One Blessing From Suffering.

I remember when I first became a Christian and learned in the Bible that I was going to suffer in this life. I wasn’t a stranger to suffering. In fact, I was still in deep pain when I came to the Lord. But for some reason, I thought that when I became a Christian, everything would be all roses and butterflies.

So when in every book of the New Testament, and throughout the Old Testament, I read that in this life, there are going to be some pretty hairy and hard moments – well, it felt like a pretty big downer.

And it made me a little bit fearful. What kind of suffering would I go through? Would it be too much for me? Would I survive? What would the Lord allow me to go through?

 

Well, within a few years, I went through a period of great suffering. It was an anguish-of-the-soul type of suffering. It was the type where, not even those whom love you best, can understand the grief and pain you are experiencing. I was fully alone in my groaning. Like David, I could say,

My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 42:3

It was terrible. And it was all that I had feared suffering would be like: a harrowing valley of darkness you don’t know why you’re in and how long you’ll be in it for. It was, to quote St.John of the Cross, a dark night of the soul.

But.

I can say with an unwavering surety that that period of suffering was the greatest blessing of my life. It changed me forever, and I am so grateful that God brought it into my life for His purposes.

What was the greatest blessing in that suffering?

It was just me and God.

Don’t get me wrong, my suffering involved other people. In fact, my suffering was caused by other people I loved. This, in many ways, made it all the more worse. But, it also made it all the more sweet.

Now only, could I turn to God.

Now only, could He be the one I called out to.

Now only, could He be the one to shelter under.

Now only, could He be the one whom my heart trusted fully.

Only He understood my particular situation, my particular pain, my particular grief, my particular sorrow. As I cried day and night, He alone caught my tears and bound up my brokenness.

Sometimes the primary reason suffering comes into our lives is so God is our only answer.

Many times we can turn to people, or things, or even ourselves for help. But very occasionally, the situation is so unique, a person is truly alone in their suffering. No-one can understand the broken heart and tears and questions but God.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

When a man is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time.”

I know from my own experience that this truth is very real. The pain is very bitter, but the quiet joy of being so dependent on the Lord is very, very sweet.

Mercifully, that suffering for me passed. And God has used it mightily in my life and the lives of others. He has truly turned my mourning into dancing {Psalm 30:11}.

Not only this, but I have a quiet place in my soul that has communed only with God, and it is a place I treasure. I know that that special communion with Him can only have come in the throws of a tempest —

So if that is you today, hold fast to the Lord and commune with Him alone. He truly understands your grief and your suffering. Because, at the end of the day, we stand before Him alone. He really is our Only.

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How I Broke My Brain.

Yes, you read right, I broke my brain.

I had a pretty wonderful and settled childhood. We moved to the country, lived by the sea, played in the hills all day. I remember thinking as a young teen how lucky I was, and I couldn’t imagine a future where our family wasn’t together.

And then, at fifteen, my parents broke up in pretty unusual, and very painful, circumstances. My life took a dramatic turn, and I had to learn how to cope with all that had happened, all that was going on inside me, trying to sort out my emotionally dysfunctional family, and dealing with being a teenager.

I didn’t know it at the time but, in doing all of the above {that is, coping with what life had thrown me}, I broke my brain.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yeah, apparently you can do that. Break your own brain. Who knew?

I only found out yesterday, actually. Remember how I wrote how I had gone off my anti-depressants? Well, I’m back on them again. As much as I want to feel like a failure about that, I’m not going to. Because, actually, this anxiety disorder isn’t something I can “fix”. My brain is a bit broken and, no matter how much I try my best and work hard to be my best, at the end of the day, I’m a bit sick and need medicine.

Anyway, how did I break my brain?

