It’s your birthday this weekend and you’re going to be turning two years old. If you could stop growing now, that’d be great. You’re eating us out of house and home and bursting out of your clothes. It won’t be long until you’re heading off to college and then I’ll feel really old.
Anyway, your cousins are coming up for your party on Sunday and we have games and balloons and surprises but before all the madness starts, I wanted to give you your present.
I wanted to give you me.
Don’t worry, I have a noisy shiny toy for you as well – it’s Buzz and Woody! (Your Dad said they were too dear, but I forced him to buy them, so remember that when you’re deciding which one of us gets to go in the good home.)
Anyway, on top of that I’m also giving you back your Mam. You might not have realised it, but for a while there, I was missing.
When you were a few weeks old, we had an unwelcome house guest come to stay.
His name was Depression and He tried to steal me from you.
He slithered in, inconspicuous at first, and took up residence, really making Himself at home. He started slowly, telling me that I wasn’t a good mother. That I didn’t know what I was doing. The fucker.
He told me that you would be better off without me, that I should just pack my bags and go. Anywhere. Away from you. He told me to divorce your Dad.
He even told me that you didn’t love me and that you never would. Big smelly liar.
One night He told me that I could get rid of Him, and myself, if I just stood at the top of the stairs and simply … let go.
And then one afternoon he told me to put you safely into your Moses basket and then to go into the bathroom and swallow all the paracetamol in the medicine cabinet.
There was enough there to do the job. He had checked. That one scared me. I’m well used to dealing with fuckers and liars but standing in that bathroom, He scared me.
What He didn’t know though was that I lived with a superhero, one who was already on to Him. Yer Man might not wear a cape (or his underpants outside his trousers), but Seán, your Dad is a superhero.
He threw himself bodily between me and Depression – at times it was like he was ten feet tall. He comforted and reassured and hugged and talked and then he sat me into the car and drove me to the doctor.
It turns out your Dad knows lots of other superheroes too. The doctor – who was wonderful and who prescribed a course of antidepressants to help – was just the first.
There was also your Nana and Gaga who swooped in to look after you, day and night. There was Granny who cleaned the house until it sparkled and who forced me to bring you for a walk and to get some fresh air, even when I didn’t want to. (“Come on now, it’s not really raining anymore and they’ve downgraded the weather warning to an amber alert, be grand.”
There were my friends who were always there in person or on the phone to talk to, to tell me I was normal, that Depression was the problem, not me.
There were even strangers on the Internet who shared their stories, who listened, who told me that I couldn’t look after you until I looked after myself first.
Between all of them, they helped me to fight Him. Gradually he stopped taking over the whole house. Gradually He moved upstairs. Then into His own room. Then into the attic.
But He was still there and from time to time He’d reappear, grinning, to taunt me again. With that little swagger that said ‘I’m here now’.
I was determined to beat Him though so I just continued on day after day, never giving Him the satisfaction of crumbling, cushioned by the support around me. It took a long time, longer than I had expected, He really wrapped Himself around me, determined not to let go.
Two months ago however, quite suddenly, I just decided that I’d had enough of Him. Really, enough. It was time to show Depression the door. I needed a repeat prescription for my meds and in order to get it I had to see the doctor. I felt that by that stage I was almost using the medication as a crutch and that if I could get off it, I could show Depression who was boss.
I sat in the doctor’s office, you on my knee, and blurted it all out. How tired I was of giving Depression space in my head and my heart. How much stronger I felt, how I didn’t want to have to take meds for the rest of my life to feel normal.
The doctor agreed with me. Doc had met Depression before and knew Him of old and knew the only way to beat Him was to meet Him head on and to be strong.
So we agreed a plan whereby I’d wean off the antidepressant medication as I didn’t need it anymore. The doctor gave me some counselling information to have in my back pocket, should I need it, ensured the superheros were still available to help and then told me to go for it.
I lowered the dose for a month, weaning off the meds, and then went off it completely. I started to practice some mindfulness, where I would focus on the positive things (and there are so many, I mean, come on, peanut butter) and each day count my blessings. I felt good and Depression didn’t like that one bit, He didn’t like that he was losing his grip on me.
But tough. Because He did lose. The withdrawal went well, it was physically hard, but I handled it. And now seven weeks later I’m completely free of medication and free of those negative thoughts.
So today, I kicked Depression out.
I wanted Him gone by time your party came around as your birthday is a joyous celebration and He has no place here. So this morning I just got up and threw his clothes out of an upstairs window. Fucking gleefully. He hasn’t won, He didn’t beat me. I won. He’s gone.
Depression, however, is like a bad smell that you can’t get to the bottom of. He hangs around, He lingers. I can’t guarantee that He won’t be back. He’s only moved into the hotel down the road and in the future He could come knocking again.
But at least this time I’ll be prepared, I’ll know where to go for help, I’ll know what to do. If He returns I have so many people on my side that really He doesn’t stand a chance. I may not have won the war, who knows what the future may hold, but right now, today, I’ve won the battle.
You’re too small now to read this but I’m writing it to keep for you in the hope that in years to come you will read it and you’ll understand. I wasn’t there for you in the beginning as much as I would have liked; I had to call in other arms to hold you, other lips to kiss you, other hearts to love you. But I did that FOR you. And I’m here now, all of me, so I hope that counts for something.
Happy Birthday my beautiful, sweet, precious, clever, funny, charming little man. To infinity and beyond.