Anxiety. Mild depression. PTSD. Those were the diagnoses given by my therapist. She said the depression was mild because I was still able to get up and go to work everyday. I responded by telling her that I didn’t want to, all I wanted to do was slide out of that cozy chair, onto the floor, and lie on that shag rug indefinitely. That was months ago and I still feel the same way.
I’m one of the millions of Americans who finds my way to the couch accompanied by a box of tissues as This Is Us airs on the television. I could relate to Toby all too well when he fell into a depression after his divorce and couldn’t pull himself out of bed. When his mother walked into his room while he lay in the dark, told him to get up and he said, “I can’t,” I felt that in my spirit; from my hair follicles to the beds of my toenails.
You see, this is a post I’ve avoided for a while now because I write about overcoming, and I haven’t overcome this. The anxiety, the mild depression, or the PTSD. I kept thinking, “I have to tell them how to overcome.” I don’t though, I simply have to share that it’s okay not to be okay. I’m preaching to the choir when I say that. Because the thing is, I’ve been here before, but it’s never been this bad.
My Battle With Postpartum Depression
After the birth of my daughter, I was hit with an awful touch of postpartum, also known as the “baby blues”. Postpartum depression can happen after childbirth. The symptoms commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues usually begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks. However, some mothers experience more severe cases that may last for years! Postpartum depression can even develop into postpartum psychosis, causing mothers to hallucinate or have desires to harm their baby. All from giving birth, mm mm mm! At a time when I was failing miserably trying to keep it together, my step mother spoke those very words to me, “it’s okay to not be okay.” When I tell you it never felt so good to break down, my goodness.
Back then when I was dealing with depression, all I had to do was sit on the couch and let my son make a mess while protecting my newborn daughter from his wrath as she slept and ate (Let’s just say it took him a while to adjust). I could barely hold a conversation. I was fine if I could actually pay attention and stay in the moment, you might get a chuckle out of me. But too often, I found myself zoning out, not wanting to contribute to the conversation. Contributing meant that I might have to talk about myself and I just couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to revisit anything going on in my life.
The Truth About Parenting
Today, as I find the strength to gather my bearings, I have to maintain a household, work a full time job, go to class, and help two little humans understand the emotions in their head. The problem with that last bit is that I’m still figuring that part out myself (things no one tells you about becoming a parent)!
My kids are the most beautiful, perfect creations I’ve ever laid eyes on. How they view me on the other hand? I’m not sure, but it’s been a rough couple of months. At this point, my guess is Shrek at his kid’s birthday party in Shrek Forever After.
Many of us parents know how Shrek felt in that moment. Everyone calling your name, kids running circles around you, and the noise. The noise, Lord Jesus! We’ve all succumb to the “I’VE HAD IT” yell, but I’ll stand in line alone if no one else is brave enough to admit that their children drive them crazy most days.
Some days I ask myself, don’t these kids know they’re the ONLY reason I mustered up enough energy to climb out of bed? How can they not know that I heard them the first time they asked for juice and they don’t have to ask 12 more times over the course of 10 seconds? That the laundry is to the sky and we’re running late every morning because I just can’t get it together? That I just need a minute? And I should be okay, I have a good life, but I just can’t. get. up.
But I do. I gather up every ounce of strength and energy I can find in my body and I face the day. And I swear to God it’s the hardest thing I do everyday. When the day is over I want to death drop to the floor like a Dancing Doll. While I haven’t overcome this yet, the anxiety, the depression, or the PTSD, I will.
Here’s what’s helping in the meantime:
1. Give yourself permission to not be okay.
It’s okay. You’re only one woman and remember, you aren’t supposed to be doing this alone. You have a lot on your plate, you’re being strong for so many. It’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel it. And it’s okay to not know why you’re crying, I’ve been there too.
2. Pick something.
I don’t know about you, but when depression and anxiety come knocking, I find my home in my bed. When I’m in the bed, I’m not cleaning (or doing anything else for that matter). When I’m not cleaning, my house is a mess. When the house is a mess, I can’t function. This cycle sends my anxiety into overdrive and the next thing I know I’m running back to my front door for the third time because I can’t remember if I locked it. This can go on everyday for months, and it has.
