The Ugly Truth About Being a Mother With Depression
Yes, I Really Have Temper Tantrums
“Get out here now and pick up your laundry, or I’m throwing it out on the lawn! Don’t test me, you know I will do it. I am so tired of having to tell you not to leave your stuff all over the place at my house! It is disrespectful to me, and I’m sick of it. Maybe that’s okay at your father’s house because he’s a slob, too, but not here. I will not clean up after you like I did for him for fifteen years!”
That is a pretty close summary of my tantrums that occur almost every week that my kids are with me. There is also a version with sacrilegious swear words and a few f-bombs thrown in for good measure. That is my favorite word, by the way, when I’m frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, anxious, and down. I am clinically depressed, and I am a single mother. What a ride it has been for my kids.
Kids are Perceptive, They Know What's Going On
Julie is sixteen and Patrick is fourteen. They have been living with me every other week since I divorced their father in 2009. We have moved six times since then because rent keeps going up and I live on a teacher’s salary with minimal child support.
Keeping a home, paying the bills, parenting alone, and working with 128 kids every day has taken its toll on me. My mind is in a constant state of paradox: I am strong, independent, courageous, and smart—yet the darkness that comes over me almost three times a week seems to seep its way through the fissures of my mind, culminating in a state of anger, hopelessness, fear, and pity.
I used to be able to hide it from the kids when they were younger—I could take them out to eat or over to a friend’s house when I felt the darkness coming—but now they are too wise and perceptive. They see their mom go from confident and proud to hating herself and pretty much everyone else.
What Set Me Off
I have always been neat. Everything has a place and clutter is not tolerated. If something is out in the open and doesn’t have a place, it goes in the garbage. I can’t tell you how many bills, letters, random pieces of clothing, toiletries, and food I have discarded that I later needed. And then I would cuss myself out for being such an idiot.
When my depression hits, I start decluttering. It’s rampant and rage fueled in disproportionate measures. I have even cussed out my dog (sweet girl) for letting a few pieces of her food hit the floor instead of her bowl.
Alas, I have recently discovered the deep, psychological reason I do this. After fifteen years of therapy and countless trips down the warpath, it was described to me in this way, “You are obsessed with controlling your personal environment because you have no control over your inner self. You think that if you get rid of the clutter in your house you will get rid of the clutter in your mind. That’s how your depression manifests itself, not through sadness but through rage.” Nice. And what a great thing for my kids to have to bare.
Can I Control These Outbursts?
So my kids live a bit on edge, but tell me they are used to my breakdowns. They are still messy and they don’t cringe when I raise my voice about picking up their stuff—so maybe they have just accepted me with my faults. I am ashamed of this to the millionth degree, and I continue to work on controlling my emotions through therapy and medications.
What makes me sick is when I bring their father into it. It is not their fault he is a slob. They don’t need to hear that from me; they witness it themselves every other week. When I scream about him with hatred in my voice and in my eyes, they see it. And they no doubt feel a pang of insecurity as they realize that I am comparing them to him. What they must feel when they think about how much I hate him and then, by relation, think about how I must feel the same way about them is probably torture.