Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This blog is on a short hiatus while my son is ill. He is in the hospital right now. Things are going well; his treatment is going as expected and we anticipate he will be good as new in a few weeks. In the meantime, having a sick child is exhausting.

You might want to check out the blog With Purpose. The author was a pastor's wife, but after suffering a serious depressive episode her husband changed careers. I found this blog several months ago and her story has been comforting to me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Moody, part 2

This has been a surprisingly good week. I posted a week ago about resentfully starting a mood chart. As it turns out, keeping the chart seems to be helping the mood. Once I started keeping a written tally of my moods, it became easier to think of the moods as happening to me, rather than as a sign of something I am doing wrong.

That little bit of distance from feeling responsible for every up and down seems to have contributed to an emotionally steady week. Every night when I look at this piece of paper and count how many good days I've had, I think "Well, tomorrow I might wake up and be in the ditch again." So, surely, one day I will wake up there. But then I'll come out again. The falling in/climbing out doesn't look quite as terrifying as it did six months ago.

Praise God for small steps.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Someone Next To Me

My three-year-old has been sick for a couple of days. Last night he was very hot and uncomfortable. I did the few things I could to help him feel better -- ibuprofen, a drink, his favorite blanket. There was nothing else to do but wait for his body to get better and stay close by.

He woke about every hour whimpering and looking for mom or dad. Once he roused facing away from me and cried out desperately, “Is someone next to me?” It was both sad and pleasant to be with him, but not be able to make him get well any faster.

Thanks, readers, for being someone next to me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


It looks like I'm going to be home tomorrow. I had some plans, but they've been postponed. I am surprised to find that, for tonight at least, a day at home sounds fine. Usually a day at home sounds like a day in solitary confinement.

Good, good.

Friday, October 16, 2009


My depression has been spreading rumors about me. Last night it insisted that I am stupid, ineffective, irresponsible. I tried to yell it down and shame it with logic, but truth was only partially useful.

My three-year-old learned in Sunday school last week that "God is the biggest," and together we learned this verse: "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save" (Zephaniah 3:17). God kept handing me that assurance last night, and I trust He is mighty enough to save me from my own self-abusing thoughts.

I was caught off guard by all that interior drama last night. I'd had a good day.

a.m.: Deliver happy child to school. Deliver remaining happy children to sitter's house. Visit with a friend.

p.m.: Spend a few hours at the library. An hour at home for dishes, one toilet scrub, and a short nap. Retrieve happy children from various activities. Husband home shortly after. Cook a simple, healthy dinner that is consumed with minimal whining.

later p.m.: Bedtime for kids. I retreat to dark bedroom. Lie still and concentrate on battle between rumor-mongering depression and truths I know about self. Tend to stuffy-nosed children who cannot get to sleep. Bemoan emotional state to husband.

I see no reason for the precipitous decline in my mood, except the darkness outside and my own fatigue. I sure can't do anything about the sun setting, and I can't do much about getting tired at the end of the day.

I've been advised to keep a mood chart. That is, to keep track of my mood at morning, noon, and night over a period of time to see if there's a pattern to the ups and downs. I'm not keen on this. What could be bad about gathering data, you ask? Mainly this: it involves agreeing that there is a problem about which data ought to be gathered. If I don't write it down, then one or two good days can make the moodiness seem like a distant, unimportant memory. Denial has proven an effective coping tool in the last couple of years, and I am loathe to cast it off.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The deed is done. I am without children today. Another loving, responsible adult whom my children adore is now in charge of them two days each week. After two weeks of angsty deliberation, it turned out to be a pretty simple addition to an existing arrangement. I am a professional at overcomplicating my own life.

Today I am enjoying my independence. I can't decide whether I should use these days for whatever strikes my fancy, or try to be organized and accomplish something over the long term. I'd like to accomplish something that I can look at and feel pleased about about, but I don't want to create any additional stress. The point is to decompress and recharge for the remainder of the week.

The last time I remember feeling a clear, satisfying sense of accomplishment (this is embarrassing) is when I did back-to-school shopping for my son. There was a list, I made one trip to get everything on the list, and came home with bags full of stuff to show for it. I felt so pleased about that. There have been plenty of other shopping trips since, but one in an endless series of grocery lists and diaper runs does not provide the same sense of completion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Blogger Dark My Road posted recently about the helpfulness of talking/writing/praying to cope with preoccupying thoughts. Last night a friend was over for what has become a pretty regular evening of life-sharing under the guise of studying a book together.

It started out, as many valuable things have, with me making a request that seemed like it might sound odd: I want to read this book, and I want someone who might see it like I do to read it with me. Would you? Apparently it was not odd, and she was interested.

Now, it turns out, our conversations follow a general pattern of -This is what I've been thinking this week. It's got me pretty stressed out. -- Really? You mean I'm not the only one?

I think my friend has said more than once that listening to me is like looking in a mirror, because most of the feelings/anxieties I describe are the same ones she's been having. What a gift! When I remember how incredibly isolated I felt a year ago, like no one would notice if I never left my house again, this sort of camraderie is clearly a miracle. Neither of us can fix anything for the other, but that doesn't even seem to matter. I am refreshed and hopeful today.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

These Crazy Kids

This weekend did not go well for me with my children. Was it a full moon? They were