Seems that most of the time, all that parents are worried about these days is what content the teachers might cover when they are talking about that three letter word S-E-X.
Yeah, that's not phasing me in the least. I've been talking to my kids about sex for a long time already and there isn't a whole lot in that department that could come as a surprise. I'm not a prude, I'm not delusional, I'm not living in denial of the fact that my kids will someday become involved in intimate relationships. I know I can't keep them young or little or naive or sheltered, and I know that any attempt to do that would be a dangerous disservice to them.
But this post isn't about sex.
It's not about drugs or alcohol either.
We've had lengthy conversations about all that too.
What threw me for a loop this week was something else entirely. Something that they never mentioned to us back in the 90's in health class. Something that people in general didn't seem to talk about much unless it was in quiet whispers away from the impressionable ears of young children. Something that most people still don't talk too much about, mostly now because of the stigma attached to it all.
Deep damn breath.
I'm glad they're doing it. Truly, deeply glad. Relieved is really more the word for it.
Maybe this generation of kids, exposed to these conversations at this age, won't grow up suppressing things, won't refuse to admit when something is wrong, won't hide it from other people, won't try to self medicate instead of realizing there is help. Maybe they won't have to deal with stigma and embarrassment and shame. Maybe they'll own their struggles, maybe they'll have wonderful support networks, maybe access to qualified therapists and doctors will be better.
God I hope so.
Anyhow, my son got in the car after school this week and mentioned the topic for the day in health class and my brain kicked into overdrive. It was just him and I and the baby in the back seat. We don't have too many chances to talk these days without all the other kids around.
I supposed that it was finally time to out myself. At least to him. He's older, he's more mature, he's going to be getting into relationships with other people soon. He's got a laundry list of issues in his family history, he's predisposed to plenty of it.
It was time.
So I told him.
"Yeah, so you know how I mentioned
that I am going to a conference later
this year about maternal mental health?
I'm not just going because I am a doula,
though that is part of it. I'm going
because of postpartum depression.
I had it.
I have it.
I still have it right now."
He looked a little surprised at first. Asked me a few questions. Asked me if I was okay.
I explained how and why PPD happens, how it manifests, what the symptoms are. Told him the truth about how it hit me, how I hid it, how long I hid it.
I told him that I thought it would get better on its own, that I could make it go away. I told him that I refused to admit what was going on. I told him how I hit the wall.
I told him that my main symptom was/is intrusive thoughts. I even told him what some of them were. What some of them still are.
I told him.
And I told him for the same reason that I tell you all. So that he'll know that these things happen to people, that people he knows and loves struggle, that it isn't something that just happens over there to other people. I told him because he needs to know that when these conditions surface, there is help, but that I had to be willing to get help...and that if and when he needs it someday he needs to be willing to get it too. He needs to know that it might not just be him who has to deal with these conditions someday. His partners, his spouse, his children, his friends.
I told him because I want him to know that I'm a safe place.
I told him because I want him to know that I understand.
I told him because I want him to know that I'm here and I'll listen and I'll help however I can if he ever needs it, and then I'll help him get help.
Maybe he'll never need it, maybe he will.
I don't have a crystal ball. I certainly never thought I'd have PTSD and ADHD and anxiety and PPD. I'm like a goddamn potpourri of mental health issues.
I didn't think I'd be here.
But here we are.
And we're talking.
Keep talking, you guys.
Keep talking to your kids and your friends and your partners, keep talking even when it's hard and it's scary and you'd rather live in a world where conversations like this one didn't need to happen. It matters.
We're all in this together, and maybe someday it will be better.