In part, it’s genetics. And that is something you definitely can’t do much about. The other bits are personality and family. {It’s the whole born vs. raised thing, which really, isn’t either, it’s both.}

When my family world fell a part, I had to deal with a lot of revelations, burdens of other people’s hurt and sin. I had to cope with living in different places, I always had a suitcase. I had to cope with my own trauma and emotional pain. I made bad choices as a young woman – as a way of taking control of my own life – but it made it all so much worse.

I kept everything inside. Some things I pushed down, deep down – and kept doing that even when those thoughts/feelings/memories kept rising up. I was faced with repulsion and a side of human nature I had not known before. I tried to think about it and process it all.

Somewhere, in those few years, something happened. All the pressure, all the pain, all the intensity of emotion must have broken some neurons or brain “switches”, because the chemical make-up of my brain changed. I did not know it at the time but, instead of talking to a counselor or someone I could trust, all that internalising damaged me.

I was very unstable. There was not a rational thought in my mind. If there was one amongst the crowd of thoughts that were constantly going through my mind like factory-line, it was drowned out by the louder voices of fear, condemnation, lies, pain.

I was emotional all the time. I would cry or feel like something terrible was going to happen even if nothing indicated that it was. I expected bad things to happen to me, like it was my due. And despite being saved at nineteen and God helping me get my life on track, I was a mess.

By God’s grace, He sent me my husband who came from a family with strong, solid theological roots. For the first time, the Bible made sense to me. Truth started pouring into my broken self and God started freeing me from certain ways of thinking and feeling. In the almost nine years we have been married, I am a far cry from what I used to be. Having a loving husband has healed me. Growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible has healed me. In many ways, becoming a mother has been the making of me.

But my brain is still broken. And, in all likelihood, will always be.

I am not depressed. Anxiety gets lumped into depression, but can be quite different from it. As my doctor told me yesterday,

“Some people get depressed so bad they get into this hole that is hard to get out of. You, on the other hand, are a little bit bad all the time. And you need help.”

When I came off my medication, I was great. I had felt normal for three years, and felt it was time. But I’d forgotten that this broken brain of mine is not something I can make better by shear force of will. I would love to make myself better. The perfectionist side of me feels like a failure for not being able to “pull my socks up”, as my mother-in-law would say.

But the truth is, this anxiety is part of me. One day, when life is less hectic and busy and sleepless {yep, we still have those times}, I may be able to do it through cognitive therapy. But right now, that is so much effort. And just another thing I have to work on in my list of all the things to do. So I’m back on my pills, and I am accepting that in God’s grace.

And to my readers who have broken brains, too: We’re okay. We’re not nutters, even if there are periods of time when it feels like a crazy person is living in our brains. That’s just wiring gone a bit haywire. It feels real, the fear is overwhelming – but it is not Truth. The Truth is you are loved, cared for, held in the hands of an Almighty Father who, in His wisdom and mercy, enabled medicines to be made that can help us. So don’t be afraid to seek that help. You’re not a failure. It is wisdom. It’s wisdom to get help so that you can wake up one morning and think, “Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to be me. Life is good.”

For more on my journey with mental illness, read this series.

 

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To the Mother Dreading Advent {Rest in the Cross this Christmas}.

Are you dreading Advent and Christmas this year?

Are you a mother with young children? Are you depressed? Having marriage issues? Are you deep in grief? Are you overwhelmed? Are you just struggling to find joy?

Advent can be a really hard time.

This is the season when Pinterest is really in it’s element. Almost every single link on my page has suggestions {sometimes requirements?} on how I can make this Christmas the craftiest, the tastiest, the most joyful, the thriftiest, the grandest, the least stressful, the most Christ-like…

And I wanted to encourage you {because I’m encouraging me} that you don’t have to be Super Christmas Mum. You don’t have to do the calendars and reading plans. You don’t have to craft every day with unwilling children. You don’t have to bake all the Christmas things. You don’t have sew your own stockings. You don’t have to craft together a wreath for the front door made out of past Christmas cards.

