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Depressed Mom

I've had depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, so I knew as I was contemplating motherhood, I would have to make adjustments. I thought I was ready. I had therapy appointments set up and I was in constant touch with my psychiatrist – but nothing prepared me for postpartum depression.

Therapy fell to the wayside. I was suicidal. I put my daughter first, which meant I came last. I got no sleep, no self-care. I had a support system, but they had no experience with mental illness before, and it was difficult to understand.

Treating my depression so I could be a mom

Long story short, I was hospitalized for 6 weeks and received treatment and medication I needed to be the mom — and person — I needed to be. I began my recovery, meaning I wasn't cured from my major depressive disorder, but I learned to manage it (after a lot of trial and error).

It was hard returning to the "real world" after being in such a safe, controlled environment. My children, then 2 and 4 years old, didn't understand I was in a fragile state. I had to quickly employ coping skills I had learned and ask for help when I needed it, which at first was a lot, when tantrums were thrown, fights were ensuing, and meltdowns were melting.

Talking to kids about depression

After almost 5 years since the hospital, my kids are now 7 and 9. They know that I have severe depression and that I have limitations. My husband and I have talked to them about how I need breaks or that sometimes my anxiety makes me extremely irritable, and I can't always control it. It gets worse when I haven't had alone time to recharge my batteries – I think it's an introvert thing.

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How I cope with depression as a mom

That's where self-care comes in. I try to do small things (read a book, take a bubble bath, binge watch my fave shows) for myself every day, but that doesn't always happen because of our busy schedule. But I also try to do something nice for myself like a massage or facial once every 1 to 2 weeks while the kids are at school.

I've come so far. There were times when I needed to stay in bed all day and my husband or mother-in-law had to pick the kids up from school to give me a breather, but I'm happy to say that hasn't happened in a long time.

But if something like that does happen, I'm honest with my kids about it. I don't want them to think I don't care about them or are pawning them off on someone else.

The guilt of being a "depressed mom"

Speaking of guilt, it goes right along with my depression. I often feel like a burden to my family and loved ones. I wish my kids didn't have a "depressed mom" who can't always sign up to be a classroom mom or a chaperone for field trips. I never know when I'll feel badly or have enough energy to do activities, so I just don't bother signing up.

But I do the best I can.

Being honest with my support system

In the past, I was quiet about my depression (and other mental health conditions), but it made me feel shame and even more guilt. I started blogging about my mental health journey and being honest about my diagnoses to my friends and family, which was scary at first, but it actually freed me.

It also increased the size of my support system. Knowing I have so many people behind me, cheering me on in my recovery, is amazing. And even if I have another major depressive episode (which is statistically likely), I'm not that scared. I have a whole army of support. Including my kids.

Being a mom is hard. Depression is hard.

It was hard explaining everything to them at first — and obviously, there are things they can't understand at this age — but I hope they will look back at their childhood and say, "Yes, mom had depression, but she fought. She did the best she could, and she was a good mom." And if they don't, that's okay, too.

It's hard being a mother, let alone one that has a chronic mental health condition. The only thing we can do is do the best we can to take care of ourselves and our families. And ask for help. Build our support systems. Work on our recovery. Let go of guilt. Hope for the best.

You got this, mom.

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