Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mommy Blues

One of my fellow mommy bloggers (and neighbors) Mommy Manders, wrote an amazing post about a very common mental health issue affecting many women and moms out there today: depression.  I asked her to re-post this on my blog because I know that many moms have suffered from this, whether it is situational depression (death of a loved one), chronic depression or post-partum depression.  Moms have so much stress in their lives, I know I have more responsibilities now than ever, and reading someone else's story about depression can be very helpful in knowing that you are not alone and that there help out there.  Here is her post My Dragon, and if you click here, it will take you directly to the post:

My Dragon

What I know for sure…asking for help helps
One of the ways I am taking care of “Mommy” in this new year is by attending a restorative/ meditative yoga session once a week. At the end of each session, the teacher shares a meditation or spiritual teaching. Recently she told the story of Milarepa, a Tibetan saint, and his dragon. The story goes that this mythic character found himself in the woods one day, being chased by a dragon. He ran away from it to escape into his cave, where the sense of dread and fear lingered like a heavy blanket. This continued to happen to Milarepa, and he continued to run, to be chased, and to escape. But the dragon was always waiting for him in the woods the next day. Finally, Milarepa stopped running. He turned towards the dragon and invited the dragon back to his cave for tea, at which point the dragon receded into the woods, never to bother Milarepa again. Once he turned toward it, it began to lose its power over him. Once he mustered the courage and wisdom to face his dragon, he did not have to slay it. He simply confronted it, made peace with it.

What is your dragon? What reality or challenge or dream are you running away from, trying to ignore, and struggling to escape? Is it catching up with you? Does it keep showing up in startling and frightening ways, interrupting your peaceful walk in the woods? What is the dragon that you need to have the courage to turn to face, to address, to acknowledge, perhaps to conquer through pro-action? What is the difficult reality, broken relationship, addiction, or regret that you need to try to stop out-running so that you can take back your power, your sense of security in the woods? For me, the dragon is depression. I have recently confronted the dragon, acknowledging his presence in my life, taking action to take back my control, and the dragon has receded into the woods. I feel as though I have been liberated from the darkness of my cave, from the heaviness of that ever-present blanket of dread and insecurity, into the light of joy and peace. And I know my dragon is still out there, but I feel much more prepared to face him now with a sense of acceptance, because I have some tools to deal with him. (But I don’t plan on inviting him back for tea anytime soon…)

I want to share my journey with you moms in case your dragon is also depression. Maybe you haven’t realized it yet. It took me a long time to figure it out, but now that I’m on the other side of the realization (thanks to some therapy and medication), it seems clear that my dragon was keeping me from being myself. I think because “myself’” is an outgoing, optimistic, loving, effusive, highly-productive person, and because I was still that person some of the time, it was hard for me or others to consider the word “depression” for what I was going through. When I first went to the psychiatrist in January, he asked me some questions about symptoms – did I ever feel sleepy, sluggish, irritable, isolated, anxious, worried, overwhelmed, guilty, inadequate?   I laughed at him. “Isn’t this how all mothers feel?“, I asked. I thought these feelings were just “normal” for this stage in my life, for my circumstances – raising 2 young children, working, having a frequently-absent husband. And the truth is that these feelings are normal some of the time, but for me, they had become too much, too often, too debilitating. They had begun to interfere with my relationships (mainly with my husband and children) in negative ways that only added to my sadness. They had begun to to make it hard for me to muster the energy, motivation, and cheery personality for my teaching, though I always managed to. Because I continued to reflect, to write,  to think, to read,  to  learn,  to create,  and to serve, my struggle with this demon was not intolerable. Sometimes there were good days, and wonderful experiences. Perhaps that is why I thought the struggle was normal. But, the good news is that, with medication, I no longer feel that I am struggling, and I have a new and much better “normal.” I am no longer as “on edge” with my children. I am much better able to handle their upset in appropriate, teachable, loving ways. I am much better able to handle the “chaos” of motherhood, of a household with 2 creative, messy, bossy, strong-willed children. The medicine has helped me to be the kind of mother and wife that I want to be, that I have always been in my best moments. I feel like I am myself again.

I asked Dustin if it I was “cheating” by taking the drugs, and he asked me if I think that people with diabetes are cheating by taking insulin. Here is Dr. Dustin’s helpful spiel on the subject: “Many people wrongly believe depression is a sign of “weakness” or “inability to handle stress” or some other personal failing, and that with just a little more strength or effort, it can be overcome.  But that isn’t true.  It’s a real medical condition with a biochemical basis, and just like diabetes, high cholesterol or thyroid disease, it can’t be overcome with willpower alone.  As with those medical conditions, the treatment is to replace the hormone or chemical that is lacking.  We don’t know why this happened, but at least we now know what it is.”  And to me, this is a relief.