If you want to do these things, then do them merrily and with cheer! But if you don’t want to or can’t, be free not to.

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Just like so many areas in life, social media and the internet has just made life harder for us. With the beautiful photos and happy moments captured then shared, our natural inclinations to be discontent, jealous, and to compare with judgement {on others and ourselves} are aroused more easily and more frequently.

This is one of the reasons I went off Facebook almost two years ago. I knew what it was doing in me. I would get envious. I would get proud and want to show off {under the guise of “sharing”}. And I was becoming the mother I didn’t want to be: glued to a screen and missing out on real life with my family.

{Because who is anyone kidding – the internet is not real life. It is a medium, sure, of sharing life and learning and connecting. But it is not real, in front of my eyes, moving, breathing, soul-living life. And I want that more than I want fresh feeds or the latest gossip.}

The internet can be a friend or a foe. And during the festive season, I find the internet can be more of a foe.

So, sweet friend who feels like a failure for not creating an Advent calendar from scratch that comes with scriptures and hand-drawn decorations to add to the tree…

So, sweet friend who feels like making a big feast worthy of going viral would swamp her under to a place she thinks she couldn’t surface from…

So, sweet friend who is dealing with pain and confusion and a sense that life will never be the same, yet knows her kids want and perhaps need this Christmas to be more special than ever, but she just doesn’t has it in her…

So, sweet friend who feels pressured by family to be a big part of the celebrations but who hasn’t had a full night’s sleep for a long time…

Just rest. Please.

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All these expectations and pressures were not present on the day Jesus was born. He wasn’t born into this world to add burdens to you. He took your burdens on his own shoulders and died with them on a tree. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. :: Galations 5:1 ::

He wants you to celebrate His birthday, but He doesn’t want you to idolise the experience of it. Just as He came into the world simply and humbly, so you can celebrate and worship Him with the same manner of heart.

::If you want a very encouraging devotional that will meet you right where you are this Advent, please head to Sarah Geringer’s site where you can purchase her new devotional, Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, and follow along with all her posts in the lead up to Christmas. ::

If you’re taking Advent easy this year but still plan to do a few easy things to make it special for the family, please share below.

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Feeling All The Feelings: Life After Anti-Depressants

For more posts on mental health and motherhood, click here.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that for the past three years I have been on anti-depressants. You will know that I haven’t suffered from depression but rather a cyclical anxiety disorder that was triggered off when our first child was born in 2013.

The first three months of his life were a giant hole of crazy. I drowned under all the noise in my mind and the hormonal imbalance that were causing me to cry a billion times a day. A great fear of foreboding gripped me from the moment I woke up and only left me when I had moments of sporadic sleep with a baby that would.not.sleep over night.

Going to my doctor one day, who has known me for years, he kindly told me that I needed some help to get out of this episode. Normally I could work my way out. But I was a new and overwhelmed mother, sleep deprived, and I just needed to have a little help pulling me out. Because I certainly, at the time, was barely able to function let alone pulling the bootstraps of my mind up.

So, Prozac became my friend. I called them my “happy pills”.

{Although, technically, they don’t make you happy. Happiness/joy is a choice. The pills just get us into a place where we can choose joy.}

I have always been open about being on medication. We need more women in Christian circles speaking out about the okayness of taking medication for mental health issues. I always say that, if we were diabetic or epileptic, we would need medication – so why would mental health be any different?

Well, today I am here to tell you: I am pill-free. Woo!

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The first question I’m asked when I share this with friends is: how are you feeling?

I feel great.

I have known that it was time to come off my pills and I think I have been ready this past year. I’ve known because originally, when I first took them, they made me feel like myself again. I remember one day, about two or three weeks since I had started on them, and my mind felt calm again. All of a sudden I could think freely! My emotions were stable! I was me!

In fact, I felt so good I remember thinking, “Wow. So this is what normal feels like.”

