Because of Robin William’s recent passing and the nature of his death have brought up so much discussion about depression, I have been thinking a lot about what we deal with behind closed doors. Behind the screens that we see each other through, everyone is fighting a battle. Everyone is dealing with something.
I know that almost every mom has at some point thought they might be going crazy, or at least felt the heat of anxiety or depression.
“the most sane thing in the world,
is to realize we could be crazy”
– someone my mom always quotes
We don’t need to be medicated to know it. We all experience anxiety at different levels. But man, if I had a dollar for every friend I have talked to this year who told me they have dealt with feelings very similar to mine….
The more I think about it, the more I realize this is something that this generation of women might be dealing with on a much greater scale than our moms did, and that our daughters will probably deal with even more than we are.
In a recent meltdown to my husband when I admitted I am often moody, I did my best to explain why I feel it is so common for women, especially moms, to battle with anxiety and depression off and on and I rattled off a list of all the many reasons. It’s long-winded, but I wanted to cover all the bases:
Life happens. Before even adding on the layer of “mom”, you, as a human, have dealt with things. Whether it be death, divorce, sickness, health, break-ups, fights, work, huge financial set-backs… life has lots to offer that can instigate feelings of depression and a perpetual feeling of anxiety that is hard to shake. The more time we spend thinking about those things, the more our brain gets muddy with extra crap on our plate, making it harder to digest as we go through the daily grind.
There is just too much on the brain. If you are like me, you multitask, you plan, you make lists. You are responsible for your well being, and multiple other humans’ as well. And you have other stress: money to earn, decisions to make, groceries to buy, a gym to find… If you are like me you take on more than you can handle, and you still feel like you aren’t doing enough. You say yes to everything, determined to be the one who can “do it all”, only to sit alone during naptime, or when everyone else is sleeping and feel the anxious guilt that you could do more than you are. Or what’s more damaging, that you should be.
Being good isn’t good enough. Even when you love your life, you’re a happy person, you’re a good mom trying to do everything you can to help your kids and to truly enjoy them and raise them to be good people, that guilt can creep in about all the extra things you are not doing as a wife/woman/mom. Did you take that family a meal? Have you called your siblings to check in on them lately? Are you volunteering at church and school? Are you actively setting goals to improve your personality and better your character, to get closer to God? Well if you aren’t, you aren’t doing enough. Because you should be able to do it all.
Not sleeping? Of course you’re not. You are spending the day emotionally battling with toddlers, keeping your heart from stopping every time your baby falls or when you catch that baby climbing ladders. You are mortified your teenager is making decisions you can’t keep them from. You are way passed exhaustion but your brain is on overload. There is no emergency brake. Sometimes getting to sleep sounds so depressing after a long hard day because you know you just have to get up and do it all over again. And moms don’t get sick days. If it was a great day, the anxiety to sleep is even greater because tomorrow is guaranteed to be a hard day. So now you are a tired, exhausted, fatigued mom. And your emotions and hormones are all out of whack.
What happens when your hormones get out of whack? You forget yourself and your health. When was the last time you were stressed and tired, and got up and made yourself grilled chicken and veggies for lunch? You didn’t. You grab a bag of chips or cookie dough and then beat yourself up all day about “letting yourself go”. It’s a vicious cycle, and we’ve all been caught in it. No sleep, hormone imbalance, gain weight, feel fat, feel depressed, eat more crap, stay up nights thinking about what you should do to fix it… rinse, repeat.
For moms, days can be lonely. For those of us home with little kids still, there are many days that you don’t make it outside at all, you don’t get together with friends, you don’t even run errands. Even if you do run errands, your conversations are limited to those you have with little people and your brain requires more of you. It’s not always lonely, but it can be, and planning outings to avoid it can take more energy than most know. Especially if you have ever had a stubborn toddler in the house… Hours to leave is often not worth the escape.
Social media doesn’t always help. Whether we admit it or not, what we see and read affects us, and how others perceive us or react to us affects us. We use it so often because we crave connection, but the irony is that we are often left feeling so utterly disconnected. From people, AND reality. I fear commenting on things because I know I will get “yelled at” so I choose not to share. So I stay back behind my screen and keep quiet, just waiting to see what I’m allowed to share in my own space without ridicule.
Social media = pressure. There is an unwritten pressure now to do everything. To only post perfect photos, to throw the best parties, to make the best looking food. It’s not enough that you bear and raise humans from your loins and maintain a home, you also feel the pressure to make money, to be “more than a just a mom”. Maybe that isn’t universal, but I know I do. I feel as though I have a few talents that I HAVE to put to use, or I feel ungrateful, or like I am doing only the minimum I can do. How tragic. It once was a different world. A world where my granny was known not because she was an entrepreneur “on top of it all” but because she raised 9 of her 10 kids as a widow for 36 years and made 10 loaves of homemade bread weekly, only to keep two. She wasn’t on pinterest, her home was humble, I’m sure she wasn’t known for her style. When I remember her, I think of the bread. Her service and life of charity is the first thing any of us would say to describe her.
For some reason I notice when I get unfollowed on instagram and my day is dampened. Not because I am wrapped up in followers, I know lots of them show up to win something we gave away, but because I wonder what I posted that someone didn’t like! I am hardwired to worry about offending people. We want to be liked, appreciated, recognized. If we are received negatively, it hurts. I know some of you are reading this thinking, “well stop worrying bout what everyone thinks about you!” And to that I say, “you too!” Have you ever posted something and gone back to see what was said about it? If anyone thought it was as great as you did? Or have you seen someone else’s post, and felt your heart speed up….? You haven’t?? Then you don’t have the same anxiety that lots of women do.
It’s a-typical for women. Know why? Women compare. Whether it’s in person, or online, whether we admit we do it or not, we see what we are not in other women. There is always someone more accomplished, more creative, more popular, more fit… Whatever it is that keeps us feeling crappy about ourselves because of what we wish we have/do/look like. She has money (so she must be happy), she has a house (so she must be happy), she lives by the beach (so she must be happy), she has kids who don’t scream and have meltdowns in public (boy, she must be better at this than me).
Satan attacks where we are already vulnerable or self-conscious.
The good news? I am married to a guy who comes home to a messy house most nights, who brings home dinner more than I’d like to admit, but who also never says a thing about it and usually does the dishes anyway. I hate to admit, that some days that adds to the anxiety. He does more than me. He is doing everything! He makes money AND cleans the house!! It’s a good thing that he’s so supportive and helpful and not quick to judge or belittle, so why do I still feel crappy so often? I told him this once and do you know what his response was? “I KNOW your job is harder than mine. I KNOW you don’t get to do everything you want to around the house. It isn’t just your job. They aren’t your chores. Your job is caring for the kids, anything else you get done is extra credit in my opinion.” He reminds me that the pressure I put on myself is just that, my pressure.
All you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.
I hope we can help to bouy each other up, force each other to see how amazing we are. I hope we can see that in ourselves, be content and at peace with who we are. I know it’s easier said than done because even as I write this, my heart is racing. And maybe more of us need to admit we need medication. I know it changes lives.
We moms are children of God too, and to Him, what we do is always enough.