When I’m depressed, I create what I call a safe zone. This zone is a physical place and a mindset. It’s also the act of clearly communicating to my family what’s happening with me so that we can devise a plan together. Being a mom with depression doesn’t only affect me, it affects them as well.

For years I hid my depression from my kids, who I thought were too little to understand. I didn’t want them to see me cry, spaced out or emotionally removed from them. I muscled through each episode, which, in a worst case scenario, typically involved me needing to be in a room for days. Anytime I’d sense the issue was presenting itself, I tried my hardest to pretend something deeper wasn’t happening to me. I shoved it down, and I showed up in physical form despite my emotional stability drowning.

Related: How motherhood myths impacted my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety 

I had a very wise therapist once say to me, “These episodes sound like you’re tired. Have you thought about letting yourself rest?”

Avoidance is one hell of a habit. Keeping this facade was no longer feasible. My episodes were getting more frequent and harder to hide. And yes, I was tired. Exhausted, mostly. I didn’t realize at the time that the act of trying to stuff it away was making my depressive episodes—where I needed to be horizontal for long periods of time—more frequent. Hiding it poked holes in my plot, paving an easier path for it to show up again. It was also more difficult to get rid of each time.

I want to help my children learn how to handle good and bad days, and all the emotions scattered between. If someone has a parent or sibling with major depression, they have a two to three times greater risk of developing depression compared to the average person, according to a Stanford Medicine article. While the statistics say there’s a chance this can afflict my children, I think it’s good practice for them to understand how to deal with the ups and downs of life. Hopefully they don’t ever experience depression, but being open with them can help them learn different ways to cope with hard times.

How I handle being a mom with depression

I created zones to help me through my depression, and they have made a difference and are a great help in teaching kids about depression.

The first is the physical zone. When I feel my mind and body starting to “crash,” I’ve gotten better at telling my husband sooner rather than later. This is where I retreat to my physical safe zone. It is typically in a few places in my home, mostly in my bedroom or office, in a bed or a couch with a pillow and a blanket over me. I need to be alone or with my dog or cats. No music, just silence. No videos, no doomscrolling—or it can get worse. I need a complete shut off.

Then comes the mental zone. The other part of my safe zone is in my mindset, completely inviting what is happening to me. That unexpected visitor is going to have a seat in my home, and I will give it a cup of tea and let it stay—however weird it feels. When depression hits me, I need to let it land. Let it be.

I don’t think we need to love everything that happens, but I do think there’s beauty in welcoming and embracing it.

Any type of avoidance or attempt to push it aside is futile in my aim to get better. Thoughts of getting better are also best left aside. Here is where I let whatever is happening to me marinate, settle, dissipate, stir up and do its own thing.

Pushing it away was a useless attempt at shielding it from my kids. They were getting older and it was clear they knew something was up. I decided that the goal of being happy all the time is unattainable, and this was my chance to show my kids the reality of emotions

The last, and very crucial part of my safe zone, which I call the open zone, is honesty with my family. I tell my elementary-aged kids that my mind feels sick, it has nothing to do with them, and I need to give it a rest. My kids have seen me void of engaging with them, completely sad and losing it with tears. Before when I tried to hide this, it only made them more curious and worried.

What’s happening to mama?

Why won’t she come out?

What is mom doing in there?

Is it because of me?

Related: You’re not alone: Postpartum depression is common and can last longer than a year, says study 

These are no longer questions when I am upfront with them. And that is why I am no longer hiding my depression from my kids.

My depression lately seems to be steady. Last month, I had an episode for only a few hours, and I believe it was because I willingly walked into the safe zone. 

I also have a good regimen with medication, therapy sessions I am privileged to afford, exercise and a healthy eating routine. And I have help from my husband, my nanny and a village of other moms and family members.

It feels like crap knowing that this whole ordeal revolves around me. But the focus is less on me if I give in to these moments. I can bounce back quicker. Sometimes it goes away if I push hard enough, but, like a yo-yo, it eventually comes back—and when it does, it whips around and hits things and makes a huge mess.

This feeling I have, what happens to me, it is what it is. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”

Amor fati is a love of fate. We all get dealt a hand, or roll a number on a dice, and I accept what turns up. I don’t think we need to love everything that happens, but I do think there’s beauty in welcoming and embracing it. So that’s why I’m no longer hiding my depression from my kids.

My depression is no longer a secret in my home. I believe I need to let my kids see all the range of emotions because this is the human experience. Being a mom with depression is not easy. But I have come to understand that any feelings we are having right now, it’s OK to just feel them—and accept it for what it is. 

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