Mental illness still has a stigma in our society. People who struggle with mental and emotional health problems are seen as crazy, or weak. Their problems may be seen as exaggerated, made up, or “all in your head.” Some people may suggest that these problems, such as depression and anxiety, can be easily solved with a few simple steps. Even the term “mental illness” is loaded. It sounds serious and scary and abnormal.
The reality is that psychological health is not always easy to maintain, and struggling with mental illness doesn’t make a person weak or crazy or strange. It also doesn’t mean that the person needs medication or that they are going to have a mental breakdown and do something extreme, such as harming themselves or others.
I say all of this because I struggle with depression, and I’ve always been uncomfortable sharing that with people. I still am. But I feel that I need to share it, to help other people out there who are struggling, and to make myself feel more normal.
For me, depression and anger have always been related somehow. I didn’t recognize it until recently, but I think I’ve struggled with a come-and-go type of depression for a great deal of my life, and even as a child I had a hard time handling feelings of anger and frustration.
I’ve heard it said that having children can be very cathartic, because it brings to light problems that you haven’t dealt with and forces you to deal with them. For me, this is definitely true. Since Cody was born, my anger problems have been brought to the surface and I have had to really work on learning to manage my anger better. Children can be amazingly aggravating in ways that push you to your very limits, but as a mother, I know that it is my job to act like the adult no matter what my child does. I have to hold myself to a certain standard, and I do not want to be a mom who yells or loses her temper at her children, especially at my baby who doesn’t even know any better.
My depression has also been an increasing problem since Cody’s birth. I read that it can be common for stay-at-home-moms to experience depression, and the reason for this is clear to me; it’s an incredibly difficult job. It is too easy to become isolated, bored, and monotonous. Add that to the likely sleep deprivation that many moms (and sometimes dads) experience, as well as the hormonal changes that come with and after pregnancy and with breastfeeding. Then, throw in a tiny human who can’t communicate properly, refuses to cooperate with naptimes and other necessary activities, throws frequent tantrums, and is constantly demanding things from you. It’s enough to make anybody want to hide under a blanket and drown themselves in a bucket of ice cream.
In my case, I definitely feel the effects of this stressful job, and my depression and anger can be overwhelming at times. I tend to become irritable and snap at the smallest things, I lose my patience with Cody, and I feel trapped and hopeless and just plain sad about life. It’s really the strangest paradox I’ve ever experienced, though, because at the same time that I’m feeling all of that on a regular basis, I also feel the most unbelievable joy over my little boy. I love him in an inexpressible way, and I would never, ever in a billion years want to change the fact that I have him. I also still believe that I was meant to be a mother, and a stay-at-home-mom, and to have several more children after Cody. It’s confusing at times to feel these two seemingly opposite sides of the coin at the same time.
Another interesting part of my mental struggles is that I don’t feel depressed all of the time. I really only feel that way during the work week, when it’s just me and Cody all day. On the weekends when Cory is here to help and we’re all together, I usually feel perfectly content and happy and excited about life. Friday nights usually feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. Saturday mornings I get to sleep in and that extra hour or two of sleep does wonders for me. Then of course on Sunday nights, like tonight, I start to dread the week to come.
Even though I feel pretty confident that my feelings of depression are not healthy or normal levels of sadness that should accompany the ups and downs of life, I have never been officially diagnosed with any form of depression. Part of the reason for this is that I have not sought it out. I have seen therapists twice in my adult life, for specific problems that I had at the time, but I haven’t asked to be diagnosed with depression or stayed in therapy long term. Honestly, I didn’t find it very helpful either time, and it was too expensive anyway. Another reason I haven’t been diagnosed is because I feel like I don’t fit into the parameters of what depression and related issues are supposed to look like. For me, it comes and goes on a weekly basis, and I don’t think I usually look depressed. I get out of bed in the morning, go about my day, and even get out of the house on a daily basis. Yet I still feel an overall “down-ness” that is a bit hard to explain.
Right now, I am doing what I can to work out my issues in the best way I can. I have things that I do to help alleviate the difficulties of stay-at-home-mom-hood, and I have tools that I use to handle my anger. I’m finding little things here and there that help me feel better in general, and of course I’m praying for permanent relief from these feelings of depression. I know that ultimately, God is my healer and he can deliver me. Sometimes, he uses medical and professional help to accomplish his healing, and I know that too. It’s something I am open to if it comes to that.
I hope this post is helpful to somebody. I know that I often feel like it has to be a secret, but it really doesn’t. It’s okay to feel the way I feel, and it’s okay to admit that I’m not perfect and that I’m working on it and that more importantly, God’s working on it. He’s always working to heal and improve me. And I know that I’m okay, even if I don’t have it all together.