Parenting is a job that requires around the clock commitment. At no time as a parent am I allowed to “clock out” so to speak. Even while these descendants of mine sleep; I am most likely busy preparing things for them the next day, or plotting and planning their schedules. It’s a constant worry of the mind my children are. For most parents, you understand this nagging need to worry about your children. For a person with depression this is the hardest juggling act.
Because children are in a constant state of need, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, you have to be available to them. Especially when your children are of an age of still growing and in need of nurturing. When you’re battling a mental health issues, this can consume a lot of your time and energy, so trying to tap into some nonexistent reserve of energy to give to your children can create quite the conundrum for you.
Despite all of this, I somehow manage. Not perfectly, not in the least, but I’ve managed to focus my attention on my children enough so that I don’t have to feel like a miserable sap for not doing so. These tips I’m going to share are not without the support of my husband; so by no means am I taking credit for the help that is given me.
1. Create a schedule– Believe it or not, chaos is the one thing that does not bode well for a person with depression or anxiety. 9 times out of 10 your mind is already creating it’s own chaos. So staying organized with your day allows you to knock off things on your to do list in a timely and structured manner. Write out an itinerary for your day, really, and on that itinerary of things that you need to do, make sure you include spending time with your children. Spending time may seem like a no brainer, but come on, even for the adult without a mental illness, it can often times be something we take for granted or gets swept under the rug. Take the time to go over their homework assignments, talk to them about their day, have a meal together if possible, and before bed don’t let them go to sleep without your presence being made known.
2. Take Your Meds– If you have been prescribed meds and you know your functionality differs between when you’re on them as opposed to when you’re off them; take your medication. Being irregular in your medicinal consumption can create mood swings like you wouldn’t believe. Mood swings cause instability which will directly affect your ability to be a level headed parent which is what your children need. Our children being the savvy creatures they are, probably already know that there is something off with you anyway. If you’re like me and you’ve talked to your kiddies about mental illness, then they know that “mommy takes meds to help her moods”. Even they can tell when you’re off your meds. Don’t do that to them, don’t give them that roller-coaster ride, they deserve so much better. Take your medication as prescribed. If you’re having an issue with it; contact your prescribing physician.
3. Keep Communication Open – It’s really easy to dismiss a child’s problem as less than important, especially when you’re battling your own struggles. The bottom line though is, depression is a selfish disease and will have you believing that there’s no problem in the world bigger than yours. That simply is not true. Our children are extensions of us, so who is to care more about their concerns than their parents? Talk with your children, even the smallest matter might be major to them. Don’t be quick to tell them it’s not that serious. And definitely don’t take their problems and make it about you. Your mental health already consumes your time and thoughts as well as the people around you. If your child needs the moment to be about them, then let it be.
4. Do Not Take Your Problems Out on Them – This is a hard one. Undoubtedly, we often take our frustrations out on those closest to us. Our children can easily end up in the crossfire. But you simply can’t allow that to happen. They are going to do things that are going to irk our souls to the core, but it will never be tantamount to the aggression we show as a result of our own frustrations. You must constantly remind yourself that your children are not your enemy, no matter how obnoxious or annoying they’re being. They are after all children. I struggle with this often. My children are 11 and 6 and it feels like every time I turn around they are pressing some button or trying to push some boundaries. I often have to talk myself down or call on the aid of my husband and I often pray. I remind myself daily that my kids are not trying to exacerbate my health, they’re just being kids. At the end of the day my kids love me and I know it, and I try to keep that at the forefront of my brain.
5. Know When to Back Off– They say isolation is not good for a depressed person; I say sometimes it’s necessary. There are going to be days when you are so riddled with anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and frustration that your presence around your children will be of no benefit. On days like these I talk with my husband and let him know that I just can’t today. He usually steps in and steps up when he knows I cannot handle it. When I find enough peace within myself I usually call my children in my room and lovingly explain that I am having a bad day, and I love them dearly and do not want to lash out at them in anyway. I even apologize for my absence. Kids appreciate knowing that you really care about their feelings. It also helps them learn a lesson from you in accountability. Everyone does not have the support system of a mate though, and it’s sad, and can make these situations far more critical. Reach out to a family member, a friend, anyone you know that loves you enough to want to support you through difficult times like this. Have a crisis plan in place for this very reason. You never want to put your children in harms way; and emotionally damaging them can definitely put them in harms way and create scars that you can’t erase.
I’m no expert, I’m merely learning as I go. Some days are good, but there are a lot of days that are bad. But I view it like this; my children did not ask to be here. They didn’t send me a message from the cosmos and ask to be born. They are my responsibility, I am not their’s. I am the adult here, and their nurturing means far more than my mood swings are ever going to mean. I have a responsibility to them, I owe it to them to dig deep within the pits of my despaired soul to give them what they deserve. I am going to continue to go to therapy, take my meds, and say my prayers. One of the things I have to do which is a CONSTANT battle is to adjust my thinking. How I view a situation can often times create an issue. This requires me to do some deep thinking sometimes; asking myself some self examination questions. Is this really the reality of the situation or am I allowing my feelings of hopelessness to get in the way? Am I being rational about this? Will my decisions I make create a better day or a worse one?
I know all of this is easier said than done, BELIEVE ME I know, but, it is not impossible. We have to try at a minimum.