Depression and Motherhood: This is My Truth.

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

My truth about struggling with depression and being a mom is not pretty.  It’s not a feel good story. It’s a story that continues to evolve.

My depression started at a young age.  As a child, I was exposed to a type of environment where my predisposed genes didn’t have a fighting chance to stay hidden.  I was never put in treatment and I don’t believe it was even recognized by the adults around me.  It wasn’t until I was in my late teens/early 20’s that even I recognized it.

My depression was masked a lot in my 20’s by numbing myself with alcohol.  A shitty day just meant I really needed to get drunk.  If I look back at my 20’s, I was a damn good functioning alcoholic that balanced school, work and partying quite well.  Until I didn’t.

Around my mid to late 20’s, the effects of the depression became harder and harder to bury or ignore.  It was like anything in life, you can only bury your demons for so long and then boom.  I started to have bad weeks instead of days.  I wanted nothing to do with anyone, including myself.  I finally gave in and began taking an anti-depressant in conjunction with psychotherapy.  It worked for the time being.

I began working in the field of mental health after graduating college.  Do what you know right?  Being the one who evaluated countless people in the ER, I knew the lingo and the symptoms that usually led to an admission on the mental health unit, a place where I also worked.  This created so much internal conflict for me.  I loved what I did and was good at it because I could truly empathize.  But it also created a lot of fear in regards to dealing with my own struggles.  I couldn’t even be completely honest with my therapist because I was scared that if I admitted to certain things such as having suicidal thoughts and any sort of plan, I would be seen as a safety risk.  I couldn’t let myself fall in to the broken mental health system, even as broken as I was.  So I continued to work harder at dancing around my symptoms instead of trudging through the heartache of admitting to myself or even a professional what was really going on in my own head.

I was so angry.  I lashed out at complete strangers.  I fell apart over spilled milk.  My work became impossible because everything triggered me.  The individual’s stories became too difficult to hear and I was no longer helping anyone, especially myself.  I literally fell to pieces.  I thankfully had a primary care doctor at the time that was more than just a normal doctor.  I trusted her so I went to her office in the middle of the day during work.  I could not pull myself together and I didn’t really have an explanation as to why.  She took me out of work for the next few days.  I called my husband, scared to death what he would think and say.  He, being the man that he is, told me not to worry about anything and to just take care of myself.  I went home and went to bed.  I didn’t get up for three days.  When I did I felt better but knew I was right back where I had been before.  It was time to start taking medication again and get back in to therapy.

Shortly after that, at the age of 27, I got pregnant.  Although I wasn’t a lover of being pregnant, I have to say I was never happier.  The boost of hormones were fabulous and I felt great.  And then the third trimester happened.  I plummeted.  I hated myself because how could I be so awfully sad about and ungrateful for the life inside me.  I hated that I hated myself.  I felt bad for feeling bad.

After my daughter was born, I had the normal baby blues but thankfully it passed and within a few weeks I had fallen in love with my little girl.  But then something flipped that switch.  The switch that I have learned I have no control over.  I became numb, her needs became overwhelming.  I became an auto pilot mom.  I did what I needed to do but that was about it.  This wasn’t the normal, over tired, overwhelmed, new mom effect.  This was joyless motions.  It was feeling like a failure with every action.  This was irrational.  I can remember thinking what a piece of shit I was that I wasn’t happy about my beautiful life.  To me, at that time, nothing was beautiful.

I reached a point where suicide seemed like a valid solution.  I was just existing anyway.  I wasn’t bringing anything good to the world around me, including the people in it, so what was the fucking point.  I cried so hard when no one was looking.  I couldn’t look in mirrors because I hated what I saw.  It is a scary and very lonely place to be. I felt like I was different than every person/woman/mom around me.  I didn’t dare admit to having suicidal thoughts to anyone, even my husband. What kind of mother or wife am I if I admit to feeling like I need to leave him and my children.

I don’t know how I got through that particular rough patch if I am being honest.  But time went on and I survived.  My relationship had good days and bad days.  On the bad days, I just knew my husband was going to leave me and I didn’t blame him.  Who wants to live with someone that can’t seem to get her shit together and falls apart or blows up when the wind blows to the east.  I tried so hard.  I would take medicine for a while, stabilize and then go off of it because I felt like I had it under control.  Which is madness in itself.  I was the one encouraging people to take their meds with over used scripts like “if you had diabetes you wouldn’t not take your meds, well depression is no different”.  I was actually fighting everyone elses battles, with a vengeance, to help erase their pain and the stigma of living with a mental illness, but yet couldn’t take my own advice.

