This is a guest post written by Charlotte Lawrence from Diary of a Single Mom on the Grind.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that depression among single mothers is fairly common. Single parenthood is a full-time, 24/7 job with no vacation or sick time. Add to that the stress of holding down one or maybe multiple jobs, feeding a family on a single salary, the lack of a strong support network of family and friends and the overall task of raising happy and healthy children, and you have the perfect recipe for an emotional breakdown.
I have been a single mother for almost ten years. My family is literally spread out all over the world, and for a long time I had very few friends. Child support payments are few and far between. I learned early on that if my kids and I were going to survive, it would be on my salary alone. So I put my head down, and did what I had to for the sake of my kids. In the process, I made very little time for my own self-care, thinking it would be selfish of me to do so. Little did I know the effect this would have on my ability to parent effectively.
In the fall of 2013, things took a turn for me. My boyfriend and I broke up after a two-year relationship I thought would eventually lead to marriage. One of my closest friends turned her back on me with no explanation. I felt neglected by the people I thought I could trust the most. I developed a negative inner voice, convincing myself I was “less than” everyone else as far as my physical appearance and intellectual abilities were concerned. Sleep became increasingly elusive. When I was able to sleep, I would wake up feeling exhausted. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I lost interest in things I used to enjoy. Eventually, I didn’t recognize myself anymore and I knew I had to get help.
I booked an appointment with a counselor, and after I poured my heart out to her she told me she thought I had depression. We all know there is a stigma attached by society to any mental illness, and I’ll admit I was hesitant to believe her and accept her recommended treatment. But the more I learn about depression, the more I realize how misunderstood it is. We fear that which we do not understand, so the first step to eradicating that fear is education.
Here at five important facts about depression to get the conversation started:
1. Depression is more prevalent in women than men
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode over the previous year. 8.2% were women, compared to 4.7% who were men. This means than women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression. Numerous theories have been presented in explanation for the disparity; one of which is the hormonal nature of women in general, and in particular during pregnancy and following childbirth. We’ve all heard of postnatal depression – Hayden Panettierre recently made headlines when she entered rehab for treatment of postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter.
2. Risk Factors for Depression
Let’s be clear: depression is not a choice. Although no one knows exactly what happens in the brain during a depressive episode, it is generally accepted that the brain does not function as it should. Clearly, this is beyond the control of any human being. Although there is no one cause of depression, there are several factors that may increase the chances of its occurrence, including:
· Family history of depression
· Major life changes or trauma leading to an increase in stress level
· Certain medical conditions or medications
3. Types of Depression
Depression can present itself in many forms. I mentioned postpartum depression earlier. Psychotic depression is characterized by severe depression accompanied by psychosis. Seasonal affective disorder is triggered by the winter months, leading to weight gain, social withdrawal and increased sleep. You can read more about the various types of depression on the NIMH website. Regardless of its form, depression can and will interfere with your everyday life, from how you feel, to what you think and how you sleep.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists the following as some of the more common symptoms of depression:
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
· Decreased energy or fatigue
· Moving or talking slowly
· Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
· Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
· Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
It’s easy for these signs to be masked as occurring simply in the course of being a single parent – of course you’ll have difficulty sleeping when you are the sole caretaker of a young child. Lack of sleep can also lead to irritability. However, if these symptoms last for two weeks or longer, you should seek medical attention as they could be indicative of depression.
Antidepressants are not required for the treatment of depression. In fact, exercise is considered one of the best methods for combatting depressing thoughts and feelings. Seems counterintuitive since depression often makes you want to stay at home in bed with the covers pulled over your head and pretend the world doesn’t exist. However, research has proven that the chemicals released from the brain during exercise can help to alleviate the symptoms of depression, as well as help prevent serious medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. I don’t know about you but exercising makes me feel strong, confident and sexy. Just don’t think about how sore you’ll feel the next day!
Depression is no different than any other medical condition, despite the stigma attached to it by society. If you or a loved one are experiencing any or all of symptoms mentioned above, or if my story sounds like your own, don’t be afraid to seek help. Please don’t hide away and hope to feel better eventually because most likely you’ll feel worse. If you’re not ready to speak to your doctor, take a look at the resources available on the NIMH website. You owe it to your child to be the best “you” you can possibly be.
Iman Here: Have you ever dealt with depression?
Meet Charlotte Lawrence
Charlotte Lawrence is a thirty-something year old, single mother of two preteens who keep her on her toes! She is also a survivor of domestic abuse and adultery in the context of a marriage. She has spent the past several years rebuilding her life and using her experiences to educate and encourage others. She recently reopened her blog, Diary of a Single Mom on the Grind, which she originally began as a therapeutic outlet for herself in May 2012. You can also check out her writer’s website, or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.