This was written as a Family Time article for The Chronicle, but I decided to withdraw it before it was published. I’ll share it with you here, though.
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I don’t really know what to say when my 18-month-old son Henry points to the scars on my wrists and looks at me with questions in his eyes. The first time, I didn’t say anything for a moment, then broke into singing “Baby Beluga.” The second time, I mumbled, “Yes, an old boo-boo,” and swiftly neck-nibbled him until he giggled; music to my ears.
To him, it’s just a question mark, like the glasses on my face, my bellybutton or the mole on my chest. Something to ask about in a matter-of-fact way. But I know that someday he’ll be older and he’ll figure it out.
I didn’t have a horrible childhood, just self-esteem issues, a philosophical mind and dramatic tendencies. My parents couldn’t have prevented those feelings, which is why I worry about Henry. A child’s self-worth is so delicate, and I hate that I can’t control external factors like bullies and the media.
I worry about scaring him. How do you talk about something you don’t want your child to ever experience? How do you make him feel safe, now that you’re here to stay and loving life?
Depression, to me, is like a Ouija board: The more you think about it, the more you run the risk of summoning demons. You keep your face turned toward the sunshine and if you don’t look, the darkness isn’t even there.
I don’t want to expose him to it if he doesn’t even know it exists. I don’t want to pique his curiosity. And I don’t want to overthink it myself and ever end up there again, either. I want to keep walking forward into light and love. I want Henry to trust me, and not worry.
In high school, it seemed contagious. I heard about a friend of a friend who cut herself. We had an intervention and told the school counselor. The next day, my friend was doing it too. I thought she’d gone crazy. But then I tried it, and it became a crutch I leaned on for a long time. It’s a teenage epidemic.
I worry about even mentioning it here. It’s not good, friends. You’re better than that and deserve to treat yourself with respect. There are more constructive ways to fight the shadows.
Speaking of which, I have relics around. Artwork, poetry, journals, and there’s plenty to find on the internet. I’ve been blogging since before blogging had a name, and my old life is kicking around dusty corners of the web. Henry will find my skeletons someday, if he’s curious. They aren’t well-hidden.
Then again, maybe he won’t be curious at all. Maybe moms aren’t that interesting. Maybe he’ll have the wisdom to acknowledge that it’s part of my past, and not that shocking or unique. Maybe my experience will steer him in the opposite direction. Kids don’t want to be like their parents, right?
For now, though, they’re just unremarkable marks on my arms, and it’s easy enough to divert his attention with raspberries on his belly and loud renditions of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”