This post was written as a contribution to the Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness Blog Carnival. The participating bloggers are sharing their experiences, thoughts, and opinions on how living with mental illness affects their daily lives and parenting practices.
My depression story is a long story. Symptoms of depression started when I was pretty young. One could take a peek in my pink “Hello Kitty” Diary that I started keeping when I was seven and find statements of hopelessness. A myriad of things contributed to these feelings … low self-esteem due to being overweight and over-protective parents coddling their only child (at the time) after losing a child to a stillbirth. I didn’t feel like I fit in … or that I was ever going to.
My life turned sideways when I was eight. My baby sister was born. I had lost my only child status and having ALL of my parents attention. I didn’t want to go to school and leave my mom and sister home … not just because I didn’t want to lose out on that time with mom, but also because I was worried about my sister. (I still felt partially responsible for the death of my first sister because at four years old I insisted that I didn’t want a sibling … and then she died.) All that led me to have severe anxiety during third grade and I actually refused to go to school for a month.
Acceptance of the changes within the family, increased physical activity with swimming and ice skating, and the fact that my body was changing as I matured made things a bit easier for the next few years. But there was always an underlying unhappiness that would creep in some days.
High school brought on new challenges, the largest being incredibly afraid of becoming my own person. Self-esteem issues came crashing back and I really didn’t feel that I was ever going to be able to make it on my own. Not that many others would have known … to most I seemed like a happy, outgoing, involved student with a great group of friends that didn’t get into trouble. But that’s not how it felt on the inside. My thought process was that if I can’t make it as a teenager, I won’t succeed as a adult … so I might as well end it now.
I remember telling my mom when I was sixteen that I needed to see a therapist or I was pretty sure that I was going to kill myself. We cried together feeling scared and helpless against this boulder of depression that was crushing me.
But therapy helped. The world became less gray and I learned ways to challenge my negative self-talk and cope with becoming my own person … taking it step by step. It was a tough battle to fight and I had to work on it daily, but I continued and graduated high school and college.
And met a wonderful man. And got married. And obtained my doctorate in psychology. And had a beautiful, healthy baby boy …
And a very scary bout of postpartum depression. None of my therapy, coping skills, support systems, or education could help. That’s the power of depression … it steals away the logical thoughts of perseverance and knowledge. I felt so low … yet I was confused because I had finally received all the things that I really wanted in life. (Especially motherhood … I was SO excited about being a mom!) I was overwhelmed with the amount of love I felt for my son, but I also felt like I was doing a horrible job and that I was a horrible person and that nothing would ever be better or could help. I didn’t want anyone to know how hard I was struggling and tried my hardest to not let it show. However, thoughts of suicide started to creep back.
So, I knew I had to do something. I did something that I had been opposed to early in my life; I started taking antidepressants. Previously I didn’t believe in taking medications for mood disorders because I thought they would solely cover up all the feelings that one needed to work through in order to recover. I didn’t want to accept the fact that maybe depression wasn’t something that I could control without pharmacological help. But my husband and family needed me to try.
Within days it was literally like a huge, heavy blanket was being lifted off of me. It was something I had never felt before. Things were easier. I felt lighter. The overwhelming self-doubt faded away and I gained confidence. I was finally able to enjoy life more fully.
It made me personally and fully realize that there was a biochemical aspect that I needed medicine to help control. Within a couple of years a few of my family members also began taking antidepressants which helped me accept the strong genetic component to depression.
My journey with depression still continues. I have experienced the “poop-out” effect (ineffectiveness after sometime of being on the same medication) with a couple of the medications so I have needed to regularly see my psychiatrist to address the return of symptoms from time to time. These times can be very difficult … again I feel worthless and no good. I have little energy and it takes every effort I can muster to be as “normal” as possible for my kids. I get irritable and lose patience … and then feel horrible about my interactions. I just want to sleep and completely isolate myself from others. Some days are bad … but other dark days I pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other, remind myself of how amazing my life is, and remember that it will get better.
I hope that sharing my story will help others … Help others recognize the symptoms of depression in their children, teens, or them self. Maybe it will strike a familiar chord with someone and they will find the courage to get some help. Even when things seem insurmountable it won’t ever harm to talk someone about your symptoms. It can get better. You deserve to live life and feel good.
To read about WHY I wanted to share my story, please read my post at A Healthier Michigan.
the bipolar mom
Andie from Crayon Freckles explores how living with bipolar disorder affects motherhood and the perceptions of those around her. She also shares what she’s doing to combat the stigma that mental illness carries. Find more from Andie on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Feeling Depressed, Mama?
Krissy, a work-at-home mama of 3, shares her experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and offers 8 Tips (compiled from other moms who manage depression) for Moms Who Are Feeling Depressed. Find more from Krissy on her blog, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Depression During and After Pregnancy: One Mum’s Story
I hope that sharing my story will help to end the stigma around mental illness. A brave blogger, Andie (Crayon Freckles), had a great idea … for us to band together and share our mental illnesses publicly on our blogs. To share our stories in hope that others will read them and not feel alone. To take a stand and tell the world that it’s okay to talk about this; we NEED to talk about it and support each other.
Read other posts from the Perfectly Imperfect: Parenting with Mental Illness Blog Carnival:
The mum from What to Do With the Children, shares her experiences her heart-breaking struggles with antepartum and post-partum depression.
Parenting, Depression and PTSD
Catherine writes on her sister’s blog about parenting a toddler and baby as a mother with depression and PTSD, including steps she takes to cope.
Attachment Parenting for Introverts
Can an introverted, anxious, depressed mom still practice Attachment Parenting? Believe it or not, with the right amount of planning and forethought, it might actually be possible. Find more from Prickly Mom on her blog, Facebook, and Pinterest.
I’m Ready to Share: Mental Illness and Parenting
Erin from RoyalBaloo.com talks about mental illness, how it effects her as a parent, and what parenting with mental illness means to her. She discusses some common myths regarding Bipolar and gives advice to what to say/not to say to aparent with mental illness. Erin is a mother to 3 boys who blogs about parenting and their homeschooling journey. Find more from her on her blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google +.
If you would like to share this carnival, you can use the hashtag #EndStigma