Hey Beauties!! This week we have the pleasure of having Jen from Diffusing The Tension. I met Jen through the writing community on Twitter and she’s become a great friend that I really value connecting with!! This week she is going to share with us 3 things her children have taught her about depression and how it’s changed her life!!
You know the drill…Get the cuppa and biscuits out!!
Children and Depression: 3 Lessons My Kids Have Taught Me + How it Has Improved My Life
**TW mention of suicidal thoughts**
“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” Barbara Kingsolver
Motherhood, or just parenthood in general, takes strength beyond anything I could ever describe. On a good day, parenting is challenging, even if you don’t live with mental illness. But if you do?
It’s like having to climb Mount Everest on a daily basis, with a leaky oxygen tank.
Often, it feels impossible.
Who am I? My name is Jen and I am a blogger on my site Diffusing the Tension. You can read more about me in the About the Author section below. But in summary, I have two little ones. They are currently about 4 ½ and 3. My oldest is pure sweetness. That is the best way I could describe her. She is love, and hugs, and snuggles, and kindness, and unicorns, and singing— everything good. She’s emotional sometimes, but hey, it’s hard to be four!
Our youngest is sweet, but she is a little fireball in ways that our oldest isn’t. She’s fierce, sassy, and a bit… assertive. She is mommy’s girl through and through, but has recently developed a really precious bond with my husband. I always say she’s gonna tear into some boardroom one day and make a lot of people very scared!
That’s a little bit about my family. So, why I am so qualified to write about parenting with depression?
My journey with depression
I’ve lived with depression ever since I was a young child. My cousin tragically passed away when I was nine, and that led to me becoming more withdrawn and acting out a little at home. The hormones of the teenage years just exacerbated the issues I was facing, and it led me to be diagnosed with depression.
I struggled even more after college. I began experiencing hypomanic episodes— irritability, interpersonal sabotage, needing less sleep/hyperproductivity– and was diagnosed with depression in 2010.
I was stable for a few years after seeking treatment for bipolar symptoms. But unfortunately, things began to get bad again after the birth of my first child in 2015. When she was around 4-5 months old, I entered a very dark period of postpartum depression, and was suicidal.
What’s my current life like? Well, today I’m relatively stable.
Still have bipolar disorder? Check.
Anxiety? Yes, ma’am.
I’m doing maybe not well all the time, but pretty darn okay. I really credit it to things I have learned from my children.
What have I learned over the past almost five years of being a mother?
3 lessons my children have taught me
There are a lot of things that people who live with depression struggle with. They are things that might even be second nature to a neurotypical person. But, because of the way my brain is, they are things I had to re-learn. In my case, I was taught them by my amazing kids. It has truly changed my life.
They love me for who I am
I talk openly about my depression and mood swings with my children. Obviously, they are too young to understand some of the darker aspects of it. (Past suicidal thoughts, etc.) But I tell them that sometimes Mommy gets sad or cranky, and when I am, it is never, ever their fault. It is the way Mommy’s brain works, and lots of people live that way.
It is really important for them to not assume guilt for my emotions.
But you know what I’ve learned? They completely understand. In the limited way they can, at least. And in my worst moods, they show me kindness, empathy, and consideration. They take care of me when I’m down, and tell me they love me. They tell me I’m a good mommy.
Why can’t we do this for ourselves?
They help me enjoy the little moments
If I could give a simple piece of advice to someone living with depression who wants to enjoy their current season of parenting it would be this: Get off the island.
I liken being depressed to being stuck on a deserted island. You’re alone, cut off from the rest of society by a large, foreboding body of water. Moreover, the water is likely infested with sharks and other dangerous predators.
We need to allow ourselves time off of the island. Build a raft, draw the letters SOS in the sand. Whatever you have to do to escape from the island for even 5-10 minutes a day.
Get down on the floor with them. Do puzzles. Build towers with blocks. Play princess.
Trust me, I know it’s hard. I promise it gets easier. Remember, parenting is a muscle. The more you train, the easier it is to move around.
They show me that I need to depend on others
Our society is plagued by superhero complex. I see this especially in women. We want to do it all, and if we can’t? Well, then we must be failures.
Becoming a mom has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Especially navigating this new role while living with depression. You have to be able to, first, admit that things are not going as well as you would like. Then, you need to be able to accept that the change lies with you. That you cannot possibly do it all on your own.
This is when it helps to be able to reach out for help. Call your mom, and ask if she can come over for a couple hours while you fold laundry and clean the house. Or hell, take a nap! Ask your husband if he can spare 20 minutes after work so you can get in a hot shower.
If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that, yes, I am unbelievably strong. But also that I 100% cannot do this alone.
Parenting with depression
When you live with depression, this parenting gig is unbelievably hard. It is having a goal of climbing to the top of Everest without having enough energy or oxygen to leave basecamp.
What do you struggle with as a parent? Is it energy? Money? Time? Patience? We all struggle with something.
But hear me out: You are a good parent. And if you take the time each day to stop for a few moments and breathe it all in, you would probably be surprised at the things your children are teaching you when you least expect it.
I think we all need to take a note from Jen!! Maybe we should sit down and think of that unconditional love our children give us regaurdless of what we look like or feel about ourselves. Jen make’s very valuable points throughout this post and we should all take on board what she has to say. What do you all think??
Much Love – Mrs Slee-Jones xx
Show Jen some love!!
Jen (the writer behind the blog, Diffusing the Tension) lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband and two children (ages 4.5 and 3). She has bipolar disorder and frequently writes about her experiences with that. In her spare time, she is OBSESSED with true crime. She is also a bookworm, TV junkie, and fitness nut.