After reading a terrific article by Therese J. Borchard on PsychCentral entitled Should You Have Kids If You’re Depressed?, I was inspired to write a comment. The comment grew so long that I made it into a post:
I have three adult children. My first child was born when I was eighteen. My problem wasn’t just depression, it was psychosis.
Back in 1967 when I was fourteen years old, I had a mental breakdown after living through a series of extreme childhood traumas. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder did not become an official psychiatric diagnosis until 1980, so I was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia instead. My abusive mother then jumped at the chance to get rid of me by putting me in a state mental institution — against my doctor’s advice, and despite the fact that my behavior was never out of control or threatening in any way.
The asylum where I spent the longest two years of my life was one of those massive, Gothic-style human warehouses built in the 1800s. Throughout my incarceration there, I was kept heavily medicated on a cocktail of powerful psychotropic drugs.
I was also used as a guinea pig during part of that time, in an experimental drug trial that did not go well. I would never have known that I was taking LSD as part of a misguided experiment in the treatment of schizophrenia, if not for a nurse who took pity on me and told me why my symptoms were suddenly so much worse. While I was on the LSD “treatment,” the walls looked to me like they were breathing in and out and the floors were undulating like a gigantic snake beneath my feet. I could see what looked like molecules of light swirling and dancing in the air all around me. People’s faces appeared distorted, like bizarre Picasso paintings. It was beyond terrifying!
As soon as the LSD was stopped, these visual horrors also stopped, for the most part. But I continued to have flashbacks for years afterward.
When I was sixteen, a new psychiatrist (hired to replace the rapist) decided that I did not have schizophrenia and he sent me home. I went off all of my medications cold turkey at that time. I had no choice.
Just ten weeks later, I married my first husband, an 18-year-old high school dropout who said he had fallen in love with me at first sight. I was so very grateful to be loved and wanted! (No one else in my family wanted me. Even my maternal grandfather, who had previously doted on me, made it clear that I was nothing but a huge disappointment to him. My grandfather was the associate warden of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary at that time, and having a grandchild who had been locked up in a prison-like facility was unacceptable.)
My teenage husband wanted me to get pregnant right away. He said he loved me so much that he could not wait for me to have his baby. I miscarried the first pregnancy, then became pregnant again a few months later.
Shortly before our child was born, my husband told me the truth: he had never loved me. In fact, he believed he was gay, something which was kept secret in those days. The only reason he had wanted to marry me and have a child right away was because he was about to be drafted to Vietnam. As a high school dropout, he was ineligible for a college deferment, which left only four ways he could avoid the draft at that time: 1) shoot himself in the foot, 2) burn his draft card and go to jail, 3) run away to Canada, or 4) get married and have a baby.
A few months before our son was born, my husband kicked me in the stomach with his steel-toed work boot, yelling that he did not want me to have his child after all, because I was “too crazy.” (Being so mentally stable himself, he was a good one to judge my sanity, right?) I went into premature labor the next day, which my doctor stopped with a hormone injection.
If ever there was a young woman who should NOT have had children, I was such a woman. I did my best as a mother, but my best was often pathetic. I was an emotional train wreck by the time my children were born. Being married to a cheating, lying, abusive draft dodger certainly did not help my mental health, either.
The only thing my three kids had going for them was that I loved and wanted them very much. But there came a time when my undiagnosed PTSD, suicidal depressions, and overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks grew so severe that I could not even deeply love my own children.
But today, I have a forty-four year old son who is managing two motels. I have a forty-one year old daughter with a BA who is now working toward an MA in family and marriage counseling. I have a thirty-five year old son who works in retail and has remained gainfully employed throughout his adult life, despite his own battles with depression.
I also have an eighteen year old granddaughter who is studying to be a nurse, and a twenty-four year old granddaughter with a degree from Temple University who is now a student at Harvard University’s Extension School.
That’s right, I said Harvard.
During my two years in the state insane asylum, I was lucky to escape forced sterilization. This was routinely done in those days to many psychiatric patients, because it was believed that people with a mental illness should not reproduce.
I made many mistakes as a psychologically injured mom. Ideally, I probably would have been better off not having any children. I struggled very hard, trying to raise my three kids to the best of my limited ability through multiple abusive, failed relationships. It seems that in many cases, only users and abusers are interested in dating or marrying a woman with zero self-esteem and a history of mental illness. I did not meet my current loving husband until I was fifty, long after my children were grown. But even then, we had many serious problems during our first year of marriage, until he went into an in-house treatment program for his terrible rages, a byproduct of his combat-induced PTSD.
Despite all the hardships, today I am super glad that my three children were born. And having a granddaughter in Harvard is pretty awesome. How many “normal” grandparents get to say that? 🙂
Pregnant woman photo available from Shutterstock.
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UPDATE: I don’t mean to imply that my adult children and grandchildren turned out so awesome because of me — they did it mostly in spite of me, due to their own strength and resilience. But I do want to make the point that having genuine LOVE and appreciation for your children goes a long way, even when nearly everything else is going wrong.
Without the intervention of a few good, caring people, I am sure I would not have survived to this point, let alone have ever been able to take care of anyone else. To these few angels in disguise who have helped me so much along the way, I owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Finally, I am not saying that I believe everyone should have children. With the world population now said to be more than 7 billion, if you could say the name of each person who is currently alive at the rate of one name per second, non-stop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year — it would take you more than 220 YEARS, at that rate, to say the name of every person now living!
In my opinion, more people need to make the decision NOT to have children!
God bless, and thank you for stopping by.
❤ ❤ ❤