What is depression as a parent? The worst bits. The guilt. Not being able to be the essence of fun the kids need. Having no energy to give to yourself, let alone others.
It's the trap that doesn't even have a lock. You're literally holding the doors shut tight, but don't know how to push them open anymore.
It really does take its toll.
It’s all on you
So, you’ve had the baby. Or maybe, you have three grown children now.
Either way, your life is no longer about yourself anymore. You are simply not entitled to have a bad day, you cannot hide away under the safety and comfort of your blankets.
And it really is horrendous. It’s not down to the fact that you are not allowed to feel bad, it is that you simply can’t.
If you have a day of dragging depression, who will feed the children? Who will change a wet nappy every ten minutes? Who will answer to the continuous droning to ‘mum’ throughout the day? It’s all on you.
It quite literally begins at birth. Everyone wants to know how the children are, but what about you? Yeah, the kids are great but I’m sleep deprived and about to lose my sanity! Sure, the little one just cut her first tooth, but did anyone notice the sadness in your eyes?
Don’t despair, there are ways to make parenthood a little easier under the weighty cloud that is, depression.
You are best at looking after your child
First and foremost, it is so important to remember why you are doing this. You, as a parent, are given these children for a reason.
There is not a single person on this earth than can be a better, more suited guardian for your children than you.
And no matter how tough things get for you, through the days that you were so close to giving it all up, your child will grow and remember that you were always there.
It’s just about finding the tools and coping mechanisms that work for you, to make parenting with a mental illness attainable.
Surround yourself with positive people
It is absolutely crucial, before you begin trying to better your life, that you eradicate negativity.
I’m referring to the friends that play the “my child is better than yours”; the mums at the nursery that evaluate you and your child with an intrusive side glance; the nosey neighbour that can’t help but make sly remarks on your parenting.
Get rid of it.
The people that surround us, massively influence our mental state. We as human beings have the massively inconvenient (yet totally warranted) need for acceptance, and the idea that we could be judged as inadequate parents can be seriously daunting.
You're not alone
However, what we seem to forget is that every parent is in the same boat.
Some are in much better circumstances and positions in life, but having a tiny human depend solely on you is the same for us all. Even princess Kate Middleton has been papped losing her head at George!
It’s hard work, so a side of stress and depression is more than warranted. Don’t crucify yourself for screaming, punching pillows and locking yourself in the bathroom for five minutes.
Society likes to make us feel guilty for being negative; that we should be eternally happy and grateful for having children. Well, that’s not always the reality.
Ask for help
Be assured that there are some fantastic organisations that provide confidential support and advice.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help; it doesn’t make you any less of a parent. Having breaks and time to yourself is an essential part of survival, we must not lose who we are as individuals in the life of mother\fatherhood. Talk to your friends. Have a stalk on some online groups. You do still exist, and your deserve attention, happiness and support just as much as you give to yourself children.
Have time to yourself
Keeping up with your hobbies and friendships have a huge positive impact on our mental clarity.
This can be next to impossible as a parent, particularly those doing it alone.
Maintaining a sense of who we are keeps our sanity more or less intact! You absolutely have to overcome the guilt of craving ‘your time’ to sustain who you are as an individual, not simply mummy/daddy. Read that book you bought five months ago, do a few sessions at the gym, catch up with that friend from college, take a walk around just sit out with a cuppa. You need, and quite frankly, damn well deserve it.
Parenting on the whole can be a very lonely, stressful, soul draining experience. And some of us soldiers are out here battling the little demons in our heads all at the same time, I massively salute you all.
Take a good look at your children and what you have created (and kept alive) and welcome that little sense of pride with open arms! To them, you are the entire universe. Well done you.
Tips & tricks ...
- Look at your child or children. Remember that it is all for them, and look how well you have done so far!
- Go easy on yourself; you can't do everything perfectly. Mistakes are all part and parcel of parenthood.
- If, or when you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in needing a step up; YOU are important too.
- Surround yourself with friends and family who make you aware of the amazing job you are doing. This is a crucial factor in aiding your positive approach to life and parenthood!
- Take time to look after yourself. Without you, those kids are screwed. You deserve your own time; you are still an individual!
- Once again, don't forget that you are not alone in your isolation. There are thousands of us facing the same battle, and its quite a comforting thought.
Organizations and helpful links
- Family Lives - a national charity providing help and support in all aspects of family life
- National Childbirth Trust (NCT) - the largest UK charity for parents
- Channel Mum - a friendly, honest community of mums
- Mush - the app to help you make mum friends
Are you on twitter? Join us 06 September at 12pm using #MHTchat to talk about how post natal depression is treated in the NHS ... come and share your views!