Being a mom is NOT easy. Having anxiety and/or depression is NOT easy. Being a mom with anxiety and depression is just flat out hard!
What It Feels Like
Being a mom with anxiety and depression feels like three people constantly fighting and no one ever winning. Let me explain with an example of a single day.
The scene: Laying in bed at 7:00 a.m. while the house is still quiet and my alarm just went off.
Anxiety: Come on, you have to hurry! The kids are going to be up any second and you have so much to do before they wake up! If you don’t get up right this second you’re never going to make it!
Me: They were up late last night. They probably won’t get out of bed until at least nine. It’s okay.
Depression: You are seriously so lazy! You’ve laid here for way more than 8 hours. You just aren’t good for anything. You don’t even deserve to have kids!
Anxiety: He’s right you know? You didn’t clean up the house before you went to bed last night. What if someone comes over right now and they see how messy your house is! That would be so embarrassing!
Depression: Like that ever happens! No one ever comes to visit you. Nobody cares.
Anxiety: I wonder if your kids hate you for the fact that they don’t have any friends? What if their whole childhood is ruined?
Depression: Of course it is.
Me: A sobbing, shoulder-heaving mess that just can’t even force myself to get out of bed.
Then suddenly one of my kids walks into the room, curls up in bed beside of me and says, “Mommy? I love you. It’s okay,” and kisses me gently on the cheek bringing me back into reality. On a halfway healthy day this is the result.
Me: Y’all just need to shut up. No, I’m not perfect. Yes, there’s a lot that I need to work on. But I can’t work on those things when I’m hiding under the covers or when I’m so worried about the what if’s that I just can’t do anymore.
Advice For Moms With Anxiety and Depression
Counter The “What-Ifs?”
If you’re a mom with anxiety, you know what I’m talking about here. You’ve heard all of those “what if” questions your brain throws out at you non-stop. Don’t try to stop them. At least for me that’s a completely impossible task. Instead, I’ve learned to counter them. For example, If I’m sitting with a group of moms and debating on whether or not I should reach out, my anxiety may scream, “But what if they think you’re an idiot!?”
Rather than dismissing it I have learned to think, “Yeah, maybe they will. But they won’t be the first ones who would. But what if they really like me and they’re afraid to talk to me first? What if I don’t talk to them and I miss out on making a new best friend?”
Would you be surprised to know that I learned this strategy from a book written for little kids? It’s true. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a mom, everything in life revolves around the little ones lol.
Seriously though, this book is one of my favorites to read to my kids because it speaks to my heart so very much! It pretty much tells the story of a little boy who learns to stop listening to the what-if monster because he realized all the things the monster was making him miss out on. If you’d like to get a copy of it, check it out here.
As a mom with anxiety and depression, one thing I’ve learned is that the more time I am not mentally engaged in something, the more I struggle with anxiety. If I go to bed before I’m really tired, for example, I tend to lay there ruminating and regretting recent decisions or anticipating upcoming events.
Rather, I try my best to keep my mind busy to reduce the time anxiety has to work on my mind.
Here are some of the things I do to keep my mind active:
- Write on my blog and in my journal
- Do jigsaw puzzles (although not as often as I would like as I have destructive toddlers lol)
- Make to-do lists for the next day.
- Make lists of all the things I’m grateful for.
Avoid Or Regulate Triggers
Triggers are circumstances that seem to set off your anxiety and/or panic attacks and essentially cause you to lose control. Personally, my biggest trigger is social media. When I see how the lives of others appear to be so picture perfect, in comparison to mine it hurts.
In other to attempt to reduce the affect social media has on me, I am trying my best to limit my access to it. I no longer sleep with my phone near my bed. Why? Because if I read a triggering Facebook post at midnight, I am not going to be able to sleep well and that is going to cause problems. Likewise, if a trigger occurs first thing in the morning, depression is likely to hold me hostage in my bed and refuse to allow me to get up.
If you are a mom with depression or anxiety, spend some time analyzing your triggers and what you can do to reduce their impact on you.
Talk To Your Kids
This one is HUGE for me because it’s something I’ve never heard anyone say before. In fact, I’ve heard many say the opposite. But for me, in my life, it was important for me to explain to my kids what my panic attacks or outbursts are. I didn’t want them to think they were at fault.
I’ve explained to my kids that “My brain is sick” and doesn’t work all that well sometimes. I’ve told them that while I’m trying to help it get better, sometimes it tells me things that aren’t true and make me do crazy things. It’s a pretty simple explanation but it’s one they’ve accepted.
It’s not an excuse for bad parenting, but it is a way for them to know that Mommy isn’t angry at them, but rather angry at my brain for not operating as it should. It’s also been a good way to explain to them the scars from cutting in my past.
I don’t want to hide my mental health problems from my kids because I don’t want them to hide their future problems from me. I’m not going around telling them every anxious or depressed thought that I have but I do tell them sometimes that, “Mommy’s struggling to get out of bed because my brain is lying to me again.”
As they’ve gotten older, they’ve actually became great at helping me identify when “my brain is crazy.” They’ve been known to stop and say, “Mommy? I think your brain is lying. I think you’re scared, but you don’t need to be.”
Sometimes hearing that from such small voices is just what I need to make me stop and say, “You are so right!”
If I Have Depression or Anxiety, Should I Have Kids?
I am NOT going to lie. Having anxiety and depression as a mother is hard. In some ways I wish someone had told me just how hard it would be. Many days even now I wonder if I made the right choice by having my little angels.
But then I see those smiles and I know that everything is okay. I can’t imagine a single day without my little girls and I extremely glad that I am their mommy.
Are You A Mom With Depression Or Anxiety?
What tips do you have for other moms? How do you deal with mental health issues and motherhood? Let me know in the comments below.