Parenting with Anxiety and Depression

Let’s state the obvious: Parenting is difficult! Now let me state the other obvious: Parenting with anxiety and depression is an added challenge! It is difficult. When a parent has mental health challenges or a mental illness (these are two different things) it can create a stressful environment for the child. It can also lead to mental health issues for the child as they grow into adulthood. They can develop their own emotional and behavioral problems.

I have been well aware of my emotional issues and my mental health (anxiety and depression) before I had a proper diagnosis. I recall reading books and reading articles about childhood trauma and parents having mental illnesses before I became a parent. I recall movies with parents that were abusive or ill. Somehow, I say through God and some emotional intelligence, I knew that I had to separate my feelings from my words and actions. But, just like every parent, at times I failed. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

Parenting through my depression when my daughter was younger was extremely challenging. She had to get to school no matter how I felt. She had to be bathed and dressed. I had to help with homework. I had to smile and be playful when I did not want to because of depression. I had to cook or I had to get up and go get something. Sometimes, we ate unhealthily a few days straight as a result because fast food was the solution and it was what was convenient near me. Overall, I cooked healthy meals (and I still do) so I don’t blame myself for the times my depression was so bad I made choices I wouldn’t normally make. For me, parenting through depression was more challenging during those elementary and middle school years. It got easier as she got older because I was able to explain to her what was going on with mommy. She was able to do much more for herself and for me. Yes. I needed help and I need help sometimes. However, this is not a responsibility I placed on my child. Moreso, mom needs help at times fixing meals or with the laundry or maybe she locks up the house at the end of the day instead of me. Perhaps, it was my turn to wash the dishes but, she gets them. I was careful not to “burden” my child. I also returned the favor in times when she too was going through things or playing sports and overloaded with homework. We were a team and when she is home from college, we are still a team.

I would say anxiety became a challenge with parenting when she reached an age, she could make her own choices that would have positive or negative consequences or impacts. The teenage years and now young adulthood. My anxiety has been through the roof at times with a side of depression here and there. It’s regular parenting concerns and woes with an exponent. The exponent could literally be from 2-20 depending on what is going on.

The team is changing again into this young adult game and I must say I am feeling all of the normal parenting stressors on top of my own mental health issues. As I continue to research and seek therapy, I know somehow, I will find my footing once again in this new phase of parenting. So far, the things I rely on are:

  1. Professional help such as therapy.
  2. I rely on my faith.
  3. I try to stay healthy in all areas of my life because this helps your mental and emotional “wits”. I mean if you are diabetic and your sugar level is too high or low it’s going to affect how you interact with anyone including your child.
  4. I research tips and read as much as I can about parenting at different phases.
  5. I ask for help and advice from proper (wise counsel, godly and spiritual source) people. I may ask my dad what does he thinks about the situation. I may seek out other people who have a parenting style like mine who’s gone through or going through the same phase. If you are going to do this, make sure you can trust the person.
  6. Vent. Journal it out. Woosah.
  7. Find joy in the little things and create more memorable moments with my child.
  8. Forgive myself over and over and make attempts to do better.

If you have mental health challenges or mental illnesses, it is important to understand how it affects parenting your children. It will help you to make the necessary changes and develop skills to get you through the already rough patches of parenting.

Rarely are their perfect parents. Most of our parents were not perfect and neither were/are we.

~Nikki

Sunday Morning Coffee Musings: 2022 and Relationships

2022 comes with UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and Repairing or Strengthening Relationships. Relationships of all kinds will play a vital role this year in your life. Pay attention to the lessons you learn. Some will shape you, push you forward, and change you for the better (no matter what it may seem like at the time). Just don’t let anything distract you from your dreams and goals this year. It may have been all about you the past few years but, this year it’s about you and others. Play well with others. Disconnect from some and love at a distance and “with the love of the Lord” with others.

Make people feel loved and appreciated. Encourage as many people as you can. Show up when you can. Make phone calls. Send a thank you text with some detail (Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to xyz). Let it be known that you value your employees, friends, family, coworkers, strangers. “I appreciate everything that you do for me. I am so glad to have you as my cousin.” Lend a hand and donate to charity. Cook a meal for someone. Send flowers or fresh fruit. (ACTION).

Oh…family dynamics. You must deal with it. Once and for all and get on with it. If they want to hold on to it let them. You let go and remember, love from a distance if need be. Move around it. On the flip, strengthen those family bonds that you do have. Quality time with loved ones and friends are in order.

