I just finished speaking with a friend who doesnt seem to be herself lately. A dedicated parent of two, my friend is tired all the time but has trouble sleeping. She either has no appetite or binges on junkfood. She no longer finds joy in the simple pleasures of life. She feels overwhelmed by her responsibilities and anxious about whether or not she is doing a good job in all her roles. For some, this may sound familiar. Unfortunately it has become so commonplace for a parent to feel overwhelmed that a serious health issue is overlooked: Depression.
Between 10% and 25% of women will experience depression in their lifetimes. Symptoms of depression include frequent sadness or worry, lack of motivation, irritability, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, feeling of isolation, worthlessness or guilt. Often, depression masks itself in physical symptoms. Many women who suffer from depression may not complain about emotional pain but will mention frequent headaches, upset stomach, trouble sleeping, fatigue, heart palpitations or changes in their eating habits or weight.
It is easy to underestimate how important it is to take care of ourselves as mothers. After all, once everyone else is taken care of, we often run out of energy for ourselves. The most we can do on tough days is fall into bed or on to the couch in exhaustion.
Motherhood is a challenging job to do well, one that becomes increasingly difficult when depression js in the picture. Unfortunately,it is not just the mother that is short-changed by depression. Children of depressed mothers tend to lag behind developmentally in behavior and mental ability. Furthermore, it has been shown that the mothers depression or anxiety can contribute to a parenting style that actually results in more misbehavior from the child as they age. In general, because of the nature of the illness, mothers who are depressed have more difficulty communicating with and disciplining their children than their non-depressed peers.
Fortunately, intervention has been effective in helping mothers feel less sad and angry which, in turn, results in less misbehavior in their children as soon as the next day. Most importantly, improvement in the mothers mood makes it easier for her to demonstrate the love she feels for her child.
If you have a feeling in your gut that something just isnt right or you are not as happy as you think you could be, dont just assume that this is the way things have to be. It does not mean that you are not a good mother or that you do not love your children enough. Treating your depression can help you become the mother you want to be.