In one of Steve’s monthly homeschooling articles for dads, he mentioned that my bouts with depression were part of the reason we decided, at one point, to limit our family size. We were amazed at how many people e-mailed us, after that one sentence in his article, to ask how we had dealt with the problem of depression. It seemed fitting to put together our thoughts on a subject we would be just as happy to shove into the closet and forget was ever a part of our lives. However, there is the possibility that our experience and the changes the Lord has brought in this area might be helpful to others.1 Certainly, depression plays a huge role in the stealing of a meek and quiet spirit.
It has only been eight years since the Lord has given me freedom from the at-times-devastating depression with which I had struggled. It was usually worst during the year I nursed a baby. My pain through those difficult years was very real and is not that distant. I can fully understand the concerned feelings of a mom who is struggling with times of depression, and the worry of her husband, because that was our experience too.
I can’t point to a miracle cure, nor did I discover a twelve-step program to overcome depression. This is probably so I can take no pride in what I did but always know it was the Lord’s work. I will share what we see, in retrospect, about things that helped move me away from depression, and perhaps there will be something here that the Lord can use in another’s life.
One of my first lessons to learn was that the Lord works in His time. I wanted to be over the emotional downs right away. I didn’t want it to be “in process,” and sometimes I was even angry with God because He wasn’t helping me to be better right away. If He was the One to work in my life and I was still depressed, angry, and struggling, then it was His fault! That thinking was totally wrong, but that was how far off my ability to think truth had moved. I had to learn to accept my failings and sinfulness and wait on the Lord for what He would do in my life. It was not my time table. Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
My depression was humbling because I knew I wasn’t what I should be or what He wanted me to be. I even confessed to my church family what was going on in my life. That was a start towards the healing process for me. The depression was no longer something I had hidden away in my private life. Rather, now the Lord could use the prayers of my church family to help me.
I stayed faithful to daily Bible reading and prayed through those dark times, even though I might feel distant from and forgotten by the Lord. However, in the midst of those black days, I was sometimes closer to the Lord than I have ever been. This was because I was totally helpless and needy, not knowing where to turn or what to do.
We discovered that there were very real hormonal imbalances that affected my emotions. I would do everything I could to deny this, but it was very obvious to everyone except me. What I could normally handle one day would send me into tears another day. I used the natural progesterone cream (can be found in most health food stores or see Note 2 at the end of this Corner) for a time along with vitamins suggested by our naturopathic doctor friend (You would need to research the vitamins on your own, because I no longer have that list.). I eliminated caffeine as well.
Daily exercise was critical at this time. I know daily exercise sounds impossible to an already depressed, overwhelmed, terribly tired mom. Exercise—my walks—were about the only time I was away from home. Just getting out of the environment that I was struggling with for a short period each day, plus the effect of the exercise itself, was very helpful. When I would begin to feel myself spiraling down, getting out would sometimes be the only thing that would change the course of my emotions.
Being tired was a sure way to put me off balance. I am a light sleeper, often being wakened in the night by a noise or perhaps the need to nurse a baby. After that, I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. For eight years now, I have worn earplugs (The soft, spongy type; see Note 3 at the end of this Corner) when I sleep. It has transformed my ability to sleep. I thought not being able to sleep was just a part of my physical makeup. Not so! Since I began wearing earplugs, I hardly ever have a sleepless night. Steve became the “ears” for our family, and I know he will wake me up if the children need me. (Earplugs may not be an option for a mom whose husband can’t do this.)
If you want to see what being tired does to even the most “spiritual” of people, look at Scripture. The story of Elijah running from Jezebel after the Mt. Carmel experience is a great example. Elijah was tired and this is what happened from 1 Kings 19:3-5, “And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.” Sisters, guard sufficient sleep in your life very carefully. Don’t trade it for quiet late nights when the children are asleep, and you can have some peace. It isn’t worth it!
I discovered I made it best through a time of depression when I didn’t try to analyze what was causing it. It was better to accept my feelings—as Steve would encourage me to do—like a physical ailment to be patiently waited out. The more I ferreted for the causes the more discouraged and upset I would become.
However, the times I accepted the feelings and said, “Lord, I don’t like this, but I’m going to focus on You and not on me. I am not going to make any major decisions. I’m not going to root for the cause. I will just wait. If I wait, it will pass with no damage except for feeling down. If I think about it and talk to Steve about it, it will pull me further down, resulting in wrong thoughts and words.”
When Steve had run out of ideas for how to help me on his own, he found a pastor’s wife who agreed to counsel with me. Janice and I only met in person one time for an afternoon. She started by making sure that I knew I was saved (see Note 4 at the end of the Corner). With that assurance, she then gave me a couple of tangible projects to put my focus on the Lord rather than on myself. I called her a few times on the phone—at Steve’s insistence—but the path she set me on was exactly what I needed even though we didn’t have multiple “counseling” sessions.
Here are two of her projects. Perhaps they will be helpful to you as well. The first project involved learning to take captive my wrong thoughts—thoughts of being depressed or overwhelmed, thoughts that I was going to ruin my children, thoughts that I would never feel normal, thoughts of anger, bitterness, or defeat, thoughts of being overwhelmed. Those thoughts were all lies. Second Corinthians 10:5 is now one of my favorite verses. It says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” I was to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ! For example, the truth in regard to the feeling of being overwhelmed is that the Lord hasn’t given me one more thing than there is time to do. If there isn’t time to do it, then He doesn’t expect it of me. My family was better off with next to nothing being done and me being happy, then for me to try to do everything my expectations said needed to done while I was depressed and my mind running in circles, able to concentrate on nothing.
