Whenever there’s stories in the media about men suffering from depression, quite often there are comparisons with women and statements like the following made: “Women don’t suffer in silence as they talk so much more about their feelings than men”. I don’t think that is necessarily true. In fact, I know it’s not. This isn’t a blog post about who suffers more of less. This is not a battle of the depressive sexes. This is an observation I have recently made about myself. And I know there are many other women also like me. So many women quietly going about their days, not reaching out.
When I was younger I would talk to anyone about my feelings. If I was sad, or struggling with something, I would tell someone. It was normal to spend Friday nights propped up at a bar somewhere, beer in hand, dissecting my and my girlfriends’ lives. I had lots of friends from different walks of life who I would see at regular intervals depending on my moods and needs. There were work friends, uni friends, high school friends and even a few friends from my primary school days. I do believe we all talked a lot, all of the time. The debrief was a regular event.
I’m lucky, I have an amazingly supportive, hands-on husband who I share a lot, but he’s not a woman and sometimes I want to talk about him, not to him! As I grow older, my friendships change. The number of people I see regularly has dramatically declined. The time I get out of the house, without my three children in tow is minimal. The time I spend talking to others about my feelings or struggles or hopes has diminished. Partly, I believe that is why I’ve taken to blogging, but even then there’s things I do not want everyone to read. And when I do get time to myself I either want to see a movie or spend time with a friend laughing, not complaining.
I still see my girlfriends, but many of them also have children or, if they don’t, I generally have my children with me. Anyone who has kids, or has friends with kids, know it is virtually impossible to carry-on a conversation from the beginning to end without interruptions. Children are not conducive to deep and meaningful discussions. And to be honest with you, I always find it easier to open up after I’ve had a couple of wines and you can’t do that when you have to bundle three kids into the car and drive them home.
I am so busy just getting through the day. Kindy drop-offs, freelance work, cleaning, you know the deal. It really doesn’t leave much time to call someone on the phone for a long chat, as us women are apparently meant to be doing all the time. I do believe as my kids get older and start school that I will once again find those moments to spend quality time catching up with girlfriends and the floodgates will open. I will once again over share. And I hope others over share with me.
What I would like to see is a recognition that women at home with small children and those at home without them, yet surrounded by people who are, are most probably not talking as much as some people believe; that they are feeling isolated and alone. That depression among women is probably much higher than people admit.
I am not depressed, but I have my share of lows. I am also not the wonder woman some friends have labeled me. Not in those exact words, but many have made passing comments lately about how I take things in my stride, how I make parenting look easy. “How do you do everything that you do?” I’ve been asked a lot of late and it makes me uneasy. My answer is always the same. I smile and say: “Oh man, I have no idea. I’m not that special there’s a lot of people who do a lot more than me” and then I change the subject. But I do know. I don’t do anything well – just a lot of mediocre. I struggle a lot. I don’t spend much time with other people except my family. I cry quietly when no-one is looking. I hold my face in my hands over the steering wheel while my kids scream in the back seat and I wonder how I will get through the day without rolling into the foetal position. Although I am lonely at times, I am not alone. I know many other mothers going through exactly the same frustrations. I just don’t talk about it with anyone. As they don’t.
I recognise the facial expressions of other mums who are having a tough time of it, I try to ask if all is ok, but as quickly the question comes out the kids rush into the room and distract us. The time passes.
So, mothers out there vent away. This is a safe place. We can read each other’s comments while our kids are asleep. We can reach out to each other and know that we are not alone, that we are all at times trapped in our domesticity. That while we no longer have the luxury of time to chin wag with our friends, those times will come again. We may have to teach ourselves how to open up again, but it won’t take long.
Leave a comment if you feel comfortable, I’d love to hear how you’re coping.
If you do think you are suffering depression then today is the day to reach out for help. Please click on this link to Beyond Blue, your happiness is important.