I have suffered from depression since I was a kid. I didn’t even know that what I had was an actual “thing”, let alone seek treatment for it, until I was in my late twenties. Looking back, it all makes sense. I used to take incredible risks when I was a kid and was never really happy. I never felt satisfied with anything. Finding help and the right combination of meds has helped immensely.
When I became pregnant, my doctor knew enough about my history to “get ahead” of the depression and never took me off my meds for the duration of my pregnancy. The risk of spiraling into debilitating post-partum depression was too great. We found the most “pregnancy friendly” of the antidepressants on the market at the time and kept on trucking. It was a good thing, too, because when I delivered at 27 weeks, there was a lot to be upset about without worrying about dealing with actual depression.
Being depressed and medicated for it for so long has made it really tough to feel things. Don’t get me wrong, I have feelings. It’s just harder for me to realize what those feelings are in the moment, unless they are extremes. (Your kid might die? Oh yes, I felt that. She took her first steps? Oh that’s…nice?) Therefore, I am always questioning what I’m feeling. Is it a real feeling or do I just want it to be a real feeling? Sometimes I’m afraid that I am taking for granted how much I really love my child. I know it’s real; i absolutely love her. But I yearn to really feel it in the depths of my soul. Do normal people really feel things that way?
Depression is a really complicated disease. When you’re depressed, there are actual physical changes going on inside your brain. It’s not just a “feeling” that will pass. I was really lucky to find the right combination of meds and talk therapy that helped. For a long time, it was under control. I was able to manage having a very sick infant in the NICU with the help of those meds. I was able to navigate a sleepless infancy and come out on the other side mostly sane. I even survived the terrible twos, the terrific threes and the what-the-fuck fours. As a working mom, I had dozens of balls in the air and I was thriving.
And then I wasn’t. As my child got older, I think I put more and more pressure on myself to be the perfect mother. I just set myself up for disappointment there. I felt overwhelmed by the pressure of being Mary Poppins incarnate. Add that to the stress of work, a house under repair, mounting bills and trying to make a marriage work and I felt like I didn’t want to—couldn’t—get out of bed. For a person who prided herself on being witty, I just couldn’t find the funny anymore. It was really hard. I felt like I didn’t have a personality anymore. I was just there, taking up space. One of the toughest parts about it was feeling like I wasn’t being a good role model for Zoey. The real me doesn’t feel like this, doesn’t let this thing beat her. The real me is stronger than this thing dragging me down.
So every day (with the exception of one Sunday about a month ago) I got up, put on my game face and mothered on. I did it for my daughter and my husband. They helped me more than they know. Their love and laughter helped pull me through. I try really hard not to take them and what I feel for them for granted. I am trying to be more mindful. I’m also trying to give myself a break when I’m not doing so well. I got my meds adjusted because hey, bodies and brains change. Things are getting brighter, better. And maybe I am being a role model in spite of my disease. Because I didn’t quit. And I won’t.
This post is part of a week-long CT Working Moms blog series.