Friday, September 11, 2009

let's talk about depression, shall we?

Let it be known that I am no longer depressed, and that this post should be evidence of that. There is no way I could write about this stuff if I were still in the thick muck of depression.

But let me say this: I was depressed all summer, and probably for many months before that. I have been tired, exhausted, uninterested in everything, self-recriminating, bored, boring, negative, hopeless, overwhelmed.... classic really, now that I can look back at it.

I would occasionally look over what I'd written here, and feel miles away from the person who could have comfortably asserted that she knew anything about kids or knitting or spackling or any of the rest of it. The person who wrote those posts (even sometimes with humor, albeit self-deprecating humor) seemed like another person. A distant cousin, perhaps, one whom I don't get along with and rarely see. And the person who went to school every day to teach other people's kids? She must have been a person from another planet.

I had a long conversation about a month ago with a friend who routinely takes pills to ease his chronic depression, and he recommended that I see a doctor. Since he takes pills for his depression, it made sense to him that I should as well. This did not sit right with me. I'm not against pills to ease mental and emotional pain, but something about it didn't feel right. For me, understand. If you take them and they're important to you, please don't imagine I'm being critical here. I just didn't (and still don't) think it's the right approach for me.

Then I had another conversation with another friend, and she had some great and important insights. I told her that somebody had told me I sounded really depressed, and that maybe some pharmaceuticals could help. She told me about this book she'd read (sorry, I forget what book) that suggested that depression (or any other emotion, probably; I haven't read the book) can and perhaps should be seen as a sort of sign along the road to somewhere.

The sign (depression) could be saying, "AAAHHH! Don't go down this road!" or it could be, "Please don't marry that person, you'll regret it," or any number of other interesting and important messages about one's life and its living. This rang true. She also pointed out that pills, if they blunt the emotion you're feeling, would blur the writing on the sign, and make it really hard to figure out what it says.

So I sat with that for a few days, and just let the question simmer. If my depression was a sign, what was it saying?

And that's when I had to really admit to myself that I am just not happy being home all day. I don't know if there's a way to change things up so that I can be happy with it; I feel like we have really tried a lot of different structures and strategies, but it's not really working for me. I love my kids, and their intellectual development is important to me, but oddly, I don't think they need me. Of course they need me to be their mother. They need me to listen to them, to support their projects and ideas, and they need me on a most basic level to keep the house running so that they can eat and wear semi-decent clothes. But they don't need me to be home with them all the time, particularly not if that choice is making me depressed and unhappy.

I believe that a depressed, resentful mother at home is worse than a full-time working but otherwise happy and emotionally available mother.

It feels strange to admit this, even though everything in me is indicating its truth. I know many readers of this blog stay home with their kids. I am not trying to say anything here about anyone else's experience, only mine.

And I know I'll be home another year at least, but I'm going to take on some outside projects when they present themselves, and I know that home schooling is going to wind down, sooner or later. It is no longer a project with no deadline.

Feeling better now, thank you.


mardi said...

You said something like this at our last spin-in at my place - not that you were depressed but that you wanted to get out of the house. I hope you find a way to a balanced situation, it will be best for everyone.

JoVE said...

I agree wholeheartedly that it is better for your kids to have a happy and fulfilled mother than a depressed mother.

For some women, being happy and fulfilled means not working outside the home. For you, it means doing other work. Different strokes for different folks.

I'm so glad you came to see this. ANd I love that idea of depression as a sign. Another online friend of mine has been writing about non-pharmaceutical ways she dealt with depression. You might find it interesting:

Katy said...

Thanks for being honest; I find that when I express similar sentiments I am sometimes judged by others, or they misunderstand & think I don't like my kids. I am just a much better mother when I am not with my kids all of the time! I don't always like that, but that is how it is.
Best of luck as you sort out what comes next.

Sandy said...

This all makes perfect sense to me. Seems like the point of all the schooling decisions is that we do what is right for our particular families at a particular moment. Family to family and moment to moment will be different. Glad you're working your way to the other side of the depression, it's not easy.

Anonymous said...

"I believe that a depressed, resentful mother at home is worse than a full-time working but otherwise happy and emotionally available mother."

That's exactly why I don't homeschool. I would love to be able to, and in some ways my kids would like it, but none of us would truly function well that way.

It's hard not to feel like you are abandoning your values and beliefs when you change something so fundamental. But I think as long as we try our best to be clear and conscious and observant, we'll do the right thing.

Plus, people change. Middle school is probably an ideal time for a child to want to be more social and in groups, such as in school. And moms and dads change too!

I'm glad you're feeling better, too.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting about this!!!! i have never read your blog before, found the post by "googling". i am currently depressed and struggling with the idea of not homeschooling my kids anymore but wondering if it might be best.

your post has given me permission to consider the idea. it helps to know that someone else struggles with the guilt of it too.

thank you for being transparent and sharing your journey.