Riely, Lynn, or Alan?

o What is mine to deal with and what is someone else’s to deal with?

  • Then I seek Wisdom from God. I seek the Spirit’s help in answering the above questions. As I discern the answers, I begin to visualize gently letting go of the feelings that I have taken on from others. I see them floating back to them. I give them back so that when that person is ready, God will be there to help them. It frees me to then visualize what is left on my own plate.

  • Then I tenderly take my anxieties, fears, hopes, wishes etc.…I invite the Holy Spirit to be with me as I hold them. Acknowledging these are my feelings, some rational, some not. No judgement of how I am feeling, just compassion.

  • I ask, “What do I need to be at peace?” I may come up with a mantra for the day.

o “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, for I am anxious.”

o “Let me feel Your calm and peace as I move through my day, God.”

o “Spirit of All, You are here! Within me.”

o “Quiet my anxious voice, give me peace.”

  • I might visualize being held in God’s care. Creating a sense of peace that I need.

  • I might call a friend so that I get out of my own head.

There are times I have to go through these steps several times a day. There are other days that are a piece of cake! Either way, grace is given!

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