Coffee For Two: Moms & Depression - Battling the Beast

As most of you may know, I am a mother who battles depression. It's a topic that I've touched on lightly from time to time but in all honesty, I haven't talked about it as much as I should and I feel bad about that and want to change it. I know that depression can be a difficult topic for most mothers to even admit they have, let alone talk about but the fact of the matter is that this issue simply isn't talked about enough in parenting circles. 

And it should be.

All too often, women and mothers suffer in silence with depression and even though we are in the year 2015, the topic of mothers who suffer from depression is treated as if we're still stuck in the 1950s. It's almost as if it's still the dirty little secret that we're not supposed to talk about...a taboo if you will.

As moms, we become gold medal winners for harboring secrets. Some secrets are small like hiding in the pantry for just a sliver of peace and quiet or how we skip pages of bedtime stories at the end of long days just so we can get the little devils to bed faster and get some much needed down time. You know, innocent little white lies.

But the bigger secrets? Well...sometimes we just keep those buried deep down inside for fear of them ever seeing the light of day. Worse, we keep them hidden from the world for fear of judgement, ridicule, and unfortunately, to keep from being perceived by others as a mom who can't keep her shit together. You know the secrets I'm talking about - secrets like depression. These secrets stay bubbling just under the surface and in return, cause a slow and painful death to the mothers who hold them in. 

I know because this used to be me.

For the longest time, I felt ashamed because I'm on anti-depressants, sought therapy, and found myself not enjoying every single aspect of being a mom or finding joy with parenthood in general. I think the largest contributor to this was becoming a first time mom. Right from the moment a woman finds out she's pregnant, most go through the normal nesting process that looks something like this:

1.            Read all the baby books.
2.            Take all the classes
3.            Listen to all the advice of family and friends
4.            Decorate the nursery & baby proof the home
5.            Read more baby books

Sound familiar? And while all of this is great {I'm not advocating otherwise} there is absolutely no book, person or class that can adequately prepare you for the biggest life-altering shock journey that you are about to embark on - parenthood.

For some first-time mothers, they adjust beautifully but if we're being honest, I think the majority of mothers struggle with becoming a parent and in return, most struggle and fight depression whether it be a single bout of PPD or a depression that lasts longer. And it's easy to see why. You and your partner have just welcomed a new baby {a human life!} into your world and from the moment they are born, your life as you use to know it is gone. It's a very bitter, exhausting, emotionally and physically draining pill to swallow.

So how do we win?

Well, I'll be honest with you - I don't know if anyone ever fully "wins" or beats depression after all, it is a disease that has to be managed just like any illness and I don't say that to be negative or to be a downer. I say it because it's the truth and it is reality. Depression is silent and deadly and sneaks up on you like a thief in the night and that's its mode of operation - you never know when it is going to sneak back into your life. Having said this, I want to share some tips and pieces of advice that I've learned along the way over my years in dealing with my depression and more so since becoming a mom:

1.            Get Help | There is absolutely no shame in seeking help for depression. If anyone - and I do mean anyone - tells you otherwise, run from them as fast as your feet will take you. If you are going to tackle your depression the one thing you have to understand is that IT. IS. A. DISEASE. You can't help your depression any more than you can help the color of your eyes. Look at is this way - if you were a diabetic, wouldn't you take insulin to manage your diabetes in order to live a happy and productive life? It's the same thing. Depression is a disease and you will need help to fight it. The reality is that you cannot do it on your own. 

2.            Avoid Depression Triggers like the Plague | Over the many years that I've battled my depression, I've come to find that there are certain things in life that will trigger my depression. And while I can't avoid everything in life, I've come to learn and recognize the things that set me off so that I can avoid the traps and pitfalls that follow. Learn what your triggers are and do your best to avoid them.

3.            Minimize Stress | Ok, I admit - this is a tricky one. Being a parent alone is stressful enough let alone dealing with depression however, I believe most stress incurred in our lives is brought on by none other than ourselves. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Learn to recognize your limits and stick to them. You have to be willing to put yourself and your well-being first if you truly want to battle depression successfully. There is absolutely no shame in not juggling it all. If you take anything away from this post please let it be this - you can't be everything to everyone. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and use them to your advantage. If this means cutting back on commitments or telling people "No" then DO. IT. Life will go on and the world will keep spinning, I promise. I've always maintained that I'd rather do a few things well then do a lot of things that turn out to be crap. 

