I know how you’re feeling and you’re not alone. That’s the first thing I want you to know.
I know the lies depression and anxiety tell you. That you’re a failure because you didn’t get to everything that you should have gotten done today. That your kids deserve a better mother than you. That no one really cares and no one would miss you if you were gone.
I know that tight feeling you have in your chest that prevents even the best-practiced yoga breathing from relieving your anxiety. I know the teary breakdowns from overwhelming tidal waves of emotion. And I know that racing-mind feeling that won’t let you fall asleep at night.
You probably deal with a seemingly endless cycle of ups and downs. A medication works for a while, you feel like yourself again, and you dare to dream you’ve found the answer. Then a few months later, the symptoms return. You try to increase the medication, but the side effects are too rough. So you begin the process of switching meds, hoping the next one will work. Or you add another to what you’re taking. Or you try alternative therapies to manage mental health. Something works for a while, then it doesn’t.
Up. Down. Up. Down.
Such is the challenge of dealing with a chronic illness, physical or mental. I know people with Parkinson’s who deal with the same ups and downs with medications. It sucks.
I get it.
But listen. Even though things seem really bad right now, I want you to hear this: It’s worth it to keep fighting.
It’s sometimes hard to believe, but it’s true. I think it’s especially hard to believe when you’re someone like me who has been dealing with depression and anxiety for over six years — ever since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression — and you’re really, really tired. You’re down, you’re beaten, and you’ve had enough.
When you’re in a low point, it’s really easy to forget how it feels to feel good. Normal. It seems like you’ll never find normal again. But you will. I did, and I’m relishing that normal right now because I know it likely won’t last for longer than a few months. But I’ve come to peace with the crappy ups and downs of depression and anxiety. I enjoy the good times and fight my way out of the bad times. This is my challenge in life, my mountain to climb, my burden to bear. Everyone has something, and this is my something.
But let me tell you this: I know that I can tell you to keep fighting and that things will get better because I’m in a good place right now. When I am down and feeling depressed and anxious, though, I sometimes wonder if my kids would be better off without me. I worry I am negatively affecting them and ruining their lives, and anguish that maybe if they had a different mom, they’d be better off.
I can’t feel the love in their hugs. I can’t see the adoration in their eyes. I can’t understand that if I wasn’t here, they would be inconsolable.
That is how depression lies to me.
Yet now, because I’m feeling like me, my kids get off the bus in the afternoon and nothing feels better than their happy hugs. I revel in hearing their stories about their days. I see their love for me in their faces, I feel it in their skinny little arms wrapped around my waist, and in their sticky smooches on my cheeks.
So I want you to reach back into your memory and find these kinds of happy times with your friends, family, and loved ones — times you had fun and laughed and enjoyed life. You might not remember how great those happy feelings felt. But I’m telling you, you felt them. And you will again.
It’s worth it to keep fighting, because the happy times, the normal times, those are things that are worth existing for. You’ll feel them again. You will. Just keep going and you’ll get there.
JD, aka Honest Mom
PS: I really, really want to encourage all moms dealing with depression and/or anxiety to reach out to a doctor if you haven’t yet. Call your primary care doc and ask for an appointment right away. If you don’t have health insurance, I have a list of free and low-cost resources for therapists and prescriptions in this blog post. And of course, in an emergency dial 9-1-1 or the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They have trained professionals available to help you 24/7. There is no shame in asking for help. Ever. We are moms. Being a mom means doing hard things. And sometimes the hardest thing is asking for the help you need.
PPS: I have a private Facebook group for Honest Mom fans, and you’re welcome to join it. We talk about parenting challenges and mental health, and share both the tough stuff and the fun stuff. If you’re interested in joining it, friend me on Facebook and then send me a message. Ask me to add you to my private Facebook group for Honest Mom fans. Since it is private, no one can see that it exists, see what you post, or know that you are in it. I hope to see you there!