Sunday, January 13, 2013

Good Days, Hard Days

My kid has had five good days in a row. This is a massive breakthrough, and I find myself feeling as if the ground is shifting under me, or maybe the sky is shifting over me - a sense of vertigo with this new upbeat person in our home. People talk about medical conditions all the time. Particularly in children, we tend to romanticize illness, as if the sick child is somehow endowed with unique powers of resiliency, or good-heartedness, or a range of solid character traits that he or she supposedly gained from the experience of having managed the obstacle of the medical condition, or disability, or whatever you care to call it.

This is not the case with the depressed and anxious child. Primarily, her illness may be a secret from our friends and neighbors. For the most part, it is, for me, something shared with the very few. When she is in the hospital, we are especially isolated. People do not bring food and send flowers. Indeed, only those few people know about it. We want to preserve her privacy and protect ourselves from peoples' reactions. Often, folks are as compassionate as they can be; at other times, people do not understand the distinction between major depression and the regular depressed feelings everyone has at times. I am not interested in educating. And honestly, it is painful to share. There are too many implications, and the blunt reality that my child is thinking that hurting herself is a good option because her life is that painful; she is pale and quiet; she cries and cuddles up to me like a small child, which she is not.

It is ironic that my relief with these good days is followed by my own anxiety - a delayed reaction, perhaps to all of the worry that I hold in and that I held in with my first child. It's not that I keep a veneer of calm - hardly - but I am the confidant, and the main caretaker in these matters, and I must hold myself together to take care of my dear daughter. When she feels bad, I feel bad, but I have little time for that because she needs me to listen, to reflect, to remind her that she does have good days, that it always passes, and that she is slowly following a pattern of getting better. Now that she is so much better than she was even a short time ago, I need reminders for myself: she is okay. I need to wind back to when my son was ill, too, and tell myself the same thing: he is doing well now, and he is a fine young man. But honestly, where does it leave me? Feeling a vague sense of what might be desperation, anticipating the inevitable moment of the next bad day.

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