Saturday, October 18, 2008

Depleted Mother Syndrome

Yes, it's real, and I'm pretty sure I have it.

Depleted Mother Syndrome is a serious problem that affects mothers of young children, especially toddlers. It's not postpartum depression or PMS, it's a condition created by the nonstop, 24/7 care of small children who require ALL of our time and attention. According to Rick Hanson, PHD, who coined the phrase Depleted Mother Syndrome in his book, "Mother Nurture," the causes of DMS are:

"... lack of sleep and exercise, poor diet, hormonal imbalances, nutrient loss, neurotransmitter deficiencies, guilt, anxiety, conflicting role expectations, marital conflict, and a breakdown of social supports. Its symptoms include chronic fatigue, susceptibility to illness, connective tissue problems including back pain and headaches, emotional numbing, depression, mood swings, irritability, hopelessness, confusion, running battles with husbands, and a turning inward away from friends and family."

Think about it. You've just given birth, a process that robs your body of vital nutrients to create another human being, and then you spend the next 4-5 years compulsively nurturing that child while getting little sleep and probably having another child during that same time.

Yes, I know my daughter is a teenager, and the syndrome is considered a condition of mothers with young children, but I think mothers of children with disabilities also suffer from depletion. We are still giving the same amount of energy and care to our children that we did when they were 2 and 3 years old. After several years of this, our bodies will begin to suffer. There is only so much a human being can do, and ultimately, mothers are still human.

I've been seeing my doctor to try and find some kind of medication to help get my anxiety level under control, but nothing is working. Every pill I take just makes me more agitated. And really, I don't feel depressed, not in an emotional way. I feel worn out, like my body is honestly running on empty and I'm coasting on what little is left in my bones. The problem is I have to keep going; I'm a mom and my daughter needs me. What can a mother do to care for herself when the demands of her child require super hero powers?

Time to change my plan of attack. Instead of looking at my exhaustion as something I need to medicate away, I need to look at what I give to myself and what is lacking. I had a physical so I know I'm not anemic or have anything like hypothyroidism, so what I really need is rest and good nutrition. Are there times in my day when I could put my feet up for a few minutes? Am I eating nutritious food, or just grabbing anything to stave off hunger? This is an opportunity to learn to nurture myself while also nurturing my child.

What kinds of things do you do to care for yourself? And do you think mothers of children with disabilities are just as depleted as new mothers, or do you have another theory? Send me your comments. I'd love to hear from you.

No comments: