Hello! Thank you for dropping by this fine day in July! Or if you’re in the part of the world that says things like “fine day in December” (so weird), then thank you for dropping by this cold wretched day in July.
Today’s post features a mama struggling with depression over in The Netherlands. I completely feel for her and understand 100% the burden of being a mom and wife while having to also tend to your depression. Motherhood is often a very lonely job. I mentioned Summer in the paragraph above…Well, Summer used to be, hands down, my favorite season. I fiended for it all through the year, waiting with mounting excitement for the time when it would be warm enough to go out all day, when I could enjoy my favorite physical activity-swimming-and when I could feel happy enough to spend time with my friends.
Now, Summer is just another season to feel even more lonely and stressed. Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids. But without any help over here, I never get to swim. Never. They aren’t in daycare long enough for me to really enjoy anything; especially since I have to spend that time cleaning, shopping, or trying write marketable articles. Any outdoor excursion becomes an event. One which involves arguments over socks, inexplicable screaming fits, a monstrous stroller to haul, heavy bags loaded with diapers and snacks and extra clothes and diaper wipes…you get the picture. Nothing is carefree. Nothing is fun. It’s taking a toll. I can feel a very serious depression creeping up on me, wrapping its hands around my eyes again. I’m not built for a life where nobody cares for me. No help in sight. No end in sight. Just my lonely, burdened existence.
So I understand where Mom Mandy from The Netherlands is coming from. She is a gorgeous woman with a beautiful family, living in a country internationally lauded for its peacefulness. My reasons for saying all this are not to guilt Mandy for her feelings but to point out that Depression and Anxiety are, in fact, illnesses with biological causes. People can have the most enviable-looking lives…people can be in the middle of their favorite season…and still experience Depression. Just as beautiful women with loving families can get cancer or the flu, they can also get Depression and Anxiety. Let’s dive into this interview to see how Mandy experiences and copes with her illness.
Parenting with Mental Illness: Mandy Wijn
Depression + Anxiety
How many kids do you have?
One, a 3 year old boy
What are your diagnoses?
I’m sensitive to depression and anxiety, but have been stable for a while now.
When were you diagnosed?
I started seeking help at 15 years old. I had a proper diagnosis at 19 years old.
How have your illnesses affected your parenting abilities?
I need to take real good care of myself to stay stable. This means open communication and being able to take time for myself. When I’m feeling down I tend to snap quicker. For me this is a clear sign I need to take a step back and take care of myself.
How has Mental Illness impacted other aspects of your life?
It has affected my education tremendously. I dropped out in my senior year of college. It has affected jobs as well. When I was younger I struggled to pay therapist bills. The government here (The Netherlands) changes the coverage of medical costs yearly.
Depression has brought very big ups and downs in to my life. When I’m feeling OK, I work hard, like to be social and take good care of myself. But when my ‘dark cloud’ comes hovering over me my energy levels are very low and just going out of the house can be a challenge. This has caused me to fail at school multiple times. I’ve learned to cope with my depressive episodes over the years. It takes time, experience and courage to change the patterns that have been such a big part of your life. Even though they caused you harm and discomfort.
Depression has also affected my work. When I started to work after dropping out just before my thesis, I developed burnouts. I tend to do too much when I feel good, to have it all cascading down when I have darker days.
How has your Depression and Anxiety affected your interpersonal relationships?
Of course this affects the people close to you the most. My husband has helped me grow in talking about how I feel. But he also had to endure my dark days. He has seen me when I was at my worst and hasn’t run away.
What does your support community look like and how do they actively provide support?
My husband is my biggest support. He’s is always there when I need to talk about the stuff that’s bothering me. A shoulder to cry on or arms to be hugged in are also a big comfort.
My BFF is also a person I turn to when I’m feeling down. Talking and doing fun stuff together (even when I don’t feel like it) are the best support. Making happy memories together helps to balance my life.
Is there anything you feel you need to fully heal that you aren’t able to currently access?
I’m still growing and learning. This takes time and patience. I want to feel more confident, improve my social communication skills and take better care of myself.
What does an episode look like for you?
I’m happy and grateful to be able to say that the episodes have more time in between them and are shorter as well. But when they come they affect my life tremendously.
For me these are the changes that occur:
- I take less care of myself. That starts with not putting on make-up or caring about my outfit.
- Because a general loss of interest, working out isn’t important to me at that time which causes me to gain weight and feel less fit
- I don’t put effort into school, work or my blog.
- Getting out of the house is hard.
- I detect negative thinking patterns and feel less confident and more stressed out.
- I take less care of my financial situation. Budgets don’t matter.
- I don’t like being social, especially chit chat feel useless to me. I seclude myself from friends and family.
- I get irritated quickly and it costs me a lot of energy to be ‘nice’.
- Some people annoy me so much that I try to avoid them.
- I feel like everything doesn’t really matter anymore.
What has been most helpful in managing your Depression and Anxiety?
Behavioural therapy has really helped me understand the negative way I was thinking. I’ve learned to detect my thinking patterns and adjust them. I take comfort in thinking: “what is the worst thing that could happen?’ to give myself a little push when I feel anxious about a situation.
When you feel yourself snapping quicker and need to take a step back, what does that look like?
Usually my husband notices faster than myself that I’m feeling down. I have less patience with my kid and get irritated more quickly. I have less interest in doing fun stuff and I tend to eat more then I need.
If you could instantly dispel one Mental Illness misconception, what would it be?
That you can’t be a good parent while having a mental illness.
How has blogging played a role in your recovery?
Mental illnesses are still stigmatized in society. I like to share stories about how I dealt with depression to help others. I feel that when I share, people around me open up as well. I found out that a lot of other people have issues concerning their mental health. And reading how others deal with situations can be very inspiring.
Are there any specific links you’d like to share?
There are a few posts I’ve written about my struggles:
6 Ways to help you fight depression
How to find the right therapist to help you fight depression
Meaningful little things that help me stay on track
Listen to your body, it will tell you what you need
Thank you Mandy for taking the time to answer these questions and helping to enlighten the public about the realities of parenting with Depression and Anxiety.
And thank you, reader, for taking the time to learn about an experience different than yours. I hope you’ll read through Mandy’s blog when you’re done here.
Mandy answered a few more questions that I was not able to fit into this post. I’ll be including them in my monthly blog newsletter, however, so if you’d like to learn more about how Mandy’s husband supports her recovery, how Mandy supports herself, and suggestions she has for ways educators and employers can better support community members with mental illnesses, please subscribe to my blog newsletter! You can do that by entering your info here, and yes, I promise I won’t sell it or give it away to spacemen:
If you are a parent living with PTSD or a mental illness and you’d like to be featured on Betty’s Battleground, please check out this page for more info.
If you’d like to leave a message of support for Mandy, please feel free to do so in the comments.
Finally, it would truly make my day if you could take thirty seconds out of yours to share this on a social platform or two. There are buttons down below, or floating around the side!
Til next time.