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5 Things I Want You to Know About Parenting with Depression During a Pandemic

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Like life in general, my depression acts of its own volition; audacious, it ebbs and flows without reserve, never asking permission before burrowing deep into my being. Like an unexpected visitor, sadness always takes me by surprise, and I’m never sure how long it will stay. Whether my spontaneous melancholy pops in for a quick trip lasting a day or two, lingers for weeks, or becomes a long-term squatter, I’ve found these five things to be true.

1. Depression doesn’t always make sense, and I don’t know what’s wrong.

By the time my depression is obvious to others, you can trust me I’ve been dealing with it, quietly, for far longer. When you ask me what’s wrong, I know it’s because you care. I’d love to be able to answer, but I’m as clueless as you. I have no idea why I’m stuck in a downswing; the insidiousness of this illness makes it as difficult to pinpoint a cause as it is to climb out of once it strikes. Most of the time, everything in my life is going just fine. If I knew how to make it stop, I would, and I’ve been trying harder than you can imagine before you even notice anything is off. Understand I appreciate my life and all its blessings, but gratitude and positivity are mere drops in the bucket when depression takes hold.

2. I may seem fine, but in reality, I’m barely hanging on.

On the surface, I appear “normal,” but don’t be fooled. I’m doing all the things I usually do every day — meeting deadlines, getting my kid dressed, fed and off to school. Heck, I may have even run 10 miles and prepped a week’s worth of meals. What you don’t get is this: I can be completely functional inside the darkness of a massive fog. Most likely, I forced myself out of bed this morning, I was trying to outrun my sadness, and I cooked because I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to do it (or anything at all) tomorrow. I want you to know how hard I’m struggling, but also that I’m not giving up.

3. I might push loved ones away, but I need connection now more than ever.

When I’m feeling my worst, my actions follow suit. I might snap because I’m feeling extra anxious, or I might withdraw because I can’t bear to do anything at all. These are the times when I need you the most. Times when I’m unresponsive (maybe I’m distracted and lost in my own thoughts), or irritable (even basic conversation can make me grouchy) are, ironically, when I need affection the most. The days when I’m hardest to love are the days when love is what I so desperately need. Please keep trying; I promise it’s helping even when you can’t tell.

4. I would love nothing more than to snap out of my sorrow, but it’s not that simple.

If happiness were really a choice, no one would ever get stuck in despair or feelings of hopelessness. Trust me, I’d never consciously choose to feel sad, and a change in perspective, while a good idea in theory, is not the antidote to clinical depression, which goes way deeper than simply choosing happiness over the alternative. Telling someone who’s living with depression to “look on the bright side” is dismissive and even negligent. Instead, wholly offer your support, and that means validating their feelings.

5. Living through a pandemic is tough, and maybe it’s OK that I’m not OK right now.

Some fogs are easier to emerge from than others, and situational depression is a real occurrence. Right now, life is tough for everyone, whether depression is in the picture or not. Instead of becoming demoralized because I can’t seem to permanently shake my COVID-19 pandemic funk, I’ve given myself permission to feel the way I do. I know it won’t last forever, and I know I’m doing everything I can to rise up from the gloom. It’s enough for me to know that neither this pandemic nor my depression will last forever.

Photo by @iamsherise on Unsplash

Originally published: December 4, 2020
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