Depression Anniversary

This morning my Facebook memories popped up and showed me that three years ago, I made my first “public” post about my struggle with depression and our decision to put our children in public school. 

I read through the comments again this morning. (All 78 of them!) And what stood out to me was how much of a need we have for people to honestly share their struggles. Knowing that someone else is struggling makes us feel less isolated, it eases some of our shame. 

Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to give you all a “Depression Update”. 

One of my big disappointments in life is that I haven’t had a full recovery from my depression. While I haven’t been as low as I was three years ago, I still feel like depression is something that I have to actively keep at bay. And when I am not purposeful about taking care of myself, it creeps back in. 

Things I do to keep depression away:

Take a night off. 

Wednesday nights are MY nights. My husband gets home from work and I take off. I very often end up at Panera where it’s ok to sit with your computer or a book for a long period of time. I have a couple different friends who often meet me there for an evening of chatting and encouragement. Sometimes I go walking in the park alone or with friends. Sometimes I just leave the house, go buy myself some supper somewhere and then sneak back into my house in the back door and hide in my bedroom, feet up, reading a good book. 

The whole point though is that I can do whatever I want without feeling any guilt about leaving my husband home alone with the kids. (He gets his own night off.)

Give myself lots of space. 

I do not keep a perfectly clean house. I do not run a tight ship. I do not have a perfect schedule. I do not have a full, busy schedule. I am very purposeful about keeping my daily routine as free from stress as possible. I have found that the only way I can maintain a 24hrs a day, 7 days a week parent-of-many-children lifestyle, is to keep my day as calm as possible. Lots of wiggle room. Maybe it only takes us two hours to get all our homeschooling work done.  I give myself four hours. That way we can take lots of breaks, follow rabbit trails if we want, have time to deal with phone calls that might come in, or a quick chore that has to get done. I do not do well when I have to follow a tight timeline. Occasionally it can’t be avoided. There are doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, school meetings. If I have a day that involves me running full stop all day long, then I make sure that the next day I have nothing extra going on and I move slower. 

Date nights

The other day I told my husband something that I don’t think I had ever put into words before. “You are essential to my happiness.” And it’s true. When Andy walks in the door at night, my shoulders visibly relax. He makes me laugh. He uses his words often to tell me how important I am to him, to tell me how he feels about me. And I am encouraged and I feel loved. We need time together. We need to be able to unplug from parenting for a minute and just be two adults who like spending time together. Now, I know that for parents with young children, getting out on a date can be impossible. We went years not being able to get out. Now, we have teenagers who can babysit and we try to get out once a week for a date. But, sometimes money or schedules keeps us from being able to go out. Then we have bedroom dates. And by that I just mean we get the kids to bed, maybe get a snack, watch a movie together in our room or just sit and talk. The main point though is that we are purposeful about setting aside at least one night a week that is ours. 

Daily Devotions/ Daily exercise

Taking time every day to read the Bible and pray feeds my spiritual self. Taking time every day to get my body moving feeds my physical self. Sometimes I don’t do these things. But, when I do, I feel happier and have more energy. 

Talk to a therapist/friend equivalent

I still have monthly or bimonthly phone visits with my therapist. And I always think, before the call, do I really need this? And then afterwards, I am always glad that I was able to talk to her. It is a great help to have another adult look into your life and help you process challenges and get a perspective that is focused on the good of you and your mental health.

Practice Thankfulness

This one is actually an outpouring of my Christian walk. The Bible tells us repeatedly to give thanks in all things. As God has been teaching this to me over my lifetime, I have not only learned how to lose a bad mood or a bad attitude, but I’ve also learned how to stop and just take pleasure from small things. The way the sun is shining just-so on that tree. The sound of fall leaves crunching under my feet. The smell of woodsmoke. Watching my children practice acts of kindness to each other. Being thankful, noticing the goodness around me, these have gone a long way in helping me to not succumb to depression. 

In the end, all of these things are tools, not cures. I have days when I crawl back into bed in the middle of the day. Or I end up sitting in my chair, doing nothing. But the difference between years ago and now, is that the next day, I can usually get up and keep moving, instead of it dragging on and on and on. 

Maybe I will struggle with depression the rest of my life. But I have hope and peace that God will help me through it, one day at a time, one strategy at a time. 

Why are we so Angry?

