That day started like so many, with me getting up for school, going to mum’s room and finding her in bed telling me she’d be up in a minute. I’d come to expect her to still be there when I came home from school.
No excuses, now she’d just tell me she was sorry and knew she was letting me down. Guilt comes part and parcel with MDD, as does the fatigue that keeps her in bed all day, and the apathy that eats away at her career in a job she really enjoys.
Most damning is the frustration MDD creates: our frustration at not being able to help; her frustration at not being able to help herself. She goes though periods, months at a time, of great sadness until finally she comes out of it, cleans the house and tells me that she’s feeling ‘alright now’. But for how long? We all know it’s only a matter of time.
It is hard to face weakness in someone you have always leaned on, and to feel pity for them. I’ve felt responsible for her and resented that, then guilty for resenting her for an illness that’s not her fault.
There is nothing anyone can do to pull her out, and seemingly no reason why she gets so down, but there is a cause: her illness. It’s important to remember that though it’s mental rather than physical, It’s an illness and it is certainly crippling.
When your mum has MDD, your priorities change. Schoolwork seems less important. I spent my time torn between being suffocatingly worried about her, and feeling embittered by it. I saw depression as a rampant beast that could consume her. I never wanted to leave her alone, yet feared the emotional mess it created and dreaded going back home. Most of the time I just wanted to forget it.
I never mentioned mum’s problems to people at school. It seemed like people only had to have a boring day to say ‘I’m depressed’. I didn’t know how to communicate the weight of the situation to anyone, to explain the difference between feeling depressed and having MDD. I thought I’d feel silly.
Once I did start talking about it, I realised how wrong I had been. Many people have someone close to them suffering from a mental disorder. Many families know what it’s like to be living with someone else’s depression.
Though I wasn’t surprised when my mum told me she suffered from MDD, it is a bit saddening that she tried to hide it from me, and that I tried to hide it from others. There’s no shame in suffering from depression. By keeping it secret you create shame, which feeds stigmatisation and guilt.
She tells me she feels like a burden on me, but the way I see it, MDD is a burden on her that requires my support and understanding. It is only once she was honest with me that I could be honest with those around me, and we could finally start to face it together.