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14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

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Let’s give a big welcome to Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life} as she visits us today to share 14 tips for coping with depression while raising children. As you know from my recent post, Why Choosing Medication was the Best Move for Me, mental health and the journey towards recovering yourself and your life is very near and dear to my heart. Jenessa, thank you for sharing such a tender subject that can help so many!
Coping with Depression While Raising Children | Jenessa Mullen | Chaos & Kiddos
Hi, my name is Jenessa and I am so excited to be guest posting here at Chaos & Kiddos! I “met” Katy a few weeks ago through emails, and we discovered we had quite a bit in common. She asked me to share my story with you and talk about how I cope every day, raising my children while battling depression.

I have been battling depression since my early teen years. Sometimes I was strong and able to get through it. Sometimes I was down in a deep dark place and needed to seek help. Whatever the case, depression is a horrible battle to face. It gets even harder when you have children.

My latest battle with depression has lasted almost 4 years. 4 years of ups and downs and really, really low days. 4 years of not feeling “normal.” 4 years of feeling like a failure at everything. 4 years of still being a mom to my children, even though most days I didn’t even feel like a normal human being.

I have three children. My oldest daughter, at 14, has seen my ups and downs and although she doesn’t fully understand depression, she knows a bit about my situation. My younger daughter is 5. In the first year after she was born I was so overcome with joy that I can’t even explain how happy I felt. But not long after her first birthday, this latest battle with depression started. I like to think that she remembers how happy I was that first year, but it’s unlikely. My youngest, my son, is almost three and I have been depressed his entire life.

How do I cope with depression while raising my children? Here are a few things I have learned over the years.

1. Be there for them. I make sure that I am always there for my children. If it’s a special occasion like a birthday or graduation, or something as simple as a kiss for a boo ­boo, I’m there. Now, there are times when I would much rather stay in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep the day away. But I get up. Everyday. Because I know my children need me. I know I need to be there for them. And knowing this has got me through some dark days.

2. Make time for yourself. Now, I know I just said always be there for your children, but the other side to that is make sure you have time for yourself as well. I know. I know. It’s hard to find time when you are a mom with a houseful of kids. Believe me, this is a struggle for me. But finding time for yourself is so important. I try to remind myself that if you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to properly care for your children. So make time for yourself, even if it’s something as simple as reading a book when you have a minute or taking an extra few minutes in the shower.

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

3. Take care of yourself. Not only is it important to make time for yourself, it is important to take care of yourself. Eat right. Get lots of sleep. Exercise. There is a lot of research out there that links eating well and exercising to feeling good. And, if this applies to you, take your medication. I can honestly say that I get very low without my medication, and, even though I was against it at first, I have accepted the fact that I do need medication to function properly, and probably will for years to come. And I make myself take it every morning, before I do anything else. You can read my story here about how I feel without my medication.

4. Get support. Whether it is a friend, your spouse, a family member, a doctor or even a bloggy friend, reach out to someone. Let them know what you are going through. Let them be a support to you and a shoulder when you need it. I am so thankful for my support team. I not only have a supportive and loving family, but I also have a best friend who knows exactly how I feel, a team of professionals (including my family doctor, my counselor and my psychiatrist) and I attend a weekly support group for women. I wouldn’t be as far as I am today without these supports.

5. Ask for help. This is a hard one for me, and probably for a lot of moms out there. I hate asking for help. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough and I can’t handle everything on my own. It makes me feel like I will never be close to “supermom”. But guess what? No one is perfect! Everyone needs help at some point in their lives. Some people need a lot of help in their lives. The point is ­ don’t be afraid to ask. If possible, share responsibilities with your spouse. Divide up the housework, the bedtime routines, or cooking meals. Ask a neighbor to watch your children while you have a nap. Ask a friend and her kids over for a playdate so you have another mom to talk to ­ and don’t worry about cleaning the house before they arrive.

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

6. Be honest. I struggled a lot about being honest about my depression at first. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, let alone my doctor or my family. But opening up and being honest opened a whole new world for me. Not only did I feel like I had lifted a weight off of my shoulders, I was also able to connect with other people in similar situations and get the help that I needed. So be honest ­with your friends, your family, your spouse, your doctor and yourself. But most importantly ­ be honest with your children. Now, children don’t need to know every detail, but depending on their age, they can be told about how you are feeling and why. Younger children can understand if they are told “Mommy is sad because….” or even just “Mommy is having a sad day today.” Older children may have questions or want to talk about depression. Naming your feelings and being honest about them not only helps you understand yourself better, it also helps your children learn to express and identify their emotions, as well.

7. Let it go. (Let it go! Let it go! … are you singing, too?) Remember what I said above? No one is perfect. No one has the perfect house, the perfect spouse, the perfect body, the perfect kids, the perfect everything. Don’t expect that of yourself. Learn to let go of things that drag you down. Learn to let go of unrealistic expectations. Learn to let go of triggers that set you off. Learn to let go of negative people and negative relationships. Learn to let go of your insecurities. Learn to let go of whatever it is that is holding you back. Just let it go. (Let it go! Let it go! …)

8. Forgive yourself. I know part of my depression is feeling down on myself all of the time. Nothing I do is good enough? What if I’m a horrible parent? Why do I yell at the kids when I feel so low? Why can’t I be happy? One of the hardest things for me is forgiveness. Forgiving yourself, whether you made a life changing mistake or a simple mix­up, is important. You can’t be happy, or even start to work on being happy, if you can’t forgive yourself. Everyone stumbles. Everyone makes mistakes. Love yourself. Forgive yourself.