You see, I have had enormous hormonal/emotional struggles since my mid-teens when my parents separated. They got particularly bad when I was about nineteen/twenty after my DTS with YWAM. I came home such a mess my father thought I was bi-polar. But no, I was just in great need of healing: of having a stronger knowledge and life in the Word, of having a home, of having stability, of having someone who truly loved me.

After Josiah and those pills kicked in, I felt and was thinking the most normally I had since I was a child.

In the past year, I knew that I was me again and that the pills were no longer the buffer I needed. But I was scared. Scared of falling back into that horrible pit of anxiety. Scared of not being a strong wife and mother. Scared of becoming as self-absorbed as I used to be.

So I prayed and over this year, I just felt the desire to go it alone grow stronger and stronger. I knew that I would be okay. I knew that I was able now to work on my thinking and have the strength to say “no” to feelings that liked to direct my moods {and therefore, my days, my behaviour, my reactions to my family}.

Therefore, in October, I did it – I weaned myself off. And I’m feeling pretty good.

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The biggest thing that I am having to do is re-learn how to think, and therefore, how to act and feel.

Having the pills helped me be pretty stable emotionally. If I cried, it meant whatever it was was really important to me. I was also pretty clear-thinking. I could identify thoughts that were dumb and I was able to disregard them fairly easily. Since I no longer have that buffer, I am feeling all the feelings again.

Now, these feelings aren’t extreme like they were. Now, I’m just more easily irritated or more easily affected by a thought. And when I follow a thought {however brief or fleeting}, my mood is more easily swayed.

It’s been a learning curve. And not just for me, but for my lovely husband, too. We both haven’t had to deal with mood changes in me for three years. But we’re both giving each other a lot of grace {oh, he covers me with so much grace, that amazing man}. If I seem irritable or more stressed than usual, we talk about it. If I feel like something could trigger me off, I speak it out loud to him {which usually gets me back on track and out of my head}. If I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I go to my room, get on my knees, and talk to God. He is my ultimate peace.

 

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I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot:

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

Motherhood and mental illness has taught me so much about my great need for God. He has given me such a vision and goal for our family, and it is my nature to set out on my own, striving to perfect myself and my character so that this vision can be accomplished. But how much the good Lord knew I needed this thorn in my side. I need this weakness of heart and mind to keep me close to Him.

One of my favourite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, has a stanza that speaks so deeply to me. I sing quietly to the Lord and ask Him to answer the prayer of that song in me so that He, and He alone, is all I need to do this life He has given me, in my broken jar of clay.

“O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace now like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Are you a mother that struggles with illness? What scriptures, quotes, or songs encourage you on hard days?

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Motherhood & Mental Illness: When I Am Weak

This is now part of a mini-series found here:
Anxiety. Mental Illness.
They can be hard words to swallow about myself. But I do.
This week I have been reminded that I live in a frail and fallen body. It’s easy, when things are fine, to fool myself into thinking that I have it all together, that I am strong and able to cruise through life independently and alone. And then, something happens and medication isn’t enough to keep my anxiety at bay: once again, I’m thrust into the whirling pit of a speeding mind, the sense that something is very wrong, intense emotions and a body wound up like an old-fashioned toy.
I have been “fine” for so long. It’s two years since my last pregnancy and post-partum struggles. It’s been well over a year since I have tried to wean myself off my medication, only to have my old friend come creeping back through the brain stem of my mind. Life has trundled along – busy, routine, safe. I’ve been okay.
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How I Went Under Again