4.            Build a Strong Support Group & Network | It's nice to have friends or family who can spill out the generic platitudes when you're suffering with depression. That's great, and I don't take anything away from their efforts but it is essential to find people, friends, or professionals who are going through the same battles you are who are able to truly understand what you're going through and need in order to battle your depression. It's true that these people may not be able to immediately fix what's wrong but they will certainly be the ones who will rally beside you when times get hard and you will know that they are coming from a perspective of experience instead of just trying to get you to "snap out of it." Having a network that is a safe place for you to be able to express yourself freely without fear of retribution is priority number one in managing your depression.

5.            Do Not be Afraid to Rely on Medicine | Depression is a beast. It is unforgiving and it is relentless and while that organic herbal rub may work great for your cuts, sores, and glowing complexion it's not going to do much to get you through your depression. Get rest and exercise and if need be, get medicine. There is no shame in this! If you had a head ache, would you let yourself suffer? Modern medicine is a marvelous thing. There are so many advances and choices now in the world of depression meds that many have minimal to no side effects. I take one pill daily that has changed my life dramatically and for the better. It doesn't interfere with my life at all. In some ways, it has given me my life back. Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor to find the best med{s} that works best for you.

Last but certainly not least, take each day one at a time. Learning to live with and battle depression as a mother is a journey. Learn to be honest with yourself and accept that some days will be good and others...well...not so much. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that - it's OK. There is nothing "wrong" with you. You are beautifully created women doing amazing work in your homes and in the world. Sometimes we all need a little help and there is no shame in that.

I hope that by talking about depression, I can connect with other moms who are going through the same struggles and who are in the same boat of fighting depression, anxiety, irritability and the sadness that creeps into our lives, mostly inexplicably. Moms who wonder why - even when their lives seem to be picture perfect - why do they feel this way?

I had a therapist once who told me that every mother she counsels asks this very same question.

So know that if you're asking it too, you're not alone and it's OK. I hope this post helps you to know and understand this and encourages you to share your own stories so that we can begin to chip away at this horrible and unfounded stigma of depression.

Today, I’m co-hosting this link-up, Coffee for Two, with Stephanie from Wife Mommy Me. This link-up will give you the opportunity to meet up virtually with your best blogging friends to share the thoughts, concerns, joys and ups and down of daily life; just you, us and the very best support system you’ll ever find. Think of it as an afternoon with your girlfriends, enjoying an amazing cup of coffee and catching up with each other. This link-up is your chance to dig deep and share anything and everything that is currently on your heart. No topic, issue or thought is off limits. Just as you are open and honest with your girlfriends, we want that same honesty and rawness in your Coffee for Two posts. 

Coffee dates will be the last Thursday of every month. As an added bonus, each month Stephanie and I will pick one post/blogger to win a $5 Starbucks e-Card.

Enjoy a coffee on us and in return, link-up and share your life with us. 

My Favorite Home Movies

Completely off topic segway: I just love this graphic, don’t you? It’s completely vintage with a touch of modern.  Love the colors, the font – love it, love it, love it. 

Moving on…

Over the years, we’ve collected a lot of videos of our life with Chickie. Starting from the newborn days up to today, we have an assorted collection of funny and everyday life videos, some of which are milestones, that I thought would be fun to share with my blog family today. 

Kick back, relax and get a glimpse into our crazy little world of weird, fun and the everyday. Enjoy!

ONE :: Maddy takes her first steps. When we lived in Roanoke VA, Chickie was in a home school day care and I LOVED her teacher, Ms. Annie. Annie was great about taking videos and pictures and sending them to me during the day while I was at work. She was able to catch Maddy’s first steps and share it with me since I wasn’t able to be there. Definitely a very cool moment.

TWO :: Maddy & daddy chase each other. One of Chickie’s favorite things in the world is being chased so to see her playing like this with Michael just about makes my heart explode. GAH.

THREE :: Bust a move! When we first moved to Statesboro, we hadn’t completely unpacked yet so we ate out one night at the Olive Garden. Oddly enough, they were playing Mellencamp’s ‘Cherry Bomb’ and Maddy decided that she was going to bust a move right there in front of the Olive Garden. Daddy even joined in on the fun and yes, we are those people who will just start dancing in random places – the car, in a store, in the park. You name it, we’ll dance there.

FOUR :: You are my sunshine. One of the first songs Chickie learned to sing all the way through was ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ One weekend after I woke up from a nap, she came in to sing it to me and again, my heart nearly exploded.

FIVE :: Maddy’s Italian lesson. This video makes me laugh in all kinds of ways. First, it just shows what an average night during bath time looks like in our house but it’s just fun…and it makes me smile. To see the light in my child’s eyes and the funny that comes from her mouth makes my heart – you guessed it – explode.