My last post was essentially an Angry Rant about people Angry Ranting on the internet. Yes. I see the hypocrisy here. Of course, when you’re angry, it’s kind of hard to think clearly. All you can think about is your anger, and what’s fueling it, and you just want to lash out. And I did. And I’m sorry. While I had many friends that could empathize with my position, I knew that I had written it in anger, not love. So I removed the post. 

 

It’s got me thinking about why am I so angry? Why is everyone else so angry? It’s also got me a little more sympathetic for everyone else’s Angry Rants. Yes. I see. When you are angry, it’s hard to be kind and respectful and thoughtful. 

 

I’m going to try again. 

 

Take 2

 

So, why are we so angry? 

 

I can’t speak for everyone else. I can tell you some of the things that have made me angry recently. 

 

I am angry about a pandemic that has shut down my normal way of life. I am angry that the leadership is so divided, that I have no trust in how my country is dealing with this. I am angry that the news media is so biased, I have no trust in what they are saying and now I feel like I am sifting through mountains of information, and it’s just a guess as to which one is true or false. I am angry at the stories of Police Brutality that have come to light. I am angry that I really wasn’t clued in to what was happening. I am angry that I seem to have no tangible way of making the situation better. I am angry at how politicized the whole thing has become. Instead of a human rights issue, the media (on both sides) seem determined to make this a Political Party issue. I am angry at how divided our country is. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix it. I am angry that we are turning against each other on social media, drawing lines in the sand on issues, that many of us just really don’t fully understand. 

 

I am angry at how this shut down has made my life so much more difficult as I try to raise a large family. I am angry that I am exhausted and the light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away and it keeps flickering, like it might disappear. 

 

I am angry at myself for not being “better”, “stronger”. Why do I have to be so weak? Why do I have to struggle with depression? Why can’t I rise above my circumstances? 

 

Before I took my post down, a friend commented on my Facebook page that he disagreed with my sentence I had written that said, “We are better than this.” He pointed out that we are actually worse, and it’s only God’s grace that has kept us at any kind of level of civility (paraphrased). And I had to agree. He’s right. We are all so capable of so many horrible things: anger at each other, racism, superiority complexes, oppression, hatred, murder. 

The other day I was faced with a confession by a fellow human being, they told me of a horrible deed they had done and I was shocked. Shocked into silence. You did what?? How? I just sat there. There were no words to offer sympathy and justification for the deed, just horror. And suddenly, I found myself preaching the Gospel. This is why Jesus came. All of us have done bad things. Every single one of us. And none of us can fix it. None of us can make all those bad things go away. We are completely helpless. And Jesus came. He lived the perfect life for us. He died on the Cross and paid the price for these horrible things that we have done. He wiped the debt clean. He removed the offense. He is the only one who can make us pure again. We need to come to him. Confess our sins. Ask his forgiveness. Accept his forgiveness. Have faith that he has made all things right again. 

 

That’s where we are at as a country. We have done horrible things. We have turned a blind eye, we have walked in pride, we have vented our anger, we have mocked and scorned each other. There is no way to fix this. People who are concerned about White Privilege feel that old debts need to be repaid. How?  It is too big, too messy, too arbitrary. White Privilege is in essence the privilege of the ruling class which has been going on since the beginning of time in every single country that has ever existed. How can we go back and fix every single wrong? And yes. It is definitely wrong. It is sin. It is evil. 

 

I would say that it can’t be fixed. Every single one of us needs forgiveness. You might say, I’m not a racist! I don’t have any privilege! Or maybe you are black or another one of the minorities, and you say, Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong, I’ve just been wronged against. 

 

Maybe, in the matter of race, you are completely innocent. But can you say the same for every other area in your life? 

 

All have sinned and Fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

 

I look at the mess we are in. All the anger. I am overwhelmed, there are no words to fix it. And so I will preach the Gospel. Because, sappy as it is, Jesus truly is the only answer. And I’m not talking about a religion. I’m talking about the God who says, “Love Me and then Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” And then he gives us his Holy Spirit to give us the power to do those two things. 

 

And as I focus on Him, some of the fear eases away. And as fear eases away, I suddenly don’t feel like I have to lash out. Yes, I can still be angry at injustice, wrongdoing, violence. But, I can also get a bigger perspective. This is a spiritual battle. (As a friend reminded me today!)I need to be praying for my enemies, not gloating over them. Each person I meet is a soul that needs Jesus. My anger isn’t going to save them. But my love and compassion might. 

