It’s All Relative: A Family Story of Depression

by Erin Faulkner, Family Peer Supporter

October 11, 2023

As a child, I viewed my mother’s depression in very simplistic terms.  She was moody, unreasonable, inconsistent and easily irritated. As I look back and “psychoanalyze”, I look at her depression as more of an empty hole.  My mother did an amazing job at giving us great life experiences and adventures and a happy life.  We went on vacations almost yearly.  As a single mom, she couldn’t afford big trips by plane, so it was car trips.  We went to Wisconsin to visit family, California to go to Disneyland, Calgary and Edmonton and the Black Hills for an annual reunion with the Wisconsin family.  Home was filled with laughter during game nights and movie nights.  In addition to giving us these experiences, I wonder if these things filled the hole, so that she wasn’t left feeling empty. 

As I got older, I learned more about my mother’s childhood from her and her sister.  My mother was the third and final child.  Her sisters were 6 and 9 years older than her.  She was an accident, unwanted.  When she was 11, my mother’s mother passed away from a long battle with cancer.  She was then raised by an absent father, a critical older sister and eventually a step-mother who didn’t want to share her new husband. 

I don’t think we’ll ever know if she would have suffered from depression without this childhood trauma, but it certainly contributed to it.  I am amazed that my mother was able to find the strength to give us the love that she often didn’t feel. 

Once we were growing up and leaving home, my mother prepared to fill the loneliness by adopting 4 children.  Let me be clear.  She didn’t just fill her emptiness.  She provided my brothers and sisters with the same great life we had.  It is important for my mother to keep her mind occupied and stay involved in activities.  Her Catholic faith is very important to her, and she is involved heavily in her church.  She is currently taking online classes related to health, keeping that hole filled.

My mother took anti-depressants for as long as I can remember.  She also has seen, and still sees, a counselor at different periods in her life.  About 15 years ago, my mother suffered a traumatic brain injury from a fall on ice.  This compounded her already compromised coping skills.  She turned to alcohol for a period of time.  About 6 years ago, she stopped cold turkey just as she has stopped smoking almost 40 years before. 

My mother has passed on her strength, love and resiliency to her children.  I had a short bout with situational depression in my early 20’s.  Looking back, I think the root cause was my recent diagnosis of a connective tissue disorder and the fear of what my future would look like.  Would I be blind, deaf, disabled?  Once I accepted my possible future and realized that I could control some things, I was able to move on and be happy.  I’m not always happy, but I am not numb to life.  That is the beauty of feelings!

Finally, my daughter, who is now 21, started experiencing anxiety at a young age.  Her anxiety increased when she went away to college.  The anxiety then turned to depression.  Sam was a Covid year graduate, which meant that her first few years of college were not normal.  All of the wonderful things that were supposed to happen, didn’t.  She felt that there was nothing to look forward to. She didn’t find enjoyment in anything.  As a mom, this was heartbreaking.  We cried many tears, mine usually fell after we got off the phone.  Medications were prescribed, but none of them were right.  Counseling during her second year of college provided her with many tools and helped her evaluate herself and her life. In the end, it was the anxiety that she needed to get a handle on.   Sam is now a happy, well-adjusted, but “over it" Senior getting ready to embark on her next adventure this summer. 

These are three different stories of how depression has affected my life.  They are all valid.  They are all life-impacting.  They are all success stories.


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