Depression has always been a part of my life. Long ago, my deep moods only affected me, but then it became about my significant other, too, and we had to learn how to manage my depression within our relationship.
When we added three children to the mix, things got messier.
I suffered terribly from postpartum depression
My postpartum depression with my first child was so all-encompassing that I did not know if I would survive. I isolated myself; I holed myself up right when I needed people the most. Every new depression I faced felt worse than the last, so I found myself thinking life would never get better. But it always did, for a bit.
Since my daughter was born sixteen years ago, I have been off and on medications half-a-dozen times, been to countless different therapists and tried alternative approaches to help me manage my depression.
I have good stretches, but I battle depression every day
I have good periods that can last for weeks, even months a few times, but more often than not, I am actively battling depression on the daily. Sometimes I find it hard to laugh when my kids make jokes or do something adorable and I feel like crap that I can’t make myself better.
I always come back to the fact that my kids need me—even if me is a depressed mom.
My least favorite task is reaching out to friends or to anyone for help. I know it’s a drag to have a depressed friend or partner. I get it, and that works upon my despair at times and convinces me I should not reach out at all.
16 strategies I use to parent effectively as I struggle with depression
1. Act as if
My biggest challenge is acting as if I’m not depressed; it doesn’t always work, but 25% of the time, acting as if I’m grateful does. Force yourself to list a few things that you are grateful for even in the midst of despair.
2. Talk to others or at least write down what you’re feeling and thinking
Some people will never be able to understand, so I try not talking to people who only make feel worse, or guilty.
3. Eat something or have a hot cup of coffee or tea
I give myself some relief when I need it with the most basic of comforts—food and drink.
4. Remind yourself it’s temporary
I remind myself that feeling terrible is temporary. Even when I am not depressed I can work the muscle of positivity. Then when I am depressed and in the thick of it, my internal positive mantras will habitually kick in.
5. Sometimes it’s OK for kids to be on electronics for most of the day
I don’t recommend this every day, but in a pinch, when nothing seems to be pulling me out of a depressed state, electronics can help save the day by diverting my kids’ attention from me to a device.
6. If you can get outside, grab your kids and get out there
I try to give my kids something to do, like an obstacle race or a treasure hunt (find 3 red things), so I can sit, be still, and breathe.
It is amazing how crying can purge bad feelings. And yes, it’s okay to let your kids see you cry. It’s a human response, but be sure to talk to them about why you are crying in a way they can understand.
8. Read a good book or watch a funny TV show
I sometimes join in with my kids on an electronics or reading day and watch funny videos on YouTube.
9. If you have faith, call upon it
I reach out to my faith leader or spiritual friend and ask for help. That is what they are there for. If you don’t have anyone who fills this role for you, maybe it’s time to start exploring your spiritual options.
10. Talk to your kids
I am not afraid to tell my kids about what I’m feeling.
11. Ask for help
There is no shame in asking for help—whether it is from friends, family or a therapist.
12. You are not alone
I remind myself that there are others who have gone through what I’m going through and have survived. I look for memoirs from mothers who have had similar experiences in motherhood; this helps me feel less alone.
13. Remind yourself that it is just the depression
I try to step outside myself for a moment and remind myself that it is my depression talking, but that I will soon be in charge again. I tell myself to hang in there.
14. Remember how you got through depression in the past
I remind yourself of my past successes at battling depression and repeat what has worked for me.
15. Most importantly, but most difficult, do not give up
It does get better.
16. Always know that you can call 911
As someone who doesn’t like to ask for help, I know how hard it can be to reach out, but sometimes there is no other option. I was recently at a loud dance party with one of my kids and I lost it completely when he wouldn’t join in on the fun. I ended up pulling him outside to the parking lot and sobbing hysterically.
There was a small group of moms chatting a few cars down, and I looked at them in desperation and they were looking at me wondering what to do or say. All I could manage to squeak out was, “I need help.”
People will respond if you tell them you need help
Two moms rushed over to me and another one distracted my son. One mom calmed me down and reassured me I was OK. I was lucky to have someone understand all I needed was someone to see me and empathize. I was able to calm down and go back into the party.
I felt a little embarrassed, but I got the help I needed because I asked. Just imagine you saw a mother struggling in public—wouldn’t you reach out to her without thinking? Let someone who is feeling stronger in the moment be your shoulder to lean on.
My virtual shoulder is here, just as many physical ones surround you right now if you just take that first step and reach out.
Editors note: This is one person’s experience and is not offered as a substitute for consultation with a mental health professional. If you are depressed, please seek out professional medical help.