The blackout shades on the windows mostly kept the sun at bay, and the dry Cheerios I set on the table mostly kept my two- and four-year-old kids at bay. I slunk back under the heavy comforter, head on the wet pillow, and returned to the weight of sleep. Today I wouldn’t end my life, but I would try as hard as I could to pretend I didn’t exist.
Even now, three years later, I blush as I confess this to you.
I am so ashamed at what a terrible mother I was, what a terrible wife, what a terrible housekeeper. I had no idea what was wrong with me, only that I was failing at everything in my life. Previously a strong and capable professional, I was losing clients because I couldn’t bring myself to call them back. Formerly an energetic new mom, I could barely feed and clothe my children.
The sun finally broke through one day when I got an official diagnosis of clinical depression. Sitting in our counselor’s office, my husband burst out excitedly, “You’re not lazy! You’re just depressed!” as if the confusing puzzle of our lives finally made sense.
The diagnosis was a revelation for both of us. It was freedom. Now that we knew what was wrong, we could begin to fix it. Months of counseling for me, my husband, and our marriage. Two years on antidepressants. Slowly, I stopped crying, started smiling, and began coping with life again, began parenting properly again.
Depression is not a physical disability, but it’s a disability all the same. It can affect a person’s ability to work, care for children, and even take care of herself. Parenting with any disability requires doing things differently than normal. Success requires community, assistance, and support. Parenting through depression is the same: you’ll have to do things differently for a while, and you’ll need help.
The first step to getting that help is acknowledging there’s something wrong. It’s not normal or healthy to sleep all the time (or have trouble sleeping at all). To cry often and be overwhelmingly sad for an extended period of time. To lose interest in all the activities you used to enjoy. To think about hurting or killing yourself.
If you have depression symptoms, tell someone trustworthy – a friend or family member who will take you seriously. Be extremely honest about all your symptoms and experiences, no matter how embarrassed you feel. If you have had suicidal thoughts, you absolutely must tell someone so that you can get help.
Ask your friend to help you make the necessary appointments to work toward getting a diagnosis, because you may not have the energy to do it alone. You can start with your general practitioner and get a referral to a psychiatrist, or start with a psychologist or licensed counselor. If you’re a woman, your OBGYN or midwife can probably refer you to the right psychiatrist, especially if you’ve had a baby in the last year (then it’s likely you’re dealing with postpartum depression). The combination of therapy, emotional support, and medication can literally make a life-or-death difference in major depression.
While you are still trudging through the dark of depression, ask for help, even though that may seem like the hardest thing in the world. Depression is not as easy to see as a wheelchair, and people won’t know you’re struggling unless you tell them. Ask family members or neighbors to check on you, to keep you company, to bring meals, to help around the house. You need them and so do your kids.
I am so thankful that I—and my family—survived my battle with depression. If you are struggling too, I hope so much that you’ll get the support you need to succeed as well.
Becky is a writer and editor focused on helping women make better lives. She’s an American expat living in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
She blogs about women working toward their dreams while raising their kids at beckycastlemiller.com
You can read more about her journey through depression on her blog:
- What Does Depression Look Like
- How To Get Help For Depression
- Depression, Medication, and Interventions