Last week I felt myself sliding inexorably into that depression I had feared was coming. My baby is 8 months old and he is the fourth and last of our four kids, all boys. My toddler is 2 1/2 years old. These two are the exact same difference, 21 months apart, as my oldest two boys who are now 5 and 7. I love my children, but I don’t like having a baby and toddler. It is not my favorite stage when it comes to the daily routine. I can do it, I’ve done it before – 4 years ago. And it was the hardest season of my adult life, and the most I’ve struggled with depression since a short bout during the teenage years that I think comes with the territory.
The crazy thing is, I’m almost done (with the young childhood years). And I’m so blessed, and so many things about life are better than 4 years ago. My marriage is better, we have a house big enough for all of us. I know I’m done having children. My boys are healthy and happy, and just amazing. And there are so many wonderful things about babies and toddlers, many things I know that I will miss and that I’ve been soaking up. So I’ve been trying to talk myself out of feeling depressed.
It’s been coming on for a couple months but it finally really hit me early last week. How do you know when something’s really wrong, when you’re off? It’s good to figure out about yourself and I can tell you how I know. I am a morning person. At the end of the day everything can seem bad and I can feel drained and exhausted and like I don’t care about anything. And I’ve learned to just go to bed. Because I always feel better in the morning – always. I always have a new, fresh surge of strength and energy that carries me through some large portion of the day. When I wake up from a decent night sleep and I just don’t care about anything, and thinking about my first few tasks for the day makes me want to cry (and it’s not anywhere near time for my cycle), I think ‘whoa, uh oh, not good’. That’s where I was last week.
I feel way better today than I had hoped I might feel this soon, but it’s still a daily journey I’m having to walk of watching over my mind and my emotions. I posted yesterday about how to log your time as a mom and included a downloadable time sheet pdf that I just created to share and use. I’m going to use it for the next week and try logging my food (what and when), my spending, and my emotions throughout the day.
So I am deeply encouraged, and grateful to my friends and family, and wanted to reflect and share what has been successful for me over the past 9 days:
Exercising – when it hit the worst and I had break during nap time I got on the elliptical machine. I cannot do this often, but it is a strategic way to high-jack my emotions off of a really bad path.
Talking about my feelings – this has been the newest and single most effective thing I’ve been doing. I’ve started sharing what I feel about the small things to my closest friends and family, which has been talking to my husband before and after work, and texting my friends. This also includes one impromptu phone call with my wise life coach mother-in-law after she saw one of my texts.
Blessing strangers – I had a yard sale on Sat and I think it was surprisingly therapeutic. I added an update to the bottom of my post about my current efforts and progress on conquering clutter.
Getting outside – This is mostly done in spurts, but we took a long walk on Monday night at a nearby trail and let the boys ride their bikes. It did wonders for my emotional state and was even worth the mess (from dinner) that we came home to because the boys helped me clean up.
Reading and writing – I wrote about why I started this blog and how I ended up in my career, and I found besides writing itself being therapeutic to me personally, reflecting on these topics gave me some perspective and a good dose of gratitude as well.
Expressing gratitude – my mother in law and I agreed to text each other each day two things that we were grateful for. I’ve tried and failed in the past to do this exercise in my personal journal. Texting has been much easier to do and more rewarding because of the relational aspect.
Reading Margin – When I started really feeling my emotions slide, I set down the book I had decided to read next after getting input from readers of this blog, asked myself what I needed/wanted to read and picked up Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. It was providentially exactly what I needed.
For more, read my post about the concept of margin and what it teaches us about why we are overwhelmed.