To my friend who’s secretly considering anti-depressants.
I hope you don’t mind me bringing this up. I know we’ve joked that come the end of a long day at the cot face, we all need something to take the edge off. ‘Mummy’s Little Helpers’. Here’s hoping that for you, the odd glass of wine is enough. But just in case…
Thing is, I’m worried about you. We all have bad days, but when I saw you the other day it struck me that all your days seem bad at the moment. Yes, strapping a planking two-year-old into a car seat is enough to bring any mum to tears. And running out of emergency rice cakes is definitely rant-material. But I got the feeling it’s more than that. If that’s the case, and you’re anything like I was, you’ll need someone to cut through the small talk and tell you how it is. Ask you how it is. REALLY.
Let me guess, you’re not even sure you’re really depressed. You keep telling yourself you’re fine. Everyone says parenting is hard. You’ve just got to mum-up and plough on.
You feel guilty about moaning cos you know you’ve got it lucky in some ways – there’s always someone worse off. And people keeps telling you how wonderful your kids/ house/ life is. On a rational level you see that – they ARE wonderful – and you know you should be grateful and happy but…
You feel guilty you’re not the parent you want to be. You have such good intentions but somehow things always spiral and you end up shouting and/or crying without meaning to. You go to bed feeling you’ve let your family down. Again.
You’re convinced you’re just not doing it right. You keep telling yourself that one of these days you’ll get this parenting thing nailed. Get more organised. Get up earlier. Develop some sort of system. How hard can it be to get through the daily routine in an acceptable fashion?
You’re probably obsessing about parts of your day. Torturing yourself about how you could’ve handled things better. How you’ll manage next time. My trigger was the riddle of a double bedtime routine, but yours could be the hunger strike mealtimes or the excruciating school run. Whatever, you dread it and the inevitable tears every time.
You wonder how other people manage, what they’re doing that you’re not. You cross-examine other mums, hoping they’ll share a secret formula. How DO they get their kids out of the house without a full-on family breakdown of a morning? Sometimes it feels like a conspiracy. Sometimes it feels like a farce. Are they faking it?
I bet you’re feeling a bit disconnected, right? Isolated maybe, even though you’re knackered and can’t face company. Or perhaps you’re over-scheduling playdates because you’re terrified of being alone with your kids. You dream about a lazy day at home with them but daren’t risk it. I’ll always remember that hollow ache of feeling unsociable yet lonely all at the same time. But you’re not alone.
Let me tell you. All this is really common. Normal, even. But it doesn’t have to be. Your life is your life, but there are ways to smooth the path.
Speak to your doctor. Ask for advice. And when she suggests anti-depressants, don’t blow her off just cos they don’t fit in with your ideal you. Take a breath before you tell her you’re not the sort of person who takes pills.
I know you think anti-depressants are a big deal. In a black and white world, they feel the dark side of the moon. A bleak last resort. I know you’d love to juice your way out of this with more yoga, Omega 3s and meditation. Hell, you might even try running.
And who knows, maybe you can ‘chose happy’. Maybe coconut water really does cure everything. Maybe you can think positive or sweat yourself happy with more downward-facing-dogs, Nutella and sex. People really do that. Apparently.
But in the meantime, why not give yourself a break? If you had a headache, you might think about changing your lifestyle, improving your diet and tackling your stress, but not before the painkillers kicked in.
Life with kids is hard enough to ask for help. Reaching out is not admitting defeat or cheating. It’s being proactive. OK, so anti-depressents were never part of the life plan, but neither was sobbing over the school run, right?
And if you STILL feel funny about it, think of those tablets as a favour to your kids. All mums make sacrifices. Sacrificing your pride and admitting you might need a bit of a boost is just another one of them.
And the compromise is worth it. When I took my tablets, I was a step closer to being the mum I wanted to be. More patient. More balanced. More resilient. Leading two children through the bath-bed-book routine every night no longer brought me to tears. My failings were less crushing, too. I stopped lying awake worrying about what might have been when my daughter slipped my grasp and ran into the road or my son fell into the pool on holiday.
And no, the tablets didn’t change me, or numb my feelings. They just made the feelings easier to deal with. I felt like the me I’d be if I ever managed to go for a run or two weeks in the sun. The me I’d be if I had time to look after me.
So please, when the doctor reaches for a prescription, have a think about looking after you too. Who knows, maybe anti-depressants won’t be such a bitter pill after all.
But if they’re still not for you? You’ve always looked great in yoga pants too.
All my love
A medicated mum xxx