After my second child was born, I was on a high fueled with love and what felt like a completion of my family.  I chose not to take medicine with both of my pregnancies and have yet to go back on them since having my son, who is now 15 mths old.  I’m starting to feel the need and see the signs again.  I hate it.  I hate that I need a pill to be of sound mind but I’ve ridden this roller coaster long enough to know how dangerous it can be with out it.

It seems like my depression has gotten more intense after each of my children have been born.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it is the added stress or the changes to my body’s chemistry.  Even though I am able to recognize that funk that seems to cling to me when I am sliding down hill, I can’t prevent it.  I have days where I busy the kids with some sort of something so that I can cry in another room where they don’t see me and ask questions.  I feel so unworthy of my children’s forgiving love some days.

It’s not everyday or even every other week but I still have times when I question why I should continue with this misery.  It is insanely disabling to be in a place where you believe in your heart that a life without a Mom is better than a life with a Mom like me.  I say that with tears in my eyes because I know the damage of both.  My Mom was in and out of my life because of her mental illness and when she finally got on a healthier path mentally, she died of a physical illness.

People that say suicide is selfish are right.  It is.  However, for the person contemplating it or living with pain so great that it is seen as a reasonal option, it feels as if it is more of a gift.  A blessing to others.  Because now the people surrounding you no longer have to feel the effects of your broken being.  This has been my truth for so long.

I would like to say that I have overcome and gotten through the worst of it, but I know better now.  I have; however, come to terms with what this debilitating disease is capable of and am much more likely to ask for help when I need it.  One of the best things a therapist ever said to me was to question whether or not how I am feeling is rational.  If I can’t explain why I am feeling so sad or angry or worthless then it’s time to take better care of myself.  And that doesn’t mean a day at the spa.  I fucking hate it when people say “well make sure you are taking time for yourself.  Go get a massage”.  That is a band aid and if you suggest it you need to better educate yourself.  Taking better care of myself really means to admit to myself and those closest around me that I need an ear, support, a break, compassion and/or a shoulder.

There are all these stigmas attached to women with children that admit to having depression.  A big part of that is because of what is portrayed in the media but also because of the lack of education around mental illness as a whole.  So here, let me clear up a few.  No, I have never had thoughts to hurt my children (in a psychosis kind of way).  Yes, I am fit to raise my children, even on a bad day.  Yes, my kids friends are safe at my house, I have depression, I’m not neglectful.  Please don’t ask me how I am doing with a sad, overly concerned look on your face.  I know what you are really asking and it’s condescending and annoying.  No I don’t “check out” on my kids.  I may not be the lively, playful mother every day of the week but I’m not hiding in my room while they run loose and mold themselves in to psychopaths either.  Yes, I have bad days that are just that – a bad day.  And guess what, I am entitled to those.  If I flip someone off or cry over a commercial, it’s more than likely due to my hot head or exceptionally thin skin, not my diagnosis.  Yes, I have good days and no, I’m not pretending to be happy.  I am a genuinely happy person by nature.  And here is a big one.  Please take note of this one because it is the worst thing you could ever say to someone like me.  Don’t ever assume that a person can “snap out of it”.  It’s impossible and you’re being naïve and downright hateful if you think ANYONE would choose to feel the way I have attempted to describe.

Depression looks different to everyone that suffers from it.  However, I have learned through personal and professional experience that those that live with it have one thing in common – loneliness.  I wish people talked candidly about it.  I wish women felt more comfortable and less shame about admitting these type of thoughts and feelings.  I just hope that by sharing my story, someone will feel less alone and less shameful.

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24 thoughts on “Depression and Motherhood: This is My Truth.

