Depression does not discriminate—from the oldest to youngest, richest to poorest, most glamorous lives to those who live in constant struggle—yet it is so taboo to speak of.
Perhaps the most common group of people to sweep this under the rug and put everyone else’s needs and feelings first is mothers.
I remember vividly how exposed I felt when I finally admitted to the world (OK, to my blog who are all the people in my world) that I am bipolar.
I admitted it haltingly, concerned about who would look at me differently.
I shyly told my story in a blog post that now has the most views and comments of anything I’ve ever written.
Why? Because it’s real and people can relate. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that sharing your story may be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison.
When someone says the words out loud, it makes you feel like you can talk about it, too. You know you can have a conversation and not be judged.
I have struggled with depression since I was a young child, and it finally took over when I attempted suicide when I was 15 years old. I have been to more therapists and psychiatrists then I can count in the last 20 years, and it has become a part of who I am.
Some days are worse than others. Some seasons of life, it hangs around closer than I wish it would. Sometimes it ruins my entire day because I have several panic attacks a day or spend too much time overthinking something.
Some days I can be more the mom I wish to be, and some days, we just survive and that is OK.
It is so strange to me that depression or anxiety is viewed by anyone as a weakness because often it is just an emotional response to the build-up of handling so much stress, juggling too many balls in the air, and being stronger than anyone should have to be for too long.
In fact, in my experience, some of the most respected community members–the PTA mom, the pastor’s wife, the Pinterest mom–they are the ones who are silently battling depression.
Perhaps it’s because we fear that our reputations as super moms would be tarnished if anyone really knew our struggles.
Maybe we judge ourselves for not being able to shake this feeling, and we can’t bear even the thought that if we tell someone, they may react in judgment too, and it would push us over the edge. So, we all just stuff it down and walk through this journey alone, when we don’t have to.
There is a whole community of moms from every walk of life, going through this, too. We just have to be honest and let each other in.
Let me tell you something—if you are struggling with depression, it is not your fault. It does not make you a bad mom. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your children. It doesn’t make you less than the mom next door who seems to always have it more together than you.
It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you a warrior–because no matter how many battles are going on in your head on a daily basis, you wake up. You show up. Your kids know you love them. You try your best. You give yourself grace when you think your best wasn’t good enough.
You push through your pain, while still trying to give your family a great life.
Maybe you live with anxiety. You avoid super fun events your family wants to go to because it will also be super crowded and send you into a panic attack. Perhaps you overreact to every scratch and rash because naturally your first response when you see your child break out in a rash from allergies to laundry detergent, is that your kid has measles.
You feel everything 10 times more intensely than others.
Your loved ones tell you to calm down, but you can’t. Of course you would if you could control it.
That’s the whole root of anxiety, isn’t it? The fear of everything we cannot control, the fear of the unknown or the worst-case scenario. It can be so crippling to live in a mind and body riddled with anxiety.
I promise you are not alone. I swear to you, that it is totally OK to be a little bit of a helicopter parent. Your kids will live to tell the tale and probably, with a few fewer scratches and bruises . . . so there’s that. They won’t remember that you didn’t take them to that concert, they’ll remember that you stayed at home playing board games and eating ice cream. They won’t hold it against you that you sent dad to take them shopping instead of you taking them to avoid the crowds. So long as you hand over the credit card before they go.
They will not remember your depression and anxiety as a deficiency or something that made you a bad parent. Because it isn’t and it doesn’t. It doesn’t make you love them less. It doesn’t change who you are. If you were a super mom who everyone respected and came to for advice and trusted before, what changes by just saying the truth out loud?
Now your friends just know you are human.
You didn’t stop being strong.
You didn’t stop being capable.
You aren’t going to be an outcast.
You are going to open a dialogue that needs to exist between us as mothers. You are going to get phone calls and e-mails and private messages from other moms thanking you and wanting to share their story with you. You are going to break the stigma, one story at a time.
Originally published on The Mighty