Parenting with Anxiety and Depression

Marie Osborne

Marie Osborne
Updated Jul 21, 2023
Parenting with Anxiety and Depression

God is with me. He will give me strength and energy like He always does. He will lift me up with encouragement and support from my sisters in Christ, like He always does. He will minister to me through the gift of counseling and medication like He always does. And He will use this pain for my good, for the good of my children, and for the good of His kingdom. Just like He always does. 

I lay on the examination table, feeling sick with anticipation. As the ultrasound tech searched my womb for an answer, I searched my heart for a preference. Was I hoping for a girl or a boy? I stared at the screen, trying desperately to decipher the black and white image, when her voice snapped me out of my reverie, “Oh! There he is. It’s a boy!” I was surprised at the fear, relief, and joy that flooded me all at once. A boy. A boy. A boy! As I repeated the words to myself, I felt the shadow of worry creep in. Suddenly, motherhood felt very real. How would I manage motherhood and my mental health? How would I parent with depression and anxiety?

Battling for Two

I had already been battling depression and anxiety for about five years when I became a mother. At that time, I had built up an arsenal of weapons. Counseling, diet, exercise, medication, supplements, prayer, scripture. All lined up, ready for the moment depression or anxiety might rear their ugly heads. I knew how to recognize the symptoms and the steps to take to lessen the blows. But when I became a mother, the stakes were much higher than they had ever been before.

I knew I wasn’t just battling for myself. I have been battling anxiety and depression for two now. I wasn’t the only one who my symptoms would impact. I didn’t want my child to suffer due to my insomnia, extreme fatigue, and lethargy. I didn’t want my baby to watch me sob uncontrollably or see me staring off into space for hours. I didn’t want my mental health struggles to impact my child in any way, shape or form. If only I had known then what I know now.

Preparing for Battle

When I became pregnant with my son, I was in a really good place mentally. I hadn’t had any depressive symptoms for over two years, but the possibility of Postpartum Depression or postpartum anxiety terrified me. Not one to wait around for an attack, I went to work, preparing for battle.

I talked to my counselor about managing potential symptoms after giving birth. I purchased supplements that would improve my mood and brain function. I stocked my fridge with healthy foods and exercised regularly to take advantage of those endorphins. I reached out to friends for prayer and support. I filled my mind with worship songs and scripture. I did everything I could to prepare for the possibility of postpartum depression and anxiety.

A False Sense of Security 

When my son arrived, I thankfully only experienced mild depressive symptoms. After his first birthday, I thought I was in the clear. I had made it! Smooth sailing from now on. For some reason, I believed the biggest danger to my mental health was the few months postpartum, and if I could make it to his first birthday without a major depressive episode, all would be well. 

We welcomed identical twin girls two and a half years after my son’s arrival. The twin pregnancy took a huge toll on my body. The fluctuation in hormones, the crazy sleep deprivation, and the shock of having twins was… a lot. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to keep depression at bay. As their first birthday approached, I felt like we were passing another mental health milestone. If I could make it past year one with three kids under three and have almost no symptoms of depression or anxiety, I would be in the clear. Little did I know that with each season of motherhood, I would experience new triggers, new stressors, and new waves of anxiety and depression in the midst of motherhood.

A Surprise Attack

One day, out of the blue, I couldn’t get out of bed. I opened my eyes and could barely move. I nudged my husband and whispered, “Something is wrong,” before bursting into tears. I had felt tired and increasingly lethargic for a few days prior, but I chalked it up to the regular tiredness of motherhood. I couldn’t attribute this absolute inability to get out of bed to anything “regular.” Something was deeply wrong. Five weeks of darkness followed. I was almost completely bedridden. I sobbed uncontrollably for hours. I had the energy to go to the bathroom and slowly feed myself, but that was it. I watched television and slept through most days. My worst nightmare had come true. I couldn’t parent my children. Depression and anxiety had flattened me.

The Light in the Darkness

What I experienced in those five weeks was incredibly painful but also incredibly beautiful. The body of Christ surrounded and supported us in astounding ways. People brought meals and provided childcare. They prayed and texted. They dropped off groceries and notes of encouragement. And I realized something really powerful and important. Parenting with depression was never my burden to bear alone. 

Each time I have had a depressive episode or struggled with anxiety, God has carried me through. He has given me just enough energy and strength to make it through the day with my kids. He’s given me just the right words of encouragement in His Word or a text from a friend. He’s provided meals, childcare, groceries, housecleaning, and laundry assistance through my sisters in Christ. He filled in the gaps when I buckled under the weight of it all. Over and over and over, He has reminded me I am not alone. My kids will not “suffer” because of my struggles.

If anything, my anxiety and depression have greatly benefitted them. They have seen first-hand the body of Christ rally around me and serve our family. They have watched me seek the Lord in my darkest hour and believe Him for healing, hope, and help. They have witnessed His provision through counseling, medication, friendship, and support. In their own anxious or low moments, they have benefited from my hard-won wisdom in battling anxiety and depression. I have been able to comfort them in their affliction just as God has comforted me. They have seen His strength in my weakness, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Claiming Victory

Tears streamed down my face. It was 3 am—another middle-of-the-night panic attack. My arms were tingling, throbbing with adrenaline. My chest heaved with each inhale and exhale. I couldn’t catch my breath. All I could do was sob and shake. My mind was inundated with intrusive thoughts. The same sadistic soundtrack of painful lies played in my head on repeat. It had been over an hour. Over an hour of sobbing, shaking, fighting. 

The same old question haunted me, “How am I going to parent tomorrow while battling anxiety and depression?” I took another deep breath and repeated the truth I had experienced over and over in 12 years of parenting with anxiety and depression. God is with me. He will give me strength and energy like He always does. He will lift me up with encouragement and support from my sisters in Christ like He always does. He will minister to me through the gift of counseling and medication like He always does. And He will use this pain for my good, for the good of my children, and for the good of His kingdom. Just like He always does. 

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Mario Arango