 

An Exercise in Being Aware

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The kids are asleep and I was heading back to my bedroom.  

 

I stepped out on the back deck and I saw Blue. The color blue that reminds me of fairy tales. It’s almost magical. The kind of color I wish could somehow be made into the perfect ball gown, where my glass slippers sparkle on my feet as I enter the silent ballroom, all eyes on me, the mysterious princess. 

 

I stood on my deck and I listened. Crickets. The sound of childhood. Sitting outside on our porch on a warm summer night, deep in the woods in Eastern Kentucky. Going on long walks with my parents in the evenings, down the hollow road (pronounced Holler), take the first right and go up the gravel road to Mayberry Cemetery, get home just as evening has settled.  

 

I stood on my deck and I smelled summer in the city. Fragrant bushes. Green. Also slightly off scents wafting from the alley where everyone’s garbage cans are lined up neatly, waiting for the weekly pickup. 

 

I stood on my back deck and I felt a cool breeze. Surprisingly cool for this time of year and this part of the country. The coolness reminded me that I was only wearing a light summer dress. It made me think of sweaters and shawls. Perhaps grabbing a blanket from inside, curling up on a deck chair while I watched the night fully arrive. 

 

I stepped back inside. Feeling better about life. 

 

This is something I have learned how to do to combat anxiety. There’s a lot of words for it. Centering, Mindfulness, Meditating. 

 

I think I would simply call it, Being Aware. Stopping the racing thoughts and noticing your environment. 

 

From there it’s a simple step to thankfulness.

 

Thank you God for your beautiful creation. Thank you for that amazing shade of blue. Thank you for summertime. Thank you for crickets and trees and bushes and flowers. Thank you for the breeze. Thank you for my home. 

 

Yes. I feel better now. 

Being Healthy Takes Energy

I have come to some conclusions. My tank is dangerously low and is about to run dry. 

 

Things that used to fill my tank up: Going to church, having all the kids in Children’s church and being able to sit with my husband quietly, enjoy worship and teaching together; going out on Wednesday night’s with my girlfriends and just talking nonstop for several hours; going on a weekly date night with my husband. 

 

The first two have been affected by the quarantine, the last by having foster kids who are a bit much for my teenagers to handle when babysitting. 

 

At the same time, the mental energy that has been required of me has quadrupled. I think what is mostly wearing me out is being the resident Psychologist of the home. 

 

I am what people call a “good listener”. Which is fine, until you are absolutely drained dry and then you just feel like plugging your ears and saying NO MORE! 

 

RIght now, I’m sure there are a lot of people thinking, well, why don’t you try this or that or what about this idea? Just get creative! You can still figure out how to get your tank filled. 

 

And here is what people don’t realize. Exhausted, worn out, anxious or depressed people, they really don’t have the energy to get creative. Getting creative requires mental energy.  

 

 I remember my momentous 6 week postpartum check up after Phoebe was born. The Dr was horrible. She came in, looked at me a little puzzled, “Were you the one that had a C-section?”

Uh no. Wrong patient. I reminded her of who I was and what my birth involved. Ah yes. 

 

Then, at the end she asked me if I was having any problems with depression. I said yes, this was something I struggled with. Her response. Well, for goodness sakes, go find some help somewhere, I don’t want to read about you in the news. 

 

Gee. Thanks. I’ll do that. Because a depressed person definitely has all the motivation and energy in the world to go figure out insurance and find a provider and wait the two months it takes to get into a first appointment. 

 

So helpful. 

 

Compare that to my yearly check up I had with my Primary Care Doctor recently. I told her about some of the things I was struggling with and she said, You know, we have a resident Psychologist here, if you’re willing to wait a little bit, she can come and talk to you right now. And then she came and we talked and then scheduled future appointments. 

 

I know that life doesn’t work that way most of the time. Usually, if you are needing something, you are really the only one that can make sure you get what you need. In the end, you are responsible for your own mental health. I think though, that people who don’t struggle in this area, don’t realize how hard it is to take of yourself. It’s really, really hard. 

 

But, understanding the problem is half the battle. And I guess, that’s partly why I blog. I start writing, and it helps me think through the problem. 

