Will depression cost me parenthood?

We haven’t done a new post in a while and that’s partly to do with the fact that not a lot is happening with our adoption process at the moment, and partly to do with the fact that we’ve both been incredibly busy. However there’s been an area of our lives that I’ve been wanting to talk about on our blog but haven’t known how to. I suffer from depression, or as I like to label myself: I’m a Functioning Depressive. I don’t think it’s important to go into too much detail but I guess it’s only fair that I give you a bit of background info on what that means for me/us.

I’ve suffered from depression from as far back as I can remember really – though during my teens I certainly didn’t know that what I was feeling was more than just ‘feeling blue’. As I got into adulthood I struggled with the demands of life as a full-time drama student which led to panic attacks, self-harming and eventually a suicide attempt. As the years went by I received therapy on and off and took (and am still taking) anti-depressants. As anyone who has any experience of depression will tell you, whether it be as a sufferer or being close to someone who suffers, depression is one hell of a rollercoaster! Some days the world is a wonderful place to be – full of joy, hope and happiness. On other days the world is too difficult to face – it’s bleak and dark and you can feel worthless, empty and ultimately wish you didn’t have to be here…

Three years ago, James came into my life and become my Hero. He pushed me further than any other person has before. He expected far more from me as his partner than I thought I could ever possibly give. But most importantly he didn’t want me to give up on me. He practically forced me to seek help for the umpteenth time AND stick with it. Fast forward 3 years and I’m coming to the end of therapy that has lasted well over a year and a half and I’m feeling better than ever. I recognise that this is the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be here – I’ve found my life partner and we’re starting a family! It’s all a bit surreal. Starting this adoption process has really opened my eyes and heart to a sense of ‘future’ and that equals hope, which in turn equals the defeat (to an extent) of my depression.

However, from the very beginning of this process I’ve had the scary feeling that all this hope will be taken from me. I keep thinking that someone will ‘find me out’ and say that I can’t be a parent because I’ve had depression and am still on anti-depressants. We’ve been extremely upfront about my history from the word go – it’s pointless not to be. The approval process, as mentioned in a previous post, leaves no stone unturned. Our social worker has now started interviewing some of our referees and perhaps most importantly, we’ve both had to undergo full medical examinations and disclose our medical history.  I fully support the extensive checks – the children must come first. Adoption breakdowns do happen and need to be avoided at all costs. Can you imagine the damage an adopted child must endure after being told they’ve found their ‘forever family’, only to be removed again because the parents couldn’t cope? It happens and this is why social workers work so hard to find, assess and train ‘good enough’ parents. Now I’m aware that on paper someone with depression doesn’t immediately jump out as an ‘ideal parent’. Someone with depression suffers from anxiety, difficulty under stress and can be emotionally unstable. I recognise all these things in myself. But one has to remember that ‘perfect parents’ don’t exist and social workers aren’t looking for them. You simply have to be deemed ‘good enough’. Besides, life isn’t as black and white as all that. As a depressive I’ve also got bags of personality, energy and love. I’m a very practical, efficient and self-aware individual and I’m only one half of the partnership. James and I are a balanced, formidable pairing and we both even out the other’s weaknesses. In fact it’s inferred  that social workers look for people who have experienced some hardship, difficulty or trauma and have managed to overcome them. This displays resilience and tenacity – both great qualities for any prospective adopter to possess.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a frequent visitor of various adoption forums. Reassuringly, the message there has been: though I’ll have to go to great lengths to prove/demonstrate that I’m fit to be a parent, my depression isn’t an automatic barrier to becoming a parent. And yet my fears persist. We’re still in Stage 1 of the adoption approval process, waiting to find out if we’ll move onto Stage 2. One of the absolute conditions for getting onto Stage 2 is having your medical signed off by the adoption agency’s medical advisor. So until I hear a ‘yes’ it could still well be a ‘no’. I’ve been told by a friend of mine, Anthony, who has recently been approved to adopt that I really shouldn’t worry. He too is on anti-depressants and has suffered from panic attacks. Though it’s been a long journey for him and his husband, they did it! Hopefully we can too…

6 thoughts on “Will depression cost me parenthood?

  • Wow, what a powerful Blog…as a fellow sufferer of depression and a parent to two children I really appreciate your honesty. I hope beyond hope that your “illness” doesn’t result in you being deemed not “good enough” as I know that you (and James) will make an incredible Dad. Much love and luck as always xxxx

  • Another great, honest post – I’m sure this blog is helping lots of people in the same position as you guys and inspiring others to do the same. We’ve got everything crossed for you progressing to stage 2 very soon and have every confidence you will do. Kids just need honesty, love and support – you two have all that for days! xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.