  1. I’m commenting from the opposite end of the spectrum. My mother is clinically depressed. My siblings and I are all grown (22 y.o. and up) and last night she left a note, ran away on my dad and simply said not to call. I guess I’ve been reading all day to try and grasp a better understanding of what she’s feeling and how to approach the situation. Your post helped so thanks :]

    • Wow. Thank you for the feedback and I am sorry you are caught up in your mother’s nightmare. I know it must be a nightmare for you as well. My cousin and dear friend lost her father (my uncle) to suicide at a young age. We talk about the effects it’s had on her not having a father. My heart truly breaks for you. Just please know that it is NOT you. These are her demons. I’m not making excuses for her because she had options and chose the wrong one. My mom used to take off too. I was too young to remember but my older siblings describe it as feeling helpless. I know my response probably doesn’t help matters at all but please know you are not alone. I’ve been there…now it’s just on both ends.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your truth. I’ve dealt with anxiety, at varying levels, throughout most of my life. The worst came when my oldest was three and there were days when I could barely hold myself together long enough to buy groceries. Sharing my “issues” with other moms has always been hard for me, afraid of how they would judge my competency as a parent. I know that fear of being pregnant, not wanting to take medications and fearing that the “demons” would appear in a way that I would not be able to manage on my own. I have been blessed enough to have the support of my husband and family and the strength (I believe from them) to become more comfortable in sharing my truth as well. You are so right. We need to stop being shamed by our illnesses. That only keeps us from the level of acceptance we need in order to fight them. Thank you again for you words. I honor them.

    • Deborah thank you for responding. I think fear of being judged just exacerbates symptoms and the shame. Honestly, my goal at this point is to be able to openly talk about this in any given kind of conversation and not feel that guilt and shameful pinch in my stomach. Writing this was a start. And the feedback I’m getting ensures I’m not alone so that is promising.

  3. Thank you for this very candid account of your experiences. I can draw many parallels between it and my own experience.I had post-natal depression after my twins were born. My family thought that they would help by not discussing it at all. It was brushed under the carpet. I have never been so lonely. I was/ am a great mum. I would cry while I made their bottles in the kitchen, wipe my eyes and come into the living room smiling ‘mummy’s here!’
    I was determined that they wouldn’t feel the effects of my depression. I was leading a double life and putting on a show for them. It all added to the exhaustion. A good friend met me every week with her baby. I don’t know how I’d have coped without her.

    • The idea of living a double life is perfect. That is exactly how I feel at times and it sucks. Quite frankly I’m tired of it. Moms really are capable of anything but we shouldn’t have to be. Thank you for sharing your story. I really want to keep this dialogue going.

  4. hey you. i’ve been late responding to this since i wanted to give it my full attention. i hear you. no one wants to talk about mental illness because it’s taboo. i suffer from mild situational depression. i’m on zoloft 25mg and xanax 0.5 mg. i call it situational because bad situations pushed me over the edge, but that i lived so long feeling alone, feeling every slight was an all out attack on me, feeling paranoid, feeling hyper-sensitive, feeling hyper-sexual, feeling hyper-superior; i have no idea where my depression ended and my true personality began.

    i believe my depression is managed and will no longer present any issues for me since i also have a great therapist (of 2 years now). she is this ‘ghetto’ russian woman who i swear, spends 15 minutes talking about herself first before we actually get to me. i kid you not, but she is the perfect fit for me and has been a tremendous aid in my recovery.

    here is a tiny snapshot of my life (which is why i call my depression situational): age 5 or 6, raped once by step father; age 14-15, attempted suicide by taking pills, my mother thought i had food poisoning; age 16, called police and told them i was going to shoot my mother and her violent drug-addicted boyfriend, the cops arrived in minutes as i was loading gun (of course i was kicked out of the house for that); senior yr of college, date raped by guy i really liked; 2 years after college, another suicide attempt, pills again, due to a break-up to a man i deeply loved; around 2006, fondled by male nurse, extreme homicidal thoughts that time, not suicidal; 2009, contemplated suicide due to another break-up but decided i didn’t want my body to be found bloated and rancid in a dive of a motel, so called it off; and finding out around 2010 that i am a product of rape.

    yaye for me:) i can laugh about it now because it’s just me and the shit i had to experience to be the person i am now. maybe i am in denial about how serious my depression is but i don’t have those black vortex days anymore. i know the cause of every bad mood i have now and i can quickly turn it around. i have the tools. medication allows me to chemically balance myself, while the therapy allows me to logically analyze my behavior. i don’t go from 0 to 10 in 2 seconds (except when i’m driving). i have time to say, “does this situation require a 10? no. then go to a 3, and proceed from there.”