You may think this one is a no brainer when it comes to your child or children but, put down the phone or tablet and LOOK at your children’s faces when they are talking to you and when you are talking to them. Maybe the pandemic has made being glued to screens worse. I don’t know but, I do know it is important to LOOK into the eyes of the ones you love, especially your children and give them your undivided attention. They need to be seen and heard. Especially, with the instability of navigating our world.

You will meet NEW PEOPLE IF you want to that can have an interest in what you are doing or that may have connections for you. This is why I say once again, pay attention to the people that cross your path. But also pay attention to the classes or opportunities that come your way this year. Maybe there is someone at that event or in that class you can make a meaningful connection with. Yes, these events can be online as well. God works in mysterious ZOOM ways, too. I’d highly recommend being INTENTIONAL about where you go and whom you spend your time with this year.

~Nikki

For the Love of Family

We don’t always get the relationships we wish we had with parents or siblings. If you can’t create those relationships due to issues that can’t be resolved, personalities, morality, mental and emotional issues/abuse you end up feeling like you’re missing a connection or deeper connection. You probably are. There are ways to make those connections with others or be that connection for someone else. Foster those connections between your children and with your children. And you can always be to yourself what you needed as a child. Nurture the child within.

~Nikki

Learning Your NEW Changing Role as Parents

“Don’t fix it. Fix it. Listen and don’t give advice. Give advice. Don’t tell me what to do. Wait, what should I do?” I am now the parent of a young adult in college. I thought I was doing well as I started the above when my teen was in the 10th grade but, apparently, I need to take a closer look at this very new, ever changing, college student. “You’re always giving advice and sometimes I just want you to listen. You’re always trying to fix it.” I was told.

And it’s true. My nature is to fix. I am the problem solver and the peacemaker. I am the bridge. I am the counselor. I am really good at just listening to others but, as a parent I listen with the intent to SOLVE and ADVISE and I now realize I need to listen with permission to advise or more importantly, ask if it’s not clear afterwards, “Are you just venting and need my listening ear?” And if so, I need to use words like, “I understand. Or wow, what do you think you should do? Or give it some time, you will figure it out.” One must refrain from their stories of what they did in those situations because you have been told, “they just want to vent or just need you to listen” and remember how you, too, need to just vent or just need a listening ear. You, too, don’t always want to hear someone’s story, need advice, or need it to be fixed. You just want to get it out of your head. TRUST your young adult to figure it out or come back to you for advice or, brace yourself, to find the solution from someone else.

Someone else? Yes. Now this is the time to talk to your young adult (or remind them) about making sure the resources they use are credible resources! This is for articles on google, influencers on YouTube need to be questioned and so does their sources, and to seek professional help (a teacher that teaches the subject or campus counselors). Perhaps, a pastor or even an older sibling or relative they trust. Yes. Your young adult may be able to talk to your brother or your sister about an issue and not you, the parent. My sister was my main source during my teen years and young adult years. She was much older than I was and had been through similar things in which my mom had not.

If you haven’t prepared yourself, you should prepare your mind to know that you will not always be the end all be all, the main source to your child. They grow up. In my belief system, they belong to the Creator ultimately and are not to be controlled but, are to be guided and eventually, left to sail their own ship. I don’t get to pick the ship, design the ship, and pick passengers or destination. I am just on call to assist and to check on. And you learn to enjoy that role. Keyword…learn.

~Nikki

Sunday Morning Coffee Musings: Layers To Freedom

I’ve wrapped my head around the idea that I have more work to do on myself as far as releasing the painful past of childhood. What I did not know was that there were layers to freedom. I got this thought from my own spirit as I was in conversation, meditation, or prayer with God (whatever you choose to call it is fine with me). I was venting that I just want to be free to enjoy and live out my full potential from here on out. I vented “I thought I was free! Who knew that there were so many layers to freedom!!!” And it hit me, “layers to freedom.” Like and onion.

Onions are just fine sitting in the produce section piled up on top of each other. But once you get them home and peel back a layer, you open up the strong smell that creates watery eyes without your consent or control. And so it is, with opening up old wounds that have never healed. Layers and layers of years have gone by. Years and years of masking the uncomfortable that manifest in mood swings, meanness, sadness, arrogance, nonchalant-ness and irritability for no apparent reason. Layers of hurt, embarrassment, inadequate feelings, and shame concealed by one thin layer.

When you have experienced some sort of trauma or continued drama, the emancipation of your soul may take a very long time. I don’t know if it can be sped up. I think maybe it can and I am going to find out if that is true. All week long the spiritual things from my daily devotions to meditation and wisdom from spiritual leaders have centered around freedom. Coincidence? No. I am calling this freedom in and that is why it is showing up. Even in numbers.

