Depression and Mothers Of Children With Special Needs

The truth is, you are not alone. Depression and mothering a child with special needs often go hand in hand.

It’s been coming on for a while now.

And with good reason.

The list of diagnoses and medicines.

The boys’ meltdowns and anxiety attacks.

The constant hypervigilance.

The lack of sleep.

The loss of any real personal time.

And, the intense grief that my youngest is spinning out of control in a mood disorder that has taken over his mind.

This time, it didn’t sneak up on me. No.

This time, depression has hit me like a freight train.


Depression And Mothers Of Children With Special Needs


It’s important that I say it out loud.

I’m battling depression. For reals. Like with boxing gloves and a mouth guard.

Naming it matters. It gives me back just a little bit of control.

Depression And Mothers Of Children With Special Needs

Some days are easier than others. I can get out of bed and do all the things for all the people who rely heavily on me to do all the things.

Some days I just want to cry and pull the covers up over my head.

Part of it is chemical, I know it. I see it in my family history and even more so, in my own.

Most of it is the loss of ordinary – the grief that my sweet boy is being taken over by illness and I cannot stop it.

Depression And Mothers Of Children With Special Needs

The Reality Of  Depression and Mothering A Child With Special Needs

I am depressed and it’s hard.

And I know I am not the only one.

Maybe you are too. Depression and motherhood happen at the same time, for so many of us. Depression and mothering a child with special needs? Perhaps even more so.

Please hear me – you are not alone.

You are not the only mom who struggles just to make it through another day. You are not the only mom who worries about how to care for herself, while at the same time care for her children. You are not the only mom taking prescription medication, or in therapy, or both.

And I want you know that although I am depressed, but I am not without hope.

I have been here before. I am sure I will be here again.

Depression And Mothers Of Children With Special Needs

Depression takes time to heal – just like any other illness.

Today, that looks like letting go of the laundry and taking a walk instead.

It’s having another cup of coffee and curling up with a book.

It’s going to bed early.

It’s asking my husband for help and accepting my friend’s offer to grab dinner for us.

It’s praying the “Help me, please” prayers and the “I can do all things through Him” prayers.

It’s a nap, if and when I can get one.

It’s just doing the minimum, and more importantly, not beating myself up for it.

I will give myself the same grace I extend to my children when they are struggling.

And I will remember that taking care of me, is an essential part of being a mom.

Taking care of me is taking care of them.

For More Resources And Support

When A Homeschool Mom Is Depressed

For The Special Needs Mom When You Want To Quit

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  1. Praying for you, sweet lady. Been there.

  2. Thank you so much for your honesty and words of wisdom. I struggle with depression also and struggle that I struggle with it. There is so much in this post that I can relate to as you write about your kids. The other week in church our pastor said that kids don’t worry and I just cried. My kids don’t know what a day is like without experiencing some form of anxiety to some degree and that hurts my mama’s heart. But, there is hope! We’re not in this alone and I’m thankful for that reminder!

    1. It’s so good to be in good company. Thank you, Gail!

  3. Just had to say something, the post was so beautifully written with honesty and truth, but I so love that you said you have Hope! And Hope has you! So sorry you have to go thru this, I am praying tonight for peace in the storm!
    Many blessings!

  4. Gail Sciortino says:

    Maybe thats why I skipped the gym today and just felt like sipping on a McDonald’s mocha frappe EXTRA espresso shot, and surf Instagram sitting outside like a lump…most of the day……lol

    1. Ohhhhh I didn’t know you could get them with an extra expression shot!!! Thanks for that info. When my special needs son goes back to school, I’ll have to get one and veg out too.

  5. Rachel Tiede says:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… In Him was life, and that life was the Light of man… And God said, “Let there be light; and there was light. And God separated the Light from the Darkness… The Light shines in the Darkness, and the Darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:1-5; Gen 1)

    Depression is so hard and so painful. It is not just about “being happy vs. being sad”. And it is not just a choice. Depression is a chemical imbalance in your body, and it causes your emotions to run amok. But it also causes physical pain and fatigue. It causes you to isolate yourself into a deep loneliness. And it can make it next to impossible to physically get out of bed in the morning! Most of all, it makes it hard to see Truth. It is a physical Darkness and it isn’t your fault. It doesn’t make you a bad person. And it does not mean you’re a bad Christian or that you’re sinning because you’re not “full of joy”… because we’re Christians and we’re just supposed to be happy, right? Wrong. We are human. And we live in a fallen world. And we struggle. That’s normal.