    i can’t offer you any advice since we are chemically two unique creatures. i can say honestly that i am pissed that as fucked up as you are/were, that i am jealous that you found a man to truly love you. i have yet to find that. you are total bat-shit mental, i’m just intermittently mental, why can’t i find a man:) these are jokes, my main coping mechanism (it’s not me, it’s the crazy. i just love miranda lambert’s song, Mama’s broken heart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yg05svXp98

    anyway, i am intrigued that i never turned to alcohol or drugs. although sex was/is my vice, that part of me has mellowed out considerably, i mean, sure, i had a heavy petting session on a first date a few months ago, but i really liked him and i still do. my sexuality is something i am not willing to give up because society deems it distasteful. society can go fuck itself. if i want to suck dick, i’m going to suck dick.society can go suck its own dick.

    ok. i think i’m getting off point:) what i want to say is that i understand everything you are going through. it’s an uphill battle and you can’t do it alone. so reach out. although i have a remarkable tendency of pushing people away from me who want to get close, you can reach out to me anytime. i don’t have any fucking answers, but i do have a couple of ears that work on occasion.

    mental illness needs to be discussed as freely as breast cancer. we don’t choose to get breast cancer and so too, we don’t choose to develop mental illness. it needs to be treated not hidden.

    ps: i am so posting this comment, since it gives me 24 hours to relax from a grueling week of orientation:)

    pps: you and i should go to vegas alone for a few days and just get fucking wasted. we would have so much fun. just saying.

    • Thank you for reading it. It’s something I needed to write for myself and for the other mothers out there. Since staying home, I’ve met and talked to a lot of other moms and this seems to be, in varying degrees, a topic that needs more attention.

    • Thanks for reading my work and offering a nod of appreciation. It makes sharing my story a little easier. I checked out your blog and look forward to reading future posts.

  5. so i see we are kindred spirits in more than one way. thank you for sharing this deeply intimate part of your life with strangers.see, there is a positive in all of this crap… you are being used to help others heal.

    • Thank you so much. I always question whether or not it is healthy for me to expose so much of myself but I always, actually feel healthier when I do. I think it is in part because of what I receive and also because I’m climbing out of the shame I’ve always had wrapped around my depression and the root of all of it. Exposing it makes it tangible for me and with that, I seem to heal in little pieces. The depression is something I’ve learned to live with, somewhat. The more difficult part is being a Mom and having to work through it…I’m still working that all out.

      Thank you so much for the support.

  6. Allow me to introduce myself. I publish the blog, Crazy Good Parent. It’s specifically for parents with mental illnesses and where we can hang out, write about our struggles and feel a little less lonely. I would love to publish something from you. It would be great if you wanted to write about shame, but we’re focusing on depression this month, so I’d also consider something you’ve already written. Maybe something you thought should get more notice? I hope you’ll consider and, at least, check out crazygoodparent.com.

    • I’m aware of the blog and look forward to reading the posts. I would love to contribute. I’m pretty flattered you asked, so thank you for that. I’ll forward you a post I have in mind that would fit the theme this month. I’d also be up for the challenge of writing about shame. Please feel free to email me at tdawn.eightyone@gmail.com

      And thanks for checking out this post. It’s interesting to see it again myself, actually. It’s one of the first things I wrote.

  7. Pingback: Inside the Stormy Prison

  8. Amen. I totally agree with your last statements, how women shouldn’t feel ashamed, should talk about it, and ask for help. I still totally have a problem doing it myself. Is it getting easier for you?

    • I would say yes. Writing has had a strange and graceful way of lifting quite a bit of the shame. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I actually talk about depression around other people. But if I have something I want to say about it, I just force myself to say it. And with confidence. If someone that is hearing me is uncomfortable with my talking about a truth in my life then so be it. It’s a learning curve for me. I live in a small town with a big “small-town” mentality. That adds to the uneasiness of opening talking about it.

  9. Pingback: W.T.F. – Depression and Motherhood: This is My Truth | The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

  10. Pingback: W.T.F. – Depression and Motherhood: This is My Truth | The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

  11. Hi! I just found your blog via the Canvas of the Minds website. I am a mum and have suffered depression and anxiety and can relate to so much of what you say here. Thank you for sharing and speaking out. The more of us that do so, the more chance we have of reducing the stigma. Hopefully. 🙂

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