Sandhguru said, “Freedom requires courage.” I listened to one of his talks this week. It does require courage and I have taken some courageous steps in peeling back the layers. But, this step, requires “a whole heap” (as my Granny would say) of courage. I feel like I have to muster it up. Get up the nerve. Face it. Deal with it. Defeat it. I feel as if this will be the last barrier to my own freedom. I am tired. I am weary. I am ready. So maybe the speeding up the process is to DEAL with it HEAD ON knowing it’s going to get messy, become tiring, and hurt. But…I need my freedom. I need to live my FULL, UNCHAINED LIFE. I am ready to peel back every layer, chop the onions up and use them to flavor my life. God is my help, my strength, my source, and I feel as if I have not only God, but angels, my angel, and my ancestors on my side. I need all the help I can get. I need all the love I can receive. I may need many shoulders to cry on. But victory…victory is mine.

~Nikki

Sunday Morning Coffee Musings: Single Mom War Stories

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I can tell you first hand accounts of being young, with child, and single. I can tell you “war stories” from without and from within. It’s all in my book, Healing the Single Mother by Nicole Jackson. But, on this day, if you are a newly single mother of young children or teens, by way of divorce or NOT (I was not) I want you to know one day you will look back and realize, “This TOO HAS PASSED.”

All of your sleepless nights, tears (bottle up by the Creator), fears, mistakes, lessons, and heartaches/breaks, perhaps the lack of participation from the other parent, lack of respect from others, the statistics, will all pale in comparison to the child(ren) you are trying to raise into productive, respectful, law abiding, compassionate adults. One day, you will look at them in awe, in bewilderment, and wonder, “Who is this amazing person?”

If you are trying to instill morals and values into them be relentless at it. I hope you let them know it’s not okay to hate other people because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation or to mistreat people because of their occupation as the janitor or trash employee (which make a decent wage in some cities actually). Stress the importance of an education, higher learning, a trade, or being an entrepreneur. Talk to them about finances and good credit. Teach them how to learn from their mistakes and your mistakes. You know, you do make mistakes and it’s okay to let your children know that you are not perfect.

If you are doing something and it’s not working, it’s okay to try something different. What worked for us as children, or your parents, may not work for this generation. But what does work and will always work is spending quality time with your children without distractions. Game nights will always work. Listening to them, allowing them to express their feelings and thoughts always works. Discipline always works. Real life conversations will always work. Getting out in nature, the park, will always work. Loving them through the teenage years and hard knock lessons, will always work. Encouraging them, cheering them, correcting them, will always work. Saying no will always work even if they don’t like it or understand. Saying yes will always work. Being their perfectly, imperfect parent…will always work.

~Nikki

The Heart Epiphany Series: Part 1

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The Heart Epiphany by Nicole Jackson 

Love is in each one of us. You are love and you are loved by the Most High, the Creator, God, the Universe, angels, and ancestors. Yes. I said ancestors. You are a walking living breathing temple, sanctuary, goddess, and your heart is a sacred place. Of course, the temple needs maintenance. We should take care of ourselves. Spa days, manicures and pedicures, the beauty shop, deep tissue massages, and “me times” are wonderful. Traveling the globe, a girl’s night out, and going on shopping sprees are fun. We should be able to do these things without being attached to a mate or friend. This is self-care and self-care is a part of SELF LOVE. Self-care is more like the maintenance of the outward appearance. But SELF LOVE is the inward maintenance. Self-love is an inside job.  “Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good. It is a state of appreciation for oneself, that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.”-Psychology Today, Dr. Deborah Khoshaba.  And while self-care does make us feel good at the time that it is happening, SELF-LOVE can make us feel good about who we are as a person for a lifetime. “If self-care is a sparkler then self-love is an eternal flame.”-Nicole Jackson

~Nikki

Parenting Young Adults: Ignoring Clear Instructions

 

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I bet you thought I was talking about the young adult? No, I was talking about the parent “ignoring clear instructions.” Today I was driving taking the long way home so that my college student and I could change the scenery and feel some fresh air. We had a discussion. After the discussion, I could sense she was thinking and feeling something. I asked what it was and she said she didn’t want to talk about it. I pried. She said I really don’t want to talk about it but…

She did. And she said I really don’t need any advice or support or encouragement. And what did I do? I did not try very hard to resist giving just that; advice, examples, support, etc.

