Jun 13, 2012  •  In Aerin, Claire, Depression, Motherhood, Personal

Depression and Motherhood

The thing about depression is that nobody can really understand how you feel unless they have been through it themselves. And even then, their experiences could be completely different from yours.

When I first wrote of my current struggle with depression, I got the feeling that a few commenters believed the condition to have suddenly come over me one day. Or even over a span of weeks. But the truth of the matter is that I have been down for months now, and what probably precipitated my meltdown was my neck injury; I was no longer physically able to stay strong.

It is no secret that I have been treated for depression in the past — in my early twenties, to be exact — but this current bout seems worse. It is not because I am feeling more blue than the last time, but because I have two little girls who depend on me. And any idiot knows that overcoming an obstacle becomes so much more difficult when you can’t put yourself first.

Take the past couple of weeks, for example.

Aerin has been a horror at night, waking up practically every two hours, screaming, because she is in so much discomfort from teething. Not only are both J and I horribly sleep-deprived as a result, poor Claire has been suffering too.

(The girls now sleep in the same bedroom. When Aerin sleeps well — meaning waking up once or twice a night — Claire can sleep through her little sister’s wakings. But 5-6x a night? Even the deepest sleeper would have trouble.)

Then, last Friday, Claire got sick. She had a fever of 103.4° and went on a vomiting spree. Luckily, her illness lasted only a couple of days, but your own health and sanity needs to take a back seat when your child is crying inconsolably and throwing up all over herself and you.

With her immune system down, Claire got sick again today with a slight fever (100°), coughing, and runny nose. She kept rubbing her right ear and as soon as I took her to the doctor, my suspicions were confirmed: an ear infection.

The upside to Claire being sick is that she becomes extra clingy — even to
her dad, with whom she normally doesn’t like to cuddle.

I am not writing of these events to complain about the crappy month of June we have been having. Every parent goes through sleepless nights and sick children. (And I know I should consider ourselves lucky because this is only the third time that Claire has been sick since she was born.)

Rather, I am attempting to illustrate for you how I have managed to keep on going, and masked my condition all this time. It is because of my husband and our two little girls; I had to stay strong for them.

On my second session with my therapist, she had me do an exercise in which I imagine a nurturer. Anyone in my life — real, fictional, dead, or alive — whom I can trust and depend on to love me and nurture me.

As soon as I had the person in mind and imagined her holding me close and telling me that everything is going to be okay, the tears started flowing.

It was because it had been so long since someone had taken care of me.

The current status of my condition is that I am feeling somewhat better, but I have my good days and bad days. It will be a long journey, and I thank you all for being there for the ride.

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14 Responses to “Depression and Motherhood”

  1. Kit says:

    Thank you for sharing.
    That exercise your therapist had you do was powerful even for ME to condure up in my mind!
    I think it may be an exercise I will have to do during those hard moments when I need to remind myself to be kind to myself…
    And honestly- i agree! Taking care of aick kids you HAVE to put yourself and your own needs on the back burner. How the heck dis our parents do it! I feel like my mom made it look SO EASY!
    But then again, 1. My sister and I are 4.5 yrs apart. Pretty much she gave hereelf a *break* in some respect there! 2. I was young so obviously I don’t recall the *hard times* my mom would have had. But raising my sister & I with a military dad/husband who was deployed and we were never raised near family my mom certainly figured out how to create her own “village” for support!
    And I think that is a huge lesson, to create a supportive village for yourself/ourselves especially during times like when you described- depression/injury when you need an extra hand to care for yourself & your kids!
    Honestly, motherhood has humbled me down to my knees. It certainly takes grace to learn- and I thank God for helping me realize the beauty behind the chaos because it does make me a better person (looking back on those hard times & having lived through it).
    Take care. ((HUGS)).

  2. Diana says:

    You are NOT alone in this that’s all I can say as a mother of a 21 month old.

