I don't think there are any easy answers, but here are some of the ways that I cope.
Here is some of my history leading up to parenting.
When hubby and I met I was 25. I had to tell him that the chances of me ever getting pregnant was only with the help of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). This was something I felt the need to tell him before we got too far into our relationship. I had been married previously and suffered 2 ectopic pregnancies (both pregnancies were stuck in my fallopian tubes) and my fertility was finished. He wasn't bothered by that and the rest as they say is history.
Fast forward to 2001 and we are about to embark on our journey to finally becoming parents. In that year we did IVF twice, both with negative results and then again in 2003 which was again negative. No babies for us. Throughout that time I had been on various antidepressants and thought that most of my depression was because of the all the failed attempts and the fact that I would never become a mom. Late in 2003 we became the parents of Jo, the light of our lives, through adoption. My dream of becoming a mother had come true. Foolishly I thought this would be then end of my depression. After all, was this not the cause of my sad and tired days?
For the first 2 years or so, I was not on any meds and managed really well. I still had up days, down days and tired days, but chalked most of that up to being a new mom and having a baby in the house. Time went on and I was having a harder time coping with the day to day raising of a child and hubby and I decided that he would take over a few things like bath and bed time so that I could have some "me" time. We started her in a home day care once a week at 16 months old so that I would have one day a week to me. This all helped and then I returned to work when Jo was 2. I was content being a working mom and cherished the days that I was off and able to spend them with her.
I wish I could remember when it was that I finally had to return to my medication and we tried a few until we found the right fit. I did well on Wellbutrin and had been on it for years when things went really bad last year. There were a series of events that set things off. In 365 days I lost 4 high school friends. 3 of whom were old boyfriends, my grandfather lost his will and we watched him slide down hill until he passed away. The people that I worked with showed no respect when he did die. They were able to call and find out where things in my office were, but made no attempt to make a donation, send a card or anything. There were other contributing factors as well, but at this time last year I was just about ready to check into the hospital because my depression has worsened. It seemed to happen so quickly, but I think I was just trying to fight it for so long and when I look back, it was a slow slide down, just one I chose to ignore.
Over the last year I have had to come up with ways to control my moods where Jo is concerned. It is not an easy thing at all. I don't want her to become an adult and have memories of mommy crying or sleeping all the time or mommy being a cranky bitch.
Parenting with depression isn't an easy thing to do at all. Here are some of the things that have helped me
- Counting to 10. I need to take the time to rationalize in my own mind if I am upset over the current situation because of the actual situation or if it's because of the depression. The old adage about crying over spilled milk comes to mind often.
- Asking for help. I am fortunate that hubby understands and helps as much as he does, but I have had to force myself to ask for outside help. When I went off work last year I explained the situation to our daycare provider and she was wonderful. I asked to her call me if I hadn't picked Jo up on time. I would often fall asleep and the next thing I knew hubby would be home and it was way past pick up time.
- Staying on my meds. As much as I hate some of the side effects it is better for all of us for me to stay on the meds.
- As difficult as it is at times I try to keep a smile on my face and try not to be down when Jo is around
- I try to keep to a routine as best as I can. It isn't fair for a second grader to have to get ready for school all on her own, so I drag myself out of bed in the mornings to help her get ready and I see her off to school and then I may come back and crawl right back into bed.
- When she is home I try to keep myself busy so that I don't end up falling asleep.
- I force myself to go places and do things that she wants to do. Even when I have a difficult time even thinking about leaving the house I make myself take her to do things or activities that she wants to do.
- I have learned to pick my battles where so many things are concerned. Is there really any point in arguing over what clothes to wear? Again, counting to 10
- Telling people what is going on with me. This includes her teachers and some of her friend's parents. As difficult as it is to tell people, it really is a medical condition. If you broke your arm and couldn't sign permission slips you would tell the people who needed to know. I don't think this is any different.
- Keeping things simple. Jo has heard me talk about depression, but we try to keep it in second grade terms for her. She doesn't need to know how bad things are. Right now all we have really told her is that mommy has depression and sometimes gets really tired. I try not to cry in front of her.
- I have had to learn patience. I would have to think that this is the norm for all parenting. It has just become a priority for me.
- I also haven't overloaded her with sports and other activities. I really dropped the ball last fall when it came time to register for swimming, skating that sort of thing. It turned out better for all of us that I did because we are now attending tutoring sessions twice a week. The more activities that she does means more running for me, the more running I do the worse I feel, the worse I feel the harder it is do keep focused.
- I also have learned the importance of a big calendar so I don't forget birthday parties, events at school etc. Lack of concentration is one of my biggest challenges when my depression gets bad, so keeping details close at hand helps
When I read back over my list, most of it should be used on a daily basis for most moms as it is, but when suffering from depression whether it's mild or severe I think it's important for me to follow the list and keep adding to it!