I shared a few months ago about my struggles with depression, and how motherhood has magnified those struggles. I want to share a little more now about what I’m doing to find joy and contentment in my daily life.
I think, at least for me, a big part of healing from depression is first understanding it better. It has helped me to identify my depression triggers, so that I can know how to handle it when I’m feeling low. My main depression triggers are boredom/monotony, stress, and loneliness/rejection. First, I start to feel depressed when my days feel pointless, long, and unchanging. My second trigger involves the stress that comes from feeling trapped or helpless, such as when I’m dealing with my difficult toddler who I can’t keep happy, facing a financial situation that seems insurmountable, or feeling unable to catch up or stay on top of my responsibilities. The last trigger I have is related to the times in which I feel that I have no close friends, or that my friends don’t care about me. All of these things lead to depression for me, and usually I start to feel better when I make a change, find a solution, adjust my thinking, or refill my social tank.
There are also ways in which I can avoid my triggers, or at least avoid the negative thinking that they lead to, which would then lead to depression. For the first trigger, boredom, I have found that adding positive responsibilities to my life can help. I’ve accepted a volunteer position at my church as the nursery coordinator, a job which takes a few hours a week to handle. I also have a paid job at my church doing childcare in the nursery once per week, and I volunteer in the nursery with Cory almost every Sunday. We’ve added several pets to our family lately as well. In early March, we got our guinea pigs Charlotte and Penelope, who are doing great and are lots of fun. At the beginning of this month, we decided to adopt a puppy, bringing our dog pack up to three. Her name is Lila, she’s 12 weeks old now, and she’s a Jack Russel Terrier mix. We wanted to have one dog of each size, and Lila is definitely going to make the perfect small dog, since she’s probably going to weigh under 8 pounds full grown. My life is beautifully full right now, in the best way, and staying busy (without being too busy) is very helpful for me.
For the second trigger, stress, I have learned that an attitude adjustment can be extremely helpful. I’m learning to see God more in my work and my daily life. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I believe I was created to be a mother. I believe God creates each one of us with unique gifts, abilities, and passions that we are intended to use in a particular way for his glory. We were made to do a specific job, or perhaps several, on this earth, and he has equipped us for those jobs. There was a message at church recently that really spoke to me on this topic, and some of the things I learned have helped me to change my perspective in a very positive way. It was entitled “Work as Worship,” and it was about how we can feel God’s joy, glorify God, and reach others for Jesus all through our work. We can do that by seeing our work as our God-given purpose; by putting our heart into our work and offering our very best to God; by working with integrity; by letting our light shine on others who we encounter through our work; and by remembering to show love and kindness to all of those around us. These attitudes can apply to each of us, no matter what job we have.
Right now my main job is as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. My job responsibilities include caring for Cody’s needs, teaching him, introducing him to the world, and loving him; they also include caring for our pets, doing laundry, and keeping the house clean and in order. My job involves interaction with other parents and children and employees at stores and other places we go. Of course, most of my interactions are with Cody and Cory. In this job, I feel God’s joy through doing my tasks and doing them well, knowing that they matter to God. I feel purposeful knowing that my interactions with others are opportunities for God to answer prayers and bring hope into people’s lives. Remembering that my job is holy, from folding laundry to managing tantrums to being a friend to other moms, makes the stresses of my job feel less negative and more like opportunities to worship the Lord.
My last trigger, loneliness, is relatively easy to keep under control by keeping my social tank full. I make it a priority to go to a park play group with other moms from my church. I plan playdates with my mom friends. I do my best to be a friend to the people in my life, even when I don’t feel like my efforts are reciprocated, because I know that to have a friend you need to first be a friend. I try to spend time with my family on a regular basis—and for me, there is really no better way to feel loved and wanted than by spending time with the people who I know accept me and care for me no matter what. As for my struggles with rejection, which is tied to my trigger of loneliness, I find healing through Jesus, prayer, and attitude adjustment. I think carefully about when to take a step back and when to not take things personally. I forgive freely. I remind myself that my best friend forever is Jesus, and that any other friends I have, for a season or for life, are added blessings to enjoy without holding on so tight that it hurts me.
Overcoming depression isn’t an overnight or an easy process. My depression ebbs and flows, and in the low points it can feel like I will never escape. Yet during the good times, I remember the truth that I will be completely free one day, whether that’s today or when I get to Heaven. Until then, I am thankful for God’s work in my life to help me understand and manage my triggers. He has shown me ways to find joy in my daily life. Truthfully right now, I feel that I’m in the most joyful place I can ever remember being in. I have a good life that challenges me and gives me purpose, and is full of blessings and opportunities to bless others. Cory and I have thrilling dreams for our future that motivate us forward, and our lives are full of joy for today as well. All of that goodness can only come from God, and I’m so thankful to him for that. He is so good.
P.S. Here are some pictures of Lila. Isn’t she so cute?