By the time my third child came along, I felt like I had a good handle on motherhood. I was no longer anxious about caring for a newborn, and was savoring every moment knowing he would be my last baby. As time went on, however, I was surprised to find the joy of new motherhood turning into a darkness that slowly snuck up on me until I felt suffocated in its grasp — reduced to a shadow of the person I once was.
I told myself that it would pass — that my life was too busy to seek the help that I knew was becoming increasingly necessary. The truth is, to my surprise, depression became the catalyst for the change that I needed in my life. It forced me to find balance and to practice some self-care that I had been putting off for years.
Depression doesn’t care if you’re busy, and it doesn’t take a backseat just because you have people who depend on you. I was beginning to find myself snapping at my husband and children in a way that I never had before. I was numbly going through the motions of my day — there, but not present. By the time I finally mentioned my depression to my doctor, she diagnosed me with major depressive disorder since it had been over a year and a half since I had given birth.
As part of my treatment, I was advised to see a therapist for the first time in my life. I was worried that I didn’t have the time or money for therapy, but deep down, I knew that I was drowning and needed to grab onto any help I could get. My husband was insistent that I go; he had watched me decline and had grown frustrated with my denial of my illness. He was an example to me, having gone to therapy himself. I felt like a hypocrite for encouraging him to go, while putting off going myself.
We’ve weathered a lot in our marriage, and he has always referred to me as his rock; a steadying force to ground him. But I didn’t feel like a rock anymore. I felt weak and broken. Depression can test a marriage, and I was just hoping that he would remember that I was still the woman he married. Studies have shown that up to 75% of people who are depressed report a lack of sex drive. I felt a lack of interest in everything — and a deep sense of hopelessness.
My lack of enthusiasm about life led to an abundance of guilt over my role as a mother. I didn’t want to be just “going through the motions” with my children. I didn’t want to have to put on a smile that never met my eyes.
I’ve been treating my depression for over a year now, and it is getting better, although it’s been a hard journey. I am becoming the mother and wife that I was before, but with more life experience. Balance is no longer something to try for; it’s a necessity. Now, I aim to take the advice of my therapist and notice when the symptoms of depression and anxiety are manifesting themselves so I can find a way to care for myself when they occur.
Depression has taken much from me, but also given me some insight in return. I feel that I have developed more empathy for others and the struggles that they endure. I have learned that self-care is not selfishness, and my relationship with my husband and children has changed. My kids have seen their mother’s vulnerability, and have surprised me with their tender concern. My husband has been my rock for a change, and we lean on each other for support.
I now realize that depression will be something I will have to continually deal with in my life, and that it will take effort. My relationships with others may have evolved, but they are intact. It is that love that helps me to fight another day, and embrace all that life has to offer.