Thoughts on being a parent with depression

I’ve always worried about how my depression would affect my child (or future children).  Depression runs in my family and I have struggled with feeling like I’m irresponsible for having made the decision to have a child knowing that he is at greater risk to experience depression.  I’ve always wanted to be a mom, though, and ultimately I convinced myself that it would be okay for me to have a child if I did enough therapy, took the right meds, and built a support network around myself.  So I did all of that and then had Jack.  To my surprise, my depression got more complex and harder to beat.

This Saturday was demonstrative of that fact to me.  I had trouble getting out of bed, trouble gathering enough energy to do anything.  I managed to get out and pick Jack up from his dad’s by 9am, but then came home and fell asleep for a couple hours while Jack watched a DVD, despite downing a double mocha.  I had planned on taking Jack on some adventure this weekend so that David could focus and get caught up on schoolwork, but I ended up shuffling him into the backyard where I could sit down while he played with bubbles and rode his tricycle.

I’m not sure when it happened but at some point I started crying and couldn’t stop.  I wrote pages and pages in my journal and cried harder.  Jack asked me what was wrong, why was I sad, etc., in between climbing on me and yelling at me.  I scrolled through the address book on my phone looking for someone to call but I couldn’t figure out what to do.  I felt panicked and suicidal and wasn’t sure when the intensity would settle down, so I finally broke down and sent Joe a text stating that I didn’t think I could properly care for Jack.  And then I cried harder because it felt as if I was a terrible parent since I couldn’t take care of my kid.

Obviously I need to make some changes.  I need a support network that works with my parenting life.  At the very least I need to get a babysitter to call in emergencies.  Sometimes, even when you have a whole village surrounding your kid, everyone is busy or tapped out.

I know I can’t keep taking things on until I am full up.  I need to be more conservative so that I do not get to the breaking point.  I need to leave room for unexpected challenges, put aside some of my time and energy because I do not have an extra supply anywhere.

Lastly, I need to accept myself as I am.  It’s a hard lesson.  It’s difficult to accept that no matter how hard I try I’m not going to get to where I want to be as a parent.  I will never be a soccer mom.  I will never be the parent who takes their kid to Mommy & Me Yoga classes.  I will never be a parent who doesn’t have a mental illness and who doesn’t have to make adjustments and accommodations for it.

Honestly, though, I don’t know where the middle ground is.  I generally subscribe to the thought that a person should always work to better themselves, but it’s also not really worthwhile to work toward unattainable goals.  I can’t teach Jack what I don’t know, and I can’t pass on skills that I do not have.  I just don’t know how to be accepting of that without losing my motivation to be better.  I fear that this is what my parents did – accepted their circumstances and just ran with it, which resulted in disaster.  I don’t know that I can accept that there is no way to prevent that in Jack’s life.

Thanks to Moxie and Moosh in Indy for their posts that gave me the courage to post about this today.

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