Dealing With Depression As A Mom

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Yesterday I sprawled out on the rug next to Luke to read him Oh, The Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss and unexpectedly found the rhymes puncturing small holes in my heart.
"And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done."
Oh, do I know that feeling all too well.
Depression has been a troubled companion of mine for over a decade. At times it has overstayed its welcome, turning everything into a numb, hopeless ball of nothingness for months on end. Other times it has gone on a lengthy sabbatical, only to randomly return for a quick chat.
My depression reared its ugly head when I was around 13 years old, after a terrible sports injury. I was in and out of the hospital for years dealing with the injury, and the trauma and emotion of it all (mixed with regular ole' hormones) threw me into a whirlwind of gloom. I pretty much spent my high school years sleeping hours upon hours to escape my depression, coupled with some other not-so-wise, self-medicating choices that further agitated my lapsed mental condition. The anti-depressants prescribed by the doctors made me feel like a generic version of myself, and in my opinion, didn't offer any relief to my mental state.
Five years later, I decided I needed to "unslump" myself. So, I literally packed up my entire life and shoved it into a beat up 94' Honda Civic the day after my high school graduation, and drove 1,500 miles to live with my sister and her family in Arizona. It was a new beginning, and I was determined to be mentally stronger. I wanted to be rid of the anti-depressants and to learn to be happy on my own; I wanted myself back. I figured living in the perpetual sunshine would have its advantages compared to living in a constant cloud of rain and gray — boy, oh boy did it ever! I tossed my Zoloft in the 110 degree trash and practically let all of my sorrows and melancholy melt out of my brain and body. And it worked! I felt as if my limbs were growing back, and it felt so, so good to be ME again!
Fast forward six years from my Arizona days of self rediscovery. I was now married and pregnant with our first baby. The newlywed bubble of living in Provo had popped, and we found our soapy remnants on the concrete of reality. We were living in Southern California with Matt landing his first real job, and all of a sudden we had this insane adult life. You know, grown up stuff, like rent that made us want to scratch our eyeballs out, car payments, and for goodness sake, a BABY! Through those six years of intense life change, I surprisingly didn't lose it and fall back into a funk. Sure, there were the days with the blues, but that was totally different from a full-blown bout of depression. But, now there was a baby on the way, and my biggest fear was postpartum depression, since women who suffer from clinical depression have a higher risk of experiencing it.
I grew rounder and rounder, and before I knew it, Luke had made his intense arrival and was stealing our hearts by the minute. Weeks passed and my anticipation of postpartum depression creeping in was all in vain. I could finally stop holding my breath and gulp in the air of reassurance that maybe, just maybe, depression was a thing of my past to be left in the dust for good.
Those hopes fell short within three months of Luke being born. Amidst the lack of sleep, roller coaster of hormones, and overall bewilderment as to how the crap to be a parent, I slumped hard. Bizarre feelings and thoughts overcame me. I cried an inordinate amount, and my social anxiety hit an all time high (that's another post for another day). The one good thing I had on my side was the ability to recognize the depression, and knowing that if I had kicked it in the pants before, I could do it again. And that's what I did. It took a lot of talking, positive thinking, meditation, prayer and willpower, but I was eventually back to my old self by a year once we had moved here to Encinitas and settled in.
It was interesting having Wes, because I fretted it would all play out the same with him. And you know what? It surely did. The first few months were a dream straight from a motherhood fairytale, but once I hit that three to four month mark, my mind went all sour. And having not one, but TWO babies to care for intensified my feelings of melancholy and anxiety. Pulling myself out of bed seemed like a full time job in and of itself, and forget about doing actual housework. The thing about depression for me is that it almost is an invisible prison. I want so desperately to pull the fog from my mind and push myself to do what seem like simple, daily tasks, but I can't. It feels like I have shackles on my arms and legs and I'm bound to lying around on the floor. I skimmed by with the bare minimum, which included feeding my boys and making sure they were clean and safe. We watched a lot of movies and television those couple of months. Other than that, it exhausted all of my energy and mental stamina to do anything else without having Matt around. If you've been reading this blog for awhile or know me personally, it may seem like I didn't skip a beat. (Or maybe it did, but I just think I am better at putting on a front than I actually am?) I forced myself to put on a happy face for the rest of the world while I shattered into little pieces within my broken self. I beat myself up, wondering why I was given children that I couldn't adequately care for since I could hardly keep it together myself. Nights were spent quietly crying into my pillow, dreading the next day to dawn as another miserable, failed moment as a parent.
Around Wesley's five month mark, I finally sat down with Matt and told him my depression was scratching at the surface, clawing to get out. I needed help and couldn't do it alone. That admission alone lifted a huge burden from my aching spirit. And just as time healed it with Luke, time healed my flirtation with depression I experienced with Wes. I am now beginning to feel back up to snuff once again. Just as the spring and summer have brought the sun out to shine, light and happiness are shining in my heart and soul as well.
This all leads me to a serious question. Has anyone else dealt with what seems like a delayed version of postpartum depression? Both of my experiences with my boys came around the three to four month marker. Perhaps it is exclusive to my brain and body, but I thought I'd share my story in the off chance any of you are dealing with this same struggle.
I feel like I am at a wonderful point with keeping my depression under grips at this point in my life now, which just so happens to feel like a fantastic time to write about it. Truth is, I've ached for years to write about it, yet I couldn't find the right time. Either I was in the eye of its storm and couldn't gather my thoughts coherently, or I was in denial about its existence and pretended it wasn't real. But, now I am here at this terrific phase in my life. Motherhood has forced some stark realities on my understanding of myself, and I am at the page in my life where I am locking eyes with my issues and staring them down until they no longer loom over me.
Depression is clearly a cross for me to bear in this life, but I don't need to let it control me. I have two fantastic little gentleman counting on me to give them a wonderful upbringing, and I cannot and will not let them down. With that, I've learned a few tricks to combat any dismal feelings that float my way, and these help those dim clouds to keep on rolling by:
  • Getting dressed and ready for the day. If I put on real clothes and do my hair and makeup, my day is tremendously more productive.
  • Making the bed. Sounds like a no-brainer for many, but for the messy ones like me, this really starts the day out on the right path. Which leads to me next tip . . .
  • Keeping things clean and uncluttered. I read somewhere that having piles of things on the floor is a sign of depression, and I TOTALLY believe it. Yes, keeping things tidy can be hard with kids and a busy schedule, but it is possible with some effective time management planning and dedication.
  • Exercise. This one is a "duh" for many also, but I suck at regularly exercising, and I know that when I am on my yoga/fitness kicks, I am one happy bird!
  • You know how they say the times you don't want to pray are the moments you need to pray most? This same principle applies to the idleness which is a byproduct of depression. Going outside and doing something out of the house on the days I least want to always makes me feel fresh and awakened, and then I ask myself, "why don't I do this more often?"
  • Engage in a hobby or worthwhile cause. Actively engaging talents and putting others needs ahead of my own has always proven to be a quick and effective remedy for the blues.
"On and on you will hike. And I know you'll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are . . . And will you succed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS . . . Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So . . . get on your way!"
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