As someone who struggles with depression, one of those days has a whole different meaning to me. Today has been one of those days. It has been one of those days where I call it a win to have gotten out of bed. It has been one of those days where it was a Herculean effort to put one foot in front of the other and stay up and moving. It was a day when I wanted nothing more to lay down, pull a blanket up over my head, and not move for like a month. Or more. Never less. You can’t really do that in society. You definitely can’t do that as a stay at home mom. Being a stay at home mom adds an element to depression that I don’t know if I could ever have imagined it before. Being a stay at home mom who suffers from depression quite frankly sucks. Because on days when you can’t even fathom taking care of the basic needs of yourself to keep functioning – you have to not only keep your kid(s) going, but you have to keep the throws of your utter despair from effecting them. NO PRESSURE.

Now do not get me wrong. I am not saying that all parents at some point do not want to throw in the towel. They do. I am sure of it. At some point, parents who do not suffer from depression have bad days, and they want nothing more then to wallow in it and be able to be selfish and they can’t be. I am not taking anything away from those people. I am simply saying a truth that society may not like to recognize – because lets face it, there is still a HUGE stigma associated with mental illness – its hard to do it when you suffer from depression. Boiling it down to basic facts, living day to day is harder to do when you suffer from depression. There is no true way to describe it to people who don’t do it.
The best are the days when your depression and anxiety both come knocking. Those days, my God. You managed to open your eyes – you deserve a medal. You sat up and considered getting out of bed. You deserve a parade to go with that medal. If you get up and out of bed, I am throwing in a wrap party when the parade is over. If you get up and parent those days…well, you get all the medals, parades and parties in the land. You won’t care of course, because you are having an anxiety attack and depression episode all at once, so what you want is to curl up in the fetal position, rock, maybe hum, under a blanket, listening to your headphones, and all alone. So you know, when you are feeling a little more up to it – medals, parades and parties. So now add in a 22 month old, who just wants to run and climb and dance and spin and play outside and then inside and then outside and then inside…you get the point. You get up and you manage to do all that, making sure your kid eats and dresses, and gets changed and plays and laughs and learns. You get all the accolades and celebrations in the land. Except here’s the thing – you don’t.

