There is so much pressure when it comes to parenting. You should do it one way and shouldn’t do it the other, but everyone has their own ideas about which is which….
The pressures and expectations can get overwhelming, but add in the effects of your mental health deteriorating and it becomes unbearable and impossible.
Recently my depression has dropped me into a pit. I guess it has been building for a while, but the actual drop was sudden and severe. With full blown anxiety running through me all the time, my body is tired. My breath is hard to catch so I’m dizzy a lot of the time. My heart is racing constantly and whilst the barrage of thoughts laden with self loathing is having hour pauses here and there, the incessant nature of them the rest of the time is shattering.
Fact is, whether it’s due to the years of therapy I have had or just a better understanding of my depression, I seem to be dealing with it in a more logical head. This means that I am able to acknowledge that a lot of what I’m telling myself is lies, problem is, the knowledge has no impact on how the thoughts make me feel and the fight is taking everything I have out of me. I am drained and empty. The advantage of this logical thing though is that it makes the suicidal thoughts slightly less scary, because I have this little voice saying that Mike wouldn’t be happier without me and telling me my kids really do need me and want me and my friends might actually want me around.
This is good. It serves as a helpful safety net, but depression and anxiety is physical at the best of times and when it’s this bad, it’s even worse. Physically I am empty, run down, fatigued, headachy, breathless, nauseous and aching all over.
All of this means that my parenting is less than ideal! Iris, as she is still breastfeeding, is getting more of my available time and attention than Elijah and the mum guilt is real!
Elijah is so aware that I am not my normal self, I don’t have much ability to hide what I am experiencing and whilst I believe in honesty about mental health I have got it wrong here.
I have been trying simple honesty with him, explaining my mind is struggling, I am a bit sad and that sort of thing but he has been getting more and more sensitive and clingy. Today at lunch I got a hug from Mike and Elijah asked why I wanted a daddy hug, I told him I was feeling a bit sad and he started panting and then burst into tears. He had been happily chatting a moment before.
So, to my excessively depressed brain I am making my boy miserable. Probably breaking him for life. I don’t know what to do though, how do I talk to a toddler about why I’m not like I normally am without making him scared. Is it possible? I want to be able to help him understand that strong emotions are not weakness, to train him to recognise what he is feeling and be open about it, but the midst of a depressive bout is not necessarily the best time to try thinking about big issues.
So, I am seeking help in the mum guilt department… How do you talk to a toddler about mental health (both good and bad!)?