How I Cope With Depression as a Stay-At-Home Mom
Balancing bipolar disorder and motherhood is definitely challenging, but isn’t impossible. For years, I was told to practice mindfulness to help with depression, but I couldn’t seem to stay out of my head. However, in the three years since my son was born, I finally got it. By no means am I a master of mindfulness, but I have significantly improved. Let’s face it: When you have a toddler running around trying to climb the oven or scale the curtains, there is no time to be in your head, worrying about the state of the world or the latest health epidemic.
When I became a mom, it was all about survival; I had to keep my son and myself healthy, alive and as happy as possible. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed as many new moms are, but when we got into our groove, things got better.
1. Accept the loss of control.
This was probably one of the hardest things to learn. I’m the mom, the one in charge, but that baby is capable of turning your plans on their head at any point in time. As newborns, they slow you down with spit-up and blowout diapers as you are heading out the door. When they’re toddlers, they become masters of manipulation and always have to pee right before bed in order to stay up for a few extra minutes. After three years, I have learned that life is much easier when you just go with the flow. Now, when a recent car trip included an unexpected stop at a horse farm to take a walk and prevent car sickness, I laugh and take in the scenery. As long as I don’t have a vomit-covered car seat and child, what’s the point in getting upset about being a few minutes late?
2. Always soak in the smiles, laughs and hugs.
Being a depressed mom is hard and sometimes it feels impossible, but somehow I pull myself together for my child. There have been days it’s hard to keep the tears from flowing, but I take a minute and watch my son. His smiles and laughs recharge me and when he wraps his arms around me and says “I love you, Mommy,” my heart is whole again. Although they can’t cure your depression, happy kids sure help take the edge off of bad days. And when the tears can’t be hidden, I just tell him mommy is a little sad right now, but I will be better soon. He gives me a hug and says “I hope you feel better.”
3. Be silly.
There is nothing that my son likes more than when I’m being silly with him. Even when you don’t feel like it, get up and have a little dance party. Jumping in the basement to Lady Gaga is sure to make you feel a little better.
4. Give yourself a break if you need it.
There are days when, no matter how hard I try, I can’t muster up the energy to get through the day without some rest. Since my son doesn’t nap anymore, I have to resort to TV to help me out. As much as I try to keep my son engaged with toys and activities instead of screens, there are days I need some help from Daniel Tiger to get through the day. We snuggle on the couch while he watches his show and I close my eyes. I used to feel guilty for this, but I don’t think it’s going to scar him.
I don’t mean going through the motions of playing; be totally engaged in it. Play-Doh and arts and crafts are my favorite. My son can play with Play-Doh for hours and once I get into it, I have fun too. Not only are you being there for your child, but the act of playing is keeping you in the moment and out of your head. When your hands are busy building, coloring or sculpting Play-Doh animals, it can be therapeutic.
6. Do your best.
At the end of the day, that’s all any parent can do. Mental illness or not, we all have hard days. Be sure your children are safe, fed, healthy and clothed. Sometimes that is just good enough and you have tomorrow to try to do better.
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