How My Depression Has Made Me a Better Mom

depressed momWe tend to think of depression as a negative thing in our society. We empathize with those who suffer, but we also try to keep our distance. Depression, in spite of our best efforts to reduce the stigma, is still a weak person's disease to many -- something we could will ourselves out of if only we tried hard enough. So it's surprising to most people when I tell them that I actually think my own struggles with depression have made me a better mom.

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I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety when my first child was 7 months old, but I'd been suffering much longer than that. Even in high school and college, I'd have panic attacks and days where I couldn't function. I didn't have a name for it until I had kids, and it finally got severe enough that I had no choice but to ask for help.

Depression is a lonely, frustrating illness. It makes you believe things about yourself that aren't true. It makes you want to be anyone or anywhere else besides what and where you are. On my worst days, I'm convinced that I'm unlovable, not talented, not successful, not worthwhile, and worst of all, a terrible mother.

That last one scares me the most. I'm endlessly afraid that my kids are missing out somehow by having me for a mom.

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One thing that keeps me going when I'm feeling particularly low is knowing how far I've come and how much I've learned from my depression. So many parents work themselves to the bone and are afraid to ask for help. Depression took that away from me and taught me to always, always ask for help as soon as I start feeling overwhelmed. There's nothing wrong with asking for help.

Depression also made me re-prioritize my life and find a way to make myself matter at a time when it's easiest to neglect yourself completely. I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. When your kids are small, it's criminally easy to put yourself in last place. I know, though, that if I don't take time for myself and practice self-care, I'll stumble.

Depression forces me to remind myself that I matter.

Lastly and most importantly, depression taught me to let go of perfection. I will never be that pretty, perfect Pinterest mom. I might have particularly great days -- even many great days in a row -- but there will be peaks and valleys. There will be days where I get nothing accomplished because I can't and days where my kids watch too much television because Mommy is hanging on by a thread despite her best efforts.

I want to do the best by the people I love, and letting go of perfection allows me to do that. The climb out of the depths doesn't seem so hard when I know I don't have to reach the summit but instead can just meet myself in the middle. I'm a better mom when I stop trying to be the best mom, and depression forced me to see that.

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Don't get me wrong -- I'd still rather not deal with depression, and I absolutely don't think you have to be depressed to understand any of this. Depression is not a badge of honor or some sort of means of enlightenment. I've found, though, that it's easier for me to cope when I let go of my losses and focus on my gains.

I'm the very best mom my kids could have, and I just happen to also live with depression. I could believe the lies depression tells me and let myself get really low, or I can stand up and say this is a part of me and this is how I'm using it to create good in my life. This is how I'm making the best of this situation. I'll choose the latter every time because the most important thing you can do when you're surrounded by darkness is to keep moving towards the light.

Have you ever dealt with depression? What helped you get through it?


Image via © AleksandarNakic/iStock

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