It has been almost a year since my battle with depression began, and the path I have taken to break through the struggle has been a long and winding one.
Acknowledging that I was even depressed was a challenge for me. I knew the signs as I had experienced postpartum depression, yet I found myself trying to push it away. I was in denial. It was an overwhelming, frustrating and exhausting time for me and my family. I faced some very dark days and it’s hard to think of my kids witnessing it. The woman that I was becoming — sad, angry, irritable, tired, withdrawn — she was not the mother I wanted to be to them. It was not the example I wanted to set for my kids. I wanted to show them that I believe in myself and am strong enough to not allow depression to take over my life.
And so I started taking steps, many of them for that matter, to do just that. It has been a journey that requires a lot of patience for me and everyone close to me. Today things are better, but I still have tough days. I have faced some challenges as a mother so far, but I have to say that trying to be a good mom while struggling with depression has been my biggest parenting hurdle yet. And I will get through it — for me, for my kids, my husband and the rest of my family and friends.
One thing I have learned so far is that there is not one way to cope with depression. Anyone who has it may have different methods, and I highly recommend that if you have depression, or think you might, to consult a doctor to explore options that work for you. After consulting with my own family doctor, I have been taking a mild prescription and have been utilizing other ways to help me get through this journey. Taking care of myself is an important part of coping with my depression. This has meant ensuring that I am eating well, drinking lots of water and getting good sleep. It has also meant knowing my limits and being gentle with myself. If I am feeling overwhelmed and need a break then I do it, and I am working on not feeling guilty about it.
These are tools I have been using to cope; as my moods can differ each day, so do the methods I use to get me through my tough moments and to maintain a healthier and happier mind, body and spirit:
- Yoga: Practicing yoga helps me focus and I find a sense of strength in the poses. I can easily let go of negative thoughts and feelings, creating a more positive space for myself. The movement of flowing through the poses is very calming for me. I also find yoga is a great way to clear my mind when it feels cluttered. It’s like with every pose stressful thoughts leave my brain and I can easily turn to more peaceful thoughts.
- Just breathe and meditate: Sometimes I find it best to just stop and take a few deep breaths. There is something very soothing about it, especially if I close my eyes while doing so. It’s so simple, yet so effective. If I can find a quiet place to do this I like to sit still and really focus on breathing in and out slowly. Breathing is also an important part of meditation, so occasionally when I take some time to quietly practice focused breath, I pick a phrase to repeat to myself in my head while I breathe. One phrase I have chosen is “I am calm, I am strong, I am peaceful.”
- Music: I find listening to music very calming, and often it can be an immediate mood booster. Sometimes I like to put on a mellow playlist to help calm me down if I am feeling very anxious, or sometimes I like to put on more upbeat tunes and sing along. There’s something quite therapeutic about belting out a good song alone in my car!
- Writing: Whether it’s getting creative with a blog post or just letting out my emotions, writing is therapy for me. There is something about writing that brings me to a very positive and happy place. For years I put aside my love for writing, but after starting up again nearly two years ago, I now feel like I can’t imagine my life without it. Writing is a part of me and I am happy I reunited with it. At this time in my life writing has helped me tremendously.
- Therapy: Talking to someone to help sort my thoughts and provide a different perspective on my situation really helped me work through my emotions. Therapy helped clear my head at times that I felt clouded and unsure. It taught me to be more self-aware and to really become more in tune with my emotions, why I feel the way I do and ways I can learn, change and grow.
Doing all of these things on a regular basis has not only helped me as an individual but also as a wife and mother. Parenting our children is a partnership I share with my husband and I know my depression has presented challenges. During the times when I need to utilize my five coping methods I have also needed my husband to step more into my share of the parenting role, and I am very lucky to have that support. I am also very lucky to have two wonderful kids who have showered me with hugs and kisses when they have seen mommy sad, and have been accepting and respectful at times when I’ve explained that mama needs a little quiet alone time (something that quite impresses me since my children are so young).
Much has changed since my battle began, specifically getting a job that brings me a lot of joy and a sense of fulfillment and purpose. While this positive change in my life has certainly helped with my feelings of depression, I know that it is not simply going to wipe it away completely and I continue to practice my coping methods. By taking these steps to overcome my depression I am becoming a stronger wife and mother again.
About the author
Jennifer Traynor is a mother of two kids living in the suburbs east of Toronto, Ontario, and works as a copywriter for Parent Life Network (http://blog.parentlifenetwork.com). When she’s not working or spending time with her kids you can find her sitting in lotus pose on her yoga mat, sitting snuggled on the couch with her husband catching up on favorite shows or watching a movie or sitting with her laptop writing and editing her blog Mama@Heart.