Driving through town today I had a really interesting chat with D. Our route took us past the hospital, which he recognised. I can’t remember his exact words, but the conversation developed really organically. It went more or less like this:
D: Hey Mom, there’s the hospital, remember when you were there?
Me: I do, do you remember coming to see me there?
D: Yeah, it was really good fun – I’m glad I didn’t lean on your tummy though (Hubby is laid up with a particularly bad bout of gastroenteritis at the moment, and is a tad sensitive when it comes to the usual rough and tumble)
Me: But I wasn’t in hospital because my tummy was sick
D: Why were you there then?
Me: (brain whirring frantically to think of the best way to explain this to a 5 year old) Well, do you know the way when something sad happens, we feel sad, and that’s ok?
Me: Well sometimes my brain works a little bit differently from yours, and sometimes I’ll feel really sad when there’s no real reason to be sad. When I feel like that, it makes it really hard to do all the things I usually do. So that’s why I had to go into the hospital for a little while, so the doctors could make my brain better again.
D: So it was like you were thinking about too many things at the same time? You were happy and sad and angry and scared, so your brain stopped working? (He’s one perceptive little kid)
Me: Yeah, something like that. But now I’m fine again.
D: (with the swift change of subject that only a kid can get away with) Can I get chips in McDonalds?
And so we moved on to more important matters. I don’t know if what I said was the right thing. I don’t know if I said enough, too much, too little……….but what’s important is that we talked about it. I never, ever want my kids to have reason to think that when I’m not well, it’s because of something they’ve done, as kids are so prone to doing. Especially my D, he’s so incredibly sensitive. I don’t want to keep my depression a secret. I don’t want to have big sit down talks about it either – if they ask questions, I’ll answer, and if I’m not well, I, or more likely Hubby, will explain why. I hope that some day they will be able to understand. And, more importantly, I hope they will always know that it’s ok to feel whatever they’re feeling, be that good, bad or indifferent.