I’ve dealt with depression most of my life. I remember being 15 and alternating between sleeping all the time and bouts of insomnia. One particular time in high school, I was 16 if I remember correctly, I went through a crying jag. I just could not stop. My aunt, whom with I was living at the time, took me to the emergency room to make sure I was safe. I remember the ER doctor asking me if I was suicidal and I just told him, “No, I’m just so tired from not sleeping.” He gave me some sleeping pills and sent me on my way. My aunt was really worried about me and watched me like a hawk for a few weeks after that incident. That was the first time I remember feeling like a burden and less of a person.
When I became a mother I didn’t fall into parenting flawlessly like I envisioned I would. I loved my sons no doubt but I fell into a depression unlike any I’d ever felt before. I had chosen to breast feed and I remember it not being this magical feeling, an amazing bonding moment like I hoped it would be, like I was told it would be. I remember pushing it, trying and trying to make that magical bonding experience a reality. It never happened. I couldn’t breast feed and it didn’t feel magical. I remember feeding my son and just waiting impatiently for it to be over. And that was the first time I remember feeling like a bad mother. It was also when I realized I was depressed. I was suffering from post-partum depression.
I was so depressed, I was unengaged with my family. I was sleeping all the time, or barely sleeping. I was no longer interested in things I used to find joy. I was irritable and mean. I tended to my sons needs as things would arise but I didn’t spend much time with him outside of tending to his needs. Or I would go the other direction and worry about him constantly. Was he breathing? Was he wet again? Was he comfortable? Too hot? Not warm enough? My mind would not shut off from the constant worries. I was depressed in the worst way.
The constant worrying had me so overwhelmed. I felt like the worst mom because I never seemed to know when things were just ok. There was always this cloud above me; a cloud of doubt. A cloud that repeated to me over and over that I wasn’t a good mom because I was unsure of everything. It couldn’t possibly be this hard for all moms, could it? One day I was overwhelmed to the point I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I reached for a bottle of pills to end my indecisiveness and worry. I was going to kill myself.
I grabbed a bottle of Tylenol, downed an entire handful and laid back on the bed, waiting for the darkness to take me, to take away all my worry and anxiety. 15 minutes in, I had a change of heart. Was it too late? I began to panic but all I could think was at least I wouldn’t have this anxiety and overwhelming feeling of failure, so I laid there.
My husband came into the bedroom to tell me goodbye before he left for work. I was barely conscious. He kept asking me, “what did you take? What did you do?” I told him I took Tylenol in the littlest voice I had left. The ambulance came, I was admitted to the psychiatric unit, and spent a total of one month away from my family.
It didn’t occur to me then but it does now, we as parents, especially we mothers, put so much pressure on ourselves to be great moms, to do everything right, to do everything as naturally and gracefully as possible. The pressure to be the perfect mommy is so so great, we crush ourselves. We crush our self confidence. We end up depressed and barely clinging to life trying to be the perfect mommy.
In the end, the important thing to remember is we don’t have to be perfect. Things are going to seem awkward and not always the most graceful but that’s normal. That’s part of being a new mom. We can’t possibly have it all figured out all at once. So be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. It’ll come in time. Don’t make yourself feel like a bad mommy, you wonderful, beautiful, kind mommy you💕