My dad’s father killed himself when my dad was a child. My dad has fought with depression all his life. Depression has run on my dad’s side of the family for generations, particularly with the men. I usually forget about this until my son asks me questions like, “Why is it that I cannot switch my mind off? I want to stop my mind from thinking.” I know that is a common question of a seven-year-old with an inquisitive mind, but given our family history, I’m always extra sensitive to those type of questions.
My son is a very deep person. I remember when he was five and I felt sad after dropping him at his first day of school in kinder. He told me, “Mama don’t be sad, that is how life is, we have to grow.”
We went to visit my husband’s dad, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, on our way back from Ecuador. While we were driving to my father-in-law’s, my son posed the question about how could he stop his mind from thinking. At that moment, I just acknowledge the fact that the mind indeed never stops thinking. Later on and thanks to our visit to my husband’s dad, I was able to give him a better response.
My father-in-law is a veterinarian who has an intense love of nature and animals. He also loves to exercise and runs, hikes, rows or even sometimes goes berry picking (as a day laborer, though he doesn’t need the money of it) as a form of exercise. I was a bit nervous to see him at his place, as we had not gone to visit him for a couple of years. Once I got there though, there was no time for nervousness, as he took us hiking, fishing, to visit organic farms, to see how glass objects are made and one night, while staying at a fishing cabin on a gorgeous lake, he even showed the kids how Native Americans used to make smoke signals. He also took us on one of his favorite activities: berry picking, where he doesn’t just grab a couple of berries but fills a couple of buckets full of them.
While in charge of filling one of the buckets with my son, who really got into finding the darkest blueberries to put in the bucket, a better answer to my son’s question came to my mind. We were feeling so Zen and after a couple of hours of walking and berry picking, I was able to tell him, “Remember when you asked me how you can stop your mind from thinking? We can’t stop it, but when we don’t want it to think about something we don’t like, we can redirect it. I bet your mind is probably just thinking about how to find the berries you are looking for right?” I was also able to explain to him that running is so important for me because not only do I keep in shape like that, but because I‘m able to control my thoughts better when I run.
Depression is a hard issue to deal with and I know in many cases it takes more than running to overcome. Our visit to grandpa in New Hampshire was very inspiring. I cannot prevent depression from ever happening to my kids or myself, but hopefully we can do enough activities that could teach us to find peace within.