 

So, I guess that’s what I’ve got to concentrate on, getting creative, despite the exhaustion, cause it’s a matter of survival. 

 

Coronavirus, Kids, and Mental Health

Hey Everyone. I’m wondering how everyone is doing right now with the World Pandemic?  I’ve got friends who have been preparing for this kind of scenario their whole lives, and they are READY! And then I have friends who aren’t taking things too seriously, still doing life as-normal as much as they can. I think I’m probably in the place that most people are. I’m taking it seriously, but I’m really not set up to be SUPER PREPARED. I don’t have the storage space or the extra cash flow to have two months of groceries stored up in my house. I live in the city. I don’t have a wilderness hide-away to retreat to in full-blown quarantine. I’m taking it one day at a time. 

 

So…Kids. Let’s talk kids. 

 

My kids are excited about having a super-long vacation. And mad because we can’t go do all the fun things they normally expect to do on a vacation. Can we go to the Children’s Museum? No. The zoo? No. The library? Well, we can go get a book, but we can’t hang out there. Play at the playground? No, way too many families there. 

 

I’ve seen a lot of posts online about How To Homeschool Your Child During Coronavirus. Homeschooling moms are in their element right now, finally, people willing to listen to their experiences!! I’ve told the kids we are going to start homeschooling next week. I’m starting to feel depressed about this. Our school system has said we are shutting down through April 3rd. I have no hope that they are going to be opening school on April 7th. And that makes me depressed. I stopped homeschooling for a reason. It was One Thing Too Many for me to handle. Right now it still feels like One Thing Too Many for me to handle. But, on the other hand, having a household full of children with no schedule and no real structure is also Too Much To Handle. So, I plan to homeschool just so I can give these kids schedules and structure, so we all don’t go insane. 

 

Here’s the plan. I plan to read devotions and have the younger kids choose a sentence from our Bible story that they can copy neatly and maybe draw a picture. I’ve got a cool history book I like called “Story of the World”. I plan to read this out loud to all the kids and give them paper and pencils to draw a picture of something that stands out to them in what I’m reading.  The older kids can write me a paragraph summary of what we’ve read in history. For math, my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are going to drill times tables, since none of them have their times tables memorized. I’ve got some cool science books that I’m also going to read out loud and let kids draw pictures and write descriptions of what we’ve read. And then, I’ve got a large selection of quality Children’s Literature. Everyone gets to pick a book and read some of it every day. My middle-schoolers and high-schoolers can get online and use resources that their schools are making available. My preschooler and kindergartner can do phonics workbooks that I already own, and I’ll continue to do reading lessons with them. The first grader can read books and all the little ones can do addition flashcards. Then we’ll run around outside and play a lot of games. And watch some of my favorite orchestra pieces on YouTube. And paint pictures. 

 

Or, I’ll lose all patience and tell the kids to turn on the tv and leave me alone. 

 

We’ll see. 

I guess, the point is, either scenario is fine. We all have structure and learn something. Great. We free roam, watch tv and eat snacks all day. Also ok. 

 

There isn’t a script that we are supposed to be following. This is new for all of us. Grace. We just need to practice grace for each other. Sometimes grace might look like stimulating our kid’s brains and giving them lots of interesting things to do. And sometimes grace might look like throwing the kids out in the yard and making them stay outside all day. Or binge watching Marvel Movies. Or getting Happy Meals. Or learning how to bake bread. 

 

Let’s just take it one moment at a time. 

 

How to Love Your Neighbor

Hello Internet World. Hope you all are well. I am doing pretty good right now. Feeling rather mellow actually. I’m currently sitting at a Panera with my oldest daughter who is home to visit this week. We both have our computers out…writing. It runs in the family. It is my treasured night off that I get once a week and I am feeling pretty peaceful. 

 

I would have to say this a leftover from this past weekend where my husband and I were able to go have a weekend away while my parents watched the kids. It was a much needed break and even though I got thrown right back into the melee when I got home, I am feeling a lot more relaxed about life. 

 

This is having positive effects all around. I’m not feeling on edge, so when the kids are being crazy, I don’t react crazy. I stay calm and that helps everyone else get calm. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, Self-Care, take care of yourself…Here’s the weird thing. When you take care of yourself, it helps you to take care of everyone else better. 

 

That verse in the Bible, the Ultimate Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself…it’s hard to love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself. 

