I’m not sure when it all began, really–the depression. I just remember visiting the school counselor as a middle schooler for self-esteem issues. From there, it just grew. When my friend tried to commit suicide in college while on AIM with me, I freaked out. I wondered, secretly, what it felt like. That scared me more. I began talking to the therapists at the college and eventually wound up in the hospital myself. Every year around the same time, my mood begins to plummet as the sun disappears from view earlier and earlier. When it becomes something I can no longer manage, I wind up in the hospital. I didn’t even tell my extended family last time this happened. But, it’s harder now, with two kids and one with autism, when things spiral out of control with me. So how do you manage depression while raising a child with autism?
Self-Care is Important
As caretakers, we tend to try to take care of others first. When depression hits, that becomes difficult. Not only do you feel crappy about feeling crappy, but you begin to feel bad when you need to take a break. My kids need me. They want my attention. But I don’t want them to see me when I’m down. It’s normal for someone to feel sad sometimes. It’s not normal to always feel that way. I don’t want my children to internalize my depression and become anxious, depressed children. So yeah, sometimes I have to take a step back and practice some self-care.
Honesty: Is It the Best Policy?
When you’re feeling depressed, do you open up to your children about it and let them know it’s a part of who you are? Mommy feels sad more than most people, but that’s not their fault. I haven’t had that discussion yet because I don’t feel they’re old enough, but should they know? I’m asking you all because I don’t have any idea how to handle that subject.
Medication for Depression and Anxiety
As it happens, I’ve been through almost every medication for depression and anxiety known to man. When the doctor begins listing medications, I could just say, “NEXT!” I’ve tried them all. As a result, my psychiatrist has to stay on top of the most recent medications. I take medication for depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The most unconquerable of them all seems to be the insomnia, but depression always lurks in the back of my mind. It’s like a little yapping dog that follows you, nipping at your heals, and never lets up. I take enough medication to probably put out a horse, but my body adjusts quickly, competing with the effectiveness of it. One day, I hope to sleep without worry nagging at me to the point that I can’t sleep.
The Hospital: It’s Not that Scary
I’ve been hospitalized several times for depression. I’m not afraid to admit that. But, leaving my husband holding the bag when I got off to take care of myself isn’t easy. No matter how bad I feel, I fight more and more against going to the hospital. Despite that, the self-cutting and thoughts of suicide get to the point where I can no longer function safely. No one knows how troubled I am, really. I hide it all day at work from the students–smiling, teaching, joking around with them. I hide it from the people who ask how I am. Of course I’m fine! Really! But when I get home I’m both physically and mentally exhausted.
At some point, I may need to go back in, but I won’t do that until I know my presence is more of a hindrance than a help with my boys. As a wife and mother, I feel that I must first think of them and my husband and how my decisions impact them. In the end, though, I know this phrase well enough, “You have to take care of yourself if you’re going to take care of others.” For now, I’ve got adjunct medication added to my ever-growing list of medications, and the hope that I will make it through the rest of this weird North Carolina winter without gracing the footsteps of the in-patient unit of the hospital.
Depression and Anxiety are Serious Mental Disabilities. Take them seriously!
If you suffer from depression or anxiety and feel suicidal, you should always reach out for help.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.