9. Understand your triggers. Maybe there are certain things that set you off? Certain things that make you feel angry or sad or worthless? It has taken me several years to recognize my feelings, and what triggers my feelings, but I know now some of the things that lead up to a panic attack, a crying spell or an out burst of anger. Once you know these triggers, do your best to avoid them, or have a plan to deal with them. This may seem like a lot of work, but take it a step at a time. A journal may help pinpoint triggers or give you a behaviour log to look back at. (An example is that being hot is a trigger for me that may lead to anger or a panic attack. I try to avoid being hot as much as possible. I dress accordingly, I use the air conditioning in the car, I leave my bedroom window open all the time, etc. I can’t always keep myself from getting too hot, but I can try to prevent it as much as possible.)

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

10. Find the positive. I am such a negative person when I am depressed. Everything is wrong. Nothing goes right. I hate this. I hate that. But one day I read a blog post (I really wish I could remember where!) that talked about finding the positive in everyday. Even the worst day has something about it that’s positive. Sometimes it’s easy to see, sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper. Some days, maybe the best you can do is basic things ­ “I have a house” “I have wonderful children” “I am alive”. But no matter how much negative is in your life ­ there is always something positive. I am a big believer in everything in life happens for a reason, and sometimes that’s the only positive I can find. I know that I will overcome my obstacles and be a better person on the other side. Find the positive in every situation. Find the positive in every day.

11. Get outside. Not only is fresh air proven to be good for coping with depression and mood disorders, it is also beneficial for the kids. So if your feeling really down, drop what you are doing and go play outside! Go for a walk. Sit on the patio. Just get outside ­ every day.

12. Tomorrow is a new day. You know that saying “one day at a time”? Well, it definitely applies here! That’s the best you can do. Take life one day at a time. If you mess up today, tomorrow is a new day to try again. And if you find one day at a time to be too hard, go hour by hour or minute by minute. You will get through. You will survive the day. Tomorrow is a fresh start. Tomorrow is a new day.
14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

13. Love yourself. Oh, this is hard! Especially when you are already feeling so low. But by loving yourself, understanding your feelings and forgiving yourself, you can get stronger. And you are being a role model for your children. You are showing them that, even though you have flaws, even though you have made mistakes, you still love yourself. And I think that is such an important message to give to your children.

14. Remember that your children love you ­ just the way you are. Remember this. Every day. Every minute. Yeah, sure, they may be upset with you over something. Maybe you yelled at them. Maybe they had to be punished and they ran to their room screaming “I hate you!”, but you know what? They don’t. Your children love you. You. Just as you are. They will forgive you for messing up. They will forgive you if you loose your temper. They will love you ­ NO MATTER WHAT. Remember that. Every day. The love of my children is what gets me through this.

So, these are the things I try to remember every day. Battling depression is hard. Raising children is hard. Doing them at the same time can sometimes feel impossible. But you will get through it. I will get through it. And our children will get through it, too. And do you know what? They will be ok. We won’t mess them up. Just breath. And take life one day at a time.

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}
If you would like to read more about my journey through depression, come visit me at Mothering {In Real Life}. If you would like to talk more about depression, or even what coping mechanisms you use in your parenting struggles, please feel welcome to comment below. Or you can email me at
[email protected]. I would love to talk with you and hear your stories.
Thank you, Katy, for allowing me this opportunity to guest post on your blog.
I have enjoyed my time here at Chaos & Kiddos.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenessa Mullen is an Early Childhood Educator and mother of three, living in small town, Nova Scotia. She blogs about her children, parenting struggles and her battle with depression at Mothering {In Real Life}. You can say hello to Jenessa on social media, or send her an email at [email protected].

 
Follow Jenessa at: 
Bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/jenessamullen

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Echo

    August 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    This is a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing your coping skills with us!

  2. Liv

    August 6, 2014 at 2:39 am

    You should feel very positive about this blog post – these are great tips not just for moms struggling with depression. Your willingness to talk about such a stigmatizing subject is surely helping others. Thank you on their behalf.

  3. Katelyn F

    August 6, 2014 at 9:49 am

    What a great and powerful piece! I haven’t dealt with depression in my life but many, many people are.

  4. Jennifer

    August 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing a difficult truth with the blogging world. It is so helpful for so many. I wish you the best with your ups and downs. Just breathe indeed. Best advice.

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Thank you for the show of support and words of encouragement to Jenessa, Jennifer. XOXO

  5. Giveaways 4 Mom

    August 7, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    This is a great post. I suffer from depression and when it flares up it can be bad. Thanks so much for sharing these tips. Depression is real and it is definitely a topic that needs to be addressed. #TurnUpTuesday

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Absolutely. Mental illness is so often overlooked. With the tragic death of Robin Williams, I am hoping there will be a renewed energy to address this challenge that so many people face alone. We need better support systems and ways to help people journey towards healing.

