What Motherhood Is Like When You Struggle With Depression
Depression is hard enough. Add raising two babies and some days, it seems impossible. I’m glad that mental health is getting more attention these days, even if the government is trying to make it harder to get help. If they pass the health bill they want, then my mental illness will be a pre-exsisting condition and it will be harder for me to get coverage and help. But that is not what this is about. This is about what depression and motherhood is to me.
Depression and motherhood is sitting on the couch and hoping that the children won’t need you today. Because as much as you really want to get on the ground and crawl and tickle and giggle with them, you can’t. That invisible wall has surrounded you and they can’t see it, but you feel so far away.
Depression and motherhood is your 4-year-old handing you a tissue and saying, “please don’t cry momma,” and you crying more because you don’t want her early memories of you to be only the sad ones. You want her to remember the good days and the fun, but at that moment, you have a really hard time remembering them too.
Depression and motherhood is loneliness. Being a mother in this day in age is already near impossible because everything you do is going to be wrong to someone. But with the added hardship of depression and anxiety, it’s isolating. You have to pretend like you’re just as put together as the next mother, who isn’t put together at all. But no one talks about that. We all act like we have our shit together, but no one does. Depression is already isolating, but when you deal with it before children, it’s easier to handle. You can hide under the covers all day or get lost in a book. You can’t just get up and go somewhere without a second thought and make yourself feel better. With children comes the necessity of planning. You have a baby that still needs bottles so you have to make sure you pack enough. You have a toddler that literally hates every type of food, except like three, so you have to make sure you pack those so she doesn’t starve either. You have to make sure you have sunscreen or bug spray, a change of clothes for the little ones, diapers and bottles and water and snacks, a carrier or stroller, and then you’re so overwhelmed that the idea of leaving the house is exhausting, so you don’t. You stay at home with your kids by yourself and berate yourself more when your little one asks what we’re doing and where we’re going and you don’t have an answer.
Depression is fighting. You fight with yourself all the time. I hate that I have this darkness during a time that I should be loving and learning about life. I hate that I have to take pills to make myself feel somewhat in control of my emotions. I get angry at everything. I get mad at the kids. I yell at them. I throw the same temper tantrums that I reprimand them for throwing. I have failed them again because I shouldn’t lose my temper like that. I shouldn’t break down like that. But today, I lost the fight and the darkness won. I have an illness. I’ve been fighting these illnesses for a really long time, but society still thinks that because you can’t see what goes on in my head that it must not be serious and I need to “get over it,” or “buck up.” It’s having people give unsolicited advice about what you should do to feel better. Because going for a walk every day or smiling or playing is going to magically even out the chemical imbalance in my brain that my medication still has difficulty doing.
Depression and motherhood is worry. It’s looking at your beautiful, happy children and praying they don’t inherit your illness. You know the chance is pretty high, especially for your daughter, and you already feel like you failed her. You failed her because you’re giving her the darkness you’ve tried for years to get rid of. You spend days feeling like you’re not worthy of these angels because they are the light, but you know someday that you might dim that light with the darkness that they will get from you.
Depression and motherhood is failure. It’s your brain telling you that you’re not good enough and you’re not doing enough for yourself or your kids. It’s again, sitting on the couch, with the darkness whispering in your ear how horrible you are because you’re not taking your kids out on adventures like you used to do. You’re not going for walks every day or working on teaching them letters and shapes and numbers and reading. It’s the guilt that comes with letting them watch TV all day because there is the hope that it will satisfy them and you can continue to spiral there on the couch. It’s failure because in your mind, you have these plans on how awesome you’re going to be today and how you’re going to cook with your daughter and crawl around with your son, but then the morning comes and goes, and you still sit there, wanting so bad for just one good feeling so you can do these things, but the feeling never comes, so your day of awesome turns into all the other days of failure.
Depression and motherhood is love and strength. It’s wanting to do nothing more but pull the covers over you and block out the world, but you don’t. You get up and get dressed. You make breakfast and bottles. You change diapers. Leaving the house might have been a failure, but your kids still deserve a mom. You fight through the darkness because they deserve more than that. And sometimes it leaves you exhausted at night because of all the effort you had to put in just to have a somewhat “normal” day, and after the kids go to sleep, you cry. You cry because you had to try so hard to have a good day and you know it shouldn’t be this hard. But that’s love. You do this because they are the best parts of you, so you work really hard to let them know they are loved. You work to make them smile and laugh, and in those moments, motherhood and depression is love.
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