How Depression Ruined My Child’s Birthday

It was my son’s 15th birthday on Saturday. He originally had plans to go to the arcades with his brand new (first) girlfriend, but her parents forbade her going at the last moment, so he was understandably salty about the whole thing. He hadn’t planned on a party or event with any other friends, so it was pretty much him and us. And my depression.

Before we even get started on what happened on Saturday specifically, I should point out that I hadn’t exactly set myself up for success in the first place. Due to an unplanned bout of being unmedicated (I just … didn’t take them, I guess), I was still recovering from a deep and strange depression in the weeks leading up to his birthday, and had more or less neglected to even consider getting him any gifts.

Thankfully my wife made up for this by getting him a few t-shirts and knick-knacks, but I told him I would take him to the movies and a comic book store instead, to try and take his mind off things.

Saturday morning actually went smoothly. My wife and I went shopping before our son got up, picked up some nice breakfast things, and woke him up around 11:00 AM with presents. Then, while he was watching Game of Thrones, my wife and I worked together in the kitchen to make meatballs – the first part of a planned lasagna dinner to celebrate.

So far, so good.

In the afternoon I took him to see Captain Marvel, which was (in my opinion) really quite good. I enjoyed the movie and the time spent with him, and we talked about Marvel and comics and movies endlessly on the way home.

Once home, I was getting ready to finish off prep for the lasagna when our cat jumped up on my wife’s chair while she was sitting in it. In itself no big deal, but my wife is allergic to the cat and asked for a paper towel wet with soap just to wipe her hands afterwards.

Somewhere along the line, I failed to hear her say that she already had a paper towel, and just needed it wet. When she asked why I got her a new one, she called me on not listening.

I said she didn’t say it. (I mean, I genuinely had no recollection of her saying anything about it.)

I guess this must have triggered her, because she said, “Fuck you.”

I don’t know how genuinely angry she was, but something in it flashed a cloud over my mind, and I retorted with the same and stormed upstairs to the bed in the loft.

I figured I would settle down, cool off, and come down a few minutes later to apologize and finish dinner. Instead, something took over and, once in that bed, I found I simply could not get out of it. First I made excuses – I’m still angry, I need to calm down. Then I gave myself deadlines – I’ll get up by 5:30 PM … I’ll get up by 6:00 PM. And then … I just gave up.

Instead of helping my son celebrate a birthday that already hadn’t gone well, I spent the remainder of the night comatose in bed, drifting in and out of sleep and wondering what my son did to deserve such a pathetic wreck of a father. I vaguely heard the noises, caught the drifting smells, as my son and wife cooked, ate, and cleaned up after a very lonely and miserable dinner.

They didn’t even have the cake.

Depression is a strange beast. It can strike when you least expect it, and its power over you is somehow stronger than you ever anticipate, even when you know its bite intimately. Once I was in that bed, I wasn’t getting back out of it. It was as simple as that. No amount of guilt, persuasion or logic was going to make a difference.

I don’t even really know why it happened. I’ve been medicated for almost a month now, and the depression and mood swings should have been stabilized. It was unexpected, and unreasonable; totally out of the blue.

I tried to make it up to him on Sunday – took him out, made breakfast, etc. – but it didn’t change the acrid taste in my mouth. I let him down, on the one day he needed support the most. Nothing else matters.

There are times when I feel like a true failure as a person. Once upon a time, in another life, someone once referred to me as their ‘rock’. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am inherently unreliable. Unpredictable. Unintentional, and emotionally unfaithful. I am no one’s rock. I am a passing fancy on the wind, here today and gone tomorrow. I am as ephemeral as a wave, crashing against a rock at sea.

And as a passing breeze, I’ll always be around; what is absent one day will return eventually. But how, and when … that’s anyone’s guess.

I may not be a good person, but I’m all I’ve got – depression and all.

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25 Replies to “How Depression Ruined My Child’s Birthday”

    1. Thank you – sometimes understanding is all we have. At the end of the day, he’s grown up strong and resilient despite it all, so I can’t complain too much.

  1. You did your best: that is all that can be asked of you. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you a bad person. You tried to make up for it, you did what you could earlier in the day, and you’ve reflected on the event. Next step: talk to your son about it so he understands too, and set alarms on all your devices to remember your meds (I often have to do this).

    1. I appreciate the kind sentiment – reflecting on events is kind of all I do sometimes! My son absolutely understands (I’ve never hidden my issues from him), but it doesn’t make it any easier for him. And as for meds … I have a bizarre relationship with taking them regularly. Every part of me knows I need to, and yet sometimes I just … don’t.

      1. It’s rough trying to parent and live up to the pressure society puts on parents, when you’re already contending with your mental health. I have similar issues with the medication sometimes – for me it often feels like a reminder of my illness so I’ve been trying to find ways to make it more positive. It won’t be easy on your son but you’re doing the right thing by keeping the dialogue open and trying to make up for it when you’re more able. X

  2. Aw, I’m sorry this happened. I understand your feelings and also feel for your son. Mental illness often ruined our special occasions when I was growing up, whether it was my mom, grandfather, or sister. Now I have my own issues after living in that environment so long. There are no easy answers, I wish there were.

    1. Thank you, and I’m sorry for what you went through growing up yourself. For me, the most important thing has been being honest with him about my mental health, and helping him understand that there are some things people do and feel that defy logic because of what happens in their brain. I know he gets it, and I just hope it doesn’t do him any lasting harm.

      1. I think it is good that you are open and honest with him. When I was growing up, the people in my life went undiagnosed and untreated for a long time, so I didn’t know what was happening or why. That definitely made it worse.

  3. I can’t say it any better than Mrs. Robinson above, you did your best. Talk to your son. Even if he doesn’t completely understand, he will appreciate that you regard him as someone important enough, and man enough, to know these things about you, and why they happen. He may even be able to help you find new ways to ‘get out of that bed’ that you haven’t thought of yet!

    1. Thank you! I do talk to him, and I know he understands that much of my behavior is dictated by what’s running through my head on any given day, and has really nothing to do with him. I think (I hope) he knows he’s important to me.

      1. I’m sure he does.

    1. Thank you. I do talk to him openly about mental health, and he knows that I’m not always in full control of my behaviors (gosh, that sounds like an excuse). All I can do is keep going, and hope the next day is slightly better.

      1. Unfortunately it’s the truth you are not always in control. I deal with depression sometimes even though I’m medicated. I cry out of nowhere and feel emotional about things I shouldn’t but you got to deal with the hand you were dealt

    1. Thank you – sometimes even mental effort is more than I can handle. I’ve apologized, I’ve talked to him, and I know it’ll happen again; I just hope it doesn’t end up doing lasting damage.

  4. I am so sorry that you feel bad for what has happened. Yes, of course it would have been nice that you spent the evening with your son and wife. But can I just say something honestly? Ok I was not there but to me, your wife’s reaction was not nice. I would not like to be spoken like that. I don’t think, you, having not listened granted a “fuck you”. To be very honest, I feel the response was out of order. I hope this is also taken into consideration. In my life, I learned not to use words such as: fault, blame, wrong (or I try as hard as possible not to use them). That is to say, I view this situation as: the chemistry of you and her, lead to this outcome. If her response had been another, perhaps you would have still stayed there. I wonder, how misunderstood may you feel sometimes. I hope writing helps you. At least, it may help others..keep up with the work and I know you can beat this.

    1. Thank you – writing and discussing things here often does help. In fairness, my wife has had some very traumatic things happen to her in her life, and being gaslit (however unintentional) is a severe trigger for her. I knew that, and chose to try and joke about it anyway. I’m not saying her reaction is my fault, but I do know why she acted the way she did. You’re right – had she not gotten angry, I would’ve stayed. But if I hadn’t tried to tell her she hadn’t said something, she wouldn’t have reacted. It can be a vicious cycle sometimes.

      1. Absolutely. At least you are aware of the cycle.
        Wishing you and your family lots of love, connection and ability and willingness to repair…an interesting concept I learned in therapy. That we can not promise to never hurt another. But what we can promise,is to commit to repair when it occurs. Take care

  5. Im crying. This illness have snatched so many wonderful moments and opportunies in my life and made me lost so many people, even myself. Just know that those times is beyond our control. Its good that he knows your situation and you make up for it and Im sure he understands it.

  6. I totally feel you on this. I feel like i have failed people countless times, like it is the theme of my life. This disorder is a cruel thing to deal with and can have terrible consequences. All we can do is apologize and be there in the better times. Some people may not understand and forgive us but those who truly love us will. I am sure your son loves you and, even though he may not get it completely, he probably understands that you have problems. Try not to beat yourself up too much. You can still be a good father, even with your illness.

  7. This post hits me right in my heart. This has happened to me all to often and I too find myself feeling like a monster the next day. I’ve always been one of those “I just need to suck it up and be normal” type people and it’s only recently I have allowed myself to be open about depression and the pain in causes. Thank you for this post

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