It's sad that in the millennium, mental health is still a taboo subject. Thankfully, we do have the internet and access to articles upon articles sharing information on mental health, which is easily accessed and private, but treating mental health issues goes beyond that. When I separated from my ex-husband and started the divorce process, I knew I could really be in for an emotional roller coaster. I didn't want my anxiety from all of the multiple life changes of divorce to become my daughter's anxiety, so I decided to talk to someone to help get me through the divorce process. And you know what? It made me a better and happier mom.
Moms, if you're not happy, then how do you expect your children to be? I think there is a lot of pressure for moms to feel joy simply because they're mothers, but this type of pressure creates unrealistic expectations which creates unhappiness in itself. So if a mother is depressed or sad, there's double the guilt and pain: pain because of the depression and pain because society says you're supposed to be gushing with joy over motherhood, and yet, despite all the love for her child/children, a mom may be crippled with depression.
How do you know if you're depressed or simply blue?
Signs of depression are:
- Inability to sleep and/or feeling fatigued all the time and not simply because you're a busy mom
- Lack of interest in hobbies and other activities you enjoyed before, either alone, with your kids, or your partner if you're coupled
- Suicidal thoughts
- Change in weight or appetite. Perhaps you're not eating or perhaps you're going on binges or finding yourself eating to comfort yourself
- Decreased interest in sex
- Foggy mood or inability to focus
- Forgetting things
- Feeling angry – having outbursts or frequent mood changes
If you have any of these signs and symptoms, you're probably wondering if it's time you got help, but the other part of you may be so devastated with the guilt over your feelings in itself that you may avoid reaching out for help.
Moms are "supposed to be":
- The touchstone of the family — how can I be a touchstone when I feel split into many pieces, you may be thinking?
- Calm and positive — our children are counting on us! We are…
- Superheroes of wisdom and strength
- We're pulled together — how dare we seem out of sorts? We're multitasking amazons of sanity, stability, and light!
We are so tied into these beliefs about motherhood that to accept that we may be erratic, unhappy, falling apart, or not calm or positive in some ways challenges our metaphorical right to motherhood. To reach out and say, "I need help" is to admit that maybe we aren't the mothers we are supposed to be.
This is rubbish! We all know motherhood is rewarding but not always easy. We all know that we are human and not superhuman, and yet we don't cut ourselves any breaks. For me, I feel a great sense of pride and happiness knowing that in one of the toughest times of my life, I made the smart choice to touch base with a professional to adjust to the life changes a divorce brings. Becoming a mother is a wonderful but huge life change. It takes a strong person — not a feeble person — to ask for help when she needs it.
Getting help means:
- You know there's a problem and want to make a change. That's half the battle.
- You will be happier in the long run and so will your kids. A sad mom has never raised happy children.
- You have shown your kids that their emotions and mental health are important because you valued yourself enough to care for your own mental health.
- You have taught your children that you are not perfect and are smart enough to ask others when necessary.
- Like a great CEO, you relegate tasks to those who can do it better than you and getting help for your depression means you're asking the expert to be the expert, and not family, friends, or other loved ones.
Bottom line? You have to take care of you before you can take care of anyone else. You're not alone: over 14 million American adults have major depressive disorder alone (more common in women than in men), so if you are getting help, know you aren't the first and won't be the last mom to seek help. Be proud: getting help means you're a strong mother capable of doing anything she sets her mind to!