You Broke Me

“Daddy, you broke me!”

Through heavy sobs, the words came spilling out of his mouth. Eyes, red and bloodshot from crying so intensely; even causing him to do that heavy, shortened breath stutter, making his head shake with every gasp for his next breath.

I knew this day would come…and admittedly, selfishly, avoiding this day is one of the reasons I once said I never wanted to have kids.

The day he finally put it all together; solving the Rubik’s cube of emotions he lives with; the reason he had always felt different from other kids; from other boys. The day he realized why, when it seemed like all the other kids were jumping into adolescence with both feet, without regard, all the while he only knew hesitation; questioning every choice to death. The day he realized that when he found his “thing” that made him feel truly alive for the first time, only to have his first reaction to put it away; hide it from others, convinced people would laugh at him if he told them about it. The day he realized that voice in his head – the one telling him he wasn’t good enough to make it, or not smart enough to try, or that person isn’t going to like him back, so don’t bother asking them out; he would realize where that voice originated from, and how it got in his head. The day he realized, all those roads filled with fear and doubt, and the many still left to travel; they all lead back to me, his father, and the gift; the curse, I passed down to him at birth.

I knew this day would come. I knew I would have to answer for this one day…I just didn’t think that would come when he was five years old.

Gift? What lives in my son; in me, is no gift. We’re a lot like the super heroes I tell him so much about. The fictional characters that helped shape my youth. I tell him story after story, about heroes, and villians, and great battles where the hero swoops in, just in time to save the day. What I don’t tell him about, is the other battles these heroes face – internally. How many of them, like his dad, feel, no matter how much the accomplish, how many people the save, or how much good the do – they still feel like they’re not enough.

Like many of my favorite superheros, I have an alter ego. I spend most of my day walking around, looking “normal”, with no one around me any the wiser that I have something else lurking just beneath the surface. The major difference is, my secret is not a hidden super power. My secret will never save the masses, or thwart an evil plot for world domination. Because anxiety doesn’t save anyone. In fact, the only thing I really share in common with those heroes is, we hide our true selves; living most of our lives behind a mask we choose for others to see. And now, I fear my son has inherited that mantle.

I worry about my son so much. I have spent the first five years of his life worrying about what his life will be like. If he would end up like me. I have even talked about it with other dads:

Until recently, it was just that – worry. But all that worry became a reality recently. A reality, that even after all the worry, I was still not ready for. My son had, quite simply put, a panic attack or mental break, at five years old.

As someone who has had plenty of panic attacks, and even helped others come down from their attacks; nothing prepares you to see your sweet little boy break down in front of you. It felt like I was walking in quicksand. Moving slower and slower, and every shift I made dragged me deeper and deeper into the void that was his mental break.

I sat there, holding him, consoling him, telling him everything would be okay. I listened as he let loose what felt like a lifetime of repressed feelings and fears. Then again, when you’re five; I guess it really is a lifetime’s worth. Then came the dagger to the heart…

Daddy, you broke me!

Anxiety and depression have stolen so much from my life. It has been the greatest thief of joy to-date. These mental issues lie to you. They try and convince you of a reality that just isn’t true.

I may not be a super hero, or have special powers, but my son does. My son has so much love in his heart. He’s kind, empathetic, and has a laugh that can fill even the saddest person with joy. But most of all, he has a the special ability to heal others…okay, maybe just one person, but that person is me. He helped me feel less broken when he was born, and now I will spend the rest of my days helping him feel the same.

cover photo credit: Angie Elliott – Canadian Family


18 thoughts on “You Broke Me

  • May 19, 2017 at 9:07 am

    The difference is he has you and his Mom to help him through it and I imagine you did not. He’s very lucky because I can see you love him very much and only want the best for him. Try to (I know it’s not easy) curb your anxiety and he will see that. Beyond all else, don”t feel guilty. You are a great

  • May 19, 2017 at 10:08 am

    It’s hard, so so hard, but don’t blame yourself. My son was diagnosed clinically depressed at 7. He’s 8 now and with therapy and medication it’s like a light is on. He has friends when before he had none. He is going to camp this summer, which was an impossibility before. Find the right therapist, the first is not always the best fit. Trust your instincts and judgement. If his leg was broken, or he had cancer, you would treat that right away with the best doctors. Mental health is just the same, don’t let anybody else tell you differently. You got this.

  • May 19, 2017 at 10:55 am

    It was the same with our little guy. My wife and I both grew up with anxiety. We recognized it early for him. I think it’s taken me longer to come to terms with it because I feel like it’s my fault. I know that’s not true, but… sometimes I can’t help it. He’s such a beautiful boy, and full of love. It just broke my heart to seem him fall apart the other night. He kept saying nobody liked him, and everyone was making fun of him. I hugged him so dam tight. I wanted to squeeze that darkness out of him, or obsorbe it myself.

    • May 19, 2017 at 11:15 am

      It’s hard for us to get people to believe it because, she’s such a performer. If you gather a group of 100 people, she will put on a show for them, no fear. But then after, she’ll go through and tell me every mistake she made, how she saw people laughing at her, how she “heard” someone say she was stupid or bad. I’m scared she’ll lose the passion she very clearly has for performing. Every day I hear stories about kids making fun of her, and so-and-so isn’t really her friend, and this other kid hates her (her teacher says none of it is true and the kids all flock to her, and do whatever she commands lol) But, it’s just that anxiety, telling her so many lies It is so hard, especially since they are so young, to get them to understand that those negative thoughts are all lies. And as parents, especially when we blame ourselves, it hurts so damn bad. We stand with you guys, and give you our love and support!!

  • May 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Your son has the biggest benefit that any could ask for…your love and support to try and help him get through these moments. Best wishes brother. hang in there

  • May 19, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I don’t have kids. Well, I haven’t given birth to any anyway. My sister had some issues when we were younger so as a result my other sister, mother, and I all took over raising my niece. I always say it’s a good thing I never had kids…”Could you just imagine how screwed up they’d be?!” My niece is now 29, married with four beautiful little girls. The oldest just turned 9, for the past couple of years I’ve noticed a lot of “me” in her. That scares the crap out of me! I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and rage my entire life. She recently started seeing a therapist and has improved greatly! I try to help her when I can, talk to her, listen to her, let her know I understand. I wish I could do more! I hate seeing anyone, especially someone I love, going thru this!

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  • September 3, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Your son is lucky to have you and will do more then well in life.
    My eldest daughter straggle with self esteem since she started primary school,we made big progress through hard work ,but still lot to do and I m well conscious she will never be as determined and strong as her sister.She unfortunately is more like me then her father.But hey,we survived so they will.Plus they have much more help and comfort in us then we had in our parents.

  • October 3, 2018 at 10:25 am

    As a Mama who’s “been there, done that,” (Look up Secondary PTSD if you don’t already know what it is. THAT is a guilt trip I wish I could’ve lost the ticket for,) I can say that having a supportive, understanding parent who’s willing to seek out professional help when appropriate makes all the difference. My kiddos are relatively well adjusted, with good coping skills now because of what we did right. There were PLENTY of things we did wrong, too, so many regrets and things I wish I had a time machine to go back and change (the story of every parent’s life) but I believe my young adults are moving forward successfully because they knew that when they needed support, it was available to them, and that they could learn skills to deal with the anxiety and depression and anything else that might come along.

    Your little guy IS a superhero and he’s going to just fine, because he has a super hero for a dad. Hang in there, Papa. Together, you’ve got this.


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