Blog

Oct26
2017

What Depression Looks Like When You’re a Mom

By Candace Ganger

This morning was like every other. My eyes struggled to open as I dragged myself from the threaded waves of bed sheets. A grunt, or three, I make my way into the land of the living—a brightly lit house brimming with the kind of optimism only my 10 and 5-year-old can bring through an early morning sunrise—a place that feels more unfamiliar, yet more comfortable, with every passing day. My feet drag, arms just weighted appendages, while the ache in my chest awakens, emboldened by the start of another day; a new day with new beginnings and hopes, or a new day with more of the same.

Through the first cup of coffee, I’m the most unlikable protagonist: angry and restless for no real reason, but also every reason in the same breath. The series of motions adds to the gravity crushing my bones. My children sense it. They keep their distance until my eyes pop wide open, but even still, there will be an emotional barrier for some time. Until the grog completely fades (it never really does). Until something shifts my perspective.

Until it’s time to move on with this new day. And so, I do.

We dance through the morning, a dizzying array of choreographed routines to get them dressed and ready for their school day. Lunches are packed. Chores are complete. Dinner is prepped. Without giving my thoughts the chance to stack, and instigate, I move, and I keep moving, and I don’t stop moving until the day’s end. There’s an art class. And grocery shopping. And work. I work and I write, and I write and I work. I run. Far and fast, in the blazing summer heat of the south. Recovery is a cold shower where my mind wants to drift; to sink into the chasm of depression. There’s no time. There’s never any time. I do what I’m used to doing—treat the symptoms systematically, however little my attempts may help—because in the end, I want to heal. To feel the highs and lows of living.

In the evenings, I assist with homework, do the laundry, and laugh at my son’s obscure jokes. You might find me folding and re-folding the laundry, sweeping, and re-sweeping the kitchen floor, or counting, and re-counting the seconds that pass. These are pieces of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Pieces of me. Together with my anxiety and depression, the disorders try to exhaust me to death. To defeat me. But every day, when I drag myself from my bed, I tell myself: “They can’t. They won’t. Not today.”

This is what it feels like to be a mom with high-functioning depression.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety from the time I could walk, and talk. Mental illness runs rampant in my family, affecting both male and female—it’s power and affliction knows no discriminatory bounds. From my brother to my grandmother, we’ve all endured similar struggles. I’ve been taught to live with, infinitely surrounded by therapies and medications; any and everything my loved ones have done, to help them and myself come to terms with their/my/our mental illnesses. Because of this, I’m proactive seeking treatment and yet, I’ve somehow settled into my adult life as a mother and wife, with a dull, lingering, invisible cloak of depression. You might not see it, but it’s there.

Some days, I’m emotionally swept away by depression’s undertow, lying in that sea of silken sheets, until I’m able to muster the courage to ask for help. Other days, when I feel more defiant, I push through the discomfort, and do whatever I have to. To be the wife my partner deserves, the mother my children need, and the woman I know I am—outside of this disease.

My exterior says I’m strong. Confident. Determined. Brave. Fearless. Resilient.

Inside, I’m weak. Insecure. Dark. Broken.

I’ve seen the top of the antidepressant mountain, and I’ve sunken into the murky pits of it. Through childhood traumas, and severe postpartum depression that nearly ended my life after the birth of my oldest, there’s little I haven’t tried to better my mental health. I want to be here; I want to live, to feel. When I think of my kids, I hope they don’t remember that early morning version of me, forever. I work hard through my day to ignore the pangs of sadness, so they remember the good times. The laughter. The endless hugs. The nose kisses. And the words I sing to them every night before they close their eyes: “You make me happy, when skies are grey.”

I’ve come a long way in managing my depression and anxiety. I’ve heard the voices of suicide, and took the steps to stay instead. It’ll never feel easy, and I have a long way to go, forever really, but I want to. Need to.

High-functioning depression is a slow-burn, invisible but powerful. I can be all the things everyone expects me to be. At the same time, the fire inside will eventually consume me, if left to its own volition. These kind of fires—unhealed wounds—will never die without the acceptance that I’m not capable on my own.  It’s a battle to be fought with an army. Through our typical days here, when I find a moment of solitude within, I see the acceptance of the real version of me—the one not buried by the depression—in my children’s eyes and I think, if they can love and accept me the way I am, maybe I can, too.

You can, too.

And so, tomorrow, when I open my eyes, I’ll try to start the new day differently. I’ll aim to embrace the beginning as the gift it is—even if I don’t feel it. And maybe, if I say it, eventually, I’ll believe it. I’ll continue doing all the things that alleviate the darkest symptoms, with the hope that the laughter bellowing through the house can be real and the depression will someday fade completely. For now, I’ll hug my kids and sing. No matter what I feel, or what the day might bring, they are the sunshine, and they’ve chosen me to beam their light upon. A light that I may be undeserving of, but one I’ll work to earn.