 

As a mom, it is so hard to prioritize taking care of myself. It’s my job to be self-sacrificing, the kids come first, my needs aren’t as important. Which is true to an extent, but if I don’t find a healthy balance of taking care of me and taking care of them, if things get out of balance, I end up not being able to take care of them after all. 

 

I know this. I completely burnt out on life several years back and went through a couple years of deep depression. Coming out of that depression took time, and I had to learn some new skills. Here are some things I learned in no particular order.

 

  1. Deal with the inner emotional issues. Get some counseling, therapy, whatever you need, to start digging out the root of your unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.
  2. Cultivate some outside interests.
  3. Start using your talents that you have allowed to go dormant. 
  4. Speak up. Give honest answers instead of pretending everything is fine. 
  5. Be daring and allow yourself to open up to some trusted friends, show them the real you. 
  6. Prioritize getting regular breaks. Even if they are just a short hour here and there. 
  7. Keep talking to God. Even if you are too tired to read your Bible or listen to a sermon, keep talking to him. He’s the best friend you can ever have. 

 

This is not a complete list, but these are what come to mind when I think back on how God has been teaching me over the years to love myself. And loving myself has made it so much easier to love others. Funny how that works. 

 

Self Care not Self Indulgence

I’ve been thinking a lot about Self-Care lately. I have been on a journey as I try to get to the root of my over-eating problems, food addictions, bad habits and life-style choices that have left me in a state of being overweight and unhealthy. I’ve been trying to figure out why I keep self-sabotaging all my attempts to be healthier, lose weight etc. What is wrong with me? 

 

Through this process, a couple stories from my childhood have come to mind. I wrote them down. I thought about them a lot. And slowly, a pattern revealed itself. I use food as a form of Being Kind to myself. In my mind, allowing myself to have that: extra helping, piece of chocolate, bakery delight, ice cream etc. is a way that I try to be kind to myself. I’m feeling depressed. I go eat something yummy. I’m stressed out. I buy myself a chocolate bar. I’m overwhelmed. I go eat fast food.  In all these situations I am feeling the need to be kind to myself and food has become the way that I do that. 

 

Obviously, this actually not being kind to myself. It has caused me to be overweight and unhealthy. That is not kindness. 

 

During these past weeks, I had a friend who was doing an “88 Days of Self-Care” where she described every day what she was doing to take care of herself. But I didn’t really grasp what she was doing until I read a post someone had shared about Self-Care by SORT THIS. It was exactly what I needed to hear. The main point that I carried away is that Self-Care is basically Self-Parenting. It’s not Self-Indulgence. I have definitely been completely into the self-indulgence thing. As a Parent of Many Children, hearing the term Self-Parent starts all kinds of bells ringing. I understand this concept. I know how to parent. I do this all day. No, you can’t have that candy. You don’t need to be eating sugar. Get your butts outside and play, you’ve been sitting around the house all day. Go get some sunshine, you’ve been cooped up in a dark room all day. Eat your vegetables! You need the nutrients! Take your vitamins, it will help you stay healthier. Have you had enough water today? Don’t forget you need to drink water all day! No, we’re not having dessert tonight, you don’t need to have dessert every day. 

 

I know all about parenting. 

 

This has been a paradigm shift for me. How to be Kind to Esther? Parent Esther. Don’t Indulge Esther. Stressed out? Go for a walk, get on the elliptical. Journal. Play the piano. Feeling Depressed? Repeat the above. Unhealthy? Talk to your doctor, find out what changes you need to make. Make the changes. 

 

In the past, my biggest hang up was that self-denial felt like being mean to myself. And after a while I would just get over it. Life is hard and I want someone to be kind to me. And not getting to eat dessert during the holidays while everyone else is, felt mean. Not getting that special treat when I was stressed did not feel kind at all. 

 

But now, I’m trying to see it through the lense of parenting. When I see a child walking around with an armful of junk food, stuffing their faces, I don’t think, “Oh what a lucky child! Someone was so nice to give them that!” I think, “Why is this kid’s parents letting him eat all that? It’s going to make them sick!” Parenting. Saying no because you’re looking at the Big Picture instead of the in-the-moment desires. I know you want to stay up all night watching tv, but you have school in the morning, so you need to get in bed on time. Saying No because you love this person and you want the best for them. And the best involves discipline. 

