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My battle with depression has made me a better parent (for my kids)

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide.

On Christmas Eve 2019 I sat alone on my couch, tree lights twinkling brightly over wrapped presents, and my almost empty fourth glass of wine. I should have been happy, but there I was, staring at the text conversation I was having for the fifth time that month with Crisis Hotline.

I had two choices that night: act on my plan or reach out for help.

Beth Montgomery

I chose reaching out for help.

Both choices seemed hard at the time, but my kids saved me – again.

That may not seem like a hard decision, but in the deepest depths of my experience with depression, suicide seemed like the best idea. I wasn’t thinking straight. I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mom. I felt unworthy. I felt like I didn’t measure up. All those negative feelings repeating over and over in my mind; I just wanted it to stop. I wanted the pain of living to end.

I remember on one specific summer day in 2019, the sun was shining and everything seemed to be going well. I should have been happy but I wasn’t. I was driving and came up over a hill and saw the sign: “Don’t Give Up.” It was one of hundreds of signs in Central

Pennsylvania put up by Chronically Strong, a nonprofit started to raise mental health awareness at a community level and advocate for mental health reform in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (https://www.chronicallystrong23.com/ FB: https://www.facebook.com/chronicallystrong23)

“Don’t Give Up.” Those simple words carried me through that day, and the signs popping up all over in yards kept me going.

The outside world could have never guessed how much pain I was experiencing internally. Yes, I put on a front that everything was OK. No, I wasn’t honest with those closest to me. I had this preconceived notion that sharing my struggles with others was weakness.

Asking for help was the strongest, most courageous act I have done. As scary and fearful as I was, I knew I had to reach out.

So, I sent my therapist a message and we got back on track with sessions. I also started an intense inner healing journey like none other and slowly, I climbed out of that dark pit of despair with the help of others. I can’t tell you exactly when the turning point was, but it happened.

Things got better.

But wait, how does this make me a better parent for my kids?

My daughter is 14 and my son is 17 and they both have experienced multiple classmates who have committed suicide. Multiple.

In sharing my story in an honest and authentic way, it allows that often hidden door to open. I have struggled with deep, dark depression for many years. They have experienced mom “going away” for a week twice because of it, so they’re aware. Instead of pretending it never happened, I made another choice.

I decided to talk to them about it.

My thought is: If this discussion doesn’t start somewhere, where else will it start? I have worked really hard at keeping an open and honest line of communication with my kids ranging from budgeting to sex. I do this because in the event they feel like they have felt how I did on Christmas Eve 2019, they have someone they can turn to.

I know what signs to look out for. And more importantly, where to turn to get them the help they need if that need arises.

During the pandemic, mental illness has been at an all-time high. A lot of people of all ages have been suffering, some in silence.

If that person is you, know that you are NOT ALONE. KEEP GOING. It WILL and DOES get better. Reach out to someone, reach out to me, reach out to Crisis Hotline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor (https://www.crisistextline.org/).

If you know someone who is suffering, check up on them, often. There are resources out there. Check out the links above for tips on how to help someone you love.

Courage means acting in spite of feeling fear. Picking up the phone and asking for help can feel like picking up a ton of bricks (I get it) but be courageous. Someone on this earth needs you here.

Here’s the hope:

Today, I sit as a member and committee chair of Chronically Strong in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide specifically. On a personal level, I’m able to identify my feelings and reach out for help more quickly, before it gets to the crisis stage. I can pick up the phone and tell someone I trust how I’m feeling and know they will listen because they care. I know I have purpose and meaning.

I’m able to say that I’ve lived in the darkness but have clawed my way to the light.

I can be happy and grateful. Just for today.

I am worthy of life, and so are you.

If no one has told you yet, you are SO loved and deserve to feel that love.

To connect with Beth, she’s on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out her “Dear Diary” series and send her a message at www.singleparentsproject.com.

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Beth Montgomery
Beth Montgomery

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