Sunday, January 31, 2010


The response I've received from my last post has been overwhelming. Through emails, Facebook messages, comments on the blog and Facebook, and face to face encounters, I've heard from so many women who have been touched by depression in some way. Part of me wants to jump up and down and yell, "FINALLY!!! People are opening up about this!!!!"...the other part of me wants to cry because of the shame so many of you have felt, and still feel.

Not everyone will feel led to face their battle publicly...and that's okay! I just don't want anyone to feel that they have to suffer silently. I can't say this enough: PLEASE reach out to can be a family member, a friend, a mentor...or even me. I won't betray any confidences and know what you're facing. Nobody should have to go through this alone.

Back in September, I purchased the book, Defeating Depression: Real HOPE for Life-changing Wholeness, by Leslie Vernick. What an amazing resource this has been! I started reading it when I was in the deepest part of the pit, and was looking for anything I could find that would offer some encouragement from a Biblical perspective. This book is full of encouragement, and practical advice for people facing depression, as well as for those who walk alongside them. One of my favorite parts of the book is the sample letter she provides for family and friends. This is what it says:

"Dear ________,
I know you've noticed I'm not myself lately and have asked what's wrong and how you could help me. I am battling depression. Here are some things I think you could do that would encourage me during this time.

  • Please don't judge me. I judge myself mercilessly. I don't know why i feel the way I do, but I'm trying to figure it out. Please show patience and support.
  • Please don't tell me just to "snap out of it." I don't like feeling this way. Believe me, if I could just snap out of it, I would have done so.
  • Don't tell me it's all in my head. My heart hurts too. My body feels lousy, and often I feel as if I don't even have the strength to put one foot in front of another. When you say things like this, it's like telling someone who is bleeding by the side of the road, "It's all in your head. Just snap out of it."
  • Speaking of bleeding by the side of the road, remember the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan? He helped the wounded man and demonstrated compassion. Please understand that right now I may not be able to do for myself what I once was able to do. I may need your help and some of your time, energy, and/or money to get better. Please offer them generously; don't make me ask or beg. I probably won't. When you seem reluctant or unwilling to help me, I don't feel I'm worth anything to you.
  • I need encouragement and support. I need you to reach out to me and not allow me to continue to isolate myself. Call me. Invite me for a walk. Come over to my house to talk with me. Don't take my reluctance or even a no for an answer. I need you right now. Pray with me and hold me. Hugs can bring more comfort that words can express. Let me cry when I need to.
  • Please tell me the truth, but speak it with grace and love. I am a prisoner of my own harsh words. I do not need to hear scolding words from others. The Bible tells us to help the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Right now I'm weak. Help me regain my strength. Your words are very powerful to me, especially negative ones. I hear them much louder than any other words you will ever say.
  • If I'm under medical care or seeing a counselor, please understand that my doctor and/or my therapist are here to help me figure out what's wrong and how to get better. If you tell me what you think is wrong or what I should or shouldn't do to get better, it confuses me and undermines my confidence in the helpers that God has put in my life.
  • Finally, in the Bible there was a man named Job who was very depressed. His friends said all the wrong things to him. Listen to his advice to them. He said,

Won't you ever stop your flow of foolish words? What have I said that makes you speak so endlessly? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off my criticisms against you and shake my head at you. But that's not what I would do. I would speak in a way that helps you. I would try to take away your grief (Job 16:3-5, NLT, emphasis added).

Speak to me in a way that helps me. Encourage me. remind me of the good things in my life. Help me trust God with all of this. Stand by me and tell me you love me, and then with your help and God's, I will be able to have the strength to fight to get healthier and stronger.

Thank you for wanting to help me and for caring about me. I appreciate you.

Love, __________ (pp 240-242)

Wow...I'm so glad she included this in her book...I don't think I would have had the presence of mind to come up with this on my own! I'd like to add a couple of other things that are helpful for a mom struggling with depression.

