By Sabrina Schlesinger
Warning…super vulnerable post ahead. Being a mom is hard, but being a mom who struggles with depression is even harder!
I couldn’t have written this a year and a half ago. I was neck deep in the quick sand we call depression and had been for approximately 6-7 years. Oh, you wouldn’t have known it looking at me though. I hid it well…like most of us do.
My family and closest friends knew of my struggle, but to the rest of the world, I was normal, happy, and living the dream.
If you have ever struggled with depression or post-partum depression, you know the feeling. For me, it wasn’t a constant every day depression. It came and went with incredible ease and without warning. When it was present, it felt like I was in deep waters with weights on my ankles and it was all I could do to keep my head above water. At times I felt like I was under the water and would get a brief reprieve as my head surfaced for air…only to be pulled back down again. I had weeks, and even months of a break from it…but I always knew depression was looming in the corner, buying its time and waiting for its next opportunity to jump on my back and take me under. I remember sitting in the school pick up line in my car and uncontrollably crying…for no good reason. My kids would ask me, “Mom, are you ok?” I was honest to a point with them letting them know I was feeling sad, but didn’t have any great answers to reassure their little hearts.
Over the 6-7 years that I struggled with this, I had tried everything (except medication). I went to counseling (which I highly recommend for everyone), I lost a bunch of weight and exercised faithfully, I changed my diet, I prayed and prayed and prayed, I listened to videos, read books, talked to friends, all of which helped to a degree but never gave depression the death blow I was hoping for. I didn’t want this to define me. I didn’t want depression to win. I didn’t want my kids to grow up remembering their mom this way. I didn’t want depression to have its way with me and I didn’t want to accept that this was something I was just going to have to live with and tolerate.
In January of 2016 something shifted in me…and it changed everything! Here are 4 things I did to survive and overcome depression:
1. I kept routines.
This is hard…I know…but what kept me going week in and week out was routine! I WANTED to lay in bed all day and do nothing but sleep. I WANTED to be a recluse and ignore every invite, text, and social gathering. I WANTED to stay home from church and play Candy Crush or lose myself in a TV show. But I didn’t. I let routine keep my head above water. I let it lead me when I felt like I wasn’t leading myself very well.
Routine helps…it doesn’t make it go away, but it helps. It helped me not fall further down the rabbit hole of isolation, which depression so very much wanted to take me. It helped having something to get up for and get dressed for so I didn’t fall into despair. It may sound boring and not too exciting, and honestly, it is…but routines help!
2. I kept talking.
Those of us who are overwhelmed with sadness and the weight of the world NEED to talk. And it’s not necessarily the talk so you can get solutions to fix yourself, it is the kind of talk where you are honest with how you are really feeling.
For me it was admitting my frustration that I had no good reason to feel depressed. I had an amazing husband and marriage, my kids were thriving, my church was growing. By all accounts, I “should” have been happy and satisfied, but that is the tricky thing about depression isn’t it? It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if life is great for you or if your world is falling apart, it latches on during any season of your life. So I talked, not just about what I was feeling, but why! And believe me, this part is the hardest. It isn’t always easy to identify a “why” behind the feelings of depression. And sometimes there wasn’t a reason, and I talked about how difficult that was to not have any answers.
I remember going to my doctor and crying through the entire check up. I couldn’t hold back the tears even if I wanted to. I had no reason to cry, but cry I did…and a lot of it...the ugly kind of cry. She ordered tests and blood work. I was hopeful that there was some hormonal or physical reason for the way I was feeling, and when everything came back normal, I was mad. I was mad because I couldn’t blame this on anything or anyone. It was just this thing looming over me that I felt had complete control and left me feeling utterly helpless.
I chose carefully who I confided in. Not EVERYONE needed to know my struggle, but some did. Social media didn’t need to know my struggle either. I asked them for prayer, for wisdom and for counsel. Sometimes I just asked them to be an ear and let me vent and get it all out.
