In four days time, you will be able to hear an interview I did with Carlette Ritter on BlogTalk Radio (see page above for details). When we were discussing potential subjects, there was only one that came to mind, the impact of depression on sufferers and loved ones alike. It was only natural that this would be the theme of the interview as this is a subject I know only too well, coming from a long line of depressives and being a sufferer myself in younger years. ( I seem to have been able to keep the monkey off my back for the last few years).
We all tend to look back on our childhood with hindsight as we get older and can put things in a bit more perspective. Perspective that is not usually present at the time. I always remember thinking and asking myself why my parents always seemed so miserable ( subsequent family events would tell me why) and why they seemed so unfriendly to me, my half-brothers and the world around them. I realise now that this was my first experience with depression and the effect it can have on people. As an eight year-old, it was hard to understánd why my mum was crying in the morning and the slightest disturbance would lead to the normal cycle of events. My mother crying and rushing to another room and my stepfather lashing out at us, unable to cope with the situation around him. We were all very happy in the evenings when the beast in him was resting due to being drowned in his daily bouts of drinking. We all knew however, that this was a temporary situation and he would be again raging by morning with the smell of whisky on his breath.
I never knew a time when my mother was happy…she went from being very sad to sad to being asleep, followed by bouts of regret where she would attempt to make it up to us in some material way. My stepfather’s infidelity made things worse and she died at age 52, a seemingly broken woman, who I am sure would have loved to have lived her life differently ( my stepfather went 10 years later at 62).
This was the dysfunction I and my siblings grew up in and it has had different effects on us all. Years later, it is easy to see that my mother was severely depressed for most of her life. Facts that have come to light since her death revealed that she was a victim of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father. Coming from rural Ireland as my mother did, she would never have had the chance to talk about this to anyone as these things were kept quiet and in the family. She would have lived with this secret all her life, the effects of it destroying her confidence, relationships and view of the world. As a youngster, I grew up thinking this was normal and wondering why other parents were different. I remember asking my mother why she was not like Mrs….. who always seemed to be happy to be met with a sad face and a beating from my stepfather (when he came home) at which time I had already forgotten the incident.
These and many other similar incidents have stuck in my memory for years and have indeed gone some way to forming the person I am today. I like to think I am a better person today for having lived through the effects of my childhood and having emerged on the other side, I am happy to be a fairly balanced individual. I guess this is the lottery that is growing up with depressed parents…it either makes you or breaks you. I spoke a lot in the interview about how depressed people can be helped by those around them by loved ones showing love and understanding for the illness. This is indeed true but hard when you are a child and you don’t understand what is happening and why your life isn’t “normal”. It is hard not to be resentful as you finally have some realisation that things are not “normal” that you personally are the object of frustrations that should have been played out in a therapist’s office (something neither of my parents seemed to find important). It is hard to give love and understanding when looking through a child’s eyes with little knowledge and the only worry that you have is whether it is safe to go home.
I, like many other people, (I have many on my couch here) look back on the past and my upbringing with mixed, mostly negative feelings embroidered with some guilt (could I have done more?), some resentment (another story) but with a realisation that my parents were victims themselves. They could not cope with their life due to the actions of other people. However, they also did very little to change the situation, condemning their children to a life of misery, physical, emotional and eventually sexual abuse at their own hands. All of this has had a major influence on me and the lives of my half-brothers and sister. I grew up determined not to be like them..this drove me on with perfectionist thinking to achieve ever more ( something I am happy to report is a thing of the past). Now, at 50, I am happy but only after two failed marriages and a life full of self-doubt have I found my place in life with the woman I love. One of my half-brothers is a criminal, the other a serial philanderer. My half-sister’s need for an alternative has led her to break off all links with the rest of her family.
All of these events came flooding through my mind as Carlette was asking me serious questions about depression and how to deal with it. I just wish I had had that knowledge all those years ago.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find. He can be booked for online sessions from anywhere in the world. First consultation free. For more information , follow the link to his website HERE
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