5 steps to dealing with depressed mothers
If you grew up with a depressed mother or experienced such a phase with her, then you know how
it can strongly affect and change your life.
It’s hard to not have your mother’s depression influence your life especially if it started in
That was my case. I grew up with a mother that was most of her life depressed.
I felt like she wanted me to be her rescuer, make her feel better, help her with her agony
and despair. I felt responsible for her happiness, I grew up believing it was my job to make
mami happy. I carried a heavy burden for a very long time, feeling guilty when I failed to make her
depression go away.
I was beating myself up for not being good enough and I never learned how to allow myself to
feel good, pleased and joyful with myself and my life.
So you have a depressed mother.
Now what? What do you do?
How can you continue with your life and feel at peace while your
mother suffer from depression?
After my own journey with my mother and after going through 10 years of therapy and today
helping other women overcome their mother’s depression; I found the 5 things that you must
do and practice so you can reclaim your life.
1. Question your mother’s messages and beliefs
While your mother is dealing with depression, she is confronted mainly with negative, destructive
thinking and beliefs patterns. She will share with you her beliefs, like;
- I am lonely without you,
- My life isn’t worth much without you
- It makes me sad if you don’t come to visit
- You owe me your life
- It’s your responsibility to help your mother
- You should talk care of me, I need you.
If you believe your mother’s words, you will find yourself feeling bad, guilty, heavy, resentful
and more. You will take that responsibility of making her feel better, “curing” her depression
and neglecting your needs by putting her first and you last.
If you want to change how your mother’s condition is affecting your life, you must start with
your mental hygiene. That means being aware what you’re thinking and what thoughts are leading
you to end up where you are today.
In order to live your life, you must be aware first of what kind of messages did your mother
gave you, examine what you believe, find out what beliefs you have adopted and internalized
Your beliefs are driving your actions. The actions that you have been taking that you don’t even like.
The actions you want to change. So this is how you change your life; you start taking other actions.
How do you do that? You start with this first step.
2. Stop your guilt tripping
If you’re feeling guilty for not being there for your mother, or for not helping enough, then it’s
not because of your mother or because of your bad, or there’s something wrong with you. It’s only
because you believe some thoughts in your head.
Sometime our mothers will try to make us feel guilty by making us believe what they tell us such as;
you are hurting my feelings if you leave me alone if you don’t call or visit me. (see all beliefs mentions
above). Then there is you who create your own guilt by beating yourself up for not being more or
Recognize what thoughts create your guilt.
Write them down by asking why am I feeling guilty then all your thoughts will appear on the paper.
Then you get to choose.
Guilt is always a choice.
Because guilt is created by a thought in your head. And thoughts are always optional.
What if you didn’t believe any of what you or your mother was thinking?
You don’t need to be more, and you don’t need to do more. Believing otherwise will cause you a
lot of pain. Your guilt that you are choosing and unconsciously creating is stopping you from living
your life with peace and joy.
3. Focus on your needs and protect them- boundary work
It’s important to create a healthy distance with your mother. If you want to continue to support and
help her but still have your own life and help from a genuine desire and not because of guilt then
creating healthy boundaries, space and distance can assist you in that!
Because you have learned to focus on your mother, you learned to push yourself aside, to prioritize
her needs over your own. By that, you adopted a belief that your needs don’t matter, that only if you
try to help and be a good girl that then you matter and are worthy of love.
Learn to prioritize yourself.
Find out what your needs are; that’s your first step then you move on to setting healthy boundaries.
4. Process your own pain and allow yourself to be happy
We want to be loyal to our mothers, that means we want to feel sad because we think this is how
we support her the most, like feeling “with” her. Feeling otherwise seems like we betray her.
How can we allow ourselves to have a good, exciting, fulfilling life??
We stand in our own happiness because we have learned to block it away.
We got comfortable with feeling heavy, sad, down and low. It’s okay and even necessary to really
feel your sadness and pain, but then it’s also important that you learn to create joy and peace
Feelings like joy, pleasure, and peace are like skills you can learn to sharpen and get better
You are the creator of your feelings.
To find out how you are stilling your own happiness, and how you can learn to be happy even thou
your mother isn’t. Being excited about your life doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, believing
otherwise will hold you stuck In your mother’s depression.
5. Accept your mother’s depression
I can already hear a few of you saying; what?! How can you accept such a thing?
I think acceptance has served me more than anything else I tried. Anything else I attempted
wasn’t working. I was trying to fix my mothers misery, by doing that I was unconsciously trying
to control her. I was resisting her condition, I was fighting against her and her illness.
That left me drained and even more sad and frustrated.
I used to believe that her depression shouldn’t be there, that she should be healthy and
just different. These beliefs caused me more pain, and I wasn’t helping my mother feel any better.
Your mother is supposed to have depression because she has depression.
That is her reality.
You cant change or fix it for her. Accept that this is her destiny, believe that she can handle it,
and believe that you can find ways to help her without her depending only on you.
Start with practicing believing; “my mother is supposed to be depressed, its okay.”
If you could believe that how would you feel? What would change?
These 5 steps are skills.
Skills to practice and get better at.
It’s not an easy journey, and there is no magic pill.
But that’s okay. That’s the best work you will ever get to do. It’s worth everything.
Start small, take turtle steps if needed.