I'm Not a Bad Mom for Being Depressed

I'm Not a Bad Mom for Being Depressed

From under the covers, I could hear the sound of the kids running through the sprinkler outside. And behind that, a truck driving past the street in front of our house. My whole body ached from the strain of holding it in, holding it back, pushing it down.

But I didn’t have to right now. Not in these few stolen minutes, when the babysitters had come early and I had time to spare before getting ready to go out with friends. I didn’t need to change my outfit, I could throw on a nice shirt. That saved me two minutes, at least.

Two minutes to think about the look on Jake’s face, when he was reading over my shoulder as I wrote to my niece. Two minutes to hear the echo of his little voice, as he said sadly, “I used to be your sweet girl.”

I tried to tell him that he had only ever been my sweet boy. Had always been my sweet boy. But I didn’t know what he needed. I didn’t know how to help him. There was a look in his eyes that went deeper than mere validation and I had two whole minutes to contemplate that expression, curled up in a ball on my bed, buried under the covers.

Did he feel like I missed having a daughter? Because I didn’t, not at all. Did he feel lonely, that he was the only child like him in our neighborhood and community? I couldn’t change that, but hadn’t I sought out friends far and wide, who were like him? Shouldn’t that help?

I could feel the tears on my face before I even realized I was crying. Lately, it seemed to always be this way. I went from being the stoic one who teased my husband about crying over commercials, to the one that fell apart over everything.

I could do without make-up. That would save me ten at least. Ten minutes to cry alone under my covers, while the kids played in the sprinkler outside.

I thought about my friend Crystal and her trans daughter, Rose. How she told me she wept over Rose losing a tooth. A tooth! But it was the first tooth since her transition, and so it meant something. Something Important. I understood. She told me that every time she heard about another trans woman being harassed, attacked, assaulted or murdered, how fear would swallow her whole.

God, I understood that too. All too well.

Fear was an ever-present companion these days. Sometimes, I didn’t even know what I was afraid of, but there it lay, curled around the edges of my awareness, lurking in the background, taunting me with the knowledge that it would open beneath my feet whenever it saw fit and I would be helpless to stop myself from falling inside.

Fear of the future. Fear for my son, for what he would have to face in his life, for what he’s already had to face in his life. Fear of screwing up somehow, making a mistake, doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing or not saying the right thing. Fear of failure. Fear of depression. My own and his. Fear for my baby, who gets the short of the stick in all of this, because Jake takes up so much of my thoughts and energy and time.

Cold, hard, overwhelming, unavoidable and sometimes all-consuming fear.

I could hear my breath hissing past my teeth, trying to tear its way out to a strangled sob. I didn’t need to fix my hair, I could run a comb through it. That was at least five minutes.

Five minutes to fall apart. Five minutes to give in to the sobs and the fear and the over looming darkness. Five minutes to myself, to lose myself.

I’m not a bad mom, for being depressed. For being afraid, for feeling this way inside. I’m not a bad mother for crying all the time. For hiding in my room, in my bed, under the covers. Curled into a tight little ball to protect myself from the blows. My children are loved and cherished, unconditionally. They are fed and sheltered and happy and healthy. They are allowed to explore their world and themselves, with all the freedom I can give them.

But sometimes, it’s not enough to hold back the tide.

Knowing that my child faces such hatred, misunderstanding, ignorance…it tears me up inside. It never gets easier. Every article about a trans teen taking his or her life, every post about laws being passed targeting people like my son, every time I have to defend my child, our decisions, our process…it takes something from me. I lose a little piece of myself, every time that happens.

I pull down the blanket and blink through the late afternoon sun streaming through the window. I’m sure my face is a wreck and I need to blow my nose and my hair is matted and stuck to the side of my head. But I have friends to meet and no time to spare. Time to gather up the remnants of myself and soldier on.

That’s probably my biggest fear of all. That one day, there won’t be any pieces to pick up and put back together again.

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 Don’t miss my video on Listen to Your Mother  where I share my story of Jake’s transition.

 Interested in learning more about my son? Read Portrait of a Transgender Child.  Don’t forget to read my latest post: My Son was a Girl Scout

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