Musings: Every day is a battle as a parent struggling with mental health
I've struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember.
Even when I was in primary school I remember being sad and upset for no reason. Everything would be going fine and but I felt like I had a weight pressing down on me that I couldn't shift.
Now as an adult I still experience the same dark days from time to time but it's hard to look after your own mental well being when you're looking after everyone else.
It's especially hard when your child asks you why you're crying and you've absolutely no answer to give them.
Thousands of Irish people battle with depression every year, many of whom are parents.
When I first became a parent I was terrified to tell anyone that I struggled with my mental health.
I was afraid that they would hold it against me or even think that I was an unfit mother.
Over the last couple of years though I've realised that I am not alone. From confiding in friends I've found that they go through exactly the same thing and like myself were also scared to open up about it for fear that they would not look like a 'perfect parent'.
One of the biggest struggles are the days where I feel so low that I have no energy to do anything, but not doing anything is not an option.
I still have to do school runs, I still have to make sure the kids eat, I still have to come across like a functioning human being even if I'm just simply going through the motions.
I'm not going to lie, there have been many times that my house has been an absolute mess but all I can do is stare at it because my mind has checked out. Because of this, I don't invite friends or family over, causing me to isolate myself. I know keeping myself away from loved ones only makes my depression worse but the shame of failing to do basic chores gets too much for me.
Dealing with mental health issues when life is going ok is difficult enough but when life throws you lemon after lemon, it's even worse.
In one 12 month span, I lost my cousin in an accident, lost a friend to suicide and had both my aunt and my mother diagnosed with cancer. At the time I had a four year old and was pregnant with my second child.
I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Getting out of the bed in the morning took every ounce of strength that I had and most days I found myself crying for hours.
Looking back I should have told someone that I was struggling to keep it all together but I didn't. I pretended like I could do it all, that I could weather any storm without any help. It was so far from the reality of the situation.
I think when we become parents we forget that we're still human and I think to a degree that society forgets that too.
Everywhere you look there are articles and forums slating parents for mistakes that they have made so of course those of us who are struggling are afraid to say so. We're afraid that people will tell us all the awful things that we already think about ourselves. That they will confirm our doubts. That they will tell us that we're terrible parents.
The truth is though that we're not terrible parents, we're just human beings who sometimes can't carry the load that we are given.
I've learned to cut myself some slack over the years but I would be a liar if I said I don't still beat myself up over it sometimes.
If you're going through a similar struggle just know that you are not alone and that even though you might feel like you're failing there are little people in your home that think you're absolutely perfect and wouldn't want you any other way. Remember looking after your well-being benefits your entire family and there's absolutely no shame in needing to take some time out for yourself.
Should you require additional support or information on how to find a counselling service you can visit the Samaritans website.