  6. Bridget

    August 7, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I know I can use each and every one of them. In my life.

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:38 am

      That’s great to hear Bridget. When depression rears its ugly head, we need all of the support and help we can get. I’m thrilled to hear these tips encouraged you. Stay strong!

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  20. Christine Gallagher

    December 10, 2014 at 6:18 am

    What a wonderful post, I have a few family papers I need to write, this would a great subject, I love the encouragement statements you added in between, great job!

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      December 12, 2014 at 10:32 am

      Thank you Christine! Jenessa did a great job sharing candidly and offering tangible advice/encouragement. Good luck with your papers!

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my Legal Policies and Terms of Use. The opinions here are entirely my own. 
How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child's Cues - Infographic

Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.

My system certainly isn’t perfect, and my kids give new meaning to the word tantrum (I have one that goes “no bones, limp baby, immovable and impossible to catch” and one that goes “cement block that weighs a bazillion pounds and can’t be bended, lifted and/or manipulated in any fashion,” with both adding crazy decibel, ear-splitting screams to boot). At some point in the insanity, I learned to anticipate the meltdown.
My husband and I can spot a meltdown coming from a mile away. We’ll give the other that “It’s time to go. Stat. Grab the kids and sprint. NOW. Forget your shoes! Leave them! Run!” look and as the rest of the human race looks on in bewildered dismay, we quickly head for the hills before things get ugly. I think we have our exit down to about 46 seconds these days (58 if I get to grab my shoes).
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve developed a couple of tricks that stave off most meltdowns. IF I’m paying attention. This is where the understanding your child’s cues part comes in to play. You have to catch the cue before it’s too late. “Practice makes perfect” is the phrase of the day here. Or is “trial through fire” more resonant? In any event, here are my go to lifesavers:

1. Mini Baby Blanket with Attachment Loop – Cold is the enemy. Nothing brings on the whine, which brings on the frustration, which brings on the ultimate refusal to act like a normal human being like frigid weather. I was lugging around blankets to tuck the kids in to their car seats (Remember to avoid bulky coats when strapping kiddos in!) and they were getting tossed, dropped, forgotten, you name it. Then I realized my mother-in-law had given us these super cute sensory blankets with a loop that could attach to a stroller and the light bulb went off. I strapped both blankets to the side of each car seat (they are small and hang to the side if unused, so unobtrusive and the loop is short and sweet, so no wrapping around anything else) and they’re always there when I need them. The link above is one of many Etsy shops that make these small wonders, and ours are even sports themed, so the husband is happy.
2. Baby Sign Language – I admit to being one of those people that eye-rolled the idea of baby sign language when I was pregnant. Never gave it a second thought until my kids starting screaming for reasons that I couldn’t seem to identify. A friend suggested I take a jab at it, and purely out of desperation, I did, still with a bit of attitude and skepticism. And then the boys started signing back. HALLELUJAH! We did only the basics – “More, All Done, Hungry, Please, Thank You” – and that opened up whole new worlds for us in communication. Not only were they excited to sign and overjoyed that I knew what the heck was going on, but I was immensely relieved and didn’t feel like Failure Parent of the Century. Big win. I eat my humble pie proudly. I was an idiot to think this was lame.
3. Snacks at the Ready – Baby Cooler – If cold is the enemy, hunger is the Antichrist. I’d say a good 50% of the time, the boys’ tantrums stem from being hungry. We’re usually in transition to our next meal when the tank slips below E. Low fuel = channeling Satan. And the perfect timing for this special little stream of insanity was pick up from day care. The kids were tired and spent and ready for dinner. Like, 5 minutes before I got there. The first words I heard daily were “Mommy! I need my milk! Hungry!” They were whining, crying, going all sorts of Apocalyptic on me because the last thing they wanted was to be strapped into their car seats for the ride home. They wanted to be teleported straight to the dinner table. I got tired of this daily warfare, especially at the end of my own long day at work, so I started packing snacks and milk in this convenient little cooler (which as an aside, a friend gave me with the promise that it would be one of the most handy baby items I received – she was right). It gets stashed in the community kitchen at work and I grab it on my way out the door each evening. Every morning, I repack and head off knowing that I’ve crossed one tantrum off the list for that day. Yay me.Insert random cuteness here…I mean seriously, people, how can these children have meltdowns that rival the End of Days?

Photos Courtesy of Somer Anne Photography

Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Speak the Right Language | Understanding Your Children's Cues
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Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.

What was I doing wrong? Who were these little hellions and where were those
sweet kids from day care?
Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues

Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.

I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.

Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.

Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.

Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me: 

  • “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!” 
  • “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
  • “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.” 

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Emily Speaks

11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks

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If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles. 

11 Alternatives to Self-Harm: Emily Speaks


I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.

1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.

2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.


3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).


4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.


5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.


6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.

7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.


8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.


9. Listen to some music.


10. Read a book.


11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.

These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm. 

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