I hadn’t intended to publish this right away but I’m afraid that if I wait I will forget or second guess myself and not post it, so here goes.
Following up on our last blog post, maybe you have never been depressed but someone you love is. Have you ever wished you could understand a little more about what they’re going through? I spoke to several moms about their experiences and have compiled their answers here.
What were your symptoms? How would you describe the feeling of depression and/or anxiety?
*I’ve been depressed since childhood, though not treated medically for it until about 14 years ago but was off my meds for a couple of years before I had kiddo number 2 in 2005. Mostly mood swings and anger and never really feeling happy. When it was really bad in 2005, it was 8 months after I had my son before admitting something wasn’t right with me. When I was crying for no reason in the car because a song came on the radio, or feelings of wanting to walk into the path of an oncoming bus and not wanting to feel sad anymore I knew that wasn’t normal “baby blues”.
*My symptoms were entirely physical. I was extremely fatigued – even going up a flight of stairs exhausted me – had lost my appetite, and my hair was falling out much more than it should have been. There may have been a hormonal component since it all started right around the time I experienced an early miscarriage. My emotions didn’t really surface until a few months later, in counseling. Up to that point I had just felt numb.
*I just felt overwhelmed and cried a lot, over little things. Like I showed up at the wrong school to register my oldest for kindergarten, and broke down sobbing in the car for about five full minutes. I had a close friend at that point who had been through depression herself and knew what to look for. She shared her concerns with me and I was able to take action before I became nonfunctional.
What kept you from either realizing that you were depressed and/or seeking treatment? What were some hurdles you had to get over?
*At first I honestly did not know what was wrong with me. At first I thought it was all in my head, or thought the fatigue was just because I was lazy. When things got worse, I started to worry that there was something seriously wrong with me and was scared to go to the doctor and find out what it was.
*It was hard for me to commit to counseling. I had to find (and pay) a babysitter, spend an hour each week, and pay for that too. I felt like I was draining my family’s resources when I should have just been able to snap out of it. It took courage for me to go on the medications my doctor recommended too. When you’re already depressed, it’s easy to think there’s no point in taking the medications because they won’t work anyway. And when you’re anxious, the potential side effects can be really scary. And then there’s the stigma of being on medication, like it’s for people who can’t handle reality, like it’s the easy way out. Let me tell you, anyone who says it’s the easy way out has never tried it. Finding the right medication and the right dose through trial and error, slogging through the early weeks of side effects while your body gets used to it is not easy. It’s a sacrifice I make as I fight for my health and for the well being of my family who deserves a healthy mom.
*I can’t say I have had many hurdles other than my own procrastination and self talk of that it is my imagination or it will get better.
What was most helpful to you in accepting that you were suffering from depression and making the effort to get treatment? (Friends, family, things you read, certain ideas?)
*I had a friend who would call or message me once a week with one short message: Depression is not a character flaw. This was so important for me to remember, because I felt like I had failed.
*Once I got a diagnosis and taking meds I read every book I could get my hand on. My mother was no help emotionally. My husband was supportive and still is. I often tell him that he got a lemon when he got me, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Yes there are difficult times, but I know they will pass.
How did you treat your depression? Drugs, counseling, lifestyle changes, a combination of the three?
*Initially just medication, but now I also see a counselor.
*I started with just medication and after a few months worked up the nerve to set an appointment with a counselor. I saw her for about 9 months and she really helped me recognize the unconscious thoughts that were contributing to depression. And I have to make sure to be taking care of myself or it comes back – time outdoors, human contact outside my house, regular exercise, enough sleep.
How did you know you were getting better?
*I remember being amazed one day that I felt happy. Not for very long, just 15 minutes or so, but it was enough. My nightmares stopped. My oldest friends started commenting that I sounded like the old me.
*When I wasn’t crying all the time and actually had desires to leave the house and do something fun, I knew I was better.
What do you think are some mistaken stereotypes that exist about depression?
*That depression is just an invention of the pampered Americans and that depressed people just need to “snap out of it” or get a pep talk. That it’s just an attitude problem and that medication is the “easy way out.”
*A stereotype I had was that after time I will be OK and have no need for meds. I have come to realize that is not true and will always need medication to stay balanced. But I do have times I feel stuck in mud.
Please feel free to share this post with anyone that you think it would help. It does get better.