Updated: Jun 25, 2019
I thought I had depression. I then realized it wasn’t depression. Or was it...?
In late fall 2018, I had a breakdown. It was just before the holidays and my twins were sixteen months old. Since the day they were born, I have been home with them. Being a stay at home mom has singlehandedly been the most difficult and rewarding job I have ever had. At this point, the kids were walking, disregarding redirection, constantly growing and changing, and more hands on than ever. They were getting into EVERYTHING!! They still are, only worse.
My husband and I got into one of our worst arguments to date. To tell the truth, I can’t even remember what sparked the fire but if I’m honest with myself, him not putting the toilet seat down would have made me blow that day. I was a sobbing mess on the bedroom (and bathroom) floor, completely incapable of pulling myself together. This was just the beginning...
For days, I sulked in a terrible mess of the deepest sadness and most rage filled anger I have ever felt in my life. I am not even sure if I made any verbal attempt with Bryan whatsoever and the kids got only what was absolutely necessary. I completely shut down because I don’t think my brain could process the heavy load of emotions that my body was kicking out. It was the darkest period of my life.
After days of feeling like emotional death, I decided I was depressed and needed help. I went to my OB/GYN and told him what I was experiencing. He told me that it was too late for me to be experiencing post-partum depression (which I call total bullshit on and may be a totally different post some day) and tested my blood for vitamin D deficiency and thyroid issues. My bloodwork came back normal (duh!) and his nurse told me that I should maybe seek help form a therapist. **rolls eyes so hard**
I made an apppointment with my family doctor and he sent in prescriptions for a low dose antidepressant and a low dose anti-anxiety; I started the antidepressant immediately and have yet to take the anxiety medication. I contacted a therapist and began the journey to healing; I hated who I had become and I hated the anger and sadness that coursed through my body on a regular basis. I knew I needed to be better for my kids, my husband, but most importantly, myself!
We will skip all of the material in the middle and fast forward to about twp months ago. I had my seventh session with my therapist (the first one in a month). As we were talking through how things had been going since we last met, I came to a realization. It was one that possibly my brain had involuntarily realized but that I was completely unaware of until that very moment; I may not have been depressed...
Up until about a month ago, I put a truck load of pressure on myself to be the perfect mom. Then, one day, something in my brain changed and I stopped striving to be the perfect mom. Suddenly, other things started getting done, I felt more balance in my life, and the sadness and anxiety let go a bit. It’s work in progress because the perfectionist devil sits on my shoulder daily telling me that I have looked past a cleaning task or that everyone is sick of leftovers. I am choosing to see the devil but tune him out while simultaneously giving myself a whole lot of grace. I like a very clean house, fancy, home cooked meals, clean, well behaved kids, and a husband who gets the best version of me all the time; some days I do achieve this and others are a flat out fail.
Before deciding to ease the reigns on myself, I felt like I was half-assing everything in my life and it was making me miserable. With a little self forgiveness, some talks with God, and my never ending pursuit to become less of a perfectionist (fueled by my perfectionism, haha), I am making progress every day. My to-do list still exists and I have made a miraculous discovery in regards to it; it can always roll over to tomorrow! Who knew?!
Looking back, I can attribute this to a few things and I want to make them very clear for those of you reading this. Deep in my heart, I don’t think I was ever depressed. I strongly believe that I was caught in a vicious spiral of perfectionism and that was accelerated by isolation. In plain English; I was in a massive trap of anxiety! I think as parents, moms especially, we know that these tiny people we are raising are going to become big people some day and we want with every fiber of our being for them to be successful, kind, responsible adults; that starts from parenting day one (even in the womb).
Lesson #1: Take what you see going on in other people’s lives with a grain of salt. In the digital age we live in, we are bombarded, practically slapped in the face, with the play-by-play of everyone’s life. Oneclick and you can find yourself in a social media trap where others are posting their parenting triumphs, marriage successes, career achievements, and we can’t help but compare ourseves to what we see. I would wager a guess that most of what people post is a small snippet of the GOOD happening in their lives. You’re not going to see a mom admitting her bladder leaks since having kids, a husband admitting he forgot Valentine’s Day and wound up in the dog house, or a professional posting about the pay cut they took for their dream job.
This was especially hard for me because I don’t candy coat things, I show the good with the bad, in person and on social media. I do not have all of my shit together; far from it! Seeing everything that people posted about parenting, marriage, life, while wearing their rose colored glasses only supported the conclusion I had drawn in my mind; that I was a bad mom, a terrible wife, and that my family deserved way better. This leads quickly into my second lesson learned...
Lesson #2: Find a tribe and vibe HARD with them! When you’re a stay at home mom, the day to day can become mundane and start to build sadness and resentment. With twins, there was no easing into the changes that come with motherhood, I got tossed in to the lion’s den, head first, during feeding time. Going places with my twins when they were small was a huge challenge that I avoided at all costs. This lead to a lot of time at home, isolated, with very little exposure to the outside world. I’d assume that mom’s that go out into the working world have a lot on them as well to perform well in their careers and then come home to a house, pets, husband, and kids all looking to them for the answers to the universe.
MOMING IS HARD! Find some people, preferably other mom’s, who can relate with the pressures of parenthood, being a wifey, and keeping life together, and trade stories. You can’t imagine how therapeutic this is! Once you get out and talk to the other mom’s who are doing their best to stay afloat, you quickly realize that no one’s shit is together! Having a social life is part of taking care of yourself; when it involves your kids and their kids entertaining each other, well that’s just a huge win!
Lesson #3: Last and by no means least, make time for self care! My husband has been pushing me to do this since day one and up until recently, I have resisted. I would get stuck in a vicious cycle of, “You don’t have time to lay and read, the master bath didn’t get scrubbed this week...You can’t get a massage, you’re not earning a living changing diapers...How dare you leave the kids with him, he’s worked all day too!” NOT HEALTHY! Also, not true. I should read, I should get a massage, I should leave the kids with my husband. So should you!! Do you know why?
Every mom needs time away from her kids and, believe it or not, every kid needs time away from their mom. Absence makes the heart grow fonder (and drinking wine while solo with your kids is apparently frowned upon). I don’t know about your husband but my husband loves his solo time with our kids; and they love their time with daddy!
Mama’s, be ever so kind to yourself; the good Lord gave YOU to your kids and He knew you were perfect for them. Take some time for self care because you are totally worth a facial, a girls night out, or a package of cookies consumed alone on your closet floor. Don’t get caught in the social media trap; there isn’t a single person who has it all figured out. Truthfully, we are all just doing the absolute best we can and despite our greatest efforts, we all fail from time to time.
Get out there and find your people! Find the ones that listen to your “finger painting with diaper material” story and match it with a “booger wall” one of their own. They are the people that will lift you up when you are burned out, help you through the really tough stuff, and love you the same when you burn the Birthday treat your kid needs for school the next day. No one is perfect, there is no sense in holding yourself to that standard. Come on mama, jump on the hot mess express; there is always room for a new member and we can’t wait to have you!