I have two great daughters who are different in almost every way. The younger is Lily. She is a funny, outgoing, fairly relaxed, self-assured kid who isn’t troubled by very much. Sometimes I have difficulty believing such a person came out of me, being that I am the complete opposite and more like …
… Georgia, who’s a serious, incredibly clever girl who is troubled by almost everything. She rarely listens (her kinder had us test her hearing three times), can’t sit still (she usually sits on the backs of chairs, or sideways, or partly on the floor) and is always on the go.
She gets hurt feelings all the time, like when leaves fall on her.
She once cried for half an hour when her hat fell on the ground. That might have been me.
So, there are three potential things to worry about with a kid like this, and they’ve all been bandied around at some point by different teachers she’s had: Autism, Aspergers and ADHD. We made an appointment to go and see her teacher, since she sees her for so many hours a day, especially when she’s supposed to be concentrating.
The thing about Georgia is this: she tries super amazingly hard all the time. And that’s why I wanted to go and speak to her teacher. Lily is like this little piece of dynamite who goes out of her way to not do what she’s supposed to be doing. Georgia wants to do the right thing but gets waylaid and suddenly finds herself carving a portrait in the dining table or building a fort instead of setting the table. And when that happens, I’m not convinced that she even knows how she got there.
At any rate, her teacher sat down with us and said, “I think it’s really smart that you came to speak to me,” which is teacher speak for, “There’s something wrong with your kid but I’m not allowed to tell you in case you sue me,” so that was a good start. She said she thinks G-dog is hyperactive but of course she’s not a doctor so she can’t be sure, but that if she was a doctor she would almost definitely say it was hyperactivity.
It was selfishly very hard for me to hear that. You see, my ex-husband is of course a huge thorn in my side, bless him, but he’s also incredibly normal. So the fact that Georgia has these issues is all my fault. I am exactly her; I put our Grade 1 reports side by side and it’s as though they were written about the same person. They go like this:
Anna/Georgia is a very bright girl but she spends more time disrupting the class than she does learning and contributing. Sometimes she finishes things early and then sets up a store in the corner of the classroom and tries to sell pencils at a profit. If she could just apply herself she could control small or even medium sized nations, but that will never happen because her brain has already stopped thinking about it.
Maybe you, Anna/Georgia’s parents, should be better at whatever it is you’re supposed to do at home to help children be happier and better people. But because you won’t, your child will forever struggle to finish whatever the hell it is they decide they want to yell and scream about at any given moment until they move on to the next thing for eight seconds.
I have struggled massively with clinical depression and anxiety for, well, my whole life. I remember the first time I had a panic attack. I was eight and I suddenly flipped the hell out because HOLY SHIT I HAVE EYEBALLS AND THAT IS INSANE HOW DO THEY EVEN WORK?!
I’ve spent the past 15 years working on being less depressed and less anxious. It’s like a bumpy road with no actual end and some jerk drives alongside you throwing rocks at your temples several times a day. So I called my mum and asked for her help. And she said, “Yeah, that’s how I felt about you,” because she has also been depressed for most of her life. And if you put her report cards next to Anna/Georgia’s, they’re the same (but with more ‘olde’ and ‘ye’ in them).
And that’s okay, because I can deal with it, mostly. I go to my counsellor and she says, “you’re the most self-aware person I know!” and I feel chuffed because I am awesome at being depressed.
But my little girl shouldn’t have to be.
I look at this kid and she is so tiny and beautiful and she tries as hard as anybody I know and lord help me if she has to do the same thing for her entire adult life.
So now I’m kind of just waiting with my girl who I love so much and wondering if there’s anything I can do now to help her not be that adult, and it is the worst thing there is. I want to make everything easy for her, never yell, always give, wrap her up in a little Georgia bundle with candles and soft music and friends. But I don’t want her to be spoilt and unworldly either, so I have to whip her with canes and leave her in the forest so she can find herself.
I’ve given her the gift of these dysfunctional genes, and that devastates me every time I have to tell her not to do something, or that something she’s doing isn’t appropriate. It’s hard when Lily comes to me and says that her little boyfriend doesn’t like her anymore, but it is world shattering when Georgia arrives home and says she doesn’t understand why the other kids don’t want to listen to what she has to say. Because she has so many amazing things to share with the world, but she doesn’t understand how to get them out, and people are worse off for it.
I have one hope. In all the years and hours and dollars I’ve spent trying to figure out my own mind, maybe I’ve learned a thing or two that could help her. Maybe when she calls me up one day and says, “mum, I think I’m depressed,” I’ll be able to say, “my beautiful daughter, I know just the thing that will help you.”
Have you suffered from depression? Do you know anyone who has?
If you need immediate help, you can contact:
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
SANE Australia has fact sheets on mental illness as well as advice on getting treatment. Visit www.sane.org or call 1800 18 SANE (7263).