My Struggle as a Parent With Depression
Depression is… consuming. From the start of your day to the end of your day, to the insomnia-fueled hours of the middle of the night, depression is there. There’s no switch, there’s no break, there’s no absence. It embraces you, squeezing out every ounce of life you have inside. It’s exhausting. It’s impatient. It’s cruel.
When you’re a parent with depression, it can feel like a giant fog has overtaken you. You can’t see through it, you can’t breathe, you can’t focus. You’re on autopilot. Feed the kid, care for the kid, bathe the kid, keep the kid alive. Did I love the kid? Also, why is my child now “the kid?” There’s no emotion. Just fog. You know what to do, your parental abilities don’t disappear, you sort of just stop existing. I’m quieter, less cautious, void of all the things that make me who I am. There’s no joy in my storytelling, there’s no enthusiasm when I respond to my child; I’m just there. I’m tired and uninterested. Can I lay down yet? I want to be the mother my daughter so deserves, but the weight on my shoulders is too heavy a burden, and my knees are dragging in the mud, and I know that if I don’t just sit down soon, I will collapse.
I am depressed.
Depression is the messy roommate who leaves their things all over and doesn’t help out. It’s calm and laid back, but there’s a trail of destruction everywhere it’s been. Depression is the party roommate who’s up all night, loud and unforgiving. Depression is the unwelcome guest who invites themselves and then overstays their welcome. Depression is the quiet library, full of words, thoughts, and solitude. I feel guilty that I am not the mother I should be, the mother I usually am, the mother I want to be. I am filled with unexplainable grief, thinking that maybe I am just not enough. I do not deserve the glorious and precious life I’ve been entrusted to care for. There is more I need to be doing, more I should be doing, but I’m lost in this fog and it won’t be long now before it swallows me whole.
I cannot breathe.
Being depressed, while being a parent, is a constant tug of war between pain and euphoria. I am often overcome with both emotions at once, and it makes it harder to feel anything at all. They’re at war with each other, and only one can win. The winner gets to stay and make a home inside me. There is no angel or devil on my shoulder; there is only me vs. it. I plead with my depression to set me free. I try and reason with it, I try and evict it, I try and forcibly remove it with SSRIs.
I beg for freedom.
Auto pilot is comfortable, but emotions are more valuable. I revel in my ability to feel everything so deeply. I know I can be a mother, and be depressed at the same time.
I only wish not to.
Depression is a part of me, but it is not who I am. I will overcome it, and I will fall back into the mother I am meant to be. Patience, self-care and time are in my recipe for recovery. I am sorry that my brain is erratic. I have grown weary of its damage. It is undesirable. But I am thankful for the strength it brings me when it departs. When it’s gone, it leaves behind a trail of bravery I forgot I had. The fog clears and the light engulfs me. I can see. I can breathe. I find power and immunity in its absence. I am me again.
I am thankful for my daughter who is kind and gentle, and way more than I deserve. I am proud of her grace and empathy. I am grateful for her patience and understanding. It takes true strength to love somebody when they are weak. Without her, the fog would never clear.
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Thinkstock photo via NADOFOTOS