SIX :: Swinging on a Sunday afternoon. This video was taken two years ago during a time when Chickie LOOOOOVED the swings. She still loves the swings but the pure joy and laughs in this video are just amazing. I still can’t believe she was ever this young!

What about you? What’s your favorite home movie that you love to watch over and over again? 

If you'd like to follow along in all of our little antics, shenanigans and life adventures, feel free to follow our YouTube channel

Have a beautiful day, friends.

Whose to Say One and Done is Wrong?

It started around six months after Chickie was born.

I was frequently asked, “So – when are you guys going to have another?”

Truth be told, I was still struggling with becoming a new mother, returning to work full-time, coping with the sleepless nights but most of all, my body was still recovering from Chickie’s C–section. The thought of having another child with all those life adjustments going on was the furthest thing from my mind.

But the questions, assumptions and interrogations continued…

“You are still young! Have another one quickly before it’s too late!”
“You don’t have any fertility issues, do you? What’s the problem?”

Each time, my answer was simply “We do not want another child.”

By people’s reactions, you would have thought I magically sprouted six heads and blew fire.

Then would come the litany list of reasons Michael and I should have another child:

“You don’t want your daughter growing up and taking life on alone, do you?”
“Single children tend to be really spoiled. You need to have another one 
to balance it out.”
“Doesn’t Michael secretly really, really want a son?”
“You don’t think she’ll feel pressured to be perfect as an only child?”

Out of all these questions, my personal favorite would have to be: “But you and Michael make beautiful children. It’s your obligation to make more!!”

Um, okay.

Becoming a first-time mother at 35 I was even shocked that I had Chickie. I never thought I’d have the chance to become a mother coupled with the fact that I never had much of a mothering instinct growing up, I was perfectly fine and dandy with just one child. From the moment I met Chickie in the hospital, I knew instinctively that I only wanted one child. For me, our family felt complete. I had zero desire to have another child and Michael felt the same way.

With every year that passes, I am more and more convinced that our decision to be one and done is the right choice for us. And that’s the part I’d like to emphasize – the choice to have only one child is what works for us. If you want 20, by all means knock yourself out. Or up. Every couple has to determine what is right for them and them alone because at the end of the day, they are the ones left dealing with the ramifications of their choices. Having children is a deeply personal decision that should be understood and respected by all. In as much as you and your spouse may want 20 kids, some couples don’t, and when it’s all said and done, both sides should respect the other. As I said earlier, no one has to live your life but you.

Having said this, I understand where the questions and input comes from. With the average American household now holding at around 2.01 kids (How the heck is a number like that possible when you’re talking about people??) it’s easy to understand people’s confusion and hesitance when you say you only want one child. So to add a little balance to our more-than-one mentality in our culture, I offer my own personal reasons for being one and done:

1.    I Know My Limits and My Limitations. It basically boils down to this: I could be a great parent to one child or a mediocre parent to more. Pretty simple, huh. I know that my temperament and personality is suited for one child and that having more would put a huge strain on that. I’ve also discussed how I’m a mother who battles depression many times here on the blog. In order for me to be at my healthiest mentally and emotionally, I keep this in mind with regards to kids. Knowing this about myself, why would I want to have more children knowing I’d only be a sub-par parent at best?

2.    The Financial Aspect. I feel that when a couple starts discussing the topic of kids, it’s important to take into consideration what you’re financially able to afford and provide. Bringing a life into the world is a huge commitment and you never know what life will throw at you on any given day. If you’re not prepared to take on that commitment financially, it brings a whole new set of challenges into your family. For us at this specific time in our lives, even if we wanted more kids, it wouldn’t be prudent because we’re not in a position to do so financially. As it stands now, we are living within our means with one child and we are more than okay with that.

3.    Still Having Time for Personal Interests and “Freedoms.” I am a firm believer that while we as parents make a life-long commitment to our children, it by no means translates into “Give up everything that makes you happy as your own individual person.” I’ve come to find that the happiest I’ve been in parenting over the last three years has been when I felt like I was still able to have a sense of “me,” time to myself and the flexibility to have social time with friends and time with Michael. Being who I am as a person, and Michael as well, I don’t think if we had more children we would be able to handle the added stress of raising kids. I feel that now, we have the best of both worlds – we have the child we always wanted and we still have the ability to have a certain amount of freedom that we both enjoy and need as individuals. In my book, that’s a win-win.

I also truly believe that if you want your child to have a happy, fulfilled life, you have to model that. If this equates to having more than one child for you, great but if not, and all you’re doing is struggling to keep your head above water every day because you gave into societal, family or friend pressure to have more kids even when your gut told you not to, you’re not modeling that and your children will know it and feel it.