  3. jenny says:

    stay strong! keep on going to therapy and doing things that make you feel better. what your therapist said about imaging a person who is nurturing is so interesting…that made me think about something…

  4. Revanche says:

    I am amazed at how different depression experiences can be even while it is so much more ubiquitous than people realize. And I suspect part of it is because so many people are functional, but that doesn’t mean they’re not suffering.

    I struggled with carrying the burdens of my family for many years, with my chronic health problems, while climbing a career ladder, and until I lost my terminally ill mother, I didn’t realize how hard I was holding on to the hope of regaining that relationship and the inherent unconditional support. That was the final straw that finally let me see that my long time unhappiness is more than just sadness.

    I can see what you have to have been doing to hang on through your depression to take care of J and the girls – I wish you all the best.

  5. Judy says:

    One day at a time… ::Hug:: Glad you’re getting the help and have the outlook that things will get better!

  6. Annie says:

    I’m sad that there isn’t anything I can do to take the depression away and make it all better. I am always thinking of you and really praying a whole lot that you get better soon. I miss and love you. Always remember: not only are you a great mother and wife. But you’re a freaking awesome sister and friend. I know you’ll get through this and with the help of therapists as love you’ll be ok.

    I’m always here…. (in shanghai via the Internet) for you. 🙂 xo

  7. Mina says:

    thanks for sharing this. sending you lots of support and thoughts as you work through this.

  8. I feel for you, Jenny. The closest I’ve felt to true depression was some post birth baby blues. I remember it to be somewhat debilitating, as the c-section also contributed to a feeling of helplessness. It was enough to still be vivid. So I can imagine what you’re going through, even though that was just a small taste and pales in comparison. Add on top of that and your physical pain from your neck injury the incredible and very common and huge challenge of the day to day of raising a child (two children!) with the sleep deprivation, illness, unrelenting need and it’s enough to send you reeling. Again, I feel your pain and what you’re experiencing really needs no caveats. It’s just A LOT for one person. Plain and simple. You’re definitely strong and doing a great job all things considered. Hang in there. You can make it through this spell. My thoughts are with you and I’m hoping at least some of the issues pass quickly.

  9. Arti says:

    This is really brave of you to share this with the world and be so open and frank about it. I read a couple mommy blogs and yours is the most refreshing because of your honesty. Most other blogs paint this picture of motherhood being flawless and wonderful.
    I also struggle with this condition at times and I am rooting for you to pull through.
    Stay strong!

  10. Helene says:

    we won’t be able to take care of you, but for sure we’re all here to support you jenny!

  11. Alice says:

    The best you can do is take care of yourself, first, so you can be more “present” for your family 🙂

  12. On reading my list of daily health symptoms, my doctor asked how I keep going every day. I looked at her in amazement and asked, “What choice do I have?” Sometimes you break down and cry because you don’t know how you’ll face another day. But then that next day comes, and your child wakes up and needs you, and you drag yourself out of bed and do what needs to be done. Which is all a long way of saying I know exactly what you’re saying.

    Right now I’m reading a book called “The Mask of Motherhood,” and one of the things the author mentions is that women/mothers don’t really nurture one another. Your post made me think of that. I’m grateful for a number of kind mother-friends on the Internet, but it’s not the same. And even the helpful voices of the Internet can be so easily lost among the cacophony of more demanding and competitive messages out there. Sorry, kind of rambling, but it’s an interesting book and I think you might like it. Hang in there — virtual hugs to you.

  13. Carol says:

    LOVE the new layout! It’s so crispy clean. You should seriously consider doing custom blogs, you’re so good at it.

  14. S says:

    I do understand and think of you often. I started reading your blog via Wedding Bee, even though I’m divorced. LOL.

    The Internet is so great for connecting us with people who have similar interests and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to read your story through the years. The first few years are so, so, so difficult. If it makes you feel better there will be a point when you won’t even think about how bad these times were.

    Thank you for sharing your story, we are all rooting for you. Remember to cling to Jesus’s tunic in the really dark moments.

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