Last week Tim was suddenly put on night shifts {who knew builder’s could be on night shifts?} and everything was turned upside down. I was sole parenting day and night; I was stressed trying to keep a toddler and preschooler quiet during the day in our small house so as not to wake Tim; therefore, we went out and about everyday. It was a struggle. By the end of the week, the muscles around my shoulders were sore from being tense all the time and, by the weekend, I could feel the unnamed panic starting to creep over my heart, my mind like a deer in headlights.
Now I wasn’t handling things as I normally do. Squabbles, disobedience, dawdling filled me with irritability at best, rage at worst. Long days in sole charge of the kids from sun up to sundown {Tim has night classes several times a week and is gone for work by 6.30am} built that pressure of responsibility to bursting point as I struggled staying on top of it all.
Finally, by Wednesday, I acknowledged to myself that I wasn’t well and needed to stop trying. This brought a sense of relief. It usually takes me a little to face my anxiety; I often keep going as before, productive and ignoring my rising tension. I think I don’t need help. And then, I realise I can’t – –
and I throw myself before God and simply ask for help. “Give me grace, O Lord. I just can’t do this without you.”

Why I Accept This Thorn

And that is what this thorn in my side is really for. God knows me so well. He knows I love comfortable and, more than physical comfort, I crave idolise emotional comfort. And He knows that when I ask, in trepidation, to help me need Him and desire Him more than anything else, the thorn shifts and I’m reminded that it is weakness that keeps us within the safety of His refuge.

Peace and safety certainly don’t come from striving for the perfect life or being the world’s best mother. These are the goals of my flesh. They war with the God-directed spirit in me – the new me – that only wants Him and His ways and His will. These two parts of me grate against one another like the plates of the earth, and it is my anxiety that is the earthquake, shaking me around a bit, keeping me at the foot of the cross.

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry –
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

I used to plead this illness away. I used to fight it and deny it and crucify myself for being so weak. I feel shame that I need such a quiet and uneventful life to keep me steady, that such a minor thing like Tim working night shifts can throw me off “my game”.

But part of the valley I experienced after Josiah’s birth helped me see it with a humble heart. I saw this world and our broken bodies differently, for what they are – tents, that flap in the wind a bit, and which pegs sometimes get ripped out of the earth. We are clay vessels, we’re easily broken.

Grace Upon Grace

Our culture emulates perfection – perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect families, perfect wealth. But what a lie. We will always come against the fallen. This world is not meant to be it.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

… So the power of Christ may rest on me. Did you hear that? We aren’t meant to strive in our brokenness. Rather, we are meant to rest in His grace, His power, His mercy, His blood. We can acknowledge who and what we really are, and divorce ourselves from perfection. We are to pursue holiness, but that is not the same as pursuing perfection. We are to pursue being a set apart people, who trust and obey God.
Now, however much I hate my illness, I accept it. I embrace it. I acknowledge that it is a gift from God. Yes. A gift. I would rather be sick, on my face before the throne of God in desperate need of Him, than cruising through life thinking I’m awesome and invincible. I would rather see myself as a weak wife and mother, than sit on my high horse, not able to be real and in the trenches with other needy women. I would rather experience the Gospel in pain than understand it in perfect theology, sitting comfortably, unscathed by broken. I am really, really grateful I’m broken. It makes me need Jesus.

Do you struggle with anxiety or another form of mental illness? How do you accept it as a struggling mother?

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Why Home Is So Important.

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I am the product of a broken family.

In a society that doesn’t take much issue with separation and divorce, from a personal view, there is nothing more damaging, more lasting and more painful to a child/teenager than when Mummy and Daddy don’t love each other any more. After twenty-one years of marriage, it was a shock, but at the same time, not much of a surprise.

It’s not just the separation or the bitter gossip or the lies or the feeling of being stuck in-between that breaks a child’s heart, it is the upheaval of being homeless. Sure, you may live in the same house, or, you may have a dwelling place to live in – – –

…but that place that was always home?

That place that was safe, stable, comforting and ‘us’? When a family breaks up, so does the home. That anchor that ties a child’s heart to security is cut away, leaving them readily available for being “tossed about” in this world {Eph. 4:14}.