  • Offer to bring a meal over. It doesn't have to be fancy. Heck, you could even call a local pizza place and have pizza delivered. One of the most overwhelming things for me, when I'm in the pit, is to try to come up with something for dinner. I can't even tell you how many nights we've had cereal.
  • Offer to babysit. I've got great girlfriends that have stepped in to watch my kids so I can go to my counseling appointments, or even so I can have a couple of hours to run errands alone.
  • Send a card. There is nothing better than opening the mailbox and seeing a pretty, handwritten notecard from a caring friend. You don't have to fill it with Bible verses or profound thoughts. A simple "I'm thinking of you and I love you" can say it all!
  • Help with housework. Again, my girlfriends and mom have been lifesavers in this area. Show up and just start cleaning. Tackle a project and don't be afraid to tell your friend "go through this pile and eliminate half of it to throw away/donate/recycle."
  • Remember my husband and kids. It's not easy for them to see me this way. If your husband knows mine, encourage him to call and offer to meet for lunch (or dinner, but then offer to come over yourself during that time to help with the kids!) Invite my kids along for a trip to the park or a sleepover. Mom isn't always the most fun person to be around, nor does she have the energy to plan for fun.

If you have other ideas, please share them with me. I'm sure there are things I've overlooked. Also, if you are going through depression and a friend offers help, don't let pride get in the way and cause you to decline it. You're robbing two people of a blessing, that way! One of the ways I've felt the most blessed is when I reach out to others and they accept my help. We were never meant to walk through this life alone. I'll say it over and over if I have to...WE NEED EACH OTHER!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where to start?

I'm back! I've been such a delinquent blogger...I'm not even sure where to start. As I said before, I want to be more intentional about this blog. I have been to places I never wanted to go, and I want to share that with you. Not for pity...the Lord knows I spent enough time doing that for myself. Not for attention...I can think of many other things I would want to be known for. I do this because I made a promise to God that I would not waste the pain I've experienced. I knew all along this path that HE would be glorified through it someday. If that happens by me sharing my story, then what more can I do but obey?

When I was in college, I really struggled with WHY I was there. I wasn't one with big career goals. I wanted to get married and have a family...that was my dream job. I knew that I should have a 'backup plan', so that's why I got my dental hygiene degree. But deep down, I knew God was calling me to motherhood as my profession.

Fast-forward a few years...we had those babies I had dreamed about. After Annaliese (#2) was born, I started feeling 'not right'. My OB/GYN diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I wasn't in denial about was a very real thing. I learned (after hearing countless times, "Why are you depressed? You have a husband that loves you, two beautiful children, a brand new home...what do you have to be depressed about???") that depression is NOT circumstantial. Yes, circumstances can contribute to it, but it is a chemical, physical, REAL disease. I took my medication and felt like I was doing pretty well after awhile. When we found out we were expecting baby #3, my dr. suggested that I should stay on the medication throughout my pregnancy and for at least another year after giving birth. I did. When Adam was around a year old, I figured that since I had done so 'well', I didn't need to take it anymore, so I weaned myself off. Big mistake. Long story short, I crashed hard. I was put back on medication and have been on it ever since. When Sam was born (#4), I felt great. No big emotional dips, no harmful thoughts. I was hoping to be able to wean off my meds shortly after his first birthday, but then we found out we were expecting a surprise...Tessa. :)

My pregnancy with her was pretty typical. No big complications, just the typical pregnancy discomforts. After she was born, I was so happy...and then, it happened. I started feeling completely overwhelmed. Everyone kept telling me "Wow! You have FIVE kids?!?!? You must be a superwoman!!!". For the sake of any of my friends out there with large families, PLEASE do not say this to us! It only puts pressure on us to BE a superwoman! Everytime I heard someone say this, I felt like a fraud. Sure, when you see a mom out with her kids, and they're dressed decently and are semi-well behaved, you think she's got it together. What you don't see (or at least what is true for me) is the mom that screamed at her children that morning because they were being irritating. The mom who screamed at and belittled her husband for something very insignificant. The mom who was mad at God for giving her what she asked for. The mom who looked for every chance she had to escape, practically running out the door the minute her husband came home from work and often didn't return until well after the kids were in bed. The mom who looked around at the house that looked like a bomb went off in it, but didn't know where to start, so she did nothing. That was me.

This past summer was not at all what I'd hoped it would be. I did the bare minimum each day. Breakfast for the kids. Check. Lunch. Check. Naptime. Check. The rest of the time, I was checked-out. We made the weekly trip to the park, swam at the community pool, had lots of playdates with our friends. But I did nothing to engage my kids at all. I was resentful of them, honestly. I felt unappreciated and invisible.

