BELGIUM: Coucou, One Mom’s Battle with Depression

BELGIUM: Coucou, One Mom’s Battle with Depression

black-flagsToday is my birthday but I don’t feel the need to celebrate.

It’s not about getting older. I don’t mind adding years to my curriculum. The years and some grey hairs might actually help to finally getting profiled as a mature scientist.

It’s about celebrating life. My life. I don’t feel like I should celebrate it while I’m going under in yet another episode of depression.

It has been two years since I was diagnosed with severe depression. I guess my reluctance to celebrate my birthday means I still haven’t come to terms with it. I’ve had therapy. I’m taking my meds. And still depression lurks around the corner. I loathe it. Depression makes me loath depression. At least thàt part makes sense.

But then there’s my children. They are my everything. They are the reason I’m holding on while giving up. I don’t struggle to take care of myself for me. I take care of myself for them. Depression or not, I’m still their mother. And I feel incredibly guilty about that.

I often feel I should never have decided to have children, let alone adopt a child. I worry about not providing a stabile environment for them to grow up in. I worry about transfering my lability to them. I worry about pushing them away from me when I’m over and out. I worry a lot.

In turn, they both worry about me.

My 9-year old son is the most worried and gets really affectionate when he sees I’m going through yet another rough patch. He doesn’t like to talk about it, but he does want to understand. My 7-year old daughter on the other hand, likes to tell everyone about her mom who is a bit coucou. She likes to talk about depression a lot.

So I talked to them about depression. I referred to it as the black balloon, and added some details as they grew older. They know some wires in my head are not connected as they should. That information is not coming in the right way. That I need to rest a lot to heal. That I’m in fact, yes, a bit coucou.

I also told them that it is still OK to laugh at me when I’m so utterly confused that I lose at every board game. That it’s all right and maybe even fun to instruct me on how to cook diner. And most importantly that I still love them with every inch of my coucou head.

Even on my birthday.

How do you feel about ‘combining’ mental illness with motherhood? Do you talk about mental illness with your children?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by K10K in Belgium. The picture is credited to the author.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM: Keeping A Secret

BELGIUM: Keeping A Secret

Secret_K10KSecrets. I believe they’re important. Especially for children.

When I think about adults with secrets, I mostly imagine sadness, nasty stuff or crime. Mostly sadness though. Actually, I don’t even know if I have big or little secrets myself. Probably not. I’ll have to think about it.

But a child with a secret, I absolutely love that. It’s touching and a little bit nostalgic. It makes me think about the candy I once hid under our beech tree, savouring one every once in a while, including the black sand it was buried in. My secret treasure…

My two children, they share a secret. The youngest however, age 7, is absolutely terrible at keeping secrets. At Mother’s Day, she has never made anything, especially not for me, and I shouldn’t go looking behind the couch at all. Oh, and it doesn’t have hearts all over it. That kind of terrible. She just adores sharing inside knowledge. And now she has to keep a secret.

Yesterday, she almost told me, while we were driving home from school. It was a school secret, completely fresh and just begging to be shared with the world. Or at least with me. Her big brother was just in time to keep her from giving it away.

When we got home, she whispered she would tell me later, when her brother was not there. Now that was quite a difficult parenting moment for me.

You need to know that I am a terribly curious person. It makes me who I am. I could never be a mail woman. All those closed letters, never knowing what is inside, what the story is behind that stamp, whether it is good news or not: my fingers would itch all the time. At least as a scientist, I can give in to that natural curiosity and the urge to reveal secrets.

That day, I had to grit my teeth and be a mother, not a scientist. I told her she was not allowed to tell me their secret. I explained to her that it is important for siblings to have little secrets, so they learn to trust each other. I did tell her she could tell me the secret if it was about something dangerous or something which didn’t feel right to her.

I ended my little speech by telling her I didn’t want to know their little secret anyway.

She didn’t believe that last bit. This daughter of mine is less naive than I am.

But she did walk away without spilling the secret. I’m not sure which one of us had the hardest time at that.

It has been five weeks and I still don’t know what it was about.

It’s killing me.

How do you feel about your children keeping secrets? Do you think it is important for them or do you fear they will also keep less innocent secrets when they grow up?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by K10K. Photo credit: Lisa M Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

 

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM: Kungfu Adoption

BELGIUM: Kungfu Adoption

Despicable Me. Mr Peabody and Sherman. Meet the Robinsons. Annie. Tangled. Mowgli. Kungfu Panda.

Adoption – or the search for roots and heritage – seems a very recurrent and strong theme in children’s movies and tales. I guess it has to do with the struggle each child goes through, when exploring her identity and finding her place in an increasingly bigger world while she grows up. Who hasn’t fantasized, once, about being adopted and actually being royalty, or an adventurer’s kid? We wanted to have a strong heritage, because it would radiate on us. We would be strong and shiny and extraordinary too. Or we just wished for those other parents who would never ever make us go to bed at  eight pm or force us to eat broccoli soup.

As an adoptive parent, I try to carefully probe for my daughter’s feelings about the adoption-themed movies she loves to watch. We are very open about her adoption, but it’s not like we organize family discussions around the theme. We just make sure she knows she can talk to us about anything, including her feelings about being adopted.

The movies help her to grasp the complex feelings she has about her adoption-status. She loves us, but she misses her birth mother. She feels loved, but also rejected. She belongs in Belgium and in Ethiopia. She’s torn between two loyalties. It’s all way too complex for a seven-year old to deal with. Being adopted is not the gift many people seem to think it is to her.

