This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
I have suffered from depression since I was a teen.
In the past, I never took it seriously enough to develop a plan to deal with depression. However, after one year of being a mom, depression hit me again, and I was motivated to come up with a plan. I could *not* afford to be depressed around my child. My son is now 2.5 years old and is the light of my life. He motivated me to get my butt in gear.
A combination of therapy and medication have been helpful for me, but sometimes I need more. Right now, I need more, especially since I made the decision to wean off medication as soon as I found out I was pregnant. This was initially done with the help of a doctor, but I never followed up and just thought I could handle it. OK, moms, a word of caution: This is a TERRIBLE idea.
This is my “survival mode” plan. It’s helped me a lot, but If I am being completely honest, it’s still a work in progress. But at a time when you don’t feel like you have a lot of control, having a plan is not only beneficial—it’s empowering! Here are some tips I’ve learned from being a mom with depression:
1. Reach out and ask for help. This is not a time for your pride to get in the way. You are not only responsible for yourself; there is a little one who needs you, too. Yes, I am 33 years old, but I also recognize that sometimes you must call someone who you know will be there for you no matter what. My husband is wonderful and very, very supportive, but he also works and is a PhD student and that is a priority. I want him to focus on his work right now because in our current situation, that is what needs to be done.
So we called my mom. She came thankfully for two weeks and helped with our son and cooked dinners and other errands that I couldn’t focus on at the time. It did feel strange considering I was unable to do a lot, but it’s what needed to be done for the sake of our family. I recognize not everyone has this luxury, but there are other things you could do like getting a babysitter, or having someone come help you clean, or asking a friend to watch your kids for just a few hours. Reach out!
2. Hold your head up high! Don’t be ashamed. This is a big one for me. Depression is not something we can control. So moms, please don’t be ashamed. Mental illness is just as relevant as a common cold or flu. It’s OK to be depressed, and it’s even more than OK to talk about it. How else is the stigma ever going to be removed?
3. Take it easy. Don’t push yourself. I starting scaling down my work load because I have been getting overwhelmed easily. I work from home and run my own business, and while I may feel the repercussions of this later, right now my family and I come first, and that’s what’s important.
4. Get moving. Make time to do something physical. Physical exercise can make a huge difference, so in times when I feel like my life is really difficult, I try and exercise. If you can’t get away from the house, hop onto YouTube for a 10-minute cardio or yoga. You will feel better if you do. Give it a try.
5. Remember to breathe. At times when you feel like you are losing or have no control, taking deep breaths can be immensely helpful. Take 5-10 deep breaths. Still feeling anxious? Take another 5-10 breaths and then see how you feel. A bit better, right?
This is a short list. It’s still a work in progress, and it’s not fool proof (heck, having your mom come and stay with you for two weeks is enough to drive anyone a little bonkers) but this is what has been helpful for me. Depression may always be a thorn in my side, but I work to manage it as best as I can for the sake of myself and my family.
What do you do to manage your depression?
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.