I’m in my ‘30s and a mama of three. I probably seem like a super happy person most of the time. I love to laugh, sing show tunes, read novels, go on beach vacations and drink coffee (or wine) with close friends. I love writing, gardening, and taking pretty pictures.
However, at various points in my life I have been diagnosed as a high-functioning, severe chronic depressive, both before having kids and after. I’ve actually known about my depression since childhood, even before I fully understood what it was. There have been seasons in my life where I’ve taken medication for it. For the past few years, I’ve chosen natural alternatives of treatment. I’ve done both sporadic and regularly-scheduled talk therapy.
I am in favor of any means that will shake you out of the darkness.
Many, many moms deal with depression or some form of mental illness. Whether it was for a short period of time, or an ongoing daily battle; maybe postpartum depression, during pregnancy or after kids got older. Perhaps it was a loss of a child. Whatever the unique situation, most of us have connected with depression.
It is a hard topic because no one really wants to talk about it. Especially mamas. And here’s why:
We don’t want to bring anyone else down. Moms are supposed to be cheerleaders and encouragers, right? We want our coffee dates with friends to be filled with laughter and mild lamentations about our sweet little kiddos – not talking about the sad aches. I understand it: positivity breeds positivity and I don’t suggest we talk about it all the time. (In fact, dwelling too much on it is often the worst thing to do.) But you NEED to talk about it sometimes, to someone you feel safe sharing semi-regularly with. A therapist you vibe well with. A friend who is that “me too” friend. Your partner, who even if he has no clue what you are going through, NEEDS to hear what is going on and be allowed to help you however he can. No matter what, don’t sit alone with your depression. Sometimes the best way to help it pass is to say it out loud.
We think we our depression will be viewed as weakness. Know this, Mama – you are not weak. The battle you are fighting, the war being waged in your mind can be a rough one. One that you fight alone. I say “alone” because you alone have to choose to battle. Sometimes every day. The alternative is death – whether it be your happiness, your relationships, or perhaps even your actual life. Remember that old saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle?” Let’s acknowledge the strength it requires to handle this!
We don’t want the label. Many times artists, BIG personalities, class clowns and intensely creatives are known as “depressives.” Those are the labels we want, and many times hide behind those personas to mask the pain. Or maybe we just want to blend in and be labeled as “normal.” This suggests there is such a things as “normal” – but the truth is that everyone has something they deal with that is hard. Those things do not have to define who we are … because we were created to be so much more than just one aspect of our life. If anyone discounts you or judges you because of your depression, then that is their issue, not yours. You can’t control what others think. So let that go, Girl.
We don’t want it to affect our kids. Many moms will hide their depression in the hopes that their kids will not be affected. They will notice. They may not understand, but they will pick up on your sadness or anger. I think it is important to be honest with kids about depression when they are at an age when they can understand. The worst thing is to pretend that you don’t have struggles. Kids don’t need you to be perfect, Mama. And if you’re worried your own child may also have depression, as it can be genetic, then the best thing you can do is talk to her and model a healthy way to deal with it. This could determine how she copes with it for the rest of her life.
We don’t want to ask for help. This is a big one for me! I used to take offense when someone would offer to help me with something. I took it as a sign of weakness and felt patronized. Motherhood has completely humbled me in this area. With each kid, I’ve grown to understand that I literally cannot do it all. It does take a village. I absolutely need random mamas to watch my newly crawling baby, while I try to arrange food at my older kid’s school picnic. I need people to hold the door for me and my gigantic stroller with three kids hanging off it, loaded down with snacks and backpacks at after-school pick-up. I also need someone to listen when I am at a low point. I need someone to watch my kids for a bit so I can recharge my introvert batteries. Being able to ask for help is no longer a weakness in my mind. It is a strength.
Mama, YOU ARE LOVED, by God, your family, your kids and your friends. This depression thing isn’t something you have to bury deep.
Let’s seek the Lord, our loving father, who made us perfectly who we are for a reason. He did not intend for our depression to ruin us, but to help us look to him for comfort and happiness and purpose. He sits with us in those dark moments, whispering to open the word and speak truth over this disease.
Depression is hard, it is a battle, but it is also a facet of who you are that shouldn’t be completely hidden and ignored. You don’t have to wear a T-shirt that says #depressed, but you do need to search out that corner of your being and care for it. Shine a light on it, so that perhaps you can be a light eventually for someone else in the same struggle.
Greta Ford is a SAHM currently living with her hubby and three kiddos as ex-pats in the Netherlands. She just relearned how to ride a bike, and thinks life is best when surrounded by books, houseplants and that cup of coffee that has been re-heated at least three times. Read more at her blog www.modgarden.blogspot.