With that belief, maybe someday, I’ll be their light. And together we’ll shine.

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Comments (30)

  1. Dana

    Thank you, yes Candance you nailed it! I am you and you are me high functioning mom with depression! Thank you for sharing, we not not alone, we are loved, by our children, by so many we just have to believe we deserve it, if only we could believe we are worthy! Today is another day that we woke and today we made it a beautiful day for them and for them. You are awesome!!

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  2. Chelsea

    Thank you Candace. I, also suffered severe post-partum depression with my eldest son. Your story is proof that we can stay, everyday, no matter what the day brings!
    I cried when I read this:
    “if they can love and accept me the way I am, maybe I can, too.
    You can, too.”
    You are treasured hope today and to that I will add courage.
    Thanks again – Chelsea

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  3. Another mom

    Spot on. Thank you. People think I have the perfect life. I’m strong, invincible, Wonder Woman. Couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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  4. April

    This helped make me feel better. So true for me also. On the outside I have it all together and look like I am balancing raising my 2 kids by myself, but on the inside I am held together with Scotch tape. I work hard every day to make sure my kids know I love them and they are the best thing that I have in my life.

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  5. Stephany

    I can relate to this description completely. Mandisa sings a song called “He is with You”, and there is a line that says “He is with you when your kids are grown, and there’s too much space and you feel alone, and you’re worried if you got it right or wrong…” I am always praying for my kids and that they won’t remember my imperfect outlook, anxiety and depression. They are now 19, 16, and 12. They all show signs of depression and anxiety. I have gotten them help, but I am always worried about this “curse” I’ve passed on. Thank you for sharing. Makes me not feel so alone. Blessings to you.?

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  6. Shannon

    I read this on the day my daughter began taking meds for depression, at age 18. I am heartbroken, feeling guilty and ashamed of the genetics I likely have passed on to her. I was diagnosed in my mid 20’s, and I’ve had many depressive episodes, so I am sentenced to medication for life. I’m ok with that now, but I just didn’t ever want this to be passed along to my children. I shared your post in an effort to improve my family’s understanding of high-functioning depression – you described it so beautifully and so many points hit home. Thank you so much for sharing. I want to shine for my daughter, in hopes she will shine again too.

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  7. Lee

    I choose to be happy when skies are grey.
    Love.

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  8. Julius

    Thank you 🙂

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  9. Debora Veerman

    Thank you for this. So very moving.

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  10. Sarah

    Oh my gosh. I cant believe you are able to put into words everything ive been feeling. Thank you so much for your beautiful words on such an ugly disease that i hate how it affects me and my family.

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  11. Ash

    Thank you for this

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  12. Mom

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve struggled with depression, severe anxiety, and thoughts of suicide for as long as I can remember. I’m married now with two boys under two and I’ve been struggling a lot lately, especially with feeling isolated and hopeless. Medication paired with my love for my children is the only thing that helps me even get out of bed. We barely make enough money to support ourselves so I don’t have any time or money for therapy. I feel trapped and so desperately want help, but don’t now where to start.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hey Friend,

      We hope you know that we admire your strength. We are proud of you for fighting this battle and we believe that you will win. We would love to help you start the process of finding help that is right for you. If you would like, email us at info@twloha.com and we can send some resources that may be helpful to you!

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  13. Ann

    I can completey relate to this article. Thank you for sharing. I put on a face everyday for my husband and kids, but inside I don’t want to smile or talk. I do not want to be put on medication so I live with it but it’s hard. I hope one day to feel better, and I hope you have been feeling/doing better.

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  14. Amanda

    Your words so elegantly describe my own current state. Poor mental health is such a difficult thing for others to understand, especially when I explain my fear of one day watching it consume my bright-eyed, brilliant child. I am not glad that anyone is suffering here as a mother, but am also selfishly comforted knowing we have all survived so far, and that I am not alone.

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  15. Allison Lee Audet

    This is beautiful. The first article I’ve ever read about depression in which I can relate. Every single day of living is a difficult chore, but having children makes life worth living.
    Thank you.

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  16. Ashley

    I can’t really say much other than thank you for sharing this. I’m in one of the hardest battles I’ve had thus far with depression and my first really big battle since I’ve had my daughter.

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  17. Amanda

    I feel like you described me, except I only have a 4 year old.
    “My exterior says I’m strong. Confident. Determined. Brave. Fearless. Resilient.
    Inside, I’m weak. Insecure. Dark. Broken.”
    I fight (almost) everyday, some rounds I win and some I lose. I feel you and thank you for showing me I’m not alone.

    Reply  |  
  18. Chris

    Absolutely spot on… U have spoke so many things that I can relate to I am a mother to three and this has really helped me to look at things in a new way thank u xx

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  19. Down and out

    This was really nice to read my son’s a year old and I feel like I’m cheating him out of a mom and a childhood. God bless his father who loves him so much it leaves me in awe and fills in whenever I can’t. I too am a high functioning mom. Thank you I don’t feel so alone even though I am in it, really bad. Thank you again.