When my parents separated on Christmas Day when I was fifteen-years-old, it began six years of turmoil, deep pain, lost in the later teen years that are so vital for a young woman. My parents lived over an hour out of the city on opposite sides while my life was in the city, so I spent most of those six years in between houses, trying to deal with my own pain whilst copping the pain of one parent and the depression and struggles of another.

A few months after my parents separated, when I wasn’t seeing my father, a boy came into my life and – though it seemed perfect at the time – it was disasterous for a young girl seeking affirmation from a male figure. Having no stable home to call my own and, when in the house of one of my parents only wanting to be somewhere else, I was able to allow my brokenness and rebellion take over and consume my wounded heart. Those years were really, really hard and have had a great affect on me.

One of the greatest things that God has used to redeem those years in my life is to show me this simple, but profoundly fundamental, truth: Children need home. They need a home where, even though Mummy and Daddy aren’t perfect, they love each other, fight to make their marriage work, seek to create a place that will always be a safe place for their children.

“Husband-wife love, wife-husband love, and parent-child love — in times of weakness and failure, when forgiveness must be asked for and given, in times when suspicions have been right — love goes on. A child needs to grow up knowing that love never faileth, that not only will Dad and Mom stay together in spite of their weaknesses as well as strengths, but that the door will always be open, the ‘candle in the window’ will never go out…

Love never faileth. Love keeps the door open, the light waiting, and dinner in the oven — for years. This is the love a family demonstrates in its formation center.” ~ Edith Schaffer, What is a Family?

And what is that formation centre? Home. The bliss and deep delight of a loving home.

It’s not a perfect home because the people who live in it are imperfect. But it is a place where there is acceptance, grace, the gospel, life, laughter, tears, openness in failure, forgiveness given freely, weaknesses worked on, joy, delight and a place that is purely “my family”.

One of the greatest compliments I have been given is that our house feels “homely”. I have worked hard, not just to make our place warm and comforting, but open, with a feeling that you are welcome here, that you can rest and be sheltered from the outside world here. Is our home like the Jones’? Nope. It’s humble, simple and does the trick.

I can promise you, dear mother, that if you want to give your children one thing in this life that will kickstart them into having a great life, it is this: Make them a home. Don’t worry about academics, activities, shuttling them from this place to that – – – give them the rest, stability and the anchor they need. They have the rest of their lives to be out there in the world, busy and “being lights to the world” but there are so few years to have here, in your home. Give it to them because, speaking from experience, it can change the direction of their lives.

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Motherhood & Mental Illness: Ways To Get Through

This is part two of a small series I am doing on Motherhood & Mental Illness. To read part one, click here.
I am by no means an expert in mental health. And I haven’t experienced full-blown depression, whether clinical or experiential. I do however, have a cyclical anxiety disorder. This basically means that something within my brain changes – hormones, chemical balance, cortisol {etc} – and I become highly emotional and anxious.
It isn’t something I can make go away. It passes naturally within a few months. In one day it can “come over” me and as easily in one day can “lift off” me. It’s unexplainable. But, I promise you, dear friends who experience the same, it can be managed. Here are some thoughts to help you if you are struggling in a similar place:

1. Seek medical help.

I cannot emphasise this enough. In many Christian circles, the medical world is often derided or rebelled against or only to be sought as a last resort. In my own personal opinion, seeking the advice of one or two wise, kind and experienced doctors should be at the top of our list.
The reason I believe this is because it is essential to determine what exactly is going on in our brains. Depression/anxiety is not merely a spiritual {though it is part of it, I believe}. Just as our brain {and body, for that matter} fails in other ways – epilepsy, cancer, retardation – so it does when it comes to how our moods are effected.
When I finally sought my doctor after Josiah was born, he recommended medication. He said to me, “You have been through this before and I know that you can get through it. But because you are so tired and so new to being a mother, let us try some anti-depressents to help give you the kick start you need”. And he was so right. The moment they started working, it was like someone physically pulled me out of a dark pit in my mind and set my thinking-feet on solid ground. I felt me again.
Just beware that sometimes you may not get along well with the initial medication you are put on. Because I was breast-feeding, I was first put on Citalopram {considered the safest} but I reacted terribly to it. My skin felt like it was crawling and I had one of the rarest reactions to it – it made my brain more anxious and propelled it into a hyper-state {it was seriously one of the worst weeks of my life}. But, thank goodness, I trusted my instincts and went back to my doctor who put me on Fluoxetine {a form of Prozac} and my “little happy pills” became my best friend.

