Saturday, February 4, 2017

Situational Depression: Managing it with a Toddler

They say you should end your year with a bang.  My year ended with a bang so loud, my ears were still ringing months later.  December began with my toddler son and I being injured in a car accident, where my fight with the at-fault driver's insurance  commenced.  My thoughts were to focus upon getting the injuries my son and I had sustained healed so that I could promptly return to work.  The day I returned to work, my aunt died; with whom I was close to.  I was granted a few days of bereavement time from work so that I could travel down south and help handle her affairs and say goodbye.  I was now not only in physical pain from my accident, my heart bled with emotional pain as well.   

Then, in the least sensitive way possible, I was fired from my job.  Still at my aunts in another state, I happened to check my messages on the second day of my bereavement, and saw that the HR rep had called me 3x and emailed me as well since the day before, asking me to respond back to her ASAP.  I figured it wouldn't be good news, but I took the time from being with my family to call.  "You have taken 3 days off for your accident, and then now this.  It seems you are just looking for ways to be off work." I felt something snap inside me: who LOOKS to be injured in an auto accident and then LOOKS for a loved one to die???

 I realized that I wouldn't want to work for such an insensitive employer anyway, but the damage had been done and the heartless company that boasts during their hiring process about its work-life balance opportunities had seemingly won. When we returned home, I barely could get out of bed, let alone live up to my reputation as what my son calls 'supee mom'.  There was nothing super about me anymore, I thoughtThere I was; absent from my mom duties as I succumbed to the painIt reminds me of the cough syrup commercials where the parents are "calling in" sick to their little ones.  TV Commercial Spot - Cold & Flu Relief - Moms Don't Take Sick Days . How do you take days off from being mom?? 

Your little one doesn't understand why you can't play "tea party", or "dinosaurs eating racecars" with them.  But this illness is not so superficial that it can always be controlled or ignored.  Most times depression becomes your puppet master, effectively pulling your strings no matter how hard you fight against it. 
I knew I couldn't afford to be in this emotional predicament for too long.  I thought to myself that my son being too young to fully grasp the gravity of what I was dealing with could possibly work in my favor - maybe.   It was time to make a plan.  I was going to be steadfast in my resolve to not let this keep me down for too long.  It wasn't something that happened over night, but I saw steady progress working my plan until I felt more like myself again. I want to share with you a few of those steps I took to regain control:

  1. Faith Renewal
    1. Christians often talk of this, so it seems cliché, but it really can be an important step in in your healing.  My faith in God had waivered, so establishing that foundation of sowing my seed of faith helped me understand that things may happen that are not to our liking- but that they may occur to build our character, or to help someone else seeing what you went through.  Re-committing my faith also restored my hope that joy would come "in the morning".   You don't have to be deeply religious to achieve this, just committed.
  2. Meditation
    1. Once my hope emerged, I meditated for clarity and serenity.  I wanted to interact with my son as I had done prior to the incidents, but the thought of possibly snapping at him out of pain scared me.  I took time daily to clear my mind from my frustrations and to just think about things that put me at peace: Being at a beach or shore; laying at the water's edge or floating peacefully out on the water itself, clearing my mind of worries and just focusing upon the peace I had in that moment. Since I couldn't head to a beach or lake, I decided to imagine my being there during my meditation.  To avoid interruptions, I found the best time to do this was when my son was sleep.
b. Not only can this restore peace, this was also when I realized that I was never really depressed about my job- for anyone can get another job.  Was I sad about it? Yeah, but hell, I was interviewing again within a couple weeks.  No, my primary source of pain was the loss of my aunt, for no one could replace her. The other incidents were merely supporting actors- highly effective in supporting the role of the antagonist, but not important enough for me to sob over its effects in the future. With now knowing the source of your depression, you don't have to waste time focusing on something that isn't really as important as initially thought.  If you don't have situational depression, forget discovering the source, and instead try to focus on simple things that give you joy:  snowflakes, sun rays, etc. Meditate on these things.  I felt motivated after meditating, so I practiced it often, making effort to achieve that feeling I'd had while out by the water each session. 
  1. Professional Help
    1. Don't do this alone!  Forget stigmas if you find you can't shake your symptoms. If you are struggling with the judgment you might receive from others, only tell those you trust!  A pro can help you pinpoint your feelings, find the closure you need, help you establish a direction, and/or provide you with medication (or herbal remedies) to help you with the symptoms. 

  1. Be patient and tailor your recovery plan to you!
    1. You won't be "cured" after a couple rounds of meditation if you are depressed. But I made it a point to focus on my son with whatever pockets of positive energy I acheived from meditation, counseling and/or my faith.  I did this so that he didn't feel that my love for him had changed.  Everyone is different and only you know what your children need from you.  While some need your conversation, my son needed my presence and my touch.  So I customized my plan to incorporate my son's needs. On those bad days for me, I pulled from our movie collection and spent time indoors with him watching them- he was happy because he could snuggle up with his mom and watch Disney.  I meanwhile was able to lie around when my body refused to move, but yet finding comfort in his happiness. 
    2. I wanted to take my son out to the park or football games again, so I began setting goals, despite my unreadiness to fully immerse myself in a large body of people just yet. Still, take a little time to do a few things you used to do regularly: shopping (even if you start out with just groceries), dining out, theatre arts, movie theatres, sporting events, races, etc.  Start slow: you may not be able to stay long or go often, but it's part of the process of establishing normalcy.  When you feel strong enough to get out there, do it!  Incorporate your toddler for those short outings.  The last thing you need is to be dealing with the big personality and strong will of a toddler out in public where you're stuck for hours. Taking him to my grocer to pick up a couple of things worked just fine. By the time he got comfortable enough to start changing his behavior, we were leaving the store. I soon found that it became gradually easier to spend more time doing what I used to do.  I soon took him to the park, and found that being there for about 80 minutes was great for both of us- until it was time to leave.   (TIP: don't forget to take snacks to help coax your child away from the slide/swings and into the car).

  1. Secure your mask first before securing your child's
    1. I always cringe when I hear the flight attendants saying that before flight take-off. It seems counter-intuitive for loving parents to put themselves in front of their child.  But focusing upon improving your health should come first if you hope to relieve yourself of the burden anytime soon.  Get yourself better first, then you can fully focus upon strengthening your relationship with your children.  Asking my parents and my cousins to watch my son worked for myself and my son - I had the time to deal with an episode, and my son got the attention he needed from a loving family environment. 

I'm not going to lie, you may find it difficult to begin and work your plan, but it gets better with time, and working with a professional and/or putting your faith in God helps lighten those burdens you carry.

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