Moms are a big part of growing up, any caregiver or parent figure are. The way they connected with us as children can affect us either positively or negatively.
If you believe that your mom is part of why you are struggling with depression today, here is a guide to empower you and help you move forward.
The best way you can deal with this particular predicament can be encompassed in one word: Boundaries. Let us take a closer look at what parental relationships can do to a person, what boundaries are, and how you can recover and grow.
Parenting and mental health
Research done in the field of developmental psychology strongly suggests that what our parents did and did not do when we were young children affects the way we live our lives today.
These formative years also impact our susceptibility to develop mental health problems- including depression and anxiety. This is particularly true if the child has experienced adverse events and the adults around them were not able to help them make sense of it in a healthy way.
Adverse events in a child’s life can disrupt a child’s perception of the world to become more negative and may struggle with the insecurity.
These events and situations impact parenting styles to be less than effective which may further add to the child’s fear and insecurity which would impact their physical and psychological development.
Let us take a moment to reflect on various adverse situations that you might have faced during your childhood or even during your adolescent life. Some common adverse events include being a victim of violence, abuse or neglect at home, parental divorce or parental substance misuse and addiction.
In addition to that, taking a look at the way your mom parented you when you were younger could be crucial to understand how she might have affected your development and mental health.
Here are the common parenting styles that have been observed in various families.
These parenting styles refer to various ways a parent relates to their child and oftentimes have profound impact on the child’s sense of self.
We will discuss the parenting styles that negatively impact a child’s growth, specifically three.
This style of parenting has little warmth and more structured rules and extremely high expectations for the child to behave in a certain way.
If your mother was authoritarian, she would have expected perfection from you, often being cold and harsh when you did not meet her expectations. She might have minimised your emotions or dismissed them.
Children who had parents like this often feel like they are not good enough and develop anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
This style of parenting is very lenient and the direct opposite of the first one. Children are left without grounding and support, and are given too much independence at an age where guidance is necessary.
If your mother avoided disciplining you as a child in a bid to avoid conflict, allowed much independance and seemed to show no reaction to your behaviour- it could be possible that she was permissive and unreliable.
Children who grow up in this environment tend to seek out risks and engage in impulsive behaviour in an effort to catch a parent’s attention which becomes a pattern they follow throughout their lives. It is these patterns of behaviour and a deep seated loneliness which can give rise to depression.
These parents are generally uninterested in their children or preoccupied to the point that they spend little or no time with their children.
If you have found that your mother seemed to always be busy, gave space for little to no communication- basically did not nurture and support you- especially in times of distress. It could be that your mom was uninvolved in your life.
This type of parenting can cause anxiety related to relationships where you fear abandonment or struggle with low self esteem. Often this gives rise to anxiety and depression.
You have to understand that parenting styles are not clear cut. Your mom could have been someone who was both uninvolved yet demanded perfection every time you interacted with her. Or she could have given you immense freedom without guidance when you faced a challenging situation.
You also have to understand that we aren’t blaming your mom- we cannot change what has happened nor can we change or control her.
What we are going to do is take control of what we can- ourselves and our boundaries.
A healthy boundary is one where you are able to have your own thoughts and feelings, make your own choices, and live a life according to what you need and want in relation to the people around you.
For example, if you have a healthy relationship with your mom you will be able to seek advice and guidance from her and still make your own choices without fear of disappointing them or without fear of a negative reaction from them.
Setting healthy boundaries can be difficult. It is when there are no healthy boundaries, relationships tend to affect our lives negatively.
Your mom’s pattern of parenting can spill over your career choices, your love life, even go to the extent of you not having personal space.
The three parenting styles described above are examples of having no clear and healthy boundaries.
You mom could be disregarding all your boundaries and be controlling and demanding, keeping your form making choices that you want.
Or she could be disregarding her role and boundaries as a parent by not meeting your need for guidance as her child.
Either way, you are left anxious or depressed because you find yourself unable to control your own life or be constantly afraid of being rejected and abandoned which makes you anxious, lonely, or depressed.
It becomes very important, as you grow and move into adulthood, that you set your boundaries so that you can live your life in a way that is healthy and good for you as opposed to being dictated by what your mother wants.