Talking didn’t take my depression away, but it helped. It helped me have a lifeline in the deep waters of depression when I felt like I was sinking. It helped to let people into my struggle so they could check in on me and find out how I was doing.
3. I kept praying and reading my Bible.
For those of you who are not Jesus-followers, the next two points may be a bit hard to swallow, but they are part of my story and freedom, so to leave these out would be doing you a disservice.
I prayed for a long time about this…years actually. It felt like at times there was a glass ceiling in this area of my life that I couldn’t break through. And if I am honest…there was! But I continued to pray and read the Bible, to reach out to my God who I knew loved me and wanted me to be free even more than I wanted it. I knew enough to know that some things don’t break overnight. It is actually the mercy and love of God when there is a delay to our prayers being answered because many times, He wants us to grow and develop spiritual muscles on our pathway to freedom.
It is a lot like the butterfly in the cocoon. If you “help” that little guy out because you see him struggling, then when he goes to fly, he won’t have the strength to take flight. The struggle that we rescued him from was the very struggle he NEEDED to push the blood to the end of his wings so he could survive at new levels and atmospheres. God the Father sees the big picture and knows where I need to go and what higher levels I need to function in, so although He may not have answered my prayer in the timeframe I thought He should, I gained perspective, compassion, understanding, perseverance, and so much more because He allowed me to remain in the struggle. He is a good Father and knows exactly what He is doing.
4. I started fasting.
Here it is…the big one. This was the game changer for me. Remember that glass ceiling I talked about in the last point? It was real. The Bible says in Matthew 17:21, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (AMPC) Some Bible versions actually omit this verse….go ahead and look! It’s crazy. They actually skip this verse and it will go from verse 20 to 22! Or they drop the “and fasting” part. I am no scholar and don’t want to get into that part of it, (so don’t write me about that! LOL), but all I know is that it wasn’t until I prayed AND fasted that I was set free from depression. I know the verse doesn’t specify depression, but I owned it and applied it to this verse and my life and it changed everything.
In January of 2016 my church called for 21 days of prayer and fasting. My definition of fasting is simply choosing to refrain from certain items or actions for a period of time for the purpose of silencing the sounds of this world so you can tune into the frequency of Heaven, positioning yourself to receive from Him.
I was beyond fed up with this thing having its way with me and decided, I am going all out on this thing. So I did a media fast (I stopped watching TV/movies and engaging in entertainment) and fasted certain meals and foods, and spent 1 hour every morning praying. You should know that I am NOT a morning person…AT ALL, so this was really hard for me! But every morning, for 21 days, I got up at 5am and spent an hour in prayer (I had prayer guides helping me because left to myself, I would be all out of “prayer” in about 5-10 minutes!)
About half way through the fast, as worship music was playing during one of my morning-prayer times, I literally felt depression leave! Like, it hightailed out of there!!! I am not even kidding. I felt like the Lord whispered in my ear, “It is finished” and I felt this darkness and presence (that I had just gotten used to carrying) lift off of me. I can’t explain it much more than that. It was crazy awesome!
For a few weeks and months following that, I kept thinking, “is it coming back?” Unlike other times before, when depression gave me a breather, I could always see it out of the corner of my eye waiting for me, but this time was different. It was nowhere to be seen. It was 100% gone and for over 1 ½ years I can gratefully say it has not returned.
I am not sure where you are at in this process of freedom. I can only assume that if you have read this far, you too know exactly what I am talking about and are desperately wanting freedom. Know that I am praying for you. Even if I don’t know your name, I know my God does! He knows you, He sees you, and He loves you! You are not alone. I hope this has given you hope that depression doesn’t have to be a life sentence. I hope that in my vulnerability, you have found the courage to charge head on towards this enemy who has been stealing your peace and joy and now have the weapons in your hand to once and for all take depression out. Fight on sister!!! Your kids will thank you for it someday.
Love + Blessing,