This is my son. My first born. My tween-ager. He is my little gentleman and my snuggler. I simply adore his little giggle and I am amazed by his brain. This kid is smart. And what's more, he loves to learn. He passionately wants to be a surgeon when he grows up, so what books did he check out at the library? Not the chapter books Chloe and Jillian picked, or the suspense novels I choose, or the westerns we got for Daddy, he got one on Hepatitis A and one on cancer. Seriously. And read them both. Cover to cover. And then talked about them for weeks.
This boy is highly sensitive and has begun to think of himself as a failure and question his self-esteem. He is mean to himself and doesn't tolerate it when he makes a mistake. He breaks my heart with how upset he gets at the smallest things. And I get so furious at myself for getting frustrated at him for minor things. I guess we're both learning. And I guess I know where he gets it. That sucks.
One of his favorite things to do is talk. He loves to share his knowledge, to ask questions, and to be close to people. He and I bond in the front seat of the van. I ask him about his day, his friends, his homework, Star Wars and the like. He asks me about God, about my feelings, how eternity works, about my marriage, if I know how mountains form, why I dye my hair (he's worried that I might be upset about my appearance and he's quick to reassure me that I'm beautiful. Did I mention that I love this kid?) and tells me about nature, his fears, his doubts, his joys and his hopes.
A while back he shared something with me that he qualified with "Can I tell you something that is going to upset you?"
You can tell me anything, Buddy.
He thinks he has depression.
*pause* Holy crap!, how horrible was that for a mom to hear? Especially a mom who suffers from depression herself and who now gets to wonder if he gets it from me.
Back up, Rani. Relax. It may be the power of suggestion. See, what started this whole thing was that their health teacher taught a class on the warning signs of depression. The warning signs he mentioned in class included feeling sad and/or emotional and stressed, having no energy, sometimes thinking you don't want to live anymore, not enjoying things the way you used to and having little or no appetite.
Nathan believes he has all these symptoms.
(It still makes me sick to think about this.)
The counselor in me kicked in and I addressed the most critical symptom first: He sometimes felt like he didn't want to live?
Is my baby suicidal?!?!!
There is a fallacy held by many people that if a person "might be" suicidal, you shouldn't mention suicide to them because it might "give them ideas". This is unequivocally not true and so I immediately started to assess him for how serious he was about "not wanting to live". After I ascertained that he wasn't actively suicidal but just sometimes felt like he was too much of a "screw-up" to live, I broke down and tried to show him how much my heart would be broken if anything ever happened to him or if he ever hurt himself.
(I get so pissed at moments like this because "I love you" just doesn't even begin to cover it... It doesn't even come close but its the best we have...)
His dad and I both talked to him about how crazy we are about him, how absolutely fantastic he is and how much we appreciate that he shared his feelings with us. I cried and hugged him too tightly.
That night I cried while Lowell held me.
The next morning, I woke with a plan.
I started to teach Nathan more and more about how much control he has over his emotions. I first showed him how his thoughts control his emotions and then showed him how negative his thoughts have been. And then reminded him that he is the only one who can control his thoughts. (I'd been pointing this out over the past couple of months but never this in-depth.) Then we did an experiment - I gave him new thoughts to replace his old ones. For example, instead of saying "What an idiot, I can't believe I did that!!" whenever he makes a mistake, we came up with, "Huh. Well, its okay to make a mistake because everyone does. Now, what can I learn from that?" We came up with quite a few "new thoughts" to replace his old ones. We've been working on replacing the old with the new for the past few weeks.
Fast forward to last night. Nathan said one of his teachers mentioned self-talk in class and how, if a student is feeling bad about themselves, they should talk to a parent or a counselor. My little Bug raised his hand and said, "Well, that can't happen to me because my mom is a counselor and she tells me that stuff all the time."
Praise you, Jesus. My message is getting through.
PS Nathan is doing a lot better, still struggling with perfectionism but getting better.
PSS I'm still struggling with over-reacting over stupid things and then beating myself up for it later. I hate it when my babies learn their bad habits from me, but I'm hoping through all this, I can show them how to walk in self-acceptance and how to extend grace. Even to ourselves.