2. Be open and get support.

For me, during that dark post-partum time, my husband, parents, in-law’s and brother were the people who got me through. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law had suffered through post-partum depression and knew that I couldn’t just “pull my socks up” and get better. My mother-in-law let me ring her {from out of town} any time of day or night so that I could cry and ask questions about how to care for Josiah. She helped me feel normal. My sister-in-law gave me words at times that I just needed it, like, “Things will get better”. My mother prayed amazing prayers over me and let me visit her at her work even when a snow storm was on it’s way and Josiah was grumpy, all so I could see someone and have company and get some prayer. And my father and brother came round to keep me company, even if it was in silence, so I wasn’t alone.
It is so essential, dear friend, to know you have people who love you and care for you. They may not always understand, but they will try. Allow them to make mistakes too, even if you feel you can’t bear mistakes at this present time. They’re trying their best and if they have never experienced mental illness in some form, they can’t understand why you can’t make yourself better.

3. Understand the importance of your thoughts.

God made our brains to have incredible power over our bodies. We don’t realise how much control our own thoughts have over our minds, our moods, our heart condition, our physical well-being. It is vital to start claiming autonomy over your thoughts rather than allowing those arrow-thoughts to break you down and send you spiraling into a deeper pit.
I am not saying that this is all in your head. It isn’t. And until medication is used, there is very little one can do to break the cycle of anxiety/lowness that you are in. I remember my husband saying to me, in loving frustration {because he couldn’t understand}, “Just think about something else.” But I couldn’t. But once my pills began to work, I could actually think – for myself! And this is when you need to start focusing on what you are listening to in yourself.
“Don’t you know what most of your unhappiness in life is because you are listening to yourself instead of speaking to yourself?” Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression.


4. Seek God’s Word for hope and for help.

There is nothing like the comfort of a scripture that speaks to your soul when you are at your very worst.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Get the eyes of your mind and heart on God, not on yourself, He is your helper.
“He lifted me up out of the pit of despair, out of the miry clay, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
He will rescue you and place you on firm ground, you will be stable again.
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions they fail not; they are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
You won’t be consumed by this, God is keeping you and is faithful.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become in despair within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 41:11
 Recognise your state and feelings, speak to them and turn them towards God.

5. Pray.

Let whatever is on your heart and mind fall from your lips like tears to your Father in heaven who is right there. Jesus is praying for you, right where you are, do you know that? “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” {Hebrews 7:25}.
If you doubt that God cares or that He is listening or that He can possibly understand where you are, read about Jesus in the Garden and see his agony, his pain, his mental state so that he wept blood. Jesus knows what it was like, and he still chose it, and he died for your condition. Speak out your heart in every moment, even if it is a mental cry of “Help me!” He will hear you and help you. There were countless times where I just got through dinner time, a night feeding, a church service only because of the grace of God and my continual conversation of need to him.
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There are many other things that I could suggest to help you get through, but these are the essential forms of grace that God gave me to get through. I am currently going through a mild episode of anxiety and these five ways are solid stepping stones for my recovery.
Let me finish here with a small prayer, for you and I, as we press into God for help and recovery:
 
Father God, thank you that you made me. Thank you that you know me and nothing that is going on in me right now is hidden from you. Thank you that my inner darkness and turmoil right now is like an open book before you and that I need not speak a word about it because you already know. But help me speak it to you, Lord, to help direct my heart and thoughts towards you – the Rock that is higher than I. Lift me up, rescue me from this desolate pit. Put my feet on solid ground, level my emotions and help me be able to think clearly. Help me speak your truth to myself and fight doubts and lies and believe in hope for myself. Keep me close to you Lord, safe because of Jesus, and love me. Amen.
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Motherhood and Mental Illness (Part One).

