Vulnerability & Leaning In: Ways to Combat Depression

Moms, listen up! Did you know…

  • 12 million women in the United States experience some form of depression each year,
  • 1 in 8 women will experience some form of depression at some point in their life, and
  • Women aged 25 to 44 experience depression the most frequently?

There are many reasons women may experience depression, from hormonal and genetic reasons to social stress and family responsibilities. It is reported that when depression-related illnesses and suicides are considered, depression is the third highest global burden of disease.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Women internalize what they feel more than men. This means that when we feel a burden, most of the time no one will know it, because we shove down the feelings and move on about our day. Men, on the other hand, externalize how they feel in the form of career-related issues and through the expression of unmet goals.

Women Get All the Feels

Moms, this is a big, big deal. We are interpersonal by nature, and when we feel depressed, it’s expressed in and around our social relationships. We many not say we’re depressed, but we show it by lashing out, hiding out, and feeling hypersensitive about things said or done.

Have you ever had a friend that seemed to have just drop off the face of the planet for no good reason? How about a friend who seems to be persnickety or irritated at random times, and it seems to come out of nowhere? These are the interpersonal signs of depression that we often miss and dismiss. Unfortunately, these are also the times we back away from these friends because we aren’t sure how to lean in and be the support the friend needs. We don’t recognize this as depression.

We many not say we’re depressed,
but we show it by lashing out, hiding out, and
feeling hypersensitive about things said or done.

Women can be catty, and while it’s my highest recommendation of all recommended recommendations in the history book of recommendations that we steer clear of toxic, gross, and mean words other women have a tendency to say about each other, I’d also like to implore you to see this from a different lens. Maybe this is a mom suffering from severe stress, dislike in herself (duh!), and feelings of unworthiness. Maybe this is a mom struggling with either mild or larger form of depression.

Women isolate themselves when they aren’t feeling good about themselves, and this only perpetuates the feelings of loneliness. The more you’re alone, the more you feel depressed and the more depressed you are, the more lonely you feel. It can be a maddening cycle of self-abuse that friends and neighbors don’t even recognize.

Leaning Into Vulnerability

Ladies, women who are united in love and care for one another – let’s do our part to support one another when we recognize someone else pulling away. Be a good neighbor, good friend, and overall good person by leaning in to a hurting person rather than turning away from.

I suggest by leaning in, we become less afraid of vulnerability, which is the key ingredient for true emotional connection. By leaning in, we really begin to see a person for who they are at the core of their being as opposed to the roles, behaviors, words, and surface-level things that you think make them who they are, but don’t.

The humanness of all demands that we recognize the humanness of others.

As moms, we’re all doing the best we can to manage through our various life roles, careers, parenting styles, and life things. Recognizing this in others helps you see the core of the person – we’re just doing the best we can. Aligning and leaning in can keep moms feeling connected, less lonely, and hence, less depressed.

The next time you experience someone behaving in a less than stellar way, I implore you to step down into the pile of poo with them, experience with them, be vulnerable with them, and at the very least, just be with them.

Let’s stop assuming depression is a clinical issue that’s best left to therapists and medication. As a therapist, trust me when I say, depression must be treated* by loving human beings who help you feel less lonely. The only way to truly help someone through difficult depressive times, is to show your humanness – to lean in.

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*Listen, I’m not saying medication is not important. It is. What I’m saying here, and perhaps you’ve seen yourself, is that of all the millions of women who are on medication for depression (and for which they should continue to take diligently), many of them still feel depressed. One answer to this riddle is human connection. Deep, heartfelt, far-into-the-core-of-my-humanness love and knowing of another person. That’s the opposite of loneliness. That is often the antidote to depression.

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan
Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer is a mom of twins who are sweet as sugar, but just hit that tween stage so all bets are off. Her youngest is...a joy. Let's just stop there. Most days you can find her in her office seeing clients, doing laundry, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), Walking Dead or This Is Us. She is a tree-hugging country girl from West Texas who reads, writes, and teaches about human development and families as a hobby and profession. You can read more from Jennifer at her therapy blog, ichoosechange.com