Cheryl is a self-employed single mom. She juggles work, four kids, and depression.
"Some days, depression really pulls me down, and I'm totally exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally," Cheryl says. "Other days, I feel great."
Cheryl thinks her first bouts of depression came when she was in middle school, but it wasn't called that then. Sadness and feeling down were just part of life.
"I was one of 10 children," Cheryl recalls, "and we didn't really get along very well. My mom and dad fought a lot, and I'd go to bed crying."
She began to think that her moods might be something more when she was pregnant with her first child. She found that when she was with others, she felt better. She made efforts to see people and get out of the house.
"I knew something was going on mentally, but I couldn't pinpoint it," she says.
When she had her second child a few years later, she realized she felt sad more often and it seemed to last longer.
"I felt like curling up in a corner," she says. "I wanted to hide in a hole like a groundhog."
Family problems spilled over. Cheryl's son went from being a friendly and happy child to an angry boy. The two went to counseling.
"That's where I found out that all the swings I was going through were actually depression," Cheryl remembers. "My moods were not just 'part of life.'"
The counselor told her she had mild-to-moderate depression and said that work and family stresses would make it worse.
"We talked about how to prevent this," Cheryl says. "My counselor suggested medicine, but I said no. I wanted to try more home remedy-type things. We worked on those ideas and talked about what I could do on my own."
Keeping depression away
Cheryl keeps depression at bay by challenging negative thinking and talking to friends. She'll listen to music or watch uplifting movies, which boosts her spirits. When she can, she gets a friend to take her on a motorcycle ride.
"I know the signs of my depression," she says. "If I begin to feel cranky and think, 'Who cares?' I know I have to act."
Being with and helping others also helps her. It helps her to talk to people, or even to herself if no one is around.
"It makes a big difference to let what you're thinking out," she says. "If you keep your thoughts in, they will never be quiet. It helps my depression to express them."
Cheryl has talked to her kids about depression to help them understand. They know that there are good days and bad days, and that sometimes "Mom needs some time."
Her beliefs also help. "I found what's really important to me. I hold on to my way of life—raising my kids to be responsible and good people and my understanding of my religion—and never let go or give up, no matter what," Cheryl says.
"I don't have the allowance of hiding in depression," Cheryl continues. "I have kids to raise. I have to pick up and move on. If I don't do it, no one else does."
Cheryl's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Cheryl, to protect her privacy.
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Lisa S. Weinstock MD - Psychiatry