We were on a spring break camping trip and I was depressed.
Like full-on, exhausted, sleep all the time, don’t bug me, I can’t even right now depression. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I have become accustomed to the bouts of depression that descend seemingly whenever they feel like it. Along with mind-numbing depression, I have also been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety, which means that I can have a variety of symptoms of varying intensity on any given day.
The second day of this spring break camping trip dawned rainy and cold, as most do on the Oregon Coast. My husband, my teenage boy, my preteen boy, and I were stuck in the trailer as the sky seemed to melt around us. Pages of my book curled from the humidity as I tried to read my depression symptoms away.
“Play cribbage with me,” my preteen boy said. I’ll call him Youngest.
“When you’re done with your English muffin,” I said.
“I have to make it.”
“Where’s the toaster?” he asked.
“In one of the cabinets.”
“I don’t see it.”
“Well, it’s there.”
“Where? Where is it?” he asked.
“Dad put it there.”
“It’s not in the box,” he said. “You didn’t tell me he took it out of the box.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. I was determined not to leave my bed.
“I don’t want an English muffin,” he said.
“We don’t have butter.”
“Yes, we do. Real butter and vegan butter.”
He looked in the trailer’s fridge. “Where?”
“It’s hard. And cold.”
“Well, that’s the purpose of a fridge,” I said.
“How do I warm it up?”
“How?” he asked.
“Bowl. Glass. 10 seconds. Glass bowl. Glass.” Yes, I said glass 3 times. Again, I was not getting out of bed.
“Where’s a glass bowl?”
Me: silence. Wishing for alcohol or a hole to open up and swallow me.
“How long?” he asked.
Ten seconds later. “It didn’t work.”
“Well, try ten more until it’s ready.”
“Oh. That worked. Where’s the butter knife?”
“Where they have been since the beginning of time.”
At that point, I simply could not even. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next hour (much less the next several days) of dealing with depression and feeling like I can’t even with this parenting mess.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, depression and parenting often collide in my world. Here are five strategies to help when you can’t even as a depressed (or simply tired) parent.
Decide What to Let Go
Depression means that not everything is going to get done. You know what? That’s okay. My family has never fallen apart because I didn’t shower or the dishes didn’t get done or they had to make dinner. When my boys were really little and I could not even, they had apples and popcorn with milk for dinner. They are fine. Instead of focusing on all the stuff that “has to be done,” decide what absolutely will not be done for now.
“Self-care” is a term that feels ambiguous until you attach your own meaning to it. The point is to make a plan for what self-care means for you before you get depressed and can’t even with this parenting crap. I made an acronym for my self-care plan:
S – Sleep
E – Eat
E – Exercise
M – Meds
That is the sum total of all that I need to do on days where I can’t even. The great part is that when I follow this plan, the day more often than not gets better.
Take a Time Out
Time outs aren’t just for kids. Taking a time out can help you regroup so that you can get your “can even” back for your kids. Maybe it’s time to visit your doctor or therapist. Go out to dinner and a movie by yourself. Hang out with a friend. Go to Target and listen to the sweet silence of not bringing your kids. Whatever is refreshing.
Ask for Help
Depression can try and make you believe that you are not enough, or that nobody loves you or wants to help you. The opposite is true. It’s time to ask for what you need, whether that is a time out, or take out for dinner, or snuggle time with the family. Your needs matter.
Snuggle With Your Kids
Depression also tells us that we are better off alone. While I am tempted to hibernate completely alone on my depression days, I either don’t have the luxury or it’s not realistic. Plus, it’s simply not good for me. Instead, I gather my family around me like a blanket and we watch something on Netflix.
We need people. We need each other. Not isolating can help you keep the connection open between you and your kids. This is the most important priority, even on the days when we are depressed, tired, and can’t even with this parenting crap.