Around the time of Tessa's first birthday (in September), I had a complete breakdown. I don't even remember what sparked it, but I lost it. Thankfully, the kids were outside, but hateful words were said, things were broken, and I hit bottom. I sat on the floor of the bathroom, sobbing, thinking of ways I could escape my life permanently. I was terrified. My poor husband didn't know what to do with me...I can't imagine how horrified he was by what happened, how angry he must be at me, how frustrated he was that he couldn't help me. I will say this...God gave me an extremely patient, forgiving, and loving husband. Neither of us are perfect, but we know God knew what He was doing when He brought us together.

I have also been blessed with an amazing group of girlfriends. They have been a huge support to me though this whole journey. They encouraged me to get help. I called my doctor, but was told I had to wait a week to get in. During that week, another call was put in to them, and they increased my medication dosage. By the time the appointment came around, I was a pile of tears every day. As Jared and I sat in his office, I was overcome by the reality of it all. I had to get help...I couldn't try to do this on my own anymore. My dr. made a phone call and got me an immediate appointment with a counselor in the same building. Again, as I told her what was going on, all I could do was cry. She set me up for the following week with the counselor I would be seeing on a regular basis. It helped to be heard, but I still didn't see how things would get any better.

After my first appointment with my counselor, I began to feel freed from the guilt I was carrying around about the summer. I beat myself up pretty badly over that. She reassured me that the kids probably wouldn't look back on the summer as the worst one of their lives, and reminded me that we did do SOME fun things along the way. I looked forward with anticipation to our family vacation, which was planned for the end of September. Destination: The Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Most of you know the story...we got there, settled into the rental home, and Annaliese developed pneumonia in both lungs and was hospitalized for the fourth time since June, an hour and a half away, for the rest of the trip. I was devastated. The ONE thing I looked forward to with our family and THIS is what happens??? To be honest, I STILL struggle with this one. I'd love a do-over.

So, since September, I've been seeing my counselor every two weeks. She's helping me understand myself better, and I'm learning how to take time for myself that is beneficial, not just to escape. I've had a couple of 'dips' since then, where my medication kind of levels out a little for a couple of days, and I feel pretty down and just want to sleep. Thankfully, they happen on the weekends when Jared is home to pick up the slack.

I think one of the things that frustrates me most about depression is not knowing how long I'll have to deal with it. It could be for this season of my life. I could be for the rest of my life. I may need to take medication forever. And I'm okay with that. There is a huge stigma attached to medication that I wish would just go away. Taking it does not make one weak. It doesn't mean that you are a failure. The goal of my treatment is not to get me off my's to keep me healthy.

If you read this and see yourself in something I've written, please know that you are not alone. You may feel like the worst person on the planet. You may want to escape your life. You may feel like you're worth nothing to anyone. I remember sitting with a friend at church one Sunday the past fall, crying my eyes out. I looked at her and sobbed, "I just feel like my kids would be better off with another mom, and that Jared would be better off with another wife!". She looked me right in the eyes and said, "Amanda, that is a lie from the pit of hell...I don't EVER want to hear you say that again!". That was just what I needed. Someone to speak TRUTH to me. I'm thankful to have some very Godly women in my life. Maybe you don't have that. Please don't be afraid to reach out.

There is a lot more I could write, and I feel like some of this may be a little dis-jointed. I'll have a lot more to say about depression and helping someone you love who is struggling with it, but I will leave you with this for now:

Be gracious to me, O God,
be gracious to me.
For my soul takes refuge in you;
and in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge
until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
to God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples on me.
God will send forth this lovingkindness and His truth.
Psalm 57: 1-3

Friday, January 8, 2010

New year, new beginning

I just spent an hour trying to get the blog 'look' updated...HTML code genius, I am not. :)
So much has happened in my life since my last pitiful post back in August. Not just in the day-to-day life of the Joneses, but in my heart as well. I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you. One of my goals this year (not resolutions), is to be more intentional with blogging about the path my life is taking. There have been some incredible difficulties, but there have also been equally as many blessings. Stay tuned...