 

So, for the upcoming year, that is my goal. Start parenting myself. 

 

 

NOT a Bad Day

I needed to write. So you all get a bonus Blog today. 

 

My lifetime enemy, depression, has been rearing its ugly head lately. I’ve been in denial. I’m fine. I’ve got this. I’m ok. Then today, when I found myself glued to my chair, not wanting to move, except to climb into bed and sleep, I realized, oh, yes, I recognize this pattern. 

 

I’ve decided to fight back a bit. The worst thing about depression is that it whispers, “Failure!” in my ear, constantly. So, I have decided to compile a list of ways that I did not fail today. Speak a bit of truth. 

 

First, my two and five year old boys, who were in my charge all day, are alive and well. They ate, got cleaned, played, watched tv, went outside. As far as they are concerned, it was a great day.

I got all my school age kids to and from school without a hitch, and they are all in a good mood, playing with friends.

Supper is cooking. The dishes are caught up. The laundry is doing ok. The downstairs of the house is clean. Sure, I paid the kids to clean it because I wasn’t able to force myself to do it. But, the kids got some pocket money, they’re happy, it was cheaper than hiring a maid, and I can say that I used my delegating skills.

I also signed our family up for health insurance for the next year on Healthcare.gov, which is a soul-sucking experience in itself. It actually took me two days to finish the whole application. But, it’s done! 

 

I kept the fire going in the woodstove. 

 

I’m getting along with my husband. 

 

My pets are happy. 

 

It wasn’t a failure day.

 

So, for all my friends out there fighting depression and anxiety, this is actually a pretty good tool. Write down everything that was right in the day, even if you have to grasp at straws, like, The sun came up today and set as normal. No tornadoes blew my house down. My car didn’t explode. I didn’t catch the plague… See! It works! I’m feeling better already. 🙂 

 

Thanks for listening. 

 

 

The Power of Being Real

I just finished reading a book called “The Elephant in the Room” by Tommy Tomlinson. It is an autobiography about a Southern man who is morbidly obese (446 pounds) and his journey to losing weight. It is a very honest book that explores how he got to this place and what kept him there. It also is a kind of yearlong journal as he struggles to walk on a different path. What I love about the book is that there is no quick fix. No amazing new diet that completely turns his life around. It is simply a slow, long, hard walk to start making small changes, one step at a time, and slowly change his direction. At the end of the year (SPOILER ALERT) he has only lost 25 pounds. But, after reading through the whole book, you are able to marvel at what a victory that is and have hope that he can continue on this slow crawl towards better health. After reading the book which was published in 2017, I looked online to see if there were any updates on his journey. I found an interview that was done in January of 2019 and as of that date, he was continuing the course. The weight was still slowly coming off. No major dramatic losses, just one pound at a time. 

 

There is something powerful about being real. About acknowledging that you are weak. You struggle. You have some major flaws that don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. There is something powerful about hearing about another person’s struggle with some besetting sin and finding out that the only way they have slowly conquered this sin is by very hard, very slow work. Two steps forward, one step back. 

 

I think what makes it so impactful, so powerful, is that when we are real, we help others to not feel alone. And not feeling alone gives us hope. It is so easy to have a weakness and feel like you are the only one who struggles in this area. We feel like the wimp, the frail link, the failure. Everyone else seems to get along just fine and here we are, all alone in the corner, unable to overcome this particular problem. We must be a freak. 

 

And then a friend whispers in your ear, I have that exact same problem! And suddenly your whole perspective changes. Oh, this is just another problem that is common to mankind. I’m not abnormal. 

 

This is probably why young mothers love to gather together and compare notes. My baby does this weird thing, have you ever heard of that before? OH YES! My kid did the same thing when he was that age! And the mom gives a sigh of relief and then they compare notes and try to help each other figure out how to deal with the problem. This spirit of camaraderie is so uplifting. So encouraging. 

 

We need to expand this Realness to other areas in our life. We need people in our lives that can tell us, I really struggle with eating more than I should. I have a hard time keeping away from the bad stuff on the internet. I really struggle with being kind to my spouse. I have an anger problem. I spend money that I don’t have because shopping cheers me up. I have a hard time not gossiping. I have a real problem with anxiety and depression…Things that we all struggle with, but we think we are struggling alone. 

