Depression from Childhood to Motherhood

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I determined as adulthood came upon me, that before entering into motherhood, I would leave my childhood depression and anxiety behind me. Motherhood was what I wanted, who I was even, since before my conscious memories. I know, because looking back to the pictures my mom captured, from even my earliest years, the look in the eyes of that little girl, a baby brother or baby doll in hand, never changed. While what motherhood meant to me did change throughout my life, that I would be a mother did not, and my children would have the best of me.

I saw no reason this should not be feasible, as my mother sat on the first and highest pedestal I had ever created. Adulthood came early for her as she welcomed me, her first child, following a childhood that left her early through the struggles she had faced herself. Though I never knew the depth, I always knew this truth, as my journey began there with her after all. A picture of strength and forgiveness, there was no woman like my mother. Not the best of people, nor the stamina of a superhero, could match her heart and accomplishments.

My admiration didn’t change as I grew, but as my brokenness became real to me, I gained a greater awareness of what was broken around us. The depression I had come to know throughout my childhood wasn’t welcome to come along into my journey with my children. Indeed, my parents had equipped me well enough that I would be capable of this endeavor. I was sure I wanted it badly enough to achieve it.

My perspective shifted as the years took me further into adulthood. I watched how my childhood depression developed with me. At times, deeper than I imagined that my life could be sustained within, let alone life outside of my own. Other times, the veil that is depression lifted, if not to clear entirely, then at least to hang lighter upon me. I learned to recognize depression for what it is, how it distorted my view, as well as when it was descending once again upon me. I lost my way in it, but somehow I also found my life in it.

Something that had isolated me for a lifetime became something through which I could connect, and I had a lifetime yet to live out this wonder. In the most profound weight and darkness of depression, of course, I never recognize this. Depression, by its very nature, steals hope and disguises the truth. However, I have learned to wait for the light to shine again within the depression, to understand that indeed it will, even when I don’t believe it. There is much in life, much that I love. There is much that I have come to meet precisely because I have lived with depression, from early in my childhood years into adulthood still today.

As I made a conscious decision that depression would and could follow me into motherhood, I was not confident. In the beginning, to recognize it in my time with my children terrified me and shamed me to my core. I’m not always proud of how the depression that grew with me from childhood into motherhood surfaces in our life with our children, still young. Sometimes the fear that they will leave their childhood carrying depression into their own adult lives, or resentment for their mother in whom they first met depression, still comes to plague me. All of this, my children surely have witnessed in one way or another.

But the further we walk together in life, the more evidence I see of how God shows up, brightest there in the darkness; the more I realize my beautiful commitment to growth, the better I learn to love myself, right where I am. All this, too, our children witness. Little by little, it’s becoming more real to me that maybe, just maybe, it’s through this depression that came with me into motherhood that my children will have the most vivid picture of how to find their God. That they will learn love themselves well, and overflow with the joy they come to know into loving others.

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