Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Knowing what I know now about anxiety and depression, I can honestly say that I have had it for a very long time. I can remember feeling scared and sad a lot especially during elementary school, but I didn’t know any better. When middle school hit, I always felt left out and different from everyone. I thought that being around people and doing presentations was just nerves and not anxiety. I thought that being sad a lot was just part of growing up and PMS.
However, when I went to high school and after countless health classes I knew that what I was going through was some sort of depression and wanted to seek help. I talked to my parents about it and they agreed for me to see a therapist. I went for a while and for whatever reason I stopped and moved on with my life.
College and grad school came and went and so did feelings of being scared, nervous and sad. Again, I just thought it was because of what I was going through in life. I attended a church and relied on prayer, reading and fasting and it seemed to help but the heaviness never fully went away. Again, life went on, I got married and had my son and it was ater that, my downward spiral seemed to start descending more rapidly than ever (please read my newsletter about my struggles with PPD to better understand). It was a struggle getting used to my new normal. I just couldn’t shake feelings of resentment, nervousness and sadness - I really didn’t know about postpartum depression so I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully our families helped with the baby and my husband and I got away every so often and got rest which seemed to help, but again, that scared, nervous, sad feeling never went away.
Let’s fast forward for the sake of time, but I want to hit some major points before we move on:
My PPD didn’t get better after a year. I don’t know what you would call that but it was hard for me to enjoy motherhood. I wasn’t one of those moms you see on tv that are consumed with their children to the point of obsession and I beat myself up for it
I felt like a failure because I had a c-section and couldn’t breastfeed
I noticed that my patience was always short with my son and I never seemed to savor every moment like people tell you to while they grow up. I felt irritated all the time and that also made me feel even worse
Everything seemed like a never ending cycle of insanity because motherhood was hard. I wanted to enjoy it but couldn’t and round and round it went and it only made me feel worse
At this point my son is older and in grade school but our relationship wasn’t the best. We clashed a lot and at times I had to leave the house because things between us got to ‘that’ point. My husband helped as much as he could but he worked and I was a stay at home mom so by the time he came home most times the battle was fought and won or lost depending on who you asked. When he was at school, I felt light and free, but when it came time to pick him up that nervousness and feeling of dread would creep in and it made me feel bad - what kind of mom was I? It wasn’t until I took my son to grief therapy that things started to turn around for me. His therapist was wonderful and helped my son work through his emotions, but it was after one of my sons sessions, he recommended that I come for grief therapy too. I took him up on his advice, started going and he diagnosed me with depression. The sessions helped me and also the relationship with my son started to get better as well. A few more years passed and as I mentioned in my past post, things started to get really bad at the end of 2018 and into 2019, I came to a breaking point in February and decided to take getting help more seriously.
I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety, finally all of the pieces came together and my life started to make sense. Those years of feeling sad, scared and nervous were actually me feeling depressed and anxious. The inability to shake the heaviness I felt was me not having the coping skills to deal with my emotions. The irritability and anger I was feeling were symptoms of depression. The nervousness I felt when my son came home from school was anxiety. However, now I have sought treatment and I know what my diagnosis and triggers are and now I have coping skills. I am a better parent and my son and I have a better relationship.
So, I went through all that to give you a few pointers on being a parent who struggles with anxiety and depression:
Women who have had issues with depression before pregnancy are more at risk of having PPD. Be prepared, talk to your doctor about it and come up with a plan
If you have a family history of mental illness and you show ANY symptoms, talk to your doctor ASAP, the earlier you can get help the better.
Don’t beat yourself up if you're having feelings similar to what I was experiencing. Mental illness wreaks havoc on your emotions and it can make it hard to regulate your emotions. However, if your emotions are hard to manage and affect your everyday life, it is recommended that you seek help.
Don’t be ashamed to take medicine. If you broke your leg you’d take it to help you heal. Apply that same concept to your mental health!
Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Many primary care doctors can recommend a therapist who can help you with what you’re going through
Be open and honest with close friends and family about your feelings. I would suggest preparing before you meet with them to gather your thoughts so you can clearly articulate your needs
If your doctor has given you recommendations for a therapist, make the appointments and find one who can help. Taking care of yourself doesn’t make you a selfish parent, it makes you parent who wants to get better so you can take care of your family better
Your therapist may recommend a session with your family and/or your child so they can help explain what your issues have been and how they can help. It may be hard, but it can be helpful in the long run
Allow for an adjustment period. Just because you're seeing a therapist and may be taking medication does not erase some of the bad times you and your child(ren) have had. Everyone will need to get used to the new normal and the new you. Give your children the space they need to adjust and let them know you understand their emotions, you love them and that you’ll be there for them
Get to know your triggers so that when you feel yourself falling back into old habits, you can do what you need to do to get back to a better place, and again, let your family know what’s going on. Open and honest communication is the key to help your family heal
Is all of this easy to do? Hell no! Will all this happen over night? Hell no! Will they be some bad days where you fall back into your old self and make mistakes? Hell yes! I always say take one day at a time, be patient with yourself and be kind to yourself. Change and healing are not linear and you need to try to accept that. Listen, my relationship with my son is a lot better and because of that it has helped my mental health, but we still have our days, however far and few inbetween. Give everyone including yourself time, patience and understanding - things will change but have to be willing to be consistent with putting in work.
You’re not alone Brown Girls, there are other parents out there with mental health struggles who are trying to make it. If you’re part of the #FBGB Tribe, we are behind you uplifting, supporting, encouraging and empowering you. WE GOT THIS!
I really hope this blog has helped you, if it did email me so I know how - (bloggers need encouragement too ;)
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*I am not a licensed therapist. This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.