My son is going to be twelve at the end of this year. He is so bright, albeit occasionally insensitive. He carries on conversations with adults with virtually no trouble. Often times, his knowledge base can exceed that of the adult with whom he is speaking, and I am told his teachers are impressed with him. But sometimes, he can hurt feelings. He can be a right little turkey, as I say. I’m sure it’s normal, but because of this I was understandably nervous to talk to him about the mental health problems I face.
What I take for granted, I suppose, is that he overhears my conversations on the phone and sometimes reads things over my shoulder as I write them. I can forget that I’ve spoken aloud about something to someone else while he’s been near, which is easy to do because he rarely looks like he’s paying attention to anything. He’s usually absorbed in his own activities, whatever they are, apparently lost in his own little world.
As far as I can recall, I haven’t directly spoken to him about depression or anxiety. I could be wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover what he had to say on the subject when we had a little chat the other night.
What is depression?
-Thinking that nothing can get better and thinking that there’s no hope even if there is, a bit.
What do you think causes it?
What is anxiety?
-Fear. Knowing what’ll happen next but hoping it doesn’t happen.
What do you think about people with anxiety and depression?
-That they’re doing well because they’re trying hard and I think they’re getting through- just about.
Do you know that I have anxiety and depression?
What do you think about that?
-I think you’re doing well, you’re working hard.
What do you think it would look like if I didn’t have these things?
-Without it you’d be happier, you might have a job.
What do you think people should know about anxiety and depression?
-That they should try to understand and give some respect because for ones that have it, their lives are harder.
Then, he said the most clever thing of the whole conversation. He gave a great analogy to help describe having depression and anxiety.
If you could describe depression and anxiety as a thing that might represent it, what would you say that is?
-It’s like a jar inside you, full of the anxiety and depression, and the jar is really hard to open. If you could just get the lid off the jar the anxiety and depression would get out and you could be happy, but the lid is stuck and you try really hard to get it off, but can’t do it alone.
I must add I have had a difficult week with my son. He is about to transition into secondary/high school, and routines at school are currently inconsistent as they practice for the school play and get things organised to end the year. It’s been a bit stressful for him, maybe, and in turn has been extra stressful for me. He hasn’t been listening, caring, or any of the desirable things I wish to see from him. But just when I was beginning to doubt the good in him, he comes out with this.
He does listen. He does care. And I should never discount that perhaps his knowledge of what I’m going through affects him, too. But in all, I’m so proud of him that his true understanding and compassion, one could say, is greater than that in many of the attitudes I’ve seen in a large number of adults. So instead of feeling guilty that I might be adversely affecting him, I think it’s safe to say his experience of seeing these illnesses in me has expanded his understanding and compassion for others.
I don’t think you’ll find bigotry toward anxiety or depression coming from my son anytime soon.
I love my little turkey.