Depression is a horrible beast. It’s a master of lies pretending to be the voice of reason, speaking to you with your own voice. It hits everybody in different ways, but for a lot of us, it can hit hard. It can take you out of commission for days or weeks or longer.
When my wife and I started to discuss the realities of raising a child, specifically that I would be staying home with him full time, a terrifying truckload of questions regarding my depression started planting themselves in my brain.
Being a first-time father, I didn’t really have any idea how much time and attention a newborn baby would need every day. My rough estimate was “a lot,” which turned out to be pretty much accurate. What if I couldn’t handle it?
What would my son think on days when daddy can barely get himself out of bed? How would that affect him?
Depression is Different for Everyone
The name “HappySAHD” has multiple meanings for me. It represents how to be happy as a Stay-at-Home-Dad obviously, but it also represents the fact that you’re not always going to be happy. Raising a child or children is hard work. It can be even harder when you’re fighting an ongoing battle with depression.
I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was in Elementary school, but I had no idea why my brain was the way it was until my mid-twenties when I started learning about depression and anxiety disorders.
One of Depression’s greatest lies is telling you that you don’t have any mental illness or imbalance, you’re just a worthless person, and you should feel miserable.
It’s not like I hadn’t heard of “depression” before, but what I was going through didn’t really match up with portrayals in movies and television. TV shows like to portray depressed people as perpetually sad. I wasn’t really sad all that often. In fact, I’m often happy and hopeful.
For me, Depression comes in waves. I’ll spend a few weeks feeling like I have a handle on life, that I’m working toward my goals and taking care of business. Then one day, the downward spiral will begin, and I’ll spend the next few days feeling overwhelmed, self-loathing, worthless, and generally like I just don’t care about anything.
Then eventually, that wave crests and I start to feel better again. Things get their color back. But what happens when daddy’s world turns gray?
Parents with Depression/Anxiety
About 1-in-5 people in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder, 1-in-10 suffer from depression, and one often accompanies the other.
I’ll be upfront and tell you that having a baby doesn’t make you immune to these statistics. For me, it has helped in some ways, because I feel a sense of purpose every day, enough to get out of bed and at least keep up the basics so I can take care of my son.
Depression has been telling me that I’m worthless and purposeless for years, but it hasn’t yet figured out a way to convince me that my son doesn’t need me.
The Good Days and The Bad Days
That doesn’t mean depression hasn’t found ways to jab at me though. I always feed, change, and play with my son, even if I can’t bring myself to wash a dish or brush my teeth that day.
Other days, I want to get stuff done, but the baby refuses to take a nap… like, at all… for 12 hours straight.
The house gets gradually messier. My work obligations get further behind. My personal writing projects lay completely forgotten. Depression starts to find a foothold and tells me that I’ll never keep up. I’d might as well stop writing or trying to make a living, because I can’t do it.
Another trap I fall into is that after hours of trying to calm a crying baby, when I finally do get that free half hour, I’m so tense that I’d rather play a video game for a little bit than actually do anything for work or around the house.
But I’ve found a few things that help me keep up, which in turn, fights back against the depression a little.
You CAN Be a Happy Parent with Depression
More important than anything is that if you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s important that you seek help from a professional. If depression truly keeps you from taking care of yourself or your child, then it’s time to get help.
I haven’t had a suicidal thought in years, but many aren’t so lucky. Depression is a master manipulator, and it knows how to push you toward self-harm. I’ve come back from the edge of that cliff and I can tell you that things absolutely can get better if you’re not afraid to ask for help.
If your depression doesn’t manifest as self-harm, but still manages to hold you from getting out of bed, then your first step is literally that. Taking a step.
One of the worst things about my depression is that it saps my productivity. It puts me in a mindset in which I just don’t care about anything, and I let all my responsibilities go untouched.
If depression seems insurmountable and keeps you from getting anything done, then tomorrow, focus on one tiny goal: Get out of bed, and walk to your bedroom door.
A lot of times, getting this far is enough to start you on your day to getting things done. If your bedroom door is as far as you get, the commit tomorrow to walk to your kitchen (preferably a coffee maker). If that’s as far as you get, commit the next day to making that cup of coffee (if you like coffee). The next day, commit to getting to your office/workspace.
Each day, you get a little further. Even if your depression is still hanging over you, you start to become a little more productive, which tends help in the fight against depression.
If you can get yourself to stand up and take that first step, you can accomplish a lot.