I think my depression and anxiety have probably always been there to some degree, since my teenage years. I have always felt and fought passionately, loved and lost exquisitely, grieved and given gratitude vigorously. And there is nothing wrong with this, but the intensity has sometimes caused me unnecessary pain, and the anxiety has always caused me unnecessary stress.  I have told many of you that I believe I suffered from post-partum depression during the difficult first year with Ellie. And though I experienced a re-birth and renewal of myself and my life when the difficulties of that year had passed, when I began getting more sleep, when Dustin was around more to help, when we were no longer crammed in a little apartment, when I began pursuing some of my own interests and passions, I now believe the depression lingered. Though it subsided for a while, it really reared its head in the final months of 2011 which were extremely challenging for me, following the death of my grandmother, facing the stress of the fellowship “match”, the financial uncertainty of my new business and blog, the increased defiance of my children (which I now know was related to my own overreactions and desire for control), challenges in my marriage, increasing sciatica pain, all in combination with the normal daily grind.  Now that I have faced my dragon head-on, treating my depression with not only daily medication, but also with daily walks in nature, daily naps, daily connections with adults, and a healthy diet; all of these challenges have been made easier, and there is much more joy in my daily grind!

You might be surprised that I am willing to share this personal story. That is what my blog is about – honesty, sharing of feelings, ideas, reflections, knowledge, so that no parent has to feel alone on this journey. If reading this chapter of my life helps any of you, I am happy to be an “open book”. I want you to feel free to talk to me about my dragon. To ask me how I’m doing. To ask me questions about my journey to wholeness. Some of you are going through incredible life changes and struggles – divorce, miscarriages, chemotherapy, colicky babies, tantrum-throwing toddlers, loss of a parent, loss of a career…some of you are struggling with just the normal stresses of daily life  - balancing work and family, balancing internal and external expectations. Don’t try to go through these challenges alone or without help. We women tend not to ask for help, wanting to handle everything on our own.  We think it shows strength of character. This woman, this Mommy disagrees. Your struggle will be made easier by reaching out, your character will be made stronger by getting help and support. I’m so thankful I finally did, and so is my family. I wish you peace with your dragon.

{I would love for you to join me for more conversation on this topic and more at my next Intentional Parenting 2012 Seminar, “Who’s Mothering Mommy?“. Next Monday, Feb. 27th. We will discuss what the research says about the importance of Mommy-care in relation to the emotional health of our children. We will discuss what brings you peace, joy, and sanity as a parent, and brainstorm ways to nurture yourself along the journey. Click for more Info on My Meetup Page }


  1. Such a great post by your blog friend. I can relate having some of those same symptoms as a mom, you just feel so overwhelmed at times that it causes you to feel irritable, plus lack of sleep doesn't help either.

  2. Thanks for posting. I suffered from Post Partum depression and I know how hard it can be on a mom.

  3. [...] to be doing okay, she may be hiding what’s really going on.  I had a guest blog about PPD here and she wrote an excellent post about it.  For baby blues and PPD, please reach out to your doctor [...]

  4. [...] seems to be doing okay, she may be hiding what’s really going on.  I had a guest blog about PPD here and she wrote an excellent post about it.  For baby blues and PPD, please reach out to your doctor [...]

  5. Your blog on depression and mommy blues hit home w/ me. I to have suffered depression different times in my life & have managed to muscle through it. I also have a genetic factor, my grandmother was diagnosed & treated for severe depression. At her worst she overdosed. Electric shock therapy was the only treatment that brought her back to us.
    I have all the symptoms of depression and I felt like I was spiraling, but when I saw how it was effecting my parenting I went to the dr and am on antidepressants now. However, I still have moments of melancholy and it seems to be b/c my kids are in school and independent and don't need me as much, which is great for them, but breaks my heart. I wanted another child , but am 47 and had to go thru grueling fertility treatments for my second child. I feel like I'm holding on to them and don't want to let go! I can't let go. I think about it and can't compose myself and just cry even at work. I have the symptoms of empty nest but my son is 10 & my daughter just graduated kindergarten. I also just found out my sister in law who has to this point lived a parallel life with me is expecting. She is 43. I am happy for them, but it is killing me that they get to start all over again. Something I yearn for. Any advice?

  6. Sorry to hear about your post partum and depression. I am so glad though that more and more women are talking about it and it's more accepted to discuss it openly and hear that taking medication is okay and not a bad thing! ECT therapy has been helpful to a lot of people too. It sounds like you are having the classic empty nest and midlife crises that most moms go through. Children grow up so quickly and all of a sudden they are not babies anymore :( I think it's the hardest when we have goals for ourselves, such as having 3 instead of 2 kids, or 1 instead of 2 children, and then we are not able to for whatever reason. As a woman, we are born to have children so in a way it can develop depression feelings when we are not able to have our dreams. I would maybe visit with a therapist for a few sessions to discuss this so you can feel better about your situation and feel better with your kids, because as they also grow, these feelings may resurface again. Good luck and a good place for therapy referrals is psychologytoday.com