So I want to introduce you to the mind of a stay at home parent who is in the throes of a depression episode and an anxiety attack. There are days when I wake up and every inch of me is screaming. Do you know what its like to have a 22 month old who dumps all her blocks off of the little wooden wagon, Hercules rips off the string to pull it and then uses it for a skate board? Exhausting. It is exhausting. This kid never stops. Do not get me wrong. I am lucky. I have a healthy, well developed, smart child with a love of life and fun. It is awesome. It is also exhausting. Not only does she never stop, neither does her mouth. “Mama Show. Mama shoes, out. Mama in. Mama snack. Mama Doc. Mama yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. Apple. You ok? Shhhhh. Okay. Mama no, where mommy?” Okay kid. I get it. You know what you want and you aren’t afraid to make it known. Got it. But mama woke up today sad. Mama does not want to watch Doc McStuffins for the 150th time, because if Mama hears the Time for your checkup song one more time, Mama is going to want to run at 60 MPH into a brick wall. Because when your fighting to just be functioning excessively cheerful kids shows DO NOT in fact make that better. Oh, and outside. Yeah. When you are in the throes of a depression episode, the last thing you generally like is nature. Let alone playing in a sandbox, and then immediately going to blowing bubbles and lets not forget playing drag baby girl around the yard in her pool because she loves it and you love her,  but you don’t want to even be out here let alone running in a circle. No baby girl, Mama is feeding you lunch, but on a normal depression episode day she wouldn’t be eating so please don’t shove that cheese stick in her mouth, please don’t no, no and now I am eating a cheese stick. Yay. Okay, lets get baby girl down for a nap. No? No napping today, okay I get it napping is even more evil then diaper changes for which I have had to chase you around in a circle each time today to successfully complete. Awesome. Knock knock, oh good I was wondering when you would get here anxiety. I need to step up my game here. I know. I am going to mess her up for good. I have been trying to make it seem like I am having the time of my life here, I am laughing and playing and running. Oh my God, my 22 month old can see through me. She knows I am sad. Is she going to think she is the reason? I never want her to think she is the reason. I am such a horrible mother. I am a horrible wife. Oh no, I know I made sure she ate a good breakfast, but was it really a good breakfast? I am feeling depressed, I wouldn’t normally really eat. Did I let that effect what I thought was a good breakfast? She had cereal and half a thing of yogurt, a peach, water. She had milk when she woke up. She had the rest of her peach and yogurt for a mid morning snack. She had mac and cheese, blue berries for lunch. Am I starving her? NO I think that was good. Okay, so we played outside for a little this morning, then we came in, we did the dishwasher and danced in the kitchen, and then we played chase while I picked up the living room. I will try to get her down after lunch. But am I forcing her down. Does she not want to sleep and I am letting my sickness dictate her napping. I know she has to nap, shes a toddler, but I really can’t let my mood effect her sleep schedule. No she is definitely not ready to nap. Okay. Back outside. We will play bubbles, and push her in her car. Oh, there she goes out front catch her, but don’t stifle her explorations. God, I am being a horribly clingy mom. Oh no, I can’t handle, she is heading for the hill, no I hate out front. Time to go out back. Okay. Was that wrong. Did I force her out back because I am too depressed and full of anxiety to let her be herself out front. I have to make sure my dysfunction isn’t effecting her. Time to really make sure she knows I am having fun. Okay. its been about an hour, time to go in and try another nap. Okay. Lets watch a show. Yup a show. Okay, no. 2 episodes later, no nap. At least she rested. Okay. Let’s vacuum and do dinner baby. Yup, we will dance as we do it. No I do not want to dance. Can we just lay down and obsess over all the ways I can be sad yet? No. Okay. Do you think she knows I thought that. I am being a bad mom again. It is going to leak out and effect her and that is not fair to her. Okay. Dinner is in the oven. Dishwasher is unloaded and reloaded and running AGAIN. I hate this appliance. Okay, back out. Yeah. A third time outside and no nap. AWESOME. I hate this so much. Whoo hoo slide baby. Yup, mama chase you. Where the hell is my wife. Its not her fault you are depressed today. Take it down a notch. You can’t let it effect her either. You need to relax. Focus on your daughter. Okay your wife is pulling in. Yup, Mommy is home. Go give her hug. Okay what needs to happen tonight.

So it goes. Inevitably you will pick a fight with your spouse. Which will increase your anxiety, and not help your depression. Bonus, your mind is moving so fast from one thought to another that you won’t really get to sleep easily. Once you do though, the depression will take over from the anxiety and you will sleep the sleep of the dead and not want to wake up. Usually it isn’t just a one day sojourn either. Depression episodes last a little while, often with anxiety going hand in hand. Besties – isn’t it sweet. So to other Stay at home parents out there suffering from depression and anxiety you aren’t imaging the extreme and utter suckiness that we are stuck with. Because your kid(s) is/are the best things in your life and you know it, but sometimes, you have to force the behavior whether or not that feeling is there.

Relax. Take it easy on yourself. You love them, you would do anything for them and sometimes the disease that turns your entire life upside down wants to take that away from you. It won’t. Because you are a survivor. You have made it through this disease to have a life and a spouse and kids – which makes you damn strong. So keep opening your eyes everyday and making it about that kid. Its important for them and for you. Because there is NOTHING in your life before them that could have gotten you out of bed on a day like today. That is powerful. That is important. That is lifesaving. And know – you are NOT alone. I am here. There are many others. We are all survivors, we all get your pain. We root for you everyday. Just know whether you get out of bed today, or just sit up – I am proud of you. I know it is scary to just wake up some days, and you did it. The episode will eventually end. You won’t have to pretend to have fun chasing your kids around and dancing. You will have fun. You will treasure it in a way that parents who don’t suffer from depression will never understand. I do. So here is your medal. Whether your ready for it or not.

Until next time.

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