Ask a Nurse: A Mother’s Secret Shame

Pamela is an RN, MSN/Ed.

Pamela is a mother of 6 amazing children ages 11 to 24. She is a nurse educator and loves to travel overseas to work in medical clinics and teach health-related topics to schools and communities. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, for 29 years. She has many different interests including reading, writing (NOT arithmetic!), baking, teaching, and spending time with her family. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and two youngest daughters.

A Mother’s Secret Shame

What is your idea of a perfect mother? Do you have a list in your head that you try to live up to? Here is my list.

A perfect mother:

*never yells

*keeps a clean house all the time

*raises kids who love God, are smart, talented and beautiful

*has an amazing sense of design and decorates the house to look like one in a magazine

*never over spends and finds the best deals

*grows her own food, sews all the clothes, makes gorgeous blankets, slipcovers and

*is an excellent cook-all the time

*has an amazing figure and beautiful face

*always finds time for everyone

I never even come close to living up to that list! I have found over the years that women I admire and think have it all together feel just like me. They feel they are missing the mark, too. With all this pressure to succeed, many women hide a shameful secret: they are living with sadness, anxiety and depression much of the time. Women feel that telling anyone they struggle with depression is a sign of failure. Instead of getting help, many women try to cope and keep their depression a secret. They smile when they feel like screaming, volunteer for everything because they can’t say no; drag themselves through the day when they have been awake most of the night crying. Many mothers are dealing with true clinical depression. If you are sad most of the time, have trouble sleeping (too much, too little, and early morning awakening), eat too much or too little, don’t enjoy things you used to, or cry for no reason, you may be in clinical depression. If you think about suicide and have a plan, call the suicide hotline NOW (1-800-273-8255, in the US)! You can also call 911 if you are serious about hurting yourself.

Call your family doctor and make an appointment if you feel you are depressed. If you can’t get the nerve to call, ask a friend, relative, or your husband to call for you! There is no shame in being depressed! It is a clinical illness. If you had any other illness, you would probably have no problem treating it. There is a chemical imbalance in your brain when you have depression. It runs in families. It can occur after certain life altering situations. Counseling can help you find better coping strategies, help you recognize warning signs, and help you deal with deeply rooted anxieties. Medicine can help you regulate the brain chemicals that are causing your symptoms.

You may be surprised to know how many people you think are handling life so beautifully are dealing with (or have dealt with) depression. Trust someone enough to let them in, let them know the secret you think is so shameful. Sometimes, opening the door and letting the sunshine in makes those secrets less powerful.

If you can’t imagine how it feels to be seriously depressed, read this poem I wrote one time when I felt too sad to even journal about it.

Depression is a thief

coming quietly in the darkness.

Stealing my memories,

My joy.

Stealing time…so many hours wasted

Lying still,

Eyes open,

Too empty to cry.

I am drained of all that is me,

What is left is a fragile shell

Ready to crumble.

Don’t touch me.

Copy write p.jablonski

Do I still deal with depression? Well, yes, although I am getting better at recognizing the patterns and symptoms that signify a downward spin. I am open with my husband and children (and now the whole world, I guess!). They sometimes see the patterns before I do. They know that sometimes they need to drag me to go out with them, even to the grocery store when I am beginning to sink. They pray for me, hold me and encourage me when I am feeling sad. I am getting better about calling my doctor when I notice symptoms returning or worsening. I have asked a few people to help me be accountable to them, to tell them when I am feeling really sad. I realize the fact that depression is an illness, and I may need medicine for my entire life. I am more myself, more creative, and more forgiving of myself and others these days. I still grieve for the time lost, time I could have been enjoying motherhood when my children were younger. I pray that I can use my time now to enjoy every moment I have with my family and friends. I want to embrace every day God gives me, and live my life with joy and purpose.

I want to be alive! Do you?

