Being a parent is a magical, nurturing, and spiritual part of the human experience. The most rewarding parts of being a parent, however, are often balanced by the difficulty of trying to be a good one.
Assuming responsibility for another human life is one of the most challenging and risky things a person could do. Whether it be through adoption, marriage, IVF, or the traditional way, to be a parent is to deny one's self and to use that energy to nurture another life in a way similar to the way we would nurture ourselves.
Parenting is a difficult task. Managing our work, relationships, and nurturing ourselves is already difficult enough. To sacrifice these aspects at times, and to give one's self for the benefit of another is not easy—by no stretch of the imagination would it be.
Now, imagine adding into the equation a mental illness—depression.
Depression is debilitating. It suppresses our joy and masks our motivations. While depressive symptoms can be our mind and body's way of safeguarding us, telling us that we might need to slow down, it can become a serious issue when these symptoms last for a significant period of time. Parenting with depression is a scary thought. Depression can cause a loving parent to second guess their worth. A parent with depression might conclude that they are not cut out for the job. This, however, is not the reality of the situation. This is a distorted perception that depression has utilized to draw you further into itself.
Depression is a spiral of isolation and disconnection. Depression leads parts of our brain to become underactive and unresponsive. This means that things that would typically make a high-functioning parent happy would make a parent with depression feel ambivalent or nonchalant. Parenting with depression could cause a person to become more pensive, but in that state, thoughts typically tend to be more critical, full of hopelessness, or even nihilistic.
For any parent reading this, whether it is you or your partner struggling with depression, these difficulties are inconsequential to the fact that your child needs you. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but to the parent who is willing to show up despite the nihilism, hopelessness, lethargy, anxiety, or demeaning thoughts, I say, "perfect!" Showing up is the most important step. When depression tells you to isolate, take rest, set a goal to bounce back, and then take steps to show up.
Our children do not need perfection. They simply need us. There is something healing and nurturing about healthy interaction between a parent and child. Being in the presence of someone who is there for us, despite the state they might be in, embodies the essence of parenting. Parents with depression often worry that they are causing their children unnecessary anxiety or pain. On the contrary, I assert that a parent with depression who is present, models for their children courage, strength, and a selfless kind of love that speaks to one's inner, spiritual self.
For those who are parenting with depression:
1) Acknowledge your depression for what it is.
2) Think about what is causing it and how to limit its effects.
3) Seek a therapist.
4) Set goals (even if they seem hopeless).
5) Show up and continue to show up for your kids.
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