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  20. Effie

    I can’t tell you how many times I have read, and reread this piece. Days like today I just want to crawl in a hole until, well just until…but of course, kids, laundry, life make that an impossibility. These words remind me that I’m not the only one to ever feel this way and it does get better.

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  21. Hil

    I was the child of a mother with depression, and now I’m pregnant. Anger has started boiling up inside me for all the times my mom was emotionally absent, hid in her room, didn’t show up. I hope beyond hope I don’t do that to my kids. Having a mother with depression is a lifetime of worry. A heavy weight around your heart that you were given and can never give back. The obligation of keeping her happy and alive is a burden I will never shake. I feel so angry, but when I read your writing I can tell it’s not a choice. Right now I identify with your kids, but once my baby comes, maybe I’ll identify with you.

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  22. Robin

    Thank you

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  23. Azura

    My name is Azura and I decided to search up depression in young mothers. I became pregnant at 20 and had her at 21. I’m now 24. I am crying this morning because I wish my daughter would stop crying. I am so tired it’s indescribable. I used to work in a salon. I had friends a nice body I dated I slept at night. Now I have acne scars overweight sleep deprived and lonely. My daughter also has serious health issues. I’ve fought hard for both of us over the years. She’s defied all odds of her condition but being her nurse and dealing with her dad and al these changes on my life and myself has depleated me. People see me as strong and I am, but I’m human too. I’ve been judged so much too. If I share my depressive feelings I’m negative and I just can’t win. I’m so tired. I’ve had a car accident that has broken my body down too. I feel I’m alive but slowly dying. Some days I want to die but I feel guilt because my life is not bad and I love My daughter. I’m tired of being a good person I’m tired of being a strong selfless person I’m so tired. I want to be young. My youth was taken from me too early. I’m third generation single mother. I’ve battled depression and body dysmorphia since I was young too. This life of mine was honestly my worst nightmare growing up. Alone. Overweight and a young mom. I swore it won’t be me. I tried so hard. But my need for love and chaotic life led me to young pregnancy. I wasn’t even promiscuous. I’ve not even experienced almost anything. Her dad crushed me by wanting to abort her and when I found out I’ll be alone I was pressured to keep her by my family and the guilt destroyed me. Like I’d be a selfish murderer and irresponsible if I didn’t have her. I love her so much but I’m resentful. I’m angry and sad. I could have been so much more. I could have felt joy of real love and reached my goals I could have travelled the world. Instead I struggle to find a sitter to make it to therapy appointments after my car crash.. I spend my birthdays and mother’s days alone. I’m sorry I don’t even know if you’ll read this I know it’s a lot. I’m in so much pain and at this point I know for a fact nobody is going to help me. I have to accept a lot of things I don’t want and I feel I’m a sacrifice my life has been. My self esteem has gone to shit and I haven’t slept in years so my mind is messed up too. I just want to lay in bed and die burn my daughter needs me. I carry her, feed her by pump, dress her, track her meds, comfort her through seizures… I feel ripped off because it started as my joy as soon as I saw her face… and as time has passed and I’ve endured so many painful stressful things I’ve become unhappy and sad like this morning. I cry because I have to take care of her and I can’t enjoy it. I cry because I feel broken and lost. I feel I lost my life and for what I can’t even give my daughter what she deserves

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Azura,

      First, we want to thank you for having the courage and bravery to come to our site and share a part of your story with us. You inspire us to keep doing the work we have the honor of doing.

      Second, we need you to know that your pain and feelings are all valid, but you are not alone and there is help available. We’re glad to know that you are going to counseling when you can, you deserve to.

      We ask that you show yourself grace today and all days as you are doing your best for your daughter and yourself. And as you continue to choose to stay, to choose love, and to choose grace, we believe better days will come.

      Will you email our team at info@twloha.com so we can offer you encouragement?

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  24. Laura

    Thank you. Exactly how I feel. I feel so alone sometimes. Lost and overwhelmed.

    Reply  |  
  25. Joslynn

    Thank you for your honesty.
    This is a struggle so many of us mums face but rarely know how to express.
    It is nice to know I’m not the only one fighting this battle and it’s ok to be this way.
    We will both hopefully reach our potential for enjoying life one day, hopefully before our children are to old.
    Thank you for this post ❤
    Keep pushing warrior mum ❤

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  26. Nat

    Candace, thank you for sharing your struggles and victories. You are brave and stronger than you think, but you already know that. You love courageously. I feel like I want to give you a hug.

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  27. Jaci

    You have expressed exactly how I feel everyday of my life. I’m a mother of 3 and when I was reading this it was like I wrote it because it’s to the T what I’ve been going through…

    Reply  |  
  28. Rachel Gall

    Thank you. I needed to read that!!

    Reply  |  
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