Moms, you’re not alone!

Okay moms, listen up. I know that being a mom is hard; sometimes even just being a woman is hard (hello catcalls and unrealistically shrinking fashion trends). But also, perhaps like some of you, I know too that being a woman and mom who also experiences mental health challenges can be some days near IMPOSSIBLE.

Irritability. Mood swings. Sadness. Insomnia. The feeling like you could jump out of your skin… or crawl under a thousand covers with a DO NOT DISTURB flashing neon over the door.

Yes when anxiety and depression, or any number of other mental health symptoms rear their ugly heads, it can make us moms want to clock out, turn in and just try again another day.

But you can’t. Because you have a toddler with an inexhaustible zeal for dumping cheerios, climbing every unsecured surface, and finding every sharp and/or breakable and/or choke-able and/or poisonous and/or insert-other-unsafe-descriptor-here object in the room. Or maybe you have a young child who loudly bemoans every denied request and begs for your conciliatory affection with moody fits of tantrum in the middle of every slightest public forum she can find. Or maybe you have a teenager willfully battling out his “I love you/I hate you/I need you/How dare you?!” individuation process that can unnerve and exhaust even the most stoic of parents.

Being a mom is a full-time job, and one that does NOT come with paid-time off, sick leave or sabbatical for rest and self-reflection when the going gets tough. Moms are on, ALL THE TIME, even when the depression clouds roll in or the anxiety pangs up their edgy ante. As the catchy commercial goes, “Moms don’t take sick days,” and this is what makes being a mother quite possibly the hardest job of all.

But the great news for moms with these mental health symptoms or other illness is that they CAN be treated, you WILL get better with the right support, and the effects of any illness on family can be mitigated by building helpful protective risk factors. By loving our children and helping them and ourselves to build positive supports and good coping skills, we can significantly reduce the impact that anxiety, depression and other symptoms have on our children and families (see this Mental Health America article for more information and tips on being the best parent you can be).

Also, and perhaps for even more comfort, moms should know that they are NOT alone. According again to MHA, as many as 12 million women suffer from depression each year (especially between the ages of 25 and 44). The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) also tells us that women are twice as likely to develop depression and/or anxiety as men. The ADAA further suggests these disorders are especially prevalent among new moms, for whom as many as one in five is likely to develop a postpartum mood or anxiety complication that lasts up to a year or longer (for as many as 70%). While the trends are high and suggest that women are a special group in need of more resources and support, they also unite us and affirm that our experiences as women and moms are common –  even shared – thereby validating who we are and reassuring us we’re not in this alone.

For my final thought, I’ll share another piece by a fellow blogger @Sarah Schuster (The Mighty), who awesomely compiled a collection of 25 testimonies from moms living with mental illness and the insights they have to share.  I have to say that I especially relate to #18 and would like to thank mom “Kyra H.,” for graciously affirming that both when we have it all under control or even when we don’t, we can “still be a good mom.”

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