30 January 2017

I'm a Mom with Depression: 5 Ways I Cope

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.
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 2017, 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.

And 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:

  • Read all the baby books.
  • Take all the classes
  • Listen to all the advice of family and friends
  • Decorate the nursery & baby proof the home
  • 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 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 used 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:

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’re 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 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. 

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.

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. 

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’s 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.

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 migraine, 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 okay. 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 okay. 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.

Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup
Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup

Courtney is a published author, mom, taco enthusiast, and a Star Wars and Tennessee Volunteers fanatic. She's never met a piece of sushi she didn’t like and enjoys an amazing glass of wine and a great cut of meat. You can read more of her wine-induced, sleep-deprived adventures on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy.

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