Transitioning from parent to guide isn’t easy. Some parents never make the transition. I mean you are forever a parent but your role changes several times. As a parent we want to be more, less, or the same as our parent (s) were depending on our experience. Personally, I try to be there in ways my parents didn’t know how to be or in ways they didn’t understand were important. I learned today that I was doing something I don’t like done to me. Sometimes when I am in my thoughts and feelings, I just want to be there. She wanted to be “just be in her feelings and thoughts.”

This wasn’t a life changing, threatening, urgent, put on my Life Tour Guide moment, it was a “Oh. Okay. Let me turn on the radio or go to my own happy place and space” moment. Oh well, you live and learn in this PG (Parental Guidance) life. I’m just passing on a “take it or leave it” tip.

~Nikki

Sunday Morning Coffee Musing: Time Well Spent

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My mom is the primary caregiver for my father. He has Parkinson’s Disease which is a result of being in contact with Agent Orange when he was in Vietnam. He also has other illnesses and diseases that have developed after Parkinson’s. Imagine you retire and you develop a disease that DRASTICALLY changes your outward appearance and your mental and emotional well being.

My dad has always been this strong guy with muscles. I remember him lifting weights and hanging from his biceps. I remember the big round weights that go on the weight bench. I remember the children in the neighborhood racing against him and they would lose. So, if it’s hard for me to see all of that, his mobility, his muscles, his strength disappear, it must be incredibly hard for him to deal with. He’s stubborn, but I think by now he realizes he needs help or assistance. Yet, he fights to keep most of his independence because he doesn’t like anyone doing anything for them. Especially, if they make it known they really mind doing it for him or that it’s a problem. I get that and the stubbornness from him. My dad has always had a sharp mind. He still has it. He is like a walking history buff and Bible. He is still pastoring and this is his last year as his health has really declined. Last week when he was in the hospital for rehab, we talked about poetry and just when I thought I knew it all about poetry he throws out poets I never heard of. He recites some lines. This is my dad.

This week my mom was out of town on church business and I was “hired” to take care of my dad. Even though my mom is the primary caregiver, all six of us children are there to do our jobs. We all chip in. Some more than others because some work full time and others have illnesses of their own (like me). We seem to take on our roles and fill in when needed of roles of the others. It just worked out that way. I took care of Dad this week and I got to see him in a different way. I got to see the struggles in a different way. I heard the yelling as he napped. It was something about war. I got to see the depression that he sometimes denies. I got to experience the moodiness and irritability that we rarely see. But, I also got to see the determination to wash his own clothes, put his dishes away, wash up, and put his clothes without my assistance a few days. I saw the sweat pouring down his face and the tiredness that followed those simple tasks.

My favorite part of the experience was getting him out of the house to sit on the porch as he likes to do and we listened to a famous sermon on YouTube by Reverend C.L. Franklin (Aretha Franklin’s father). He was unsure he could get out of the house or go anywhere with his new fancy walker (which he calls the Cadillac). I had to encourage him and he made it to the barber shop with his new walker.

Even though it was really hard work taking care of him all week from 7 am to 7 pm it was time well spent. The pain and exhaustion that I felt daily, the pain meds I had to take, the willing myself to get up, the swelling and the joint inflammation, the mental battle,  reminded me of why I had such a hard time working my last full time job.  By the time you recover, it’s time to work again and creates an endless cycle that worsens your health. However, all that I experience this week was worth the quality time spent with my dad. Care giving is a job. It’s a job for the one doing it all the time and the ones who do their parts regularly and the ones that have to fit it in. However, it’s rewarding knowing that you helping someone you love and it has it’s moments that will someday become memories.

~Nikki

Mother’s Day: Fish & Bones

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There is this saying: You have to learn to eat the fish and spit out the bones. It’s a secret to some and obvious to my bloggers, that my relationship with my mother can be described as turbulent. I am not ashamed of this. Many mother and daughter relationships are at it’s best, “complicated” and I speak on behalf of some of those women. Here is the post I posted on Mother’s Day about my mom and photos from my day as a mother.

My mom and I are like oil and water sometimes. Some say it’s because we are alike and some say it’s because we are different. At the end of the day we love each other. I get my strong value for family from my mom. I get my strong work ethic from my mom. I get my cooking skills, my creativity, my fashion sense & need to have a lovely home from my mom. The idea of the finer things in life yet making the most of your lot in life. I am a giver and will try to help everybody and will feed everybody. I get that from My mom. My mom has her own big personality and it gives us many laughs. My mom is the best because she’s going to put family first and she’s going to protect it. She’s going to come through and this is why we come through for her. I love it when I make her laugh and she says “Nicole, You’re so crazy.” That’s us. That’s family. That’s love.