I try to speak openly about my battle with depression, and it is the time of year where I tend to be at my worst. This season is no different, and the last few weeks have been a struggle to accomplish my day-to-day tasks. Still, even with my attempts to be open and unashamed of my mental health, it was hard to bring my daughter to therapy with me.
I never had the intention of bringing her. However, I had my usual therapy session scheduled on one of her approximately 148 snow days this year. My first thought was to cancel the session, but I realized the only reason I was going to do this was some ambiguous sense of discomfort.
This discomfort probably stemmed from a few different things, but I think it was actually rooted in one major reason. I didn’t want her to see dad being weak by needing help. Obviously, the logical part of me knows this is ridiculous. We enforce in my home that asking for help is not a failure and that everyone needs a hand sometimes. We also promote mental health as an important part of taking care of yourself. So why did it bother me so much?
She deserves to see that getting help is okay and there is no shame in it. She needs to understand that we can be strong and in need of assistance at the same time.
The simple and embarrassing reason is a foolish view of masculinity. There is an ingrained idea that Dad needs to be strong and unwavering in the face of everything. Getting help is an affront to this impossible goal, and therefore should be hidden from the people we protect. This culminates in a fear that my daughter seeing me get help would somehow shatter this perception she has of me.
This convoluted and frankly archaic thought process isn’t fair to me or my daughter. She deserves to see that getting help is okay and there is no shame in it. She needs to understand that we can be strong and in need of assistance at the same time. She needs to know that even though I’m not at my best, I will always do the best I can as a dad. Part of that is getting the help I need to be there for her.
So I took her to therapy with me. It was uneventful, she sat and played while I spoke to my therapist. My therapist engaged her in conversation from time to time, and I got the help I needed. I was wondering if my daughter would need help processing what happened, but I underestimated the acceptance of children. They find normalcy if we portray things as normal. She was quiet for a few minutes before I heard one of her favorite lines from the back seat…
“Daddy, can I ask you a question?”
“Does talking in there make you feel better?”
“It helps me, yes…”
“Okay… good, can I ask you one more question?
“Can we stop for ice cream?”