Thank you for sharing this intimate peek into my life with me. If you or someone you love is depressed, here are some resources for you: (faith based)

Your family doctor

Your pastor, priest, or rabbi

Please write to me, I’d love to hear from you! I can be reached at [email protected]

Be Well,


To see all Ask a Nurse articles click here.

Do you have a question you would like to see answered in a future article? If so, send your questions to: [email protected]

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  1. nickie says

    This i a very moving story. I think everyone has a list in there head for what is perfect, but I always try to remind myself that nobody is perfect and that my family will love me even if I’m not.

  2. says

    Pam Thank you for sharing your story! It is very touching and it also reaches home! I know that I am a depressed mother, I try so hard to hide it. I take my meds like I am suppose to. I still struggle everyday trying to get my Autistic daughter all the care she needs. My 13 year old daughter hates being around us because she thinks I dont care because I am always working with Alyssa.
    Recently my own mother brought me down about 10 notches, I was doing so well and was able to deal with this everyday. My mother told me I do not need any of my meds and to just throw them away. I know I can not manage on a daily basis without my meds, but here I have my mother who lives 900 miles away from me telling me to throw them out and deal with it. I am not a true woman if I cant deal on my own. She even went as low as saying not to post any more pictures of myself because I am ugly now. I have many medical issues and we are working on trying to get them all taken care of. I lose weight for no reason and we think we have pinpointed the issues, I just have to go into Boston to get the proper care I need. So not only is she telling me to throw my meds away but she has also told me I am ugly that hurt worse than the conversation about my meds. Now I am slipping into a deeper depression because I have not talked to my mom who use to be my best friend until this happened! 🙁

    • Melissa says

      Moms! I had my son 4momths ago and when I called my mom & cousin to tell them I ended up with PPD & anxiety both of them said just move back to MA… As if picking up my kids and moving back home while my husband was in GA working would help. A few weeks later when I was having another meltdown she told me just to suck it up. Don’t give up your meds girl!! No matter what your mom says your a beautiful person don’t let anyone tell you different.

      • says

        Thank you very much Melissa! My mom lives in the Carolina’s and she has also told me to move there from MA. I can not do that, I am not able to move out of state with my girls. I will not give up my meds but it really hurts when a mother can be so cruel to her on child. Knowing I have a million things going on in my life between my little one’s Autism having a girl who is about to turn 13 and all my medical issues. Thank you for saying Iam a beautiful person it really means a whole lot. Everytime I think about that comment it makes me sick to my stomach and really depressed. How can a mother be so cruel?

    • pamela jablonski says

      You do whatever you need to do to get better! /Sometimes we need to take a break from family members who poison with unkind and cruel comments. Do what you can to build a support system for yourself. Surround yourself with positive people! See if you can get someone to watch Alyssa so you can spend one on one time with your 13 year old. She needs her Mom a lot at this stage of life, I’m sure she would love to go out on a date night with mom! If your meds are not working, ask to try something else. Go to counseling if you can, churches often have free counseling. You were created as a beautiful gift-don’t let others steal your joy…even family! Blessings to you, dear!

  3. Linda Welshans says

    This story hits home. My mom was depressed but didn’t get help till later on when her kids all moved out. I believe her depression made us feel alone. This story was very moving for me thanks for sharing!

  4. Julie B. says

    I have struggled with depression and anxiety as well, and it’s not a pleasant struggle, but one I am currently winning! I can relate all too well with the poem, but right now, as I said I am winning so there is finally hope on the horizon!

  5. Donna Evans says

    I personally suffer PTSS and know about depression. All of these things about trying to be perfect hits close to home. In a way its nice to know that I am not alone. Very touching story.

  6. jara Christensen says

    This is a very moving and encouraging post! My family has always been raised to be perfecct and it is hard to deal with sometimes.

  7. Devona Fryer says

    Thanks so much for this article. As mothers we truly can understand becoming overwhelmed and we need not be judge for that…we need to be supported and understood.

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