when doing happy doesn’t make happy

Over the Christmas break I took my firstborn to her doctor. She had not been feeling right for a few months. She was anxious, sad and very tired. I had offered lists and strategies throughout the Fall, as I am prone to do, of sure fire ways to feel better. Nothing seemed to work. Because she is 20, I drop her at the doctors. I do not go in with her, I do not hold her lovingly on my lap, I do not speak for her, I do not protect her, I do not manage next steps. Instead, I go grocery shopping and hope for the best.

She came out with a prescription for a low grade anti depressant. I lost my temper. Really? Is this all we can do? Those little pills scared me. Where is my girl? Would this make her joy move even farther from her grasp? Would her personality go flat? I had problems with this modern bandaid solution, insisting everything can be solved with effort, grit, sleep, good doses of cardio, a full and rich life and a bowl of soup.

This is a girl who has become a spectacular architect of her own life. She lives in Kingston in a charming (and shockingly clean) little house with 4 amazing, solid girls who adore each other and love life. She has a part time job. She is taking dance classes 3x per week. Her marks are very good, she loves her program. She has a wonderful boyfriend. She volunteers weekly as a peer councillor. She makes homemade birthday cards and cookies for everyone. She has regular meetings with a therapist. She eats three healthy squares. She has a loving, supportive family. She was elected to a coveted executive position two years in a row. She sings in an A Capella choir. She is pretty and smart and good and kind. To know her is to love her.

We went to Shopper’s Drug Mart at the corner of Avenue and Lawrence. I have been there a gazillion times for lip gloss and cold medicine and jubejubes. I never knew they had seats but today we needed to sit down. We waited for the Rx to be filled. A pamphlet jumped out at me  Are you depressed the cover said. I handed her the checklist. She handed it back and said – I have felt all those things except for the last. I read the list with my head down, fat tears dropping on it.  My baby. The last one starts with S. I can’t say it out loud.

I am confident as a mother, I think it is my best work but suddenly I wondered how I may have failed her. Is it because of me and something I did or did not do? Is it because of the divorce? Do I put too much pressure on my children? Not enough? I made a concerted effort to not blame myself or anyone else.

Monday was my birthday and she called me with one of my favourite openers Momma, I want to tell you about something I did.

She wrote a blog post about this journey. She wanted my support. I talked to her about how going public with your private is not for everyone. But she was ready. And I get that. It is truth telling. It is making useful what feels so unproductive, wasteful and confusing. It is an intimate joining of oneself to the human race.

I am so so proud of her.

Take a look. And make no assumptions about anyone around you.

This may surprise you but it was my favourite (but very, very hard) birthday gift -to know she felt well enough and brave enough to share. And to not need to be the happy girl when she does not feel that way.

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