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5
Last week a missions team from Sydney spent the week with our church to serve us and help us run some evangelistic events. One of those events was for mothers called “The Joys of Motherhood”. It consisted of a panel, three from our church, two from the missions team plus a speaker. I was humbled and privileged to be asked to be a panelist, representing young mothers in the trenches of raising littles.
Leading up to the event, I felt both excited and conflicted. I felt conflicted because there are so many other amazing mothers at church with young children. One of my friends has four children and another has three {with one adopted}. I have been a mother a mere two years, with two under my belt {and likely only two, unless God brings an adopted child into our quiver}. So often, I feel incredibly inadequate, confused and overwhelmed in my day-to-day mothering so I couldn’t imagine that I had many “pearls of wisdom” to offer. But for some reason, several people thought I could have something to offer, and for that, I am grateful for their confidence in me and God’s kindness in my weakness.
The few nights leading up to the event, with questions now in hand, I wracked my brain wondering what on earth I could say. There were general questions as well as questions specific to my stage in life. What could I say that would encourage other mothers? What could I say that might show God’s reality in my life as a mother to any there who did not know Him? The night before, I still hadn’t decided on my answers so I offered my words up to God.
I woke up the next morning at peace. I knew what God wanted me to share. There are many things I could have shared about motherhood because so much happens from the day you become one. But what is unique to me? What is my story in motherhood that I know well, from the heart, that I could be honest about and share to unite other mother-hearts with similar journeys?
One of the questions was “what didn’t I expect about motherhood”? Well, I didn’t expect to be a mother with a form of mental illness.
I should have had a clue since it’s been a “friend” of mine since my mid-to-late teens. Unfortunately, I never knew that was what it was. I didn’t even know it was something, it was just…me. It was only until I fell into one of my deep pits after the birth of my son Josiah that my doctor, who had seen it in me since the separation of my parents, kindly let me know that I have a cyclical anxiety disorder and that I would be okay.
It took me awhile to accept that this was true. But once medication started working and I could actually think with conscious action, I looked back on my life since my anxiety began and I could see this was true. Several major events triggered off difficult episodes and in between there were various episodes to lesser degrees.
Extreme anxiety, inability to think clearly, dark thoughts {both spontaneous and conscious}, tense muscles, emotional highs and lows, perpetually fearful of the future, a foreboding that couldn’t be explained, insecurities blown beyond proportion, irrational, stuck inside the mind.
This is, in general terms, what I am like when I am in one of my episodes. It’s a horribly dark place to be and, though not full-blown, is on the periphery of mild depression. And just like most forms of clinical depression, it is something beyond my control. Something clicks or “comes over” me, and for several months, inexplicable anxiety is the state I am in.
Motherhood is difficult on it’s own and no-one who is a mother can dispute that. But only mothers who struggle with mental illness {and any sort of illness} can attest to the incredible difficulty it is to be the mother you know you want to be when you can barely function as a person.
 
When I spoke at our “The Joys of Motherhood” event, I knew one or two women who struggle with something similar. I can empathise with their story, their courage. But I also knew that there were probably more women in that room that were like me before I was diagnosed – those low feelings, that anxiety, the uncontrollable fear, isn’t that just me? There could be more to this?
It’s hard being vulnerable to a group of women about something quite unknown and stigmatised. But it is also empowering: it helps me own my illness and it helps me give encouragement to any women who might not know, or who might be hiding, in a place of loneliness and fear.
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Please come back soon to read how best we can get through mental illness as mothers and encouragement from God’s Word.
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