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To Mommas Like Me Living With Depression

You’re trying, trying, trying so hard to keep it together. You had hoped today would be better, but you woke up feeling the same sense of dread and panic. You know it won’t last forever, but it’s getting old. And it’s getting worse.

You can’t stay in bed, although your body is screaming for it, because you have three kids to take care of. So, you drag yourself out of bed and perform your duties like they’re hardwired into your brain. You think a cup of coffee might give you some energy, but instead it makes the pounding in your chest worse.

Kids fed, check.

Diapers changed, check.

Is this all I’ll accomplish today?

You’ve tried self-care, deep breathing and being good to yourself, but nothing is working. Your 5-year-old’s squeals and 1-year-old’s cries pierce your ears like a siren. You try not to shout, but find yourself doing it anyway. Then you get angry at yourself for being “that” mom. You know it’s not their fault. Your toddler doesn’t know your skin feels raw and your senses are on high alert, so she climbs on you, pinches you and pulls at your clothes. She doesn’t know that today her play feels like torture.

You leave your 7-year-old in charge and retreat to the shower — maybe there you will get some relief. At least here, with the noise of the water, you can cry. You fight the urge to turn the water on too hot and scald your skin. You try to focus on your breathing and the sound of the water — try to be here in the moment, but your mind won’t allow it. It screams at you in a hundred voices. Your mind is a crowded room with a locked door.

You take a deep breath and go back out to your kids. One wants a snack. One wants to play a video game. The youngest has taken off her diaper and peed on the floor. All you can manage is a weak sigh as you get a snack, clean up the floor and re-dress your toddler.

I can’t do this! I can’t do this! Please help me! your inner child pleads. You give in and allow your kids to play video games and watch a movie so you can have some quiet. Then scold yourself again for being a failure as a mother. Snap out of it! You wish so badly that you could. What’s wrong with you?

You have depression.

And although you have been in remission for several months, your symptoms like to pop up every now and then like a cold sore, reminding you they will never really leave. You cancel outings you are meant to attend, (by text and Facebook, because you can’t possibly face a telephone call at this point) making up excuses. The excuses seem necessary because stigma still exists, and you can’t possibly just tell people “I can’t cope right now, so I won’t be able to make it to the playdate.” What would they think of you if they knew?

You spend most of the day on the couch. When your husband gets home from work, you are finally honest and tell him you’re in pain and struggling to cope. He hugs you and strokes your hair, because he’s your best friend. He reminds you how much you’ve been through together and that together, you will get through this, too.

You feel a bit better and turn to one of the coping skills you’ve learned over the years. You make a list of reasons why you are awesome. At first it seems forced (“I read to my kids every night”), but by the time you get to “lived with depression for over two decades and I’m kicking it’s butt,” you begin to smile.

It will get better. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not the next day. But it will get better for you. And it will get better for me, too.

Follow this journey on The Heart-Based Home.

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