Health

Parenting While Depressed

It took me over a week to write this post. I would write a sentence or two and then I would be unable to write anymore. Perhaps later that day or a day or two later, a few more sentences would find their way onto the page. Or perhaps not. This wasn’t because of writer’s block. It was because of depression.

I’ve been suffering with a bout of deep depression for several weeks now.  It is the deepest and longest depression I’ve had in over a year.  It wasn’t triggered by anything specific (it often is, but not always), but was definitely deepened by some unexpected things that happened recently.

Depression is probably more misunderstood that almost any other illness. First of all, most people don’t even consider it an illness, but a state of mind. The fact is, depression is an illness that affects the sufferer’s state of mind, among other things.

There is also the common belief that if a depression sufferer would just “cheer up” or “look on the bright side”, that that this will somehow snap them out of their depression. This is a somewhat backwards vision of depression. People who suffer from depression aren’t depressed because the feel sad, they feel sad (if you can call it sad) because they are depressed.

Let me try to describe depression in a way that might help those who don’t suffer from it understand.

Imagine wearing a suit that weights 200 pounds and goggles that are cloudy and then trying to go through your day like that. Add to that a complete lack of motivation where even something as simple as standing up to walk to the printer takes a herculean effort.

I have even had people remark that I look like I’m carrying a weight around on my shoulders. It actually affects how I move physically. It certainly effects how I feel physically. My head feels like it is full of cotton stuffing, my arms, hands, head feel like little needles are being poked into them. There are almost constant headaches and the pain in my neck, shoulders and arms are real and ever-present.

When I was going through my divorce, my depression was so bad that I had to take a week off from work just because I couldn’t manage to do the simplest of things I needed to just to get up and out for work. My kids were both teenagers and were pretty self-sufficient, so I didn’t need to do much except to make sure that they woke up and got off to school on time, but still, even that was an almost impossible challenge.

I had been spending a lot of time alone in my room. To say I was moody was an understatement. I would go from raging about something insignificant to excited and happy several times a day. I knew I was running off the rails and my kids needed me. They would keep asking me if I was alright. They were worried. So was I. I realized that I needed help.

I had been seeing a therapist and I asked her for a referral to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with Bipolar II, which can be masked by the depression that accompanies it. I was put on medication for it and within a few weeks, I was functioning better than I had in years.

Being a single parent is hard enough, between the demands of work, shopping, keeping up a household. Add to that mental illness and it becomes almost impossible. In the depths of my depression and confusion of emotions, I knew my kids needed me. It was this knowledge, and only this, that allowed me to fight the omnipresent lethargy and oppressing darkness to force myself to get the help I needed. My kids saved me.

Mental illness still has a terrible stigma in our society. Many people are afraid to admit that they might be mentally ill. Others are afraid of the stigma. It is hard to summon up the courage to take the steps needed to get help.

If you are a single parent and think you may need help, try to remember that your children need you to be a functioning adult. Most parents will do things for their children that they would never do for themselves. Use this and get the help you need so you can be there for your children. Not only will they reap the benefits of having a healthier parent, but you will find that you can start enjoying your life with them as much as they enjoy theirs with you.

Featured image by  pojokcerita

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Jay

Jay

Jay is a dad, husband, and pet lover. He has a degree in Theater Arts and works as a Unix systems administrator, mainly because he has a degree in Theater Arts. He used to be a single dad, but now he is married to the perfect woman. He has two teenagers, a daughter, and a step-son. He also has an adult son. He shares his home with his wife, kids, an Australian Shepherd, and a bevy of adorable chihuahuas. He is a skeptic and humanist and tries to contribute to spreading rationality by writing about skeptical topics. You can find samples of his writing on his personal blog at Freethinking For Dummies, the JREF blog, and in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

9 Comments

  1. March 18, 2014 at 10:38 am —

    What a brave post, Jay! I have battled depression and it is hard to admit that you need help, let alone get the help that you need to make it through.

    • March 18, 2014 at 5:29 pm —

      I know it is hard, that’s why I wrote this. I’m hoping it helps others who are dealing with the same thing.

  2. March 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm —

    I also have BPII, and my son (who is 10) knows what it’s like to be parented by someone who is depressed. He saw me reading this, so I asked him if he had anything he would like to say to you. He says, “My mom has it too, and she’s awesome. I bet you’re awesome too.”

    • March 18, 2014 at 5:30 pm —

      Aww! Tell your son I think you are both awesome! (My kids think I’m awesome too!)

  3. March 18, 2014 at 5:30 pm —

    As others have said: what a brave post
    I am “depressive”.
    Let me explain: Since I got therapy via college I was never officially diagnosed with something, and I didn’t cross the threshold where I needed medication (almost, later more). But I needed help, I needed coping mechanisms that would allow me to avoid falling into my depressive holes.
    But yes, I know the effort it can take.
    And yes, while for many people it can be a huge motivation that their children need them, for others it can be part of the problem. Living for others didn’t work for me. Living for my children didn’t work. What kept me from driving straight into a wall wasn’t the thought that my children would be without a mother, it was the thought about the things I wanted to do.
    As for medication: If you can, please also get your thyroid levels checked. Lack of L-thyroxin can cause depression, too. So that’s the medication I need to function.

  4. March 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm —

    As the partner of someone who suffers from depression I have come to realize how very difficult it is to mentally rationalize the illness. It cannot be negotiated with, it is rarely under the physical or mental control of the sufferer and it is difficult to relate to if you do not suffer depression yourself. It can be deeply frustrating when my partner is in the grip of a depression bought because I feel disempowered to help. However, I also have the utmost respect for her because she has openly acknowledged the problem and has made every effort to remove or at least limit the impact of the illness. Our relationship is greatly improved by her efforts. Talking openly about depression, especially with your partner, is essential as hard and as crazy as it can sometimes be.

    • March 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm —

      memetic, sometimes I worry about the people around me (especially my partner) who have to watch me go through depressive episodes. Is there anything that you find helpful?

      • March 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm —

        I just try to explain to them exactly what depression is and how it affects me. Most of your friends and loved ones will want to try to do something to help you, but I will tell them that, very often, there isn’t anything they can do, but just knowing that they are there means a lot. Communication is so important in any relationship, but we you are depressed, communicating is really hard, so I have let everyone know that I might be quite or even need time alone when I’m having a depressive episode.

  5. March 20, 2014 at 7:45 pm —

    Terrific post, Jay. Thanks so much. I’m so glad to hear that you found some meds that worked for you.

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