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7 Lessons My Toddler Taught Me About Dealing With Depression

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Toddlers learn most things from their parents. They master how to walk by watching us, learn how to feed themselves when we show them how and know how to react to certain situations by imitating us. They develop emotions and express them in raw, unquestionable ways, that admittedly get on my nerves at times. I know my toddler has learned plenty from me, but I never expected to learn anything from her. Through just doing her own thing on a daily basis, my daughter has taught me seven lessons about dealing with my depression.

1. Laugh often.

Toddlers are amused by the silliest, smallest things. They have an innocent appreciation for the little things that frequently results in serious giggling. By enjoying little things and belly laughing, my daughter reminded me how important good humor is when depression hits.

2. Form close bonds.

From birth, children crave close physical and emotional bonds. They require soothing when they’re upset, praise when they succeed and guidance when they’re lost. Adults need the same. When I’m depressed, I may feel like I want to be alone, but I know the lack of social ties at that time is harmful to me.

3. Ask for help when I need it.

Just like when my daughter falls, bumps her head and cries for me, I need to accept when to cry out for help. Whether it’s help around the house from my mom, time spent with my best friend or talk therapy with my counselor, my daughter reminds me to not be prideful when I’m depressed and ask for help if I need it.

4. Pick myself up and try again.

My daughter is an expert at this, particularly when she’s trying to walk through the grass. She falls, but gets up and keeps trying. When I experience a depressive episode, I don’t try. I fall and I stay down, which does nothing for my poor mood. I need to get up, dust myself off and try.

5. Sleep when I’m sleepy.

A common symptom of depression is sleeping too much, which isn’t healthy. My daughter only sleeps when she is tired, and spends the rest of her day being productive in the only ways a toddler can be. She reminds me to not over sleep, and to get up and get going.

6. Eat when I’m hungry.

When I’m depressed, I eat for comfort. It results in me feeling badly about myself, and distorts the image I have of my body. When I’m down, if I eat like my daughter, my self-esteem won’t be lowered and I won’t feel bad about myself. Another direction I go with food when I’m depressed is not eating enough because I do feel so poorly. If I eat when I’m hungry, I’ll nourish my body and my mind.

7. Don’t forget to snuggle up.

I isolate myself when I’m depressed. I don’t call my friends, I don’t go out of the house and I don’t spend much time with my daughter. When she’s sick, she expects me to cuddle her and make her feel better. I need to let her do the same for me. Nothing is more healing than a warm hug from tiny arms.

Learning these things from my toddler was unexpected, but very welcome. I have a hard time coping when I’m feeling down, but these lessons I’ve learned from my daughter will help me. She alone is a great reason to try and pull myself out of the darkness that is my depression, and I know that if she understood my illness, she’d want me to feel better. I need to take these lessons I’ve learned from her and put them into action the next time I experience a depressive episode.

Madelyn and her baby
Madelyn and her daughter.

Originally published: June 8, 2016
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