Motherhood has impacted my mental health in a number of ways. I had my (only) child in March 2015. I made the decision to be a single parent because I knew my biological clock was ticking and I wanted to be a mom. Six weeks later, in April 2015, my mother died. This meant that all of my first year mommy celebrations (mother’s day, Christmas, etc.) was also the first year of these celebrations without my mother. At the time, I was living in a different city from most of my family. While on maternity leave, I decided to look for a new job back in the city I was born and raised. In less than 9 months, I had my first child, loss my mom, resigned from the job I’d had for 5 years, moved back to my home city from the city I’d lived in for over 20 years, and started a new job.
I was not diagnosed with postpartum or baby blues. However, after I realized that once I moved, I was only dropping my daughter off at daycare, going to work, picking her up and going back home, I thought it might be helpful to talk to someone. I was eventually diagnosed with depression. I talked/talk about my depression with my mental health counselor and my primary care doctor and feel supported by both of them.
Outside of my wife and one of my sister’s, I’m not sure my family knows about my battle with depression. I’ve mentioned having a mental health provider in passing. I’ve talked about the ups and downs with my one sister. My wife is extremely supportive and pretty tuned into me in terms of the dips that come with depression. My sister that knows is also supportive and is a good person to talk to about our mom and her death.
What I have to remind myself, and what I think is helpful to remember is that depression is not like a cold where you might take medicine and it goes away. For me, it hasn’t been “cured”. There are a lot of days when I am fine. There are some days when I’m not so fine. I know that for the past few years, March-May have been hard for me. Because of this awareness, when I’m having an “off day” during these months, I pay closer attention to see if it might be connected to my depression. I also make sure to have more regularly scheduled appointments with my mental health counselor. I’ve also become more comfortable with taking a sick day when needed. There are some days where I need a break. I know that my daughter is at school and taken care of, and I have to take care of myself too.
In terms of advice, I would encourage mothers, mother’s to be and women considering motherhood to seek out a mental health counselor and one that works for you. Finding one that is a good fit based on your needs and what you feel most comfortable with is important. Self-care is also important. I’ve had some guilt around using some of my “free time” to do something for myself that doesn’t involve my daughter. I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay to attend an event without her, or go get my nails done, or even to chose to stay at home while my wife takes her out. All of those things are in support of me, my mental health and will help me to show up better for my daughter.