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Lifestyle & Relationships

Being a Depressed Mom 

Country of Origin: Egypt

Sentinel Duet: Read a poem from the same writer here brimming with love for her kids that coexists with the challenges of raising them.

Editorial note: DG Sentinel does not endorse any viewpoints or behaviors of the authors or essays we publish. Our goal is to uplift stories, voices, and fables from around the world. All views are the writers’ own. 

(Audio recording by Julianna Wages)

It’s hard feeling depressed. And it’s really hard to be a depressed mother. 

It takes a lot of effort to get up in the morning and much more effort to take care of others.

Depression is thought to be one of the fiercest mental illnesses, one that nearly paralyzes its patients. Nothing is ever easy. Waking up, eating, going to work or school, even going out with friends is difficult.  

When my older kids reached the age when they could grab a sandwich or a cookie on their own meaning they had a bit of independence and were past the breastfeeding stage and I was hit by one of those overwhelming attacks, I’d often keep them in front of the TV all the time. For how many hours? I could never tell. However, I could only blame myself for the careless mother I was, while sleeping and suffering from nightmares. 

Feeling guilt is, at least for me, the core of depression. Most of the time, I feel guilty about everything for no reason at all. It might be about something I forgot, whenever my kids fall ill, if they’re not eating well, or even when they’re simply annoyed with each other. It was always my fault. 

I am always there to be blamed.

My mind often bombards me with questions like, “Shouldn’t you have put out some veggies for the kids?” or “Couldn’t you at least have spent some time telling them a story first instead of simply just tucking them into bed?” or “How often do you play with your little ones? Do you really believe that once in a while is enough?”

The questions never end.

And the answers are always backed up deep in my mind, with the voice of a very perfect mother, chastising me with remarks like, “You’re always fucked up,” “You’re a loser,” and the ever so sarcastic, “What a perfect mom!” 

And this internal struggle goes on daily, from the moment I wake up. “Have I woken them up nicely today?” or “Why the hell did I yell at them when they drove me crazy?!” And it continues throughout the day with lunch, homework, time to bathe or sleep, screen time, and so on. 

Of course, sometimes, when everything seems to flow smoothly, I dare to think “Perhaps I’m not a bad mommy after all.” But those feelings never stick around for more than a few hours.

I know all mothers have a hard time taking care of their kids, with raising them and the challenges that come with that. But if you add depression to the complicated equation of motherhood, it’s hard to see anything but misery out there. 

There were a lot of nights that I spent wishing I had never been gifted my beautiful little ones. There were days when I thought I ruined their mental or psychological lives, perhaps just due to a word. A lot of my time is spent thinking about the harm I have caused them by living in the same house as a psycho mom who sometimes flees to her room just to cry out or yell or sleep. 

Depressed mothers suffer the most because they are part of the vicious circle that holds them responsible for everything related to their children. However, sometimes, I feel like I’ve learned and taught them something of benefit. I give them most of the time freedom to feel bad, to appreciate the tiny everyday good things and to empathize with me and themselves. Sometimes when I would sink into a depressive episode, my eldest kid would come and hug me saying, “It’s ok, mom.” 

A couple of hours ago, I was really feeling stressed. I was yelling at all of them to get dressed quickly and prepare themselves. I even yelled at my 4-year-old girl as she continued playing. After she surrendered and let me dress her, she kept saying, “I don’t want you to be sad. I didn’t mean that.” 

Although, as a matter of fact, I feel guilty after such words, I also realize that maybe there is a positive side to all this. 

When I was a little girl, I never learned that someone could be mentally ill. I only thought of pain in terms of bleeding or broken bones. If there are no physical symptoms, they are completely fine; they’ve no reason to miss school or postpone an errand. 

I remember crying silently under my blanket at night for so many reasons. I remember trying to make myself sick to skip school. 

Years later, when I was old enough to work, I was still fragile on the inside. I was harassed at work. I still couldn’t speak up at home and say that I was stressed or that I was psychologically down. I came up with a different mature idea to skip both home and work. I said I was going to work as usual but headed for a big park and spent that day there.

I cannot say that I was always depressed. There were times when I was happy. 

Maybe my childhood was hard. I was a quiet kid. I was always clever at school and I was always the model child; the example my parents encouraged my siblings to imitate, but that same pride they showed was always a heavy load to me. Somehow I was prohibited from being who I really am.

Now that I’ve learned the meaning of depression, I can say that maybe I did have early episodes that I wasn’t aware of. When I first went to a psychiatrist and started taking medications, I couldn’t tell my mother and my family what was going on with me. I couldn’t face them with the idea of psychological illness, which we never recognized as being real. I couldn’t cope with their feelings of pity for me and their trials to get me cured. 

After a couple of years, they saw me struggling during one of my episodes. And again, I was always the reason for what’s going on with me. Sometimes the reason I suffered was that I wasn’t close enough to God. At other times, I was accused of not appreciating the blessings I have. And at a different time, my family believed that Satan had control over me. 

My suffering had a different route, a fiercer one, when I became pregnant with my first baby. I started pitying myself and my kid. I started having nightmares about the future of my kid. I couldn’t continue my regular medication being pregnant. I had to endure the whole thing while suffering from the normal hormonal disturbances that all mothers experience. 

And since then, the little seedling of guilt started to grow in me. I started getting anxious about the future of my kids and how my mood would affect them. I started to believe that I was the only reason for everything bad that would happen to them. 

I’m still struggling with these ideas today. My oldest kid is now twelve, a lovely, sensitive, and kind girl. Sometimes I still think that it was wrong to bring my kids into this life. And because I know that I do have depression, I try saying that life is not as cruel as I think it is.

But most of the time I don’t believe it.

Today, I try to mention three good things every day. I’ve done it for three years. For a person with depression, mentioning three good things every day is really hard. 

 Of course, there were many days when I dropped the whole thing. There were weeks that passed me by as I lay in bed thinking about the blessing of death and hoping that the so-called God would just stop my suffering; days when I thought it’s useless, that existence has no meaning and that life itself is such a curse.

However, there were times when my husband took my hands and hugged me while I just cried. There were times when I could overcome my dark ideas bravely and start over again, even though not all the time. There were times when I went to the cinema, watched a movie with my partner and died laughing. 

And so, I’m sharing my struggle publicly. I wanted others to support me, to see that I am struggling and to encourage me to continue. I want to help other mothers grappling with depression just like me. Maybe they’ll find something to help them stand up and keep facing life. I also wanted to create a backup memory that I can check anytime to acknowledge my strengths: to see that I’m a good person, a good mother, a good lover. 

To see that I am a warrior.

Thank you to Julianna Wages for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Lifestyle & Relationships team.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.

Rania is a poet, translator and a mom. She loves writing in Arabic and English. She loves learning new languages. She writes Arabic poetry and translates literature and other stuff.

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