    Depression is a physical illness with physical symptoms and physical causes. I won’t detail it here unless someone wants it. But did you know that researchers have been able to diagnose Depression using CT Scans and MRI’s? Because there is an actual physical reaction that happens in your brain. There is a pattern that they can see. The brain lights up differently and at different times when you have Depression. It is real. And you are not a bad person if you are struggling with it. And anti-depressants? They are not “Happy Pills”. They do not make you falsely happy or make your feelings a lie. I used to think that. My feelings are valid, and that doesn’t change. They help the chemical imbalance. They help you get to a place where you can make real, healthy emotional choices based on truth. And you are not a bad person if you take them. You are not a bad person if you need them. And if you get one that isn’t working, work with your doctor. We don’t all react the same way to the same medications, so sometimes it takes some trial and error to get you to the right dosage on the right med. It’s hard! It’s frustrating. But hang in there! There is help.

    Counselors… are AWESOME! A good counselor gives you a safe place to say whatever you want to say. And it doesn’t have to be right or wrong, it’s just what you feel, and they can listen and help you sort through those feelings without having bias or an emotional reaction of their own. If you are struggling and you’ve never had a counselor, I say GET ONE. But seek out the RIGHT counselor. Get advice from someone you trust. Because not all meds and not all counselors are the same.

    Kudos to you, Shawna, for getting the help you need and for putting it out there. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to have courage and to give yourself permission to do what you need to do. Everyone I have ever known who had to take pills resisted and struggled when they were told they needed them. Needing a pill to help regulate chemicals in your body is OK. Even if it’s about your emotions, not your insulin or your cholesterol or whatever they prescribe these things for. It’s ok. And you’re not a bad person for needing them. It’s hard. It’s a hard decision. But Depression is harder. And you don’t need to struggle!

    “The Light shines in the Darkness, and the Darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5)

    Be strong and full of courage. If you need help… get it. It’s ok. You’re not alone. You are not alone.

    One other thing… Depression and Anxiety go hand in hand. And they feed off each other. It’s still ok. And you can be free from Fear and the Darkness.

    1. Megan Schell says:

      Powerful and empowering words Rachel. Thank you.

  6. I work for a charity that runs courses specifically for parents who have children with additional needs. I feel that many parents would benefit from reading this article. I certainly did myself. I know it’s in the public domain & available to read online but I was wondering if you mind if I printed a copy to share with parents on our courses that don’t have the resources or maybe the ability to be able to view it online.

  7. Thank you for sharing honestly how you feel. I always thought that the years I had a baby, a toddler and at least one preschooler were tough. I thought that I was just tired. As my youngest of 4 is now 8 years old I have been talking to my doctors and a homeopath about those years and how some of those feelings still linger. They have told me that I was/still am showing signs of depression.

    It feels good to name it. As you say acknowledging and knowing that in a big part you have no control over when it happens is a good step towards moving on, without guilt, without punishing myself for something I couldn’t control. I am getting better. Now I understand it isn’t me being a useless, hopeless mum, it was chemicals mucking with my brain.

    I can do my best and on those days I don’t have it in me we go to the mountains or the beach and I let nature do the healing while telling myself we are still doing school, just the subjects are phys ed and science. 🙂

    Hang in there,
    Jen in Oz

  8. Denie Sidney says:

    This is my journey too. Thank you for being transparent. I pray that your needs are met. Glad we can journey together.

  9. kristinayellow says:

    This. So much. It’s already so lonely with health problems or delays for your child but then to add in your own issues. It’s so so lonely. But we as mom always put on a happy face, to model hope and faith and persistance in the face of everything. But inside, it’s so so sad

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