I’ve decided to wash the dishes every night (mostly because I don’t want roaches, but I think that’s a good enough reason). What I’ve noticed is that when I clean when the kitchen, I’m more inclined to clean the rest of the house. When the rest of the house is clean, I work and sleep better. More sleep means a more patient mommy. No more throwing laundry in the air to find matching items. I love it here!
What’s your one thing? Keeping your car clean? Keeping your brows fleeky? Doing your daughter’s hair every Sunday? 15 minutes of scheduled quite time (even if you’re sitting in the car)? Pick one thing, make it your bitch, and see how you feel after getting in the habit of doing something good for yourself again.
3. Love on those babies.
As much as mental illness haunts us, our kids are the ones who suffer. When I’m depressed, I just want to be left alone, subsequently distancing myself from my babies. We can always find a problem to focus on, pain to wallow in, but when I take a moment to be present with my children, I’m at peace. When I take a moment to color with my son and notice his artistic ability, it brings me joy. When my daughter grabs my cheeks and gives me a kiss, I know I’m in a safe space and loved unconditionally. When we’re snuggled up on the couch and my phone is out of reach, the world is quiet. Maybe what I’m really saying here is, let your babies love on you; nothing feels better than those cuddles. You need the love and they do too.
4. Seek help if you need it.
I knew I needed help when I bought my kids’ dinner table into my room. When we stopped leaving the house on the weekends. When I started having nightmares again. Honey, there isn’t enough wine in the world, okay? Notice that “pray it away” isn’t listed. I love the Lord and He heard my cry, but there is a reason life coaches, counselors, therapists, and psychotherapists exist.
How much does it suck that venting to our best friends aren’t included in that list? Nonetheless, talk to them and other’s who genuinely care for you if you’re about to burst. But let me tell you, there’s nothing better than spilling your guts to someone who is trained and licensed in listening to your problems with the purpose of helping you navigate healing without judgement. It’s literally their job. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which include at least one free session per life event. Now, don’t be silly and pass up on a free therapy session. What are you waiting on?
What does depression look like?
If you saw me at the grocery store with my kids, I would look completely sane. If you took a scroll down my social media, you’d find smiles and laughter. If I listed my accomplishments, you may think “she has no reason to be sad”. But you see, that’s the thing about depression, it can be completely biological and have absolutely nothing to do with your circumstances. It can be hereditary and slap you in the face one day, but your mother (or father) hid it so well you never had a clue it was floating in your DNA. Plot twist!
Let’s Talk About It
This topic has been on my heart. As I write, I think about how my mother felt as she was raising me, and my grandmother as she was raising my mom. We all became mothers around the same age. Were they depressed? How did they deal with it without collapsing? Did they collapse? I wish they would have shared! I think about how an elder may have reacted if my mother or grandmother approached them and said, “I’m depressed, I can’t get out of the bed. Can you take the kids for a couple of days?” I can only imagine some annoying, cliché response, reminding them of their choice to take on the responsibility of parenting. I wonder if a similar post would have helped them in any way.
I promise, you aren’t alone.
I share partially because I know someone out there needs to know that they aren’t the only one. Too many mothers are struggling and feeling alone in navigating their mental illness, as if navigating motherhood isn’t hard enough. I also share in hopes of compelling you all to check on your single mom friends and family members. Hell, moms period! I feel like most of us are going crazy, but hey, that could just be me.
If you’re a mother reading this and no one else tells you, it’s okay to be depressed, it’s okay if you’re anxious, it’s okay if you have postpartum depression. You aren’t a monster and you aren’t crazy. You don’t have to deal with mental illness alone. (If you have a newborn, see if there are any home visiting services in your area. They offer amazing support and endless resources for free!) It’s okay to seek help, it’s okay if you need meds to get yourself under control. Yes, meds. Would you tell Aunt Bertha not to take her blood sugar medicine? No! Because it’s vital to her everyday functioning so, I don’t wanna hear it! Always remember, we can’t take care of anyone if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.
Music helps, too!
Please, feel free to take a listen to the song below. It’s called WAYS (Why Aren’t You Smiling) by Jhene Aiko, it gets me through those hard days.