4.    Speaking of Freedoms & Finances, Let’s Talk About Being a Working Mom. I’ve discussed many times why I enjoy being a working mom. You can follow up on those thoughts here. If we were to have more children and were not in a place to do so comfortably with regards to finances, I would be forced to be a stay at home mom. While there is nothing wrong with being a SAHM, (I’ve done it!) it’s not what truly makes me happy. Again, it goes back to having the balance of individual wants and needs that translates over into a happy and healthy parent.

5.    The Plain Simple Fact that We Don’t Want Another Child. It’s fine for me to sit here and talk about 1-4 on this list and all of those reasons and explanations are true but really, the simple fact of the matter is that we don’t want any more children, period. Neither Michael nor I have any desire to do the baby days all over again, but it’s more than that. When we think of our family as a whole, we feel it is complete.

Is this choice always an easy one? Nope. I’ll be the first to admit that at times, I’ve questioned our decision to only have one child and not give Maddy a sibling. So many times Michael and I have both been stretched thin while trying to juggle a million different things at once and all the while, Maddy is begging for attention. Of course in situations like that it would be nice for her to have a sibling to play with to keep her company. I’ve felt the fear of, god forbid, something happening to me and Michael and she is left without us and a sibling. But then my reason kicks in and I’m reminded that I don’t believe in bringing children into this world just for the sake of having siblings and play mates. I feel very confident in the way that Maddy is being raised and along with her magnetic personality, that she will have no problem making and having life-long friends. She will also have her aunts who are seven and 15 years younger than myself along with any children they may have. I feel confident that she will never be left alone in this world.

Do I fear the day when Maddy comes to me and her father to ask us for a sibling or asks why she doesn’t have one? Sure, it hits me every so often but in the end, I hope we have the courage to be honest with her to tell her – she was enough for us, and not from the aspect of raising a child but more from the heart…that she was enough to fill our hearts and lives. She and she alone. From the moment we met, we knew our family was complete.

Happy are we, our family of three.

Special thanks to Stephanie over at Wife Mommy Me for hosting today's link-up, Mom Talk Tuesdays and also to Beth at Our Pretty Little Girls for her series, Tuesday Talk. These link-ups are a wonderful way for moms from all different walks of life to come together to talk honestly about the challenges we face as parents while sharing positive solutions and offering advice. If you want or need support in a judgment free zone with several different topics, I urge you to join in on the conversations, friendships and camaraderie happening through these link-ups and share your story!

Now That I'm a Mom I Understand...

I will never forget the look of fear, relief and anger in my mother’s eyes the morning I came home after staying out all night with my girlfriends with no phone call to let my parents know I was okay and what I was up to. It was my senior year of high school, which of course translated to: “I’m an adult now. I can do what I want.” 

Her eyes were blood shot, haggard a bloated. With tears streaming down her face she asked, “Do you have any idea what you’ve put your father and me through tonight?” But I didn’t. I had no clue. In my adolescence, I couldn’t see or understand her point of view. I remember thinking, “I’m here. I’m okay. What’s the big deal?” 

Back then, I desperately wanted to understand why she was so upset. I wanted to understand why she had stayed up all night worrying and fretting. I wanted to be able to comprehend why, if she was so happy I was home and okay, why was she so upset and angry?

But I just couldn’t. I was a teenager and I was an asshole.

Now that I have a child of my own, I can look back on that moment, and many others from my childhood, and understand it all completely. It sounds cliché as hell for our parents to say, “When you have your own children, you will understand” but it is a statement that couldn’t be any further away from the truth. 

Now that I’m a mom I’ve come to understand…

…The constant worried, anxious, afraid feelings all moms carry with them deep down in their gut.

…How it broke my mother’s heart to see me cry.

…How it broke her heart even more to see me cry after disciplining me.

…The amount of time and monetary sacrifice my parents gave to me and my sisters so that we would never have to go without even when my mom and dad had too.

…How I can feel so incredibly angry, happy and relieved all at once when something happens to my child. More so, if it’s because she was doing something I asked her not to do.

…Why all mothers cry a lot.

…That my mother and father were not perfect but they tried their best. 

…That parenting, in some ways, is a thankless job.

…The never-ending feelings of exhaustion.

…The incredible amount of pride of seeing your child{ren} get it right and excel.

…That no matter how old I am, I will always be my mother’s “baby.”

…How I can go from happy to bitch in 2.2 seconds.

…How the longing for just a sliver of alone time is real and so very needed from time to time

…That despite all the sleepless nights, arguments and the ups and downs of parenting, she would do it all over again. 

How about you? What are some things you couldn’t understand about your parents growing up that you completely get now that you are a parent?
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