Q I’m the mother of two boys, ages six and eight. I’ve not been doing well as a parent because I’m depressed. My husband works a lot and is little help. I don’t want to get dressed. I often go back to bed after the kids go to school. When I get up the house is a wreck with the sink full of dishes and dirty clothes piled everywhere. I don’t have the energy to clean. My kids are undisciplined and totally out of control. For example, the boys took a hammer to their bedroom wall. Tell me what I need to do to get out of depression and become a well-functioning parent again.
A I’m going to tell you some of the things that have worked for my therapy clients over the years, including people who are currently working through their depression.
- You need to see a mental health nurse practitioner or psychiatrist who can evaluate, diagnose and prescribe. He or she will most likely prescribe an antidepressant unless your depression stems from another source, such as cancer or endocrine problems. Scheduling and keeping a doctor’s appointment can be challenging when you are depressed, so ask your husband or a friend to help you with the appointment arrangements.
- Make a list of five things you want to accomplish during the day. Check them off as you do them. Each day makes a different list of five after adding the undone tasks from the previous day. Short, manageable lists are best. Going to the nurse practitioner or doctor could be on the list.
- Hire a high school student or babysitter to come be with the children after school or for portions of time when your kids are on school break. If you can hire someone to clean, do that too.
- Depression can affect self-esteem, so it’s important to work on that aspect of healing. Make a list of positive affirmations. Type up a list for yourself or just copy an internet set that suits you. Put the affirmation list on your bathroom mirror and in other easily accessed places such as your purse. Take a screenshot of the list with your phone and make that your home screen image. Examples: I am capable of being a good mother. I have a good sense of humor.
- Practice converting negative thoughts to positive thoughts. For example: I’m never getting better is changed to “I am better” or “I can be better.”
- Journal. As you get to feeling better, journaling is a helpful thing to do. It’s a practice that is promoted in United Healthcare magazine, Nov. 2022. The article cites a study by Penn State College of Medicine in 2018 that lists the benefits of journaling, which include reducing depression symptoms. Journaling provides an “opportunity for positive self-talk and to release negative thoughts.”
- Walk, run and exercise every day. A good number of people who run around Ladybird Lake are doing so to lift their mood.
To give up depression takes time and work. Lots of people have done it, and so can you.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT is n Austin-based psychotherapist.