Parenting with Depression and Anxiety
By Sarah Henderson

As a parent I’ve always been concerned about how how parenting with depression and anxiety will/would affect my daughter. There are lots of time when I have given myself a really hard time and have felt a failure. I’ve also let her down, especially when her own overwhelming emotions showed themselves.

When she was younger, I always hid my depressive/anxious behaviour from her. Now she is getting older and I’m more open with her. We talk about how I am feeling and I reassure her that nothing she has done has caused me to feel like this.

As a parent I’ve always been concerned about how how parenting with depression and anxiety will/would affect my daughter.

Depression and anxiety give an inaccurate view

Depression and anxiety give you an inaccurate, unbalanced view of yourself and the world. It’s really hard, when you are suffering from them, to see things as they really are. It is also hard to deal with your own mental health and also support someone else with their own.

Coming through a recent bout of depression, I have spent time thinking about parenting and my mental health.

No one is perfect at parenting

It makes no difference whether or not you have a mental illness. I do the best I can. All parents need to take care of themselves and I am no different. Sometimes, I need counselling and/or medication but this does not mean I am a failure.

Nature and nurture

To me depression and anxiety are caused by nature, not nurture. I can see that in my experience and in the behaviours of other people in my family (both now and in the past). I can’t change nature.

Nurture is how we look after ourselves and how we teach and support others. It is also how we teach others how to look after themselves and find ways of living with depression and anxiety. We do this so it doesn’t take over our lives. My experiences of mental health have helped my daughter so I haven’t failed or let her down.

Experiences mean new skills and understanding

Over past years, science has made huge leaps in our understanding of the working of our brains. We now know how powerful the brain is, how it can change/be changed and that we need to work at training/helping it. As a culture we know how important physical health is and work at keeping healthy. However, we need to do more for our mental health. Society is starting to be more open and accepting of mental health. There is still a long way to go, but what my daughter has experienced, and has seen of my experiences means she is more accepting and open already at this young age.

My daughter has learned a lot

My daughter’s overwhelming emotions have given her skills and understanding in mental health and how her brain works that she would never had got otherwise. Hearing me talk about my mental health has shown her people can and do lead normal lives. She is aware people can look fine but underneath they are keeping a whole mountain of emotions under control. Also, she is aware it takes some people an enormous amount of strength and courage to get out of bed this morning and into work.

My daughter says she would like to be a children’s counsellor or a schoolteacher. Her reasoning is, she has experienced being a child with overwhelming emotions, and wants to help others. She is still young and has plenty of time to change her mind, but I know whatever she does she will be a caring, supportive person. Anyone who has her in their lives will be very lucky.

I have a fantastic, caring, compassionate, intelligent, funny, sensitive young lady as a daughter. I am so proud and that is due to her experiences, including overwhelming emotions, so far in her life.

We do not parent alone

Whether we have a partner, family or friends we are not alone and we have other people to help. My husband is amazing and puts up with so much from me. He is still here and still loves me. His cheeky humour, level calm thoughts, (not tinted by depression or anxiety), and his patience are so helpful. He is always reassuring me and making me see my depressive/anxious thoughts aren’t harming my parenting. He is a big part of the parenting of our daughter.

I also have amazing friends and supportive family. How can I be a failure with support like that?

Self-care is crucial

I need to look after myself which means eating properly, not letting myself get tired, making sure I don’t do too much, exercising, and doing things that I enjoy.

Be nice to myself

I am too hard on myself and look at all the negative things I do. I need to stop and start being nice to myself and look at all the positive things I do as a parent. Again, how can I be a failure with such a fab daughter and husband?

Reproduced with permission, originally published here

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