After being professionally diagnosed with depression, you may be bombarded by many different feelings, including wondering how you will parent while depressed.
Before we dive into the parenting issue, let’s take a moment to explore how you are feeling about your diagnosis:
First and foremost, you may feel relieved to finally be diagnosed by a professional.
But you may also be anxious about balancing your depression treatment (counseling appointments, affording medications, etc.) with your other responsibilities, such as parenting. You may be angry, frustrated, or confused. Or, you may feel nothing at all.
Before heading to the pharmacy or researching therapists, give yourself a pat on your back. You’ve bravely taken the first step to help yourself get better.
Whatever your reaction is to your diagnosis, you most likely have several treatment options.
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Treatment options for depression
Taking antidepressants is not uncommon in America. In fact, 10.7% of American adults are on antidepressants. Pills can be a cost- and time-effective way to manage clinical depression.
You may have heard about awful side effects that come with taking antidepressants, such as weight gain or turning into a “zombie.” Rest assured that most antidepressants are safe, and their side effects aren’t serious. But do talk to your doctor about your concerns so you can go into any treatment plan as knowledgeable as possible.
There are many misconceptions about antidepressants.
You should be aware of the fact that most antidepressants need weeks or even months of daily intake before they can take effect. This means you can’t just pop a “happy pill” and feel better right away.
Psychotherapy can be highly effective. Modern psychotherapy models, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are evidence-based. The experience is more like taking a class than sitting on a couch and talking about your problems.
But you should be aware that this type of therapy and many others like it can be hard work. You will likely receive homework and have to practice exercises. The success of your treatment will depend on how hard you work.
Psychotherapy can be expensive. If you have trouble affording treatment, there are numerous online resources, apps, and workbooks available. This sort of self-help can be empowering, allowing you to go at your own pace.
Also, don’t discount group therapy. Yes, talking to other people about your troubles may be intimidating, but it’s also nice to connect with people who understand first-hand what you’re going through.
Tips for Parenting with Depression
As parents, our primary job is to take care of our little people. However, when you’re depressed, you may feel as if you can barely take care of yourself. How are you supposed to help your kids thrive when you can barely survive? We sometimes forget that parents are also humans, and all humans are capable of developing depression.
Depression can be difficult for a child to understand, but don’t try to hide things. Keep things simple and reassure your child that it’s not their fault. Emphasize that you love them, no matter what, even if mommy or daddy is sick, tired, or sad for other reasons.
Outside of looking after your child and making sure they feel cared for, try to find another adult to talk to. Talking to someone can prevent things from getting bottled up only to explode at inopportune times towards inopportune people. A child is way less equipped to deal with this type of behavior than an adult.
Luckily, having a child can help with instigating the type of lifestyle changes that are conducive to treating depression. For example, instead of watching your children play, join them!
Exercise has a powerful effect on mood. Playing with your children is healthy for both of you. Spending time with your children reinstates the message for both you and your child that depression doesn’t have to change your parent-child relationship.
Diet is also a big mood-influencer, and eating well is another thing you can do with your child. When a person is depressed, they may have little energy and succumb to eating easy-to-get junk food or not eating at all.
As parents, however, we are obligated to provide nutritious food for our children, and in doing so, we can provide nutritious food for ourselves too. Teach your child how to prepare and cook food. Have an afternoon where you just bake together. Get your child into the habit of helping you clean up, and reward them for doing so. Cooking — and cooking socially — can be highly therapeutic.
-Doing Things You Love
People with depression may have low motivation. Doing things that once brought you joy may no longer are appealing. So try to start small with easier, more relaxed activities rather than starting a new hobby. Read a book that’s been sitting in your to-read list. Snuggle up with your family for a movie night.
As a parent, you can also see what your child is doing and perhaps you can join in their activity. Coloring is a trendy and therapeutic activity for adults as well as children. And playing dress-up and make-believe with your youngster is also a fun way to exercise your imagination.
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-Asking for Help
Most people with depression struggle with asking for help, but it’s the responsible thing to do if you have dependent children. You’re not only asking for your own benefit but for your child’s as well. And at times like that, don’t be afraid to ask your partner, a friend, or caregiver to take care of your child in the meantime.
Depression is a difficult illness to live with, and improvement will come gradually, not right away, so try to be patient. In the meantime, there may be days where getting out of bed is too much, and you don’t feel capable of anything, even staying awake.
You deserve a break sometimes.