By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
I remember googling this exact title about five years ago during a season I felt the weight of my feelings crashing in on me. I was mothering a 5, 3, and 1-year-old and had just started homeschooling my oldest. I think back to how I struggled that first year homeschooling and really wondered why!?. Now I have five kiddos, and I would relish the ease of just teaching Kindergarten. Nonetheless, my lived experience of this season felt heavy and hard.
As a new homeschooling Mom, I felt even more isolated than ever. We had just changed churches, and many of the moms I connected with every week had sent their oldest off to school for Kindergarten while I was sitting at home trying to figure out how to teach letter sounds to my son while my one-year-old napped. I remember feeling so unsure of our decision to become homeschoolers, and truly, I felt very unseen in that dark season.
I barely made it through that school year alive. I spent Wednesday mornings at our Community Bible Study class hiding alone in empty rooms and crying. I spent weekends fighting with my husband and then retreating from our home, only to cry alone more. On every bridge I drove over, I had to grip the steering wheel a bit tighter to stop myself from the urge to drive myself off the edge just to escape what I was feeling. I was depressed but had no words to convey to the people I needed what I was going through, leaving me alone on an island of darkness.
It was a tough time, but God got me through. Sadly at that time, the Google search "How to Parent While Battling Depression" didn't render much help. Today, as you scroll the internet hoping for light to pierce your dark place, I hope you find something more impactful than I did. Suffering alone is torture. Grab the light and reach out to find the lifeline you need to be yourself again.
Here are some things I've learned as I've had to parent through my battle with depression:
1. God's Grace Is Sufficient to Meet My Needs
I didn't know this when depression first became a part of my story. What occupied my mind was a narrative filled with shame, hopelessness, misunderstandings, and isolation. I felt I had failed in a way too big and shameful for God to see me and help me. This lie from the pit kept me from truly finding the resources I needed to live my life to the fullest.
Don't buy that same lie. God loves you. He wants your mind, body, and soul to experience freedom through him. Sometimes that freedom happens when we pursue spiritual breakthroughs through prayer and meditation on the Word. Other times therapy or counseling can break the chains that hold us back.
Additionally, caring for our bodies is a significant part of living free. Our mental health is not isolated as only a thinking issue. It's a body issue, and God wants to free your body from its chains.
For me, freeing my body from the knot that held my stomach, the cloud that crowded my brain, and the fatigue that stopped me from living big was hard won. It looked like diet changes, exercise, walking, yoga, fasting, taking my body outdoors, medical appointments, counseling, supplements, and medications.
God's grace is sufficient to care for the whole of you. Don't allow a false narrative that you are unworthy or shameful to stop you from pursuing the support you need. It took me seven years to agree to try medication to help level my body and mind. That was seven years of suffering that ended for me through accepting my need for one little pill. For you, shame may stop you from pursuing a Christian counselor that will help you process your emotions in a safe space. It could be fear of failure that is stopping you from changing your eating and exercise habits. Whatever the lie is, it's not from the Lord. God wants to set you free from the cloud that wants to steal your parenting joy.
2. Humbly Invite Others Into Your Struggle
Not everyone has to know what you are facing, but someone does. Preferably someone able to offer you a lifeline. Don't be afraid to ask a friend to babysit so you can go to counseling, yoga, or the doctor. Let your partner know you love them but need them because things are happening in your mind and body that you just don't know how to handle alone. Let them take the lead in parenting and helping you find yourself again.
If you are homeschooling, enlist the help of others to lift some of the teaching pressure from your plate. It could be enrolling your child in an online or co-op class or asking someone you love to take over the lessons for a little while. It's okay not to be able to do it all. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.
Get an accountable person in your life that you trust. Someone who will help ensure you get up in the morning, attend the things that help keep your mind healthy, and will pray with you through this season. Permit this person to check on you often.
3. Don't Worry So Much About the Kids
As a Mom, I felt like a failure because I was not the joyful Mom I desperately wanted to be! I barely made it to 5 pm and sometimes completely tapped out as a parent as soon as my husband arrived home and retreated to my room. I didn't give up, though, and neither should you! Your kids don't need a perfect parent; they need one that persists. I am happy to report that none of my kids even noticed that I was struggling; that may be partly because of their young age but the guilt I felt as a Mom was unnecessary. My kids were fine even though I was barely keeping it together.
Cut back to what feels manageable as a parent in a struggling season and build from there. Even now, I've had to utilize this advice once again. We have just added a three-year-old to our home, and as she adjusts and heals, it places a new layer of parenting pressure on our home. I've had to end our homeschool year early, buy more frozen pizzas, and allow more screen time so we can all manage the extra stress. Embracing the pace of grace during a tough season is one of the best gifts we can give our families.
Remember, God made you with a mind, body, and soul. He doesn't love you less when your mind fails or your body struggles. He knows that we are in a broken and dying world. His love is with us when we face trials of many kinds. Put off shame and embrace grace as you fight for freedom and joy alongside your family.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/FatCamera
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Are you in the trenches with your toddlers or teens? Read Rhonda's full article here!