The First Time I Told My Mom To Back Off When She Didn’t Understand My Depression.

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I’d had a rough week. Each morning I woke up morning devastated. About nothing.

These mornings everything I had to accomplish for the day seemed like looming, overpowering feats, completely unaccomplishable. Even small things: having breakfast, getting dressed, filling the hours with minor distractions until more hours came along. I wanted to exit this whole thing; this whole world of mine. Quietly take my leave without anyone noticing. Just quietly disappear and sleep and not bother anyone for a long, long time.

This month I’ll have been on antidepressants for two years and this was an uncharacteristic tough patch. My mum phoned just for a catch up, brimming with excitement about going to see Neil Diamond that evening with “the girls”, her three best friends who prided themselves on belting out songs and dancing with reckless abandon even though they were in their sixties. I sat bristling, waiting for her voice to slip into inane sympathy and concern and ask that ridiculous question she always asks, her code for enquiring about my mental state: “So, who are you feeling in yourself, love?”.  I mean what the hell does that even mean? How are you feeling in your self? What am I supposed to say? Answer truthfully? “Oh you know, I can’t cope with my life of absolute privilege and comfort, which millions of people would give their eyes for. I am incapacitated with grief which has no source in reality, I’ve been brought to my knees by feelings which don’t exist, a figment chemical imbalances in my brain. I don’t wish to carry on with this life. But hey, enjoy Neil, Sweet Caroline and all that!”

My real answer was blurted out with all the fury of a misunderstood adolescent: “MOM! You can’t just ask that kind of stuff on the phone! What am I supposed to SAY? Ja, I’m not doing well, OK? I don’t know how to talk about it and you just ask that same thing all the time!!”  She said she was worried about me and enquired if I had spoken to my brother and his wife whose son, my beautiful three-year-old nephew might be my favourite human on the planet. I didn’t speak to them about that kind of stuff, I kept my fun-auntie-self separate from this dark, ugly self. While I responded that I don’t like to bother them with this stuff and that they haven’t been through it so it’s tough to talk about, a courier package arrived at the front door and my mum had to deal with the signing etc. In the middle of all this she said that she wanted me to go and have a chat with my GP (who is fine for a doctor but I only see her for my script and we don’t really have a spilling-my-guts-out connection). I was angry that she could talk to the delivery guy while I was trying to actually articulate myself, a rare occurrence on this subject. I was angry that she hadn’t asked if my boyfriend was helping out because he was. He had been there every single step of the way. He sat next to me and held my hand while I screamed and shouted pure bile at him; he coaxed me back when I tried to ignore him and pretended to fly far, far away in my mind, he never, ever left when things were bad. He was on the front lines with me. And where was she? Asking her stupid question on the phone, taking a delivery, sending me off to the doc and going to Neil Diamond, that’s where.

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She asked me to listen very carefully. She said that she was worried about me and that she want me to go book an appointment with the GP tomorrow and that I should up my dose if I wasn’t coping. I gave several noncommittal grunts. She reiterated several times but she had lost me, I was only saying things and had no intention of going to the GP whatsoever. She said she would phone me the next day.

I sat there, fuming. After a few moments, a sinking feeling grew in my gut that she was right, that I wasn’t coping. But then I was angry again. She wasn’t there, with me, planning baby steps each day. 1. Breakfast, 2. Get Out of the House, 3. Some Kind Of Thesis Work, Perhaps Easy Reading, 4. See Some Friends, 5. Make Sure to Buy Groceries. She wasn’t there, on the front lines, choosing to get up and get dressed instead of sleeping through the day so she couldn’t send me off to the doc like some fabulous Hamptons mom. Just then a text came through from her:


I’m   always with you   Love    Take good care    I Love you with all my heart    Speak tomorrow  Ma x

Before I could let the touching words settle on my burning mind I was feverishly texting back. I knew that you couldn’t go wrong being honest so I lay it down:


I love you too ma but you can’t just try force me to go to the doctor every time your approach with talking to me doesn’t go well. I tried to change my dose with [family doc at home] last year and he refused and gave me tranquilizers and the whole thing made me feel like even more of a crazy. I’m working hard at it and I don’t have R270 to drop every time I don’t want to talk to you about it. I work at this every day and I’m not going to the doc because of one phone convo that didn’t assuage you enough.

“Shoowee”, I thought, “assuage”, that’s a big word, I definitely mean business”. But after that, the effects of the words didn’t concern me then. I just knew I had to show her the storm behind our conversation. I wasn’t actually concerned about how my mum would take it. Not in a callous way. I just didn’t have the capacity to juggle both of our feelings. I had to prioritize mine. Suddenly I felt stronger and started making breakfast. Feeling like I had to defend how hard I had worked every day made me go back to the basics and work on the small steps all over again: 1. Breakfast. Then suddenly, a response came through that I didn’t expect at all. It left me feeling startled, light, strong and loved:


Understood    I  respect you and hold you very tight x

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2 thoughts on “The First Time I Told My Mom To Back Off When She Didn’t Understand My Depression.

  1. Thank you.
    Depression got me too. I seem to be having a brief respite (although I am scared to say it out loud) and have gone from exactly the response to your mom (but with my boyfriend) to feeling guilty about how I have behaved previously, like I should be more grateful for his support. This give me something to think about. No one knows what it’s like, when you’re in it. And love is a tricky thing. My thoughts are with you in the sadness.


  2. Before you visit my site keep in mind it is more of a release of the crazy feelings for me and I hope it helps other people release some anger or at least get a laugh about how feelings don’t always make sense.
    But second thank you so much for your story! It is nice to know that other people have gone through depression and felt the same way I have. Depression is so unexplainable and it makes you feel insane. I understand completely. There were days I would get so frustrated with the tasks that were facing me I would just bawl my eyes out and cancel everything to escape.
    And it is so helpful that your post came up first when I searched for other people who have been honest with their mom even if it is bold and a little harsh. I am afraid though my mother will not have such a loving reaction. She is the type to hold passive aggressive grudges or not speak to you anymore, in fact I am the last person left in her life besides co-workers and doctors. But the truth needed to come out and boundaries needed to be set.
    So even though our stories aren’t identical they are similar and it does help tremendously!
    Keep hanging in there, the depression will get better. And if one anti-depressant isn’t working don’t be afraid to try another. I tried 4 or 5 before I got one that worked. Because little did I know each group of them affect different chemicals in the brain!
    Good luck and God bless!


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