All parents want our children to be healthy, happy and safe. We want this so much, we fool ourselves into believing we can make this possible. We send them to the best schools (whether it’s state or private, we still do our best to find the ‘best’ one for our child), we encourage them to take on hobbies and activities, we play games with them, help them with their homework, ensure they have regular check-ups with doctors and dentists. In short, we put a huge amount of effort into trying to keep our children out of harm’s way.
The grim truth, however, is this: sometimes all that work and love and devotion simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, bad things happen.
When your child is severely depressed, they are neither happy nor healthy. They are not safe from harm. They are suffering from a terrible, debilitating illness that renders them unable to engage with life in any meaningful way. Their thoughts are so dark, their anxiety and fear so overwhelming, that all they can think of is death. They want to die because anything is better than living like this.
When your child is this ill like this, the only thing you want is for them to be ‘better’ again. The problem with mental illness is that you cannot predict when – or if – this will happen.
Nora was so ill we knew her recovery would take time. We also knew it wouldn’t be a straight forward process. Recovery from depression is commonly described as ‘two steps forward, one step backwards’. As Nora gradually showed signs of improvement, we knew to expect good days and not so good days.
We also knew that this illness may forever be a part of who she is. Nora may ‘recover’ from this episode but we live with the knowledge that it could strike again.
What do you do when faced with this uncertainty?
You let go. You accept that the future is out of your control. You accept that your child’s path through life may be different to the one you’d hoped for her. You try not to worry about the fact she’s not at school now and may never go back to school in the future. You stop obsessing over how her illness will affect her friendships, her ability to deal with challenges in later life, or what her different future might look like.
You appreciate every precious moment when she’s happy. You remember – always – that you are lucky. She is still here. You can talk to her, laugh with her, buy clothes with her and see her smile again.
You focus on the here and now, appreciating every good day for what it is, without worrying about what tomorrow may bring.
You live life in the present. And you are more grateful than you ever believed possible for the many moments of joy you experience every single day your child is still here.