The Paradox of Momming While Battling Depression

Depression. The word is thrown around all over the place, and it still has a stigma.

I think most people, when confronted with the idea of depression, imagine an eyeliner-heavy, pouting adolescent à la Wednesday Addams, rather than the smiling 1950’s-looking housewife serving coffee and chitchatting at her church bunco night.

For a lot of people, including moms {and probably moms that you would never guess battle with depression}, it doesn’t just mean moping around and crying about everything or contemplating the unthinkable.

Photo by Yoann Boyer

It isn’t just postpartum.

Don’t get me wrong. I did have two very terrible bouts with postpartum depression. And those were some very, very dark days. {For some reason, my postpartum time with my boy wasn’t as bad. Less estrogen?} I also wrestled with overwhelming depression after my miscarriage. But those were far from the only times that I have had to fight this battle.

I started being treated for depression in middle school. Did you hear that? As in, roughly age ten. This is not new. I have been waging this war for more than two decades.

But you know what is new? Having little people that depend on me for every. little. thing. All day long. Sometimes all night long. It’s a LOT more stress than I had in middle school, high school, or even college. And before I became a mom, I could limp my way through work and come home and veg, if I needed to. Housework could wait, and I could eat Girl Scout cookies for dinner.

But now, I have three whirling dervishes chasing me everywhere, making messes faster than I can tidy them, and the job is never-ending. And those Darius Rucker and other artists’ songs about our children’s childhoods being so short? Depression often robs me of the capability to relish the time I do have.

In my case, depression means having absolutely zero motivation to do things. It means getting so overwhelmed by the state of my ravaged-by-three-wild-children house that I just shut down and lay on the couch. It’s pressing snooze even when I’m awake, and still being unable to get out of bed for a good half hour. Knowing that working out and getting some endorphins will make me feel better, but finding a quick Netflix yoga workout as out-of-reach as making it to the Olympics. It’s losing my cool way too often with my poor children. Snapping with not a moment’s notice. Going from Mary Poppins mom to Miss Hannigan mom in zero point zero seconds.

Now please tell me: How am I supposed to reconcile this with teaching my children, who are deep in their most formative years, how to deal with “big emotions” and “big feelings” the proper way? I can’t even deal with or handle my big emotions.

Too often, depression means I lose it when I ask my children to do something, and ask them, and ask them, and then SNAP!, they’re staring at me defiantly, refusing to do as I ask, and I start to yell. Isn’t that exactly the thing I tell them not to do?

My four-year-old is the most emotional child I can even imagine. He is more emotional than my two girls put together. He sympathy-cries when my toddler cries. {That’s often enough of a trigger for me. UGH!}

When he starts to tornado-siren cry, how am I supposed to counsel him to handle those big feelings? And how can I expect him to follow advice that his mother can’t even follow? When I so quickly devolve into yelling, who am I to tell my children that yelling isn’t the answer?

Are you living with depression? Do you find it affects your day-to-day life, and your parenting? Better, do you have tips for coping?

I’m not a medical professional, and I am in no position to hand out advice, except for this: if you feel like you may have depression, seek help. Find someone who will listen and not treat you like you should just “snap out of it.” Depression is not just postpartum, and it doesn’t discriminate. You are not alone.

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