The last few days I was going through a minor depressive episode. It was perhaps the first truly notable depressive episode I’d had since becoming a father, meaning that I didn’t have the option of just staying in bed.
I’d had days where I’d had to push the day past me before. In other words, days where I had to force myself to function because there is an inescapable responsibility. It is never pleasant, and always makes me feel like I am watching the day go on around me, pushing the day past me, without being an active participate. And since one of the hallmarks of depression is low-energy, it means that I have to force myself to find energy somewhere else. This usually means borrowing from tomorrow’s energy and making myself so much more exhausted from every little task.
The difference is this was the first time I would go through that exhaustion and that unpleasantness again if ever my child needs me. Without hesitation. And this is important because one of my big anxieties when I became a father was that I wouldn’t be able to effectively care for my child when my depression reared it’s ugly, demonic head. These past few days proved to me how misguided a thought that was. And the reason for that is that my depression isn’t me, nor I am my depression.
And neither are you.
Our mental illnesses may cause challenges in our life, challenges like having to push the day past us. But it isn’t who we are. It doesn’t define us. I am not a depressed father. I am a father who has depression. And that makes a big difference.
Because who I am at my core is different from, and something that can’t be changed by, my depression. If mental illness is something you have, remember that it isn’t who you are either. It can’t change who you are deep down. It can change our behaviors, it can create so much pain, it can even cause you to experience a day happen to you and around you, maybe even cause you to take a day off. But it can’t change who you are.
And lucky, thanks to several factors, including the smiles and laughs that my daughter gave me when I was playing with her, this depression was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and it ultimately resolved itself within a day or two. It isn’t completely behind me, but it is well on its way. Just like the day that I had to push past me.