 

When someone shares something that they are struggling with, it encourages me, but when someone gives off the persona of being Perfect, it alienates me. I feel like you must belong to a higher level of humanness than me. You are in some special club that I can never be a part of. And it makes me withdraw into myself. I feel like I need to hide my imperfections from you since you obviously wouldn’t understand them. 

 

I used to find people who gave off an “I’m perfect” persona were really irritating. Being around them just fueled my own insecurities. But, God has been showing me some things lately.

He’s been teaching me that there is no such thing as a perfect person. But, there are people who are so afraid of their imperfections and their unhealed wounds that they will do everything possible to keep them hidden. And they put on a show, an outward appearance of having everything together. It’s their own form of self-defense. And that’s ok. Facing your imperfections and your wounds is not easy and sometimes you are so busy surviving, you just don’t have any energy left over to try and tackle these deep issues. 

 

So, to my people who have mastered the art of being real, thank you. Your willingness to be open about your problems is such an encouragement to me. And to my perfect friends, thank you for putting up with me and all my messiness. I’m hoping that some of my messiness will rub off on you and maybe some of your perfect habits will rub off on me. It’s a good exchange.  

 

Sickness = Failure

This past Saturday night some horrible virus jumped out of the bushes and attacked me. It started off with the sudden onset of a terrible sore throat and runny nose which then turned into fever and chills and then finally settled into my chest with really bad wheezing. I’m on the third day and still moving very slowly. The family stepped up and kept the house running and I’ve been trying to keep my distance, hoping against hope that I won’t spread this around to everyone else. 

 

Being sick is really hard for me. I know it sounds crazy, but when I get sick I kind of feel like a failure. I’m failing my family. I’m being a burden. All the work is piling up. I’m just sitting here, or laying here, being a bum. Wasting my time. If I was a healthier person and took better care of myself, I wouldn’t be susceptible to viruses. (Even though I typically only get sick a couple times a year). 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time just scrolling through Facebook. Which makes me feel even more like a bum. I have some intelligent books I could be reading. The only problem is my brain is so out-of-it that I can’t focus on anything. I decide that I will think through some issues that have been on my mind, and I can’t think. Everything has just checked out while my body fights to get better. 

 

I feel useless.  

 

A couple different friends posted this meme on FB

mamayoureallowed

This really made me pause. 

 

I am guilty of getting so caught up in the role of Mother that I forget that I am my own person. I forget that it’s ok to be human. It’s ok to have a sick day. It’s ok, and this one is really hard for me to grasp, to have goals that are unrelated to motherhood. Motherhood is so All-Consuming. It’s a role you take on and carry for the rest of your life. You never stop being a mom. And it’s such a heavy responsibility. You are shaping the lives of children. Your actions are going to have a big influence on these little human’s futures. It’s a heavy weight to carry. 

There’s a bible verse, Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

I feel very much that Jesus called me to be a mother. And according to him, when we are doing what he wants us to do, it will not be a heavy, overwhelming load. 

 

So, what am I doing wrong? Maybe the problem is that I keep trying to do this job on my own strength instead of tapping into His Strength. Perhaps I somehow think that the fate of my children and our family rests solely on my shoulders. Instead of realizing God’s got my kids and he is more powerful than my weakness and my mistakes. 

 

The other problem is I forget that I am a human being. A child of God. A valuable person. An individual worthy of respect and care. I forget. It’s so easy to disappear into the name Mom. It’s not even your own name. Other women share the same name. It’s a title. It’s a title that assumes you will become self-sacrificing, omniscient to the needs of the family, on-call twenty-fours hours a day.  It’s really easy for Esther to slowly fade out into a memory. That person I was starting to become before I had children. 

 

When I am sick, I have to step out of the Mom-role and just become Sick Esther, in bed. Maybe that’s why it’s so disconcerting. When my identity is completely wrapped up in my work as a mother and suddenly I can’t do that work, it sends me reeling. 

 

The last several years, as I have worked my way through a long depression, I have been slowly doing the work of figuring out who Esther is again, outside of the mom role. Writing this blog is part of that journey. But, it’s really easy for me to slip back into I’m a Mom Only identity. I don’t realize it till things happen like sickness that knock me out of that role and I suddenly feel like a failure. 

 

I need to post this meme really big on my wall somehow. A daily reminder that I am allowed to just be a person who happened to catch a virus, and just needs a little time in bed till she feels better.