*CW/TW: This post is about parenting with depression, and there is mention of suicidal ideation. Read with caution.
Are you a parent who struggles with depression? Do you find it hard to get through the day?
That has been my journey for the past 4.5 years. In April 2015, I gave birth to our sweet Olivia. She was the perfect baby. She never really cried unless she was hungry. Brag time: She started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old. She was perfect.
So, why was I so depressed? I was diagnosed with depression at age 13 and I think the post-partum hormones just exacerbated my condition. I was even suicidal at one point after giving birth.
Luckily I got help and things smoothed over for a little while. We had our second little one in December 2016. Amelia. Oh Amelia. Those first several months were so hard.
In contrast with Olivia, Amelia never stopped crying. I was a human pacifier who felt dead inside all day long. It was disheartened to listen to her cry all day long.
Things are better now. The kids are 4.5 and almost 3. The reason I share this is to show you how common it is for parents to struggle. I share a lot on social media about the adorable things my kids do, because I think the world needs some more positivity. But it is hard. There are days when they are just plain acting rotten and I have to rely on coping skills I have learned over the years.
Parenting with depression: 5 must have tips
Tip 1: Make a to-do list
Living with depression as an adult can be so overwhelming. The average person has so much to do on a given day. When you have depression, your list of things to do feels like a mountain you can never climb.
I recommend, before you go to bed each night, look ahead at the next day. Make a list of everything you absolutely need to get done in the order it needs to get done.
For example, my list today looks like this:
- Write My Need to Live blog post
- Washer/dryer being delivered between 830-1230
- Do laundry
- Vacuum at 12 (I need to vacuum today and my husband works from home, so I need to work around his calls)
- Take kids to the park if it’s nice
- Finish unpacking in Olivia’s room
- Make to do list for Friday
- Fold clothes, and put them away
- Take my bed time meds
So as you can see, it is a reasonable amount of “must do’s.” If there is extra time, I will pull from my list of less important tasks. One thing I have learned in my quest to be organized with depression, is not to multitask. Studies are showing that multitasking is not as productive as you think it is and it tends to just make you feel more overwhelmed.
Tip 2: Ask for help
This is so important when you are living with depression. I have had to learn to accept the fact that I am struggling, and to be honest and open about it.
I am super lucky that I live within 10 minutes of both of our moms. We just moved, so life is extra chaotic. My mom and my mother-in-law are so amazing about helping with the kids when I need it. All I have to do is ask.
It can be hard to take that step. Asking for help shows vulnerability, and being in a vulnerable position is something we try to hide. But there is nothing wrong with reaching out and asking for help when you’re depressed. After all, it really does take a village.
Tip 3: Work on yourself
Personal development is so important. It’s kind of a hot phrase in 2019. Everywhere you look, you see someone advertising a self help book.
There is a reason it is such a popular topic. Personal development is incredibly important for your emotional health. We are works in progress and need to regularly dedicate time to improving our mindset and wellness.
There are a lot of ways you can accomplish this:
- Self help books
- Regular exercise
- Exploring spirituality
Whatever activity you choose, try to set aside 15 minutes a day for it. You can work your way up from there. Make it a goal to get an hour total a day of a combination of these activities.
Tip 4: Get enough self care
Self care is another hot phrase these days. There are literally hundreds, or even thousands, of ways you can get adequate self care. I could write a whole book about it!
The important thing to remember about self care is that it is going to look different for everyone. What works for someone else might not work for you. Self care is a journey of trial and error until you find something that works.
Here are a list of things that work for me personally:
- An hour on the elliptical
- A hot bath with epsom salts or a bath bomb
- Snuggling up with a blanket and a good true crime documentary
- Reading an amazing book
- Getting a massage
- Getting my hair done
These are just a few ideas. Like I said, there are hundred to choose from! Pick a few to start out with a find some time daily for YOU.
Tip 5: Find joy in the little things
This can be so very hard. I totally get it. There are some days where it seems like nothing goes right and there is nothing to be happy about.
My recommendation is to try the cancel-cancel method. When you feel a negative thought pop up, here is what you do:
Example: I am not a good mom.
Next say: Cancel-cancel. (Seems corny, but say that exactly.)
Then, replace the negative thought with a positive one. Here is the full exchange.
I am not a good mom.
My kids love me and I love them. I try my best every day.
Doing this regularly is almost like an exercise. It trains your brain to lean toward more positive thoughts. Give it a try for 30 days, and you will see a big difference.
Doing the impossible.
A lot of days, parenting with depression really seems impossible. Even though I follow the advice in this post, I still have the occasional bad day.
The important thing to remember: that is okay! We are all going to have bad days, because we are imperfect human beings. That being said, we can take action steps, like the ones above, to make our days a little easier.
Which step are you going to try first? Which one do you find the most difficult? Share your thoughts in the comments!