Are We All Experiencing Situational Depression?
Over 90% of people said they're depressed, so you're not alone.
When I tried to write this newsletter last week, I just couldn’t. I started a sentence and then couldn’t focus. I tried to keep going but got distracted. Ultimately, I told myself I’d do it the next day.
The next day, I told myself the same thing. And again and again until, well, here we are a week later. My second Pandemic Mama newsletter, and I am already disappointing myself with the frequency.
I know all of that sounds harsh — and it is — but I want you to know something. That is not 100% me talking. It’s situational depression.
Here’s a long story short: I have struggled increasingly for the past few weeks. Hell, the past few months… I don’t fully know why but I have a sneaking suspicion that becoming a parent at the start of this goddamn pandemic had something to do with it.
The fact that we are now almost two years in and things seem to have gotten worse (thanks, Omicron!) lately certainly isn’t helping anything.
But although I’d like to blame the pandemic, it’s not just that. There has been an increase of stress in my life in the past year, including a cross-country move, financial difficulties, and a final blow-out with my narcissistic father that led me to cut him out of my and my son’s life on New Year’s Eve.
It’s all been so very, very much, and I don’t think the word “burnout” is quite enough to describe it.
I noticed that weekly therapy sessions weren’t helping anymore with all of these struggles. Our house became a complete mess over Christmas, and nothing was getting cleaned or organized. It was stressing out both my husband and me, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. I would stare at the playroom, which had boxes and toys everywhere, and feel defeated. I’d head downstairs to our living room, only to be greeted by our tree — neatly packed away in its storage bag by my husband weeks earlier — and didn’t have the energy to put it away. The mantle still had all of our Christmas decorations up, hanging there and waiting to be put away for weeks. The desk in my office got out of control. There was a particular corner that just had all kinds of papers that I couldn’t handle; medical bills we needed to take care of, Rio’s art from daycare that needed to be saved, a speeding ticket from early in December, some books that needed to be put back on their shelf, and who knows what else.
And I don’t even want to tell you what was going on in my kitchen or the dresser in my bedroom. Let’s just say that, if I wanted to cut up strawberries for my son, I had to dig a semi-dirty cutting board out of the sink and place it on top of the stove because there were simply no surfaces left. And the dresser? Well, it’s a good thing that my husband does the laundry every weekend and puts away my clean underwear and socks because otherwise, I’d end up wandering around the house naked before trying to dig up a clean shirt out of the pile-o-shit.
It was weeks and weeks of this. I was seeing the messy house, dealing with my freaked-out mom, struggling to get anything done or accomplished even on the smallest of scale. I felt like I was barely showing up for the daily interactions with my son and husband, much less doing anything for myself.
Sure, I still showered and ate and slept (sort of) and even put on makeup sometimes (which was previously my #1 form of self-care) but basically couldn’t get anything else accomplished.
After a good weekend where I felt ready for the week ahead but then another day of struggle, I realized that what I am experiencing is depression. Like a deep, intense depression. I knew this deep down because I had experienced something similar in high school that ultimately led to an attempt on my own life. Thankfully, that didn’t work back then, but I quickly realized that I needed to do something ASAP because I couldn’t keep struggling the way I was, and I started to fear things getting worse. And if I am honest, nothing was working… so I had to try something else.
It took me a while to figure out what I truly needed but I am working towards that now. Recognizing that I was struggling and nothing was helping was honestly a huge step towards feeling a little better.
Later that week, I received an official diagnosis from my therapist: situational depression. Which, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, came with these symptoms:
Feeling sad or hopeless - ✅
Tearfulness, frequent crying
Changes in appetite - ✅
Trouble sleeping - ✅
Increased worry and anxiety - ✅
Headaches and stomachaches
Low energy or fatigue - ✅
Withdrawal from loved ones or social activities previously enjoyed - ✅
Increased absence from work or school - ✅
Trouble concentrating and making decisions - ✅
Yup. This is what I have.
It wasn’t easy to admit this to myself, much less to my therapist and the loved ones in my life, but I am glad I did.
As I’ve opened up in real life (and on Instagram) about the difficulties I have experienced lately, I have found a community of support, understanding, and commiseration. You may have noticed all the “parents are struggling” articles lately (including the ones I sent in the last newsletter), but they are just very, very accurate.
One friend told me that every parent she knows had COVID or a COVID exposure during January. For so many of us, this month feels more challenging than any previous month of this pandemic. And, in case you’ve lost track, we’ve had 21 previous months.
So are you wondering if you are depressed?
I honestly couldn’t tell you the answer. I know that I was and continue to be. But I also know that recognizing my feelings and seeking help has been the best thing I could have done for myself.
I wanted to add “and my family” to the end of the previous sentence, but I am holding off because the truth is that I am seeking help for myself. Yes, it will ultimately help my family too — but what I desperately need right now is to help myself.
As I take these next scary steps to deal with and heal my depression, I hope to continue writing about the 2022 realities of being a pandemic parent. I also hope you will join me on this journey because, if nothing else, we are all in this together, even if we are only connected by the 0s and 1s of the internet.
Most of all, I hope that you will seek help if you, too, are feeling depressed. When I asked on Instagram if anyone is experiencing depression right now, over 90% of people said “yes.” If that is you, I urge you to speak with someone about your feelings.
And if you have nobody in your life that you feel comfortable opening up to, please reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line. Both services are free and can direct you to the next steps.
Good luck, my friends. We’re all struggling right now, but help is genuinely out there.