Parenthood and Mental Health

Since I didn’t post yesterday, I’m giving you two posts today!

I was reading Alice at Wonderland’s post about Post Partum Depression and clicked over to Tracy Thompson’s blog post about anxiety.  Tracy is the author of The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression.  In reading her “Balm” post, I was struck with how vividly she described something I have indeed experienced due to my depression/anxiety:

“…I was tidying up obsessively–making the bed, folding blankets, plumping pillows–because that is one of the things I do when I have this affliction; I feel the need to try to control every element of my environment, which of course I cannot do, but the more I fail the more I feel compelled to try, and no, don’t ask me to color with you, or listen to this knock-knock joke, don’t you see the linens must be folded??

I have lived with depression for as long as I can remember, but was officially diagnosed 11 years go.  Since then I have come a long way and have mostly (except for a brief stint after a miscarriage) gotten by without medication for the past 7 years.  Loads of therapy has helped immensely, including joint therapy with my husband where he learned more about my disease and how to help me get out of a slump.  Sometimes I slip, and sometimes Joe doesn’t realize I have done so, but for the most part I have been in decent working order.

Having a child changed the dynamic a bit.  Obviously, it is difficult to manage mental health when a person is so focused on someone who can do little or nothing for themselves.  I have struggled over the past 9 months to stay ahead of my depression, and I do sometimes find myself thinking, “What is wrong with me?  Why am I sitting here googling pancake recipes when I could be playing or reading with my kid?”  Considering my past experiences, I find this to be the least of my worries about depression; I am just glad that I can usually recognize the problem when it occurs and force myself to go sit on the floor and build a tower of blocks for Jack to knock over.  Sometimes the fog lifts, and sometimes I have to fake it.  No matter what, I always try my best to stay healthy for my family.

Dear readers, do you deal with mental health issues?  It’s often such an isolating thing but I personally feel that it’s important to talk about it.

6 thoughts on “Parenthood and Mental Health”

  1. Well, let’s see. I do believe I’ve had moments with post-partum depression.

    I am OCD and a very anxious person. I can relate A LOT to the quote you posted. I try to realize when I am being very controlling, neglectful and anxious and then make effort to distract myself from it by playing with my son.

    Funny that I have to distract myself from myself and not him. Sometimes…a lot of times…this makes me feel like a bad mother.

    Good post. I’ll have to make one about it.

  2. Aww hun sorry to hear about your condition…I’m afraid I don’t suffer with depression myself so I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I did get baby blues for the first couple of weeks after Rheya was born, but it was more that I was tired than anything else.

    Is councelling free in the US? My mum suffers from depression so I know there’s not much you can do about it apart from take one day at a time and, if it’s a chemical imbalance, take medication.

    You know where I am if you ever want to chat…I’ll email you so you have my email address if you like.

  3. LBA – I know I tend to think of depression as a character flaw in myself (although I don’t think of it in others that way) but I try to remember that an episode is a reminder that I need to take care of myself better. The mechanism that tells me to slow down and process things is broken, so it all hits me at once. We just need to slow down a bit!

    Sam – Counseling is not free here. I paid out of pocket a few years ago when I couldn’t get health insurance and it was pricey. I do have insurance now. I am just not sure how I would find time to go.

    Luckily I have learned that if I do the opposite of what my tendency is when I am depressed, I can usually get out of it.

  4. Do they do home visits or phone councelling?

    I think earlier in your blog you had a good thing going where you and your hubby had time to yourselves once a week…didn’t you go to the cinema? Maybe try and get that going again (if you don’t do it anymore) so you have time to unwind.

  5. That’s a good question and I have no idea!

    Joe and I have only managed to get out for a date night twice since Jack was born. We don’t have family here and it’s tough to rely on friends who have other things going on in their lives. As soon as Joe is done with school, things will get easier, I think, because then he can think about his family more without the added distraction (we didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to have a child while he was in school). There will be a lot of changes coming this summer!

  6. I had depression, serious enough for medication, for a few years in my early 20s. Other than a few random crying jags and episodic things, I’ve been pretty well since then.

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