Nothing could have prepared me for the depression I fell into when things really started to spiral out of control with our daughters behavior. We didn’t have the proper help for our daughter or ourselves, at this point in our life. I am a stay at home mom so I am the one with the kids (3) for the day. At the time I became depressed, I was nursing my one year old baby, our middle child was about 3 and our oldest (that has asd) just turned 7. My depression hit HARD. So much so, that I didn’t realize how badly depressed I was until I was able to put all the pieces together. It honestly took weeks for me to comprehend that I was severely depressed and that I needed to make an appointment with my doctor.
It started off with me being very tired and sore all of the time. Everything I did made me tired. But I love being a mom. I cherish it with every part of my soul. I try and do all I can to teach my children and help them grow. I love doing art activities with my girls, getting messy, going for walks, visiting playgrounds, making slime with them, playing with their toys while we role play. However, very, very, slowly… I stopped doing so much. Or I would feel annoyed inside when my children asked to go to the playground for the second time that day. I never showed my children how I actually felt inside, they didn’t know how tired I was. They didn’t know that I was already completely worn out from just the morning. That was.. until they did notice.. a summer day of 2016. The day my depression wouldn’t allow me to leave my bed.
I was the mom who always brought in the baked goods to the class when there were class parties. The mom who has all the kids over for play dates, the wife who got up early and made her husband lunch, and the stay at home mom who kept the house clean. These were all things I actually enjoyed, and took pride in. Always on the go. However, along the way, I stopped doing things for myself, and totally fell out of love of who I was as a person. I no longer felt like doing my nails, taking a long bath, didn’t have the desire for a hair cut, I no longer wanted to do much of anything. Slowly, but steadily my depression was getting the best of me, and I couldn’t see how bad it was getting. My husband knew almost right away though- he saw it coming and tried to help. Thinking I had to do everything myself, there were times when I become defensive and thought, “why would people assume I need help and couldn’t do everything myself”. Knowing that I could no longer do everything myself, however, I felt I needed to, I was also feeling embarrassed and alone.
No one really knew how hard it was for me at home. Between the ages of 4-5, my daughter was spiraling out of control. Regressing, severe behavioral issues, didn’t sleep (which meant I didn’t sleep), the little girl I knew, was slipping away from me. I couldn’t do enough for her on my own, and we are still waiting to see a pediatrician at this point in life. We have two other children, so I also had to make sure they were safe, and happy as well. And it wasn’t easy. It took so much out of me daily just to keep on top of my daughters melt downs. Hoping to try and calm her before it was a full blown melt down. Their dad would keep the other kids away from their sister so they didn’t have to hear and see their sister struggling. I was the one who would tend to our daughters needs because I truly ‘got’ her, and I was a safe person for her to be around and take everything out on. She needed me to be that rock for her. She was able to let all of her troubles out in the form of violent behavior, anxiety issues, name calling, kicking and punching walls and doors. And I was the one who was present with her until the end so I could comfort her when she became tired emotional. It would take hours sometimes for a melt down to end. Sometimes I knew why she was upset, most of the time I had no idea what the issue was, other times I could somewhat guess, and try and figure it out piece by piece. My daughter could come communicate her feelings, and most of the time didn’t know the feeling she was feeling. It is one of the worst feelings in the world as a mom, not to be able to help my struggling daughter. There was nothing I could do except be there with her, without judgement, and be what she needed. When all was calm, I would try and switch off all feelings about what just occurred, and for the most part I could, but it was a very overwhelming process. In my mind… it was like- Okay that is over, now I needed to tune into my other children, cook supper, and so on. This would happen multiple times a day. Our oldest was in school during the day, and when she came home, usually right away there would be an emotional out burst. Everyday life became a challenge. Without any professional help, without a diagnosis… I was completely falling apart. I felt so alone.
With the help of my amazing family, they made appointments for me, and physically got me to the doctor. I opened up about how depressed I was, and my struggles trying to parent our oldest daughter. I realized it was time to start taking anti-depressant/ anxiety medication. After a short while, the medication started working and I was myself again. I let go of trying to make everything “perfect” and did what I could do, and didn’t push myself to do more or what I thought people expected me to do. After my oldest had a meltdown I could now switch modes (still a huge challenge) but I had the ability to still be present, be interactive with all my kiddos, and be the mom my children deserved.
You have to listen to your body. Your body will tell you when you have done too much. Do what you need to do for you. You are just as important as any other family member. You are not less of a mom because your house is not clean, or all of your laundry is not folded and put away. You are not less of a mom if you take a relaxing bath instead of playing kitty for the 15th time that day with your children. You are not less of a mom if you take care of yourself, and you are not a bad mom if you ask for help. I truly did not know this, and found out the hard way- just how important self care is. Honestly, I am still struggling with it. But it is so much better now that I set limits for myself, and set goals for myself. I will tell my kids, especially my daughter with asd, a specific time I will be doing something, or going somewhere. It allows for a time limit, they know that I am not being a ‘mean’ mom; because I gave them a heads up on what was going on and when. When you feel like you can’t take anymore- make sure someone knows. Talk to your doctor, talk to your spouse, friends, family, etc. It is okay to directly say to someone, ” I am feeling overwhelmed and I need help”. If medication is what you need, do that for yourself. You don’t have to take on everything alone. Find something that works well for YOU. And something I’ve learned along the way… if you are direct, people want to help. People can’t guess what you are hinting at, or piece together what you they think you may need. Don’t let depression take over your life. Make time for yourself, and keep doing things that make you simply enjoy life. Once you learn to get over the challenges in a healthy way… life can be beautiful again. You are entitled to have a life, and not feel guilty about doing things for yourself.