The Mighty Logo

Fighting the Fog of Depression as a Mother

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I got angry this week. For a depressive, this is a good sign. I’m waking up. The fog is lifting. It lifts much quicker than it descends. The descent is a slow, mind-numbing process that is easily mistaken for PMS, tiredness or stress. Having a history with depression on and off throughout much of my life, both before children and after, the signs were fairly obvious. Unfortunately, I can’t do much about it at the moment as I’m pregnant with my third child, and I’ve chosen to not take any meds.

So I’m waiting it out with regular check-ins with my GP and midwife and a prescription for an antidepressant at the ready once I’ve given birth. I’ve been here before with my previous pregnancies and know it’s temporary. It takes the chemicals in my body a while to adjust to harboring a child, just as I know it will take a while to readjust after the baby is born. Knowing what to expect doesn’t make it easier, but I do feel far less ashamed than I once did. Everyone has some sort of cross to bear. This is mine.

Managing depression has become something I’m good at and even proud of. The confidence I receive in knowing I will get better empowers me and enables me to make decisions based on what my true self wants, not what the depression dictates. Having a third child was exactly that — a conscious decision made my true self. It was questioned by a few who are aware of my history, but the ones who know me well supported me. Those pocket full of friends along with my GP all agreed with me, in that the fear of depression is no reason not to pursue your life. The depression wins if I revolve my life around it, and it’s bound to return anyhow. So, here I am. Pursuing.

At first glance I don’t think I look like the pursuer I fancy myself. It’s even possible I appear lazy and incompetent. However, the everyday battle that takes place inside tells me otherwise. This battle, along with the debilitating fatigue, is a huge load to carry around and there are days when this, along with my parenting responsibilities, is all I can manage.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new No Shame group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Struggling with self-judgment? The No Shame group is a safe space to talk about the things that tend to make us feel bad about ourselves and how to overcome those challenges. Click to join.

My main goal through the thick of it is always that my children feel loved and attended to. My greatest fear is that my affliction will become their problem. I’ll admit to having days where I could have been a better mother, but overall I’ve managed to keep them cocooned from it all. I consider this my greatest achievement over the last five years. It’s certainly not the work of a lazy person.

Unfortunately, other things fall by the wayside. It’s only when the fog lifts that I start to see the extent of its debilitating powers. I’ve been bogged down with guilt over the fact that I can’t seem to cope with daily chores, forgot to get my friend a birthday cake and can’t seem to muster the where-with-all to sell some pans we’ve never used on eBay. Luckily, fog and guilt are related and both have decided to take a sabbatical from the perch of my shoulders.

So what has brought on the lift this time around? I’m not entirely sure. Chemical shifts, sunshine, exercise. All of these things are factors. But mainly, it just happens. As I mentioned earlier, I got angry. This has helped enormously. The first time you feel anger after a bought of depression can be awkward. Anger is something a depressive doesn’t always feel properly. It’s far too difficult to know what to do with it, so you just fool yourself into thinking it’s probably your fault anyway. This time I was just awake enough to face it. The result has been that it has awakened me completely.

Managing depression is a tricky business without drugs. There are times when you have to wallow because there is no other choice and then the moment, and I mean the exact moment, you feel capable of something else you have to jump in. It’s quick and painful like ripping out an IV needle. The anticipation is hell but the action is fast and is followed by an enormous sense of relief. The bruised arm remains as a reminder, but the residual pain is tolerable, and you sink into the comfortable feeling of knowing the fog will soon lift.

That moment for me involved volunteering for some local community work. I was pretty pleased with myself, but my bubble soon burst when I was met with a critical response from a friend, questioning my motivation and my ability. I was crushed and humiliated. There was some temptation to crawl back into the comfort of the fog, but I didn’t. I was already halfway out and I intended to keep going. My first instinct was to call and explain myself further but I refrained. This took incredible restraint as the need to justify myself felt bigger than me, but I resisted. Deep down I know this never works. I end up proving exactly what I’m trying to disprove and fall further into despair and self-pity, a place I was trying like hell to avoid. So instead, I got angry. It didn’t last long in the end. I walked through it and came out with a much clearer head.

With my track record as of late, I can understand why one might question my involvement in anything outside my own house. It’s out of character. This is embarrassing, but I can’t control what people think. It’s especially pointless if the person making the offending comment has a point. What is there to do but throw your hands up? A wise person once told me that what someone else thinks of you is none of your business. I don’t have anything to explain. It is what is.

Having a succession of children has meant that depression has become a large part of my personality with short reprieves in-between. A shame yes, but I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t be pregnant again if it weren’t worth it. Having said that, I’m looking forward to my next long reprieve. It’s been a long time. I can only imagine what I’ll accomplish. Unfortunately, I know this isn’t it. This reprieve is short, but I intend to enjoy it. I’m a little busier every day. I don’t know how long it will take the fog to descend again, but I have a feeling it will be in about 20 plus weeks after the high of bringing home baby subsides. Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m ready for it.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: November 18, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home