In the months after I became a dad I slid into a fairly deep depression. There were plenty of potential triggers: seasonality, stress, sleeplessness, and no sex but depression is depression no matter how you get there. There’s a ton of pictures from around then where I
didn’t couldn’t smile, my partner constantly begging for me to grin and bear it (my words, not hers). I got my meds adjusted, did my best to keep happy dad and miserable man separated and eventually was able to get my head above water.
Fast forward almost two years and a few bouts with depression later, I’ve become much more aware of how I carry on when I’m not feeling right. There’s always been times out in the “real world” where I’ve had to fake it to make it but I also had the security of going home to where I knew I was safe to sulk. Now my safe space is filled with toys and giggles and intimate moments I can’t escape. Alone time doesn’t come cheap, I can’t even listen to music in the shower anymore. When my little wants me to read him a book, he doesn’t care that I’m lost in thoughts about all things negative and miserable. Food still has to be made, diapers changed and adventures had. So how do I balance my emotional shifts with my responsibilities of being a father and husband?
The short and completely honest answer is that I don’t have a fucking clue.
I control my diet and sleep schedule as best I can. I try not to leave the house without taking my prescription cocktail and see my therapist on the regular. I changed my commute so I have time to decompress and catch those elusive rays of vitamin D. When my son does something silly it sure feels like he’s lifting me up but I always come crashing back down when the lights go out. I’ve noticed he’s started looking at me differently when my tone is wrong and it breaks my heart that at 2 years old he has to start learning when to stay clear of his papi.
I’m scared to death my son will end up seeing right through me or worse yet, being just like me. I can get irrational and angry, breathing flames at anyone who dares come close, carrying on like a spoiled toddler. I can shut down so quickly that implosion seems likely but explosion is typically what happens next. I want him to know that it’s okay to be sad and upset but I also want to show, by example, how to handle those feelings in a mature and healthy way.
Yes, I’m going answer my own question with a bunch more questions. The struggle is real.
- Is there a way to balance parenting and partnering responsibilities with ever-changing, often polarizing moods?
- How will we explain my bad moods and manic bursts to our children?
- Do kids hold the key to cure depression and anxiety or are they bound to make it worse?
- Will my son inherit my diagnosis, “mood disorder (BPII), anxiety, overweight¹”?
¹ I don’t think I’m overweight but whatever European standard my doctor uses says I am.