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

Be Well,


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