On yet another morning when I’m wailing at my kids like a banshee and threatening them with everything from groundings to canceling Christmas to removing their right to attend college, it hit me that I’m definitely in a funk. Because the wailing and yelling isn’t how I usually like to parent. Don’t get me wrong, a little yelling never hurt my kids, but when my daughter is crawling under her bed because she expects me to turn into the Hulk–I’ve got a problem. Like the often criticized Abilify commercial where the black cloud follows the woman around, I do feel like a black cloud is hanging over my head. And I hate that I feel this way right before Halloween, my hands down favorite holiday.
My family history is riddled with depression, and I’ve suffered from my own mild bouts, with the postpartum after my second child being the worst, so I’ve come to recognize the signs, often a little later than is good for me. It’s the “don’t cares” that stand out. I don’t care that the house isn’t clean. I don’t care that I’ve gained another ten pounds. I don’t care if my kids think I’m momzilla. I don’t care if I miss deadlines. I don’t care if I don’t make costumes or decorate or celebrate at all.
Calling it a “funk” or the “blahs” isn’t my way of downplaying a serious illness. Instead, it’s my way of having an honest dialogue with myself about what’s going on and how I’m going to overcome it this time. Saying I have the blahs or the funk scares me less than using the more appropriate medical terms and allows me to try my own methods of coming back to level before involving professional help. I’ve been on depression medications in the past, and they don’t work for me in a way that allows me to function as the person I need to be. And if nothing else in this world, the person I need to be is a good mom. Not a great one, or perfect (whatever that would look like), just good. That’s my standard. And I connect being a good mom with Halloween.
Last year, I wrote an article about how my geek self shines during Halloween when making costumes for my kids. I read that article now and marvel at the excitement that shined through in my words. But the marvel quickly turns to guilt, because I should have that same amount of excitement this year. I just don’t. But I want to.
Fake it until you make it. This advice was given to me by a counseling professional, and I think about it every single time the dark cloud finds a comfy spot over my head. There are tons of articles on why this is bad advice, but in my mind it gives me goal of returning to the person I want to be. I also like to mix it with the advice of not putting so much pressure on myself. With these two principles (yes, I realize how simplified it sounds), I’m going to try a few things to drive away the funk and put myself back in touch with the holiday I love and being the mom my kids like to hang out with.
First, I’m going to forget about making costumes this year and let my kids buy the ones from the superstore. Will they be disappointed? Maybe. Still, I’m going to take that stress and box it up for another year when the final result won’t end in tears while I’m sewing on Halloween Day. The pictures from this year will be just as cute as if they had homemade originals, and they’ll get an equal amount of candy as previous years.
Second, I’m going to find the cheesiest Halloween cartoon and watch it with my kids. A real feel good movie that not only is about the happiness of celebrating the holiday, but also comes with a teaching moment. I think something like Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest is a good choice. My oldest will even watch this one, although she’s usually too cool for kid cartoons now. Then I’m going to keep watching all the Halloween specials until I can recite the dialogue by heart.
Lastly, I’m going to call my mom and dad and have them tell me a story about Halloween when my siblings and I were kids. Then I’m going to tell it to my kids and reminisce about their Halloween pasts. I’m going to pull out all the pictures I have of them in costumes and of friends and family in costumes and put them up around the house. Halloween has always been a family holiday for me, and with those reminders of what makes it simple and fun, I’m going to pull through to the other side. I’m going to shoo away the black cloud as best I can. I’m going to do what I can to beat the blahs and the funk.