She watched Tangled (or Rapunzel for some of us) right about the same time she was struggling with being our daughter. She was absolutely thrilled when she found out the ‘mother’ of Rapunzel was actually a witch who had stolen the princess as a baby. Oh yes. I became that witch to her in no time. We must have stolen her, she tended to say. Because no parent who loved her child would ever give it up for adoption. It was her way of dealing with rejection. And it give her leave to rebel against every single ‘no’ we gave her. We were not her parents anyway.

The Tangled-phase passed. Today, she relates to Po, and not just because she likes his Kungfu that much.

This Panda is as clearly adopted as she is. His is both black and white, like she is. And, most importantly, he met with his birth family. Just like she wants to.

So she watches Po’s adventures over and over again. She has this special giggle she keeps just for him. And she talks to me about her wishes and sorrows afterwards, without being probed. Infinitely more agreeable than the Tangled-period, for sure.

I’m already looking forward to the next movie-releases.

Do movies or cartoons help your children to reflect about their emotions? Can your children relate to struggling movie characters?

This is an original post by K10K of Belgium. Photo credit: homard.net. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM: My Frame World

BELGIUM: My Frame World

reality frame worldNext to me in the coffee shop, an elderly lady loudly complains to everyone who cares to listen. How poignant it is, this refugees’ crisis. How she doesn’t understand how nothing can be done to help all those poor people. How entire families are torn for life. How her hair had cost 80 euros. Seventyninepointfive full euros. Scandalous, don’t you think so, miss?

I try to escape her glaring eyes. I’d like to escape and take all of them with me, those refugees. To a world without expensive hairdressers. To a world where their devastating pictures don’t need to travel around social media. To a world where a simple I’m on the run is enough to offer help.

I’m not sure where this world is. It doesn’t seem to be ours. Ours is full of rich self-preservation. I have worked hard for my wealth. I will not share it. I do not wish to be bothered with the misery of others.

Well, I’m more than less disgusted by those I’s.

And still, there I am, blogging about my petty worries. About the difficulties my kids face at their expensive private school. About depression, because my perfect life is not perfect enough. About baking homemade cookies. All the while, somewhere else, another mother has to choose between her own drowning or that of her child. Knowing she doesn’t have a choice, in the end. It will probably be both anyway.

More than ever, my world has two realities. One reality is manageable, the other is immense. The manageable reality is my reference, a framework to enable me to keep functioning. It enables me to get up at a quarter past seven to cut some pieces of imported mango for my precious children. To sigh when looking at overflowing laundry baskets. To nag about an energy-devouring meeting that took longer than expected. It’s the framework that’s keeping me whole. The Frame World.

The other part is bigger and endlessly more complex. It’s the angry, overarching Dome World. In this world I’m the naive, fleet-footed creature that is called out to fight the Great Evil that is hiding in the Dome, where no escape is possible. It’s the theme of many heroic stories, like I love to read them. Lord of the Flee.

The reality of the Dome World today is raw and ruthless. We can try to change the picture of the drowned toddler in an icon, giving him wings and balloons, but it’s too late. It’s too late for all those children who didn’t wash up at the feet of a photographer. We’ve let them down.

There is no escape from this Dome World. You can only bang on the glass wall and try to hide in your own Frame World. But the Frame of those fleeing families has been reduced to firewood. Without a frame they’re adrift. More than literally.

Later today, I will find out once again where I can contribute to help.

Later today. Again, I’m disgusted. Later today, because I’ve promised homemade pizza to my children.

After all, my Frame World is still there.

How do you deal with the discrepancy between your own private life and the tragedies around it? Does your Frame World help keeping you sane or is it rather keeping you from acting?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther. Photo credit: Bart Everson. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM: Roots

BELGIUM: Roots

ethiopië 039This time next week, I’ll be in Ethiopia with my daughter. My Ethiopian daughter. She is six years old, and four of those have been with us. Four years which have been wonderful and rough all at the same time.

Before she was with us, we already spoke about returning to her birth country. Later. When she would be a teenager, in search of her identity. It would be a roots trip for her.

It turns out that six-year-old adoptees have glaring roots questions too. One day, she came up to us, plumped down on the couch and sighed dramatically.

I don’t know who I am!

I explained to her that she is the daughter of two mommies. One in Belgium, one in Ethiopia. She loves to hear that.

But not this time.

No, I mean…how do I know where I fit in the whole wide world?

I honestly told her that’s a difficult question. I don’t even know how to answer that one for myself.

She was devastated and sighed with even more drama. She’s good at that.

If it’s difficult for you, how am I supposed to find the answer then? You know where you come from. How am I supposed to know where I’m going if I don’t know where I come from?!

These kind of conversations led us to decide to take a roots trip with her now, instead of waiting for her to reach puberty. Moreover, we’ll keep on returning every few years, to keep her in touch with her roots. We know from fellow travelers that Ethiopia is addictive anyway.

Ever since we booked the trip, she has found a kind of peace. Returning to her country really means a lot to this little girl.

Of course, returning won’t all be magical, as she imagines it. No doubt, she will experience a culture shock, just like we did the first time we visited.

We try to prepare her for the poverty she will witness. The poverty she and her family were in, as she knows. It will be hard for her.

But Ethiopia is far more than poverty. To me, it’s the most beautiful and safe African country, with the kindest of people and of course, the best coffee. We’ll visit wild life centres, hike in the mountains and have injerra, the traditional dish, as our Christmas dinner.

I can’t wait to discover Ethiopia again through my daughter’s eyes.

How do you deal with identity questions from your little and big ones? Do they know struggles as well?

 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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