By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
There are seasons of this life that can get pretty tough. It can be really hard to put words around why parenting, a seemingly joyful time of life, can begin to feel totally overwhelming.
Depression can sneak into our lives and we can be so busy we barely notice it until it’s power over us feels undeniable. Suddenly you start feeling like you’ve been run over, your emotions either frozen up in hopelessness, or spilling over through uncontrolled tears.
The changing nature of parenthood or adult life itself can make it hard to keep your emotions steady.
Depression is an unwanted companion that many of us live with for portions of our life. Some lies depression tells you is that things will never feel better, you are a failure, and hope is lost. I am here to tell you that these things are absolutely not true.
You will feel better, you are not a failure as a person or a parent because you are battling depression, and there is so much hope! I battled pretty severe depression and anxiety for my first several years as a Mom and I lived under the power of these lies (and still can struggle to push back the tide of their power in my mind).
I know firsthand depression and parenting are a hard combination. Thankfully, I also know that by God’s grace you can recover and find joy again.
Here are a few things that I learned from during early motherhood when I struggled with anxiety and depression:
1. Your Kids will Be Okay
A depressed parent is not the same as a bad one. Chances are, even though you are stuck, if the kids are in the mix you are still pulling through for them everyday. Depression is not failure, it’s a condition. Your job now is to get treatment so you can find joy again.
You can still be a great Mom or Dad while working through your valley.
Take action and make decisions for you that will lead towards heath. When battling depression seeking wholeness is the right thing to do as a parent . Your kids may miss out on a little time with you because you are taking time to go see a counselor or are committing to an evening gym sessionbut that choice to get better is truly in everyone’s best interest. Don’t let unnecessary guilt stop you from finding health. Your kids will be okay.
2. God Still Loves You
Depending on your spiritual background you may have received some negative messages about mental health issues. Thankfully in many ways awareness and compassion concerning mental health issues are on the rise. Nonetheless, guilt and shame are sneaky emotions and love to slip in whenever they see an opening.
On top of that, depression often times (particularly if you are a young Mom) is caused by biological or environmental factors that are outside your control. Unfortunately, depression is a condition that none of us are immune to. Beating depression is a hard road and thankfully God’s grace is sufficient to see you through even this.
3. You Can Do What it Takes to Get Well
When facing any health condition the simple fact is that ittakes commitment to get healthy. The good news is, if you are depressed while parenting, you have the best motivation in the world to do that hard work- those beautiful children you’ve been gifted!
I was so grieved while I struggled with anxiety and depression to lose out on experiencing all the joy unfolding before my eyes. Despite my internal struggle, I so appreciated the gift of watching my precious children grow. It made no sense to me that my mind was racing out of my control when my daily circumstances where actually delightful.
Honestly, the dissonance between my love for my family and my inner struggle really got in the way of me being able to see that I needed help.
What pushed me to finally take action towards health was the desire to be fully engaged with my kids. I was sick of the black cloud that followed my around while I watched my sunshine filled kids live joy-filled lives.
I committed to doing everything in my ability to get better and prayed desperately for God to lead me towards feeling like myself again.
If you are stuck in a rut of depression, it’s often times hard to know where to start. The truth is you just have to start. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Change at least one thing in your routine (change is good for the mind)
- Prioritize exercise. Exercise is a very effective way to work off anxious energy and releases endorphins that help combat depression.
- Seek out a mentor. Find a trusted individual that’s a little farther along in life than you and share openly about where you are. There is a good chance they’ve been there and can offer some great insight into your situation.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has a high correlation with anxiety and depression. Do what it takes to get adequate sleep.
- Find a great Christian Counselor. Counseling is powerful and depression often times cannot be worked through on your own. You need a tribe and enlisting the help of a counselor is a great place to start.
- Talk to your Doctor. Rule out other medical issues, talk through possible medications that may help, and get their take on steps to take towards health.
- Commit to memorizing scripture. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Bible is unlike any other book in that it’s words have power. Let the Word of God bring life back to your soul.
- Evaluate your eating habits. Are you thinking about what goes into your body? Take steps towards a life-giving diet.
- Schedule breaks in your day. Parenting is a non-stop job. You need more breaks than you ever thought. Carve out time for yourself daily.
- Confide in a friend. Let a close friend into how your doing. Depression is a very isolating state-of-being. Sharing your burden begins to process of breaking the chains of how you are feeling.
- Create calming rituals. Diffuse essential oils, slowly sip hot tea, take a slow walk, write daily lists of thanks, practice yoga, or take a long hot bath in the evening. Come up with something that feels calming and centering and add it into your daily routine.
4. Be Patient with Yourself
Depression can feel like an immovable weight on your chest. We don’t want to overestimate it’s power but we also need to understand that getting well is going to take some time. Healing is a process. If you break an arm you expect that several weeks will have to pass before that arm starts feeling better again.
Depression is an illness and it takes time to heal and recover just like any other illness.
5. For Your Spouse: Offer a Lifeline of Love and Understanding
When in the midst of parenting it’s not uncommon for both parents to feel overwhelmed. It can be really challenging to know when one of your tips from “overwhelmed” or “exhausted” into depression. Sometimes our support system misses it.
They don’t see how seriously crippling the fog we are living in has become; consequently they can unintentionally make things worse.
During my “foggy years” my marriage nearly fell apart because both me and my spouse didn’t realize I was clinically and severely anxious and depressed. We both equated my behavior to fatigue and hormones. I couldn't see that my continual tense tone was a result of the overwhelmingly loud voice in my head telling me all about the bad things that could happen to the ones I loved at any given moment.
My husband translated my lack of communication and stressed tones as a lack of love for him when it was not about a lack of love but a lack of ability in that season. I was drowning in myself.
I held it together for our kids because I love them with a fierce sort of love. Once my husband walked through the door I literally had nothing else to give and almost immediately retreated into myself.
Giving your suffering spouse the gift of understanding when they are buried under a mountain of emotion is so hard because living with a depressed person is so hard. You have to love past harsh tones, defensive words, anxious tirades, exhausted retreats, and empty conversations.
Yet, what is needed is a lifeline: a grace-filled gift that says “I will nonetheless show you I love you. I will help gently talk you towards health. I will pray for you each day. I will support you as you do the work to get back on solid ground again.”
Be that lifeline of love and understanding.
The good news about depression is that while it is an ugly monster of an emotion, by the grace of God you can be healed (Isaiah 53:5). Parenthood can be full of heavy burdens, so you are not alone if you are struggling under the weight of it all! 1 Peter 5:7 says you can cast your on Jesus. Let the words from Isaiah and Peter spark hope into your heart.
God will carry you and your sweet family through. God’s great promise is that despite what we face today, the end of the story is that with Him it’s going to be okay.
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes about all things motherhood for Richmond Macaroni Kid, creates devotions for Daily Bible Devotions App, she has work published with Her View from Home, is contributing to a couples devotional for Crosswalk, and is a regular contributor for the marriage/family/homeschool/parenting channels on Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda at rvahouseofjoy.com or follow her on Instagram at rvahouseofjoy.
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