There are depressed mothers all around you, one maybe your wife, your partner, your sister, your mother or your aunt. Your friend or work colleague or even a neighbour at this precise time are suffering in silence afraid to ask for your help.
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, which means it’s highly likely that you will know someone suffering from depression.
How can you help a depressed mother?
The worst thing you can do is judge them.
The best thing you can do is not talk and just listen, offer a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on. Reassure them that you’re going to be there every step of the way, they are not alone.
Can you offer to help with housework tasks or childcare? Being mindful that accepting or asking for help is difficult for depressed mothers, we hate to feel we are not coping or you will judge us.
Depression can make you feel irritable and intolerant towards to others so do not take anything personally, remind yourself they are ill. There are so many depression symptoms to list here but do read up, so you know not to place blame. Learn as much as you can about depression and arm yourself with helpful resources to share as depressed mothers are feeling utter failures, show them with proof they have an illness and it’s not their fault.
Most people experiencing a mental health problem will speak to friends and family before they speak to a health professional, so the support you offer can be really valuable.
Offer to go to a GP appointment with them but do not speak for them, you can prompt them but be cautious, this is their life and this is a huge step for them.
How do depressed mothers feel?
My experience of depressed mothers…When you’re trying your hardest to give your children all they want and need, but you always feel it’s not enough. Like you’re letting them down. And you don’t believe it when others say what a great job you’re doing.
That fear that your child will be taken away from you because their clothes don’t quite fit, or that the bruises on your accident prone, whirlwind of a son will be taken as child abuse. That they’ll tell someone they had no breakfast because you had no money to buy milk. The fear of failing the ones who need you most.
I suffered from postnatal depression with 4 out of 6 of my pregnancies and I don’t think I ever remember a time when I wasn’t depressed. I found it so hard to bond with my children, when part of me resented them. I struggled to get out of bed let alone have to take the kids to school, cook for them, entertain them and care for them.
I suffered many years before finally going to the GP and it was the best thing I ever did. Although the medications took a long time to work as I had to change them a few times, and after endless appointments with mental health workers I was finally diagnosed with bipolar.
Life as a depressed mum is tough but I try to be the best mum I can be and I accept I need more support than others do. I know the feelings of guilt and feeling as if my kids were better off without me. Thankfully I do have amazing support and the kids know mummy has a poorly head.
Isolating, a constant fear of feeling like you are failing your children. No matter what others say to you about how well you seem to cope or how well you’re doing, in the back of your mind your screaming out that someone could see through your masks.
It’s like you’re never good enough. You can’t compete with the “perfect mum brigade” it’s a challenge in every aspect. From getting up to washing and dressing your kid and giving them breakfast. That constant feeling of will my child be better off without me?
It’s that feeling of I love my child but not like the other moms do. It’s the guilt of having an illness even though you should be “happy”. It’s red raw eyes from crying because you “can’t cope” but if I tell a doctor I will lose them. Depression is crippling.
I have been a depressed mother and this is how it made me feel – from the moment my alarm clock goes off I just want to turn over and hide in my bed so I don’t have to face the world, but I know 7 little people need me to help them start their day. So up I get, putting on a fake smile and try to start their day off happy. The tasks of doing breakfast, pack lunches, getting them to eat breakfast, getting them dressed, making sure I have the endless lists of school things, sorting out morning tantrums etc and thinking yep the staying in bed option was the easier option to take.
Off out into the world where I feel people are staring and judging “she looks so tired, how does she cope with 7 children?,” when actually all I want to hear is “wow she’s doing so well” some people don’t seem to understand that a little encouragement goes a long way especially with someone with depression.
Drop the kids off and back home to my safe place, then going over and over my morning feeling guilty because actually I didn’t even want to get up this morning. I hope the kids didn’t pick up on my mood. I often sit and cry at this point because I’m feeling so down.
I feel isolated, I feel like I’m failing my children, the fear of them been taken away from me because my head is broken. School pick up time is the worst, having to mingle with what feels like 10,000 people, I feel like I walk round just smiling because I can’t quite cope with all the noise. Again back home and breathe, another day done at facing the world.
But again the guilt hits me because my kids ask for friends to come for tea and I just can’t let them, they don’t understand that I just want to hide away, but I smile yet again and say maybe another day. Bedtime and all is quiet and peaceful but that’s my best and worst time, best because I can just hide back under my duvet but worst because I have the guilt of how I feel and how it’s made my babies feel.
Going over and over things, other people who just don’t seem to understand asking how I am and just so I don’t have to explain I say “I’m fine”. The fear that tomorrow someone will see through my cracks and my babies will be taken away, depression is awful.
You second guess everything. I’ve just put the kids to bed early because they wouldn’t stop fighting and messing around after being told repeatedly to stop but now I’m feeling guilty and thinking maybe they weren’t as bad as I thought and it was just me having a bad time, not them being naughty.
It’s like not wanting to make the effort to breathe another breath but the guilt of knowing someone relies on you forces you to carry on. You know you shouldn’t feel this way. It’s not normal but it’s all you can do to simply survive.
Feeling you’re not good enough and life would be better for everyone if you weren’t here. Depression makes you feel alone, guilty and worthless amongst other things. Many times I have felt lost.
It’s feels like you have no control over what happens in your life. It wraps you with guilt as it saps all your energy, dignity and self-respect. I would give anything to be able to do anything at all with my children. It’s being in a dark place that you would never want your children to go.
The feeling that your children and people around you would be better off without you, hence the guilt as you believe you are ruining their lives. The loneliness, the coldness and the bitterness, the dark. But knowing someone relies on you 100% in some ways pulls you through, especially when they smile or laugh or hug you and when your child says “I love you mummy”.
I have been one of those depressed mothers on an off since I lost my first-born. Every day you feel like your not good enough or you can’t give your kids everything they need. You feel like because you lost your baby something is going to happen to you living children, so you won’t let them roam free and end up feeling guilty because you have secluded them. You feel like your all alone even thou you have loads of people around you.
The above quotes have been written by depressed mothers, they are shared in the hope of helping you learn how mothers really feel when they are suffering from depression. If you know a depressed mother, that you reach out your hand of friendship and support today.
Depressed mothers are all around you, reach out your hand of friendship and support today to one of them.
Have you any experience of parental depression?
What advice would you give to other moms going through this right now who are afraid and lonely?
If you are a mother struggling with depression, what would help you right now?