I guess we like to think that every baby born is welcomed with a great deal of happiness. I admit that I have never had a baby myself, so could be accused of being out of my depth… except that I was a baby once. I know it from that angle, even if I have never had my own child.
I’m pretty sure that my birth was not welcomed with happiness, let alone joy. There is only one photo of me as a baby. You see, the novelty had worn off. I was number three child, and I certainly wasn’t planned. I came just ten and a half months after my next brother, and my mother will openly admit that my presence was an embarrassment to her. Two babies in the pram was more than she wanted.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and wondering just how happy I was as a young child. My first diagnosis of a mental illness didn’t come until I was 28 years old, but at that time everyone was pretty amazed nothing had shown before then. I’m inclined to think that maybe there were signs but no one looked, or knew what they were looking for. When I think about some of the (slightly) unusual things I did as a child, and then as a teenager, I am amazed that no one said “Wait a minute. What’s going on here?”
But then this is the 1960/70’s I’m talking about and who went looking for signs of mental illness in their kids?
Deborah Serani, psychologist has written a book last year entitled ‘Depression And Your Child‘. I think I’d like to read it, although the focus of it being about the reader’s child is not what I’m after. She wrote a blog post, What Adults Need to Know about Pediatric Depression and I found that interesting, although I admit it also made me sad. She reported that
“In the United States alone, evidence suggests that up to 1% of babies, 4 percent of preschool-aged children, 5 percent of school-aged children, and 11 percent of adolescents meet the criteria for major depression.”(1.)
Wow! Even one in a hundred babies having major depression is huge, without stopping to think about the older age-groups. She continues to list ten myths relating to childhood depression, which all parents should know. It makes worthwhile reading, even for this non-parent here.
I don’t know whether I had depression as a baby or a child, but the odd things I started doing go back as far as I can remember, which suggests to me now that something was up at a young age. I’m sorry but I’m not going to tell you what those odd things were. Just know they were a little different from normal, and seem to me like a coping mechanism I used from a very young age.
I’m not saying this to in any way accuse my parents of anything, but I suspect there was something going on that they didn’t realise might give clues to my state of mind. This is more about my own journey to work out what has made me who I am. I’m not interested in blame, just in being able to understand myself.
Phew! It makes me sad for that little girl who was me. There’s no denying that because if my theory is right, then it has had an enormous impact on my whole life.
I need music to finish. As you will see the lyrics don’t go with the music. Purposely. I just had two tunes in my mind, for the child in me.
You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
– Cyndi Lauper, True Colors
- What Adults Need to Know about Pediatric Depression (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Even Babies Can Be Depressed (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)