For many people, being a parent is a normalized experience with common, shared roles among people of varied backgrounds. Many people find that becoming a parent fulfills a major life goal, giving them a purpose toward which they direct their energy.
While becoming a parent may be one of the greatest achievements we can have, mothers are sometimes held to an impossibly high standard. Admitting that you need a little help can leave you with feelings of shame and failure.
Those who are not mothers generally can’t quite understand the enormous pride that wells up in you when your child comes home with a good report card or gives you a handmade gift. Being a mom is, after all, its own reward. Still, there is a particular stigma we place on mothers in our society when they find themselves labeled with the moniker, “bad mom.” Too often, this label is applied to women who just need a little help.
Mothers who suffer from mental illness often find themselves facing a unique set of problems and a particular loss of social identity. Read on as we discuss some of these problems and tips you can use to find balance while being a mother in recovery.
Melancholia in Motherhood
Depression and anxiety are the most commonly treated forms of mental illness among women. It is true that every now and again, everyone feels blue. Depression becomes a mental illness when symptoms last for a period of six months or longer, are severe, and coincide with two other symptoms on a spectrum.
Some mothers begin feeling depression while pregnant or in the months after pregnancy. Women can experience peripartum depression symptoms before giving birth, and postpartum depression after childbirth and in the ensuing months.
Depression does not have to develop as a result of pregnancy. Sometimes depression is a lifelong illness beginning in childhood and adolescence and continuing to senescence. Other times it may develop due to biological aging processes, environmental changes, or even injury.
However it begins, having depression does not make you a bad person or a bad mother. It means you are sad and need those around you to have empathy for you, not judgment.
Parenting Through Mental Illness
Despite what you may have heard, there really is no guidebook on how to be a mother. Having a mental illness does not make you a bad mother. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to admit you have a problem and seek help.
When you get help for mental illness as a mother, you are doing it not just for yourself, but for your children as well. You want what is best for your kids, and you are giving them that by being the best mother you can be: a mother in treatment and recovery.
Why Mothers With Mental Illness Need Boundaries
As a mother in recovery, you will need to set boundaries with your family and those around you when it comes to your illness. You may not be able to do everything you did before, and that is okay.
Just like a physical illness, mental illness requires time to recover. Mothers are often tasked with seemingly impossible feats. When battling illness, though, it is important for other family members to shoulder some of the responsibilities.
You have to set reasonable boundaries for your health. In safeguarding yourself, you are also safeguarding them.
Mothers and Mental Illness: Four Rules to Follow
Now that we’ve covered all of that, let’s follow some simple rules of recovery. Here are four tips to keep in mind as you continue your journey to improving your mental health as a mother:
- Learn to forgive yourself and treat yourself with empathy. As a mom, you are probably used to taking on tremendous burdens and not expecting any help. This can make you feel the full weight of failure when you don’t succeed. Being a mother is hard work. You cannot do everything. Learn to let go when you have to let one or two things fall. You’re juggling a lot. Be proud of yourself for what you are able to accomplish.
- Prioritize your mental health. As a mother, you may be used to prioritizing your children–but you cannot take care of them if you do not take care of yourself. When you have an appointment with a counselor or medical team member, make it a priority to be there. The best thing you can do as a mother is to make your mental health a top focus.
- Make recovery a family activity. Try this: the next time you are practicing mindfulness like meditation or yoga, have your children and other family members do it with you. Turning mindfulness, exercise, and other mental health tools you use into a family affair can improve the health of your family, too. When your family sees the importance of what you are doing for your mental health, they should see its value. In recovery, you are teaching them good life skills.
- Understand the circumstances that affect your mental health and be proactive. Does something trigger your depression, like interactions with a certain person? Removing those circumstances from your life can vastly improve your recovery.
Mental health is a journey that we are all on. There is no such thing as being a good mother or a bad mother when it comes to mental health. However, there is such a thing as a healthy mother, and kudos to you for taking on that role in recovery.
Motherhood is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs you can ever do. You are the caregiver, the friend, the one who kisses the boo-boos and makes lunches with little notes of self-assurance as you send your children off to learn and grow. Sometimes even mothers feel down. When that blue, melancholy feeling lasts for longer than six months, you may be feeling something other than sadness: depression. Depression and anxiety are the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in women. You may feel like you have to be invincible, but your mental and physical health is important. When you seek treatment for mental health, you are becoming a warrior mom, finding balance and strength for yourself and your kids. Call us today at (303) 351-7888 and set up an evaluation appointment. With Spero Recovery, treatment and recovery are possible.