Setting healthy boundaries
Start by saying no
If she is doing something that you don’t like, or the way she treats and talk to you- start by saying no.
Saying no is one of the best ways to set boundaries and signal to your mother that this is where your limits lie.
Saying no for the first time can be scary and uncomfortable, but remind yourself that this is you standing up for yourself- perhaps for the first time in your life. You can be respectful and kind when you say no as opposed to harsh and angry.
Take time to consider her requests- perhaps tell her that you will think about it. Take a moment to work out your thoughts and the things you want to say and communicate it to her in an assertive manner.
Set physical boundaries
If your find that proximity to her is one stressor, consider moving out if you are financially independent or setting a limit to the amount of time you spend with her.
If you are financially dependent or a minor- You can choose to do things outside the house or her presence- going for walks everyday, spending time with your friends for a good amount of time.
It is important to be assertive as you express your need for space and time alone- this is one way to actively set boundaries and be in touch with the parts of you that does not involve family.
Communicate your needs
If your mother is open and willing to listen, sitting her down and communicating your needs and understanding hers can be a step in the right direction.
You can take a moment when both of you are both in a good mood and choose that moment to talk to her about what you need from her as a parent and what you can or cannot do as her child.
This will help limit expectations of each other to remain realistic and healthy. It can also help your mom to understand that you are struggling and would like to focus on yourself to get better.
Get to know yourself
As part of setting boundaries it is important for you to know what is within your boundaries. Some times, when our parents dictate much of our lives- we are unable to understand who we are- our sense of self becomes fractured which may affect us.
Because we do not know who we are, we are unaware of our thoughts, feeling, and behaviours which can harm us and cause symptoms of anxiety and depression.
So taking the time to understand who we are- what we like and do not like- can help us set clear boundaries with others and more importantly ourselves.
When we have clarity of what we are truly like, can we being to live authentically and develop beliefs and goals that is wholly ours which can bring more satisfaction.
Consider Professional Help
If you find yourself in need of more help, usually when your symptoms of depression affect your life to such an extent that you are unable to work and function normally- for a period more than two weeks- it is time to consider seeing a psychologist.
Seeking professional help can lead you to a path of learning- about yourself and various skills to set boundaries and live life that is authentic to you.
Your therapist can help you get to know yourself better, can help you develop insight into unresolved issues related to your mom, and can help you set healthy boundaries.
Frequently asked questions related to “My mom is making me depressed (Help!)”
Can your parents be the cause of depression?
There is no one reason that causes mental illness like depression. It can be genetics, family environment, parenting styles, childhood experiences, life experiences, trauma etc.
However, early experiences with parents can make a person susceptible to developing mental illnesses and psychological problems due to factors like unhealthy parenting styles, not providing support, security, guidance that children often need.
You parents may not cause it but their behaviours can aggravate a person’s vulnerabilities.
Can Toxic parents cause depression?
People who grew up with a parent who is toxic often become prone to drug and substance abuse and also tend to struggle with a fractured sense of self which may lead to stress and psychological issues which affect their adult lives and relationships and cause problems like depression.
How does living in a toxic household affect you?
A toxic family environment such as one that involves a substance use disorder (SUD) or abuse often exhibit unhealthy dynamics in the way they function around one another. This can impact a person’s sense of self- self esteem, cause fear and anxiety, cause depression, and physical ailments due to stress and abuse.
What are the signs of toxic parents?
Behaviours of toxic parents usually look like the following:
- They often behave in ways that are self-centered and do not regard the needs of their children- emotional needs included.
- Physical, emotional, verbal abuse is involved
- Controlling choices of the children
- Manipulative the children to behave in ways the parent deems to be “right” or for their personal gain
- Disrespects children’s physical, emotional, and psychological boundaries.
Can your parents affect your mental health?
An individual’s experience of parenting styles, parental divorce, separation or loss – or living with a mentally ill parent– increases the risk of developing mental health problems across the lifespan.
This is usually because it causes a lot of stress and strain on the young child- especially if they have not been taught and brought to awareness of what is happening within the family.