The pastor’s wife encouraged me to begin a notebook. She showed me hers. It was a simple 8 ½ by 11 inch three ring binder with “ABC” tabs in it. Behind the tabs she had notebook paper, each with a topic on it such as, “Anger,” “Discouragement,” “Discipline” etc. When she had her Bible reading time, she would take verses that applied to her and copy them down in her notebook under an appropriate heading. Then when she needed to think “truth,” she could open her notebook and read it.
I would suggest that moms, who are prone to depression, do some of this evaluating of what you are thinking and replace the lies with God’s truth. Begin a notebook such as I have described. If you can’t think of God’s truth—I know there were many times when I couldn’t—get your Bible or notebook out and find that truth. Read God’s truth. Speak it out loud if necessary! Sometimes, I would have to say the words of truth out loud because my thinking was so muddled and twisted that I could not concentrate on or accept the truth when it remained in my mind. However, when I spoke the words, my heart would grab hold of them!
For the second project, I was to have another section of the notebook titled, “Sin List.” Every time I sinned, I was to write it in the notebook. I was then to confess the sin to the Lord, repent, and ask His forgiveness. In my notebook, I would write “FORGIVEN” over that sin.
How do you handle it when you are depressed? Do you become more and more unhappy with yourself for being depressed and make a worse cycle downward? I would do that, or I would end up becoming angry with the children and “beat” myself up about that. In my Mom’s Corner, No Condemnation, I share how the Lord gave me victory over that cycle although I write of it in terms of the struggles I have now. However, the truths I apply with my current problems are the ones the Lord taught me in the depths of my need. Learning “no condemnation” came from the “Sin List” project Janice gave me.
I believe a most powerful change came when I made a decision before the Lord one morning. I remember showering and thinking, “Lord, I just feel like crying all the time. I am miserable. My family is miserable. I can’t seem to do anything about how I feel, but I can do something about how my family feels. I can act like I am happy whether I feel like it or not. My emotions don’t have to drive my behavior, and I can make that choice because of my love for my family.” Those reading this, who are living with depression, may think this would be impossible for them to do. I encourage you to test yourself. When you are down and go to church, can others tell by looking at you and talking to you that you are depressed? If you can make this choice to act differently than you feel there, you can do it at home!
I think if depression-prone moms could figure out a way to work on even a skeleton of a schedule, it would help. I have had many moms write me and say that when they are distracted, brain dead, or just overwhelmed that their schedule directed them through their day when they couldn’t make decisions themselves. If you have somewhat of a schedule in place, despite tiredness, despite feelings, many things would get done because it would be the easiest path to take – just do what the schedule says. Without my schedule, on those bad days, I would have just sat and cried. That would have made everything even worse because then I would have been a day behind! Plus you can let your schedule direct your children when you don’t have the energy to keep up with what you would like to be doing. At least they are accomplishing things rather than just undoing everything you have done.
If it is any encouragement, I asked my older children if they remembered the struggles I had during those early, difficult days of their lives. My older boys (21 and 23) remember nothing negative. Can you believe the Lord can blind our children to what is going on inside of us especially when so much of it is easily visible? My 18 year old daughter only remembers one time that I was really struggling. I don’t share that as a license to allow the hormones or depression to control your life and emotions. Rather I tell it to help you to not feel that it is ever hopeless because there is too much emotional damage already done to you and to the children.
Twenty-three years ago I would never have believed where the Lord has brought me in relation to depression. I thought it was impossible to be free of it, but I am. The process was gradual. I wanted it to happen right away. Looking back, fifteen years isn’t all that long to lose what was such a devastating, negative part of my life.
As women, God has created us such that there are emotions and hormones to be coped with. That is still true in my life. However, a disappointment, a “down” day, a discouraging situation is nothing more than that. These no longer send me spiraling through depression. They are simply normal burdens to be left with my Lord Jesus, while I rest in Him.
I pray the Lord will give each mom, who needs help in the area of depression, insight into what will make a difference. Steve always encouraged me that as long as my heart’s desire was to please the Lord, He would answer that heart’s cry.
Somehow these words just don’t come close to describing what all those difficult years were like, but my prayer is that you will sense in my heart a deep desire to be able to encourage moms that it can be better even if you are homeschooling, if there are more pregnancies and more babies, or if there are more challenges of any kind. My growing out of the depression was a result, I believe, of a process the Lord brought me through in the midst of homeschooling, pregnancies, and babies. Seek the Lord!
The September 2000 Dad’s Corner also focuses on Depression.
1. We are not doctors; we cannot make medical recommendations. We are only sharing our own personal experiences. We encourage each of you to pray and research as you look for your solutions to depression.
2. The progesterone cream I used is called ProGest, and it is made by Emerita. There are many progesterone creams currently available, but ProGest is the only one I had experience using. Here is a link to it at Amazon (this is an affiliate link, so if you purchase something, the Titus2 ministry will receive a small portion: see our policy here).
3. You would need to research the vitamins on your own, because I no longer have the list.
4. The ear plugs I use are called “Classic” by Cabot Safety Corporation, 317-692-6666.
5. Scripture verses outlining salvation:
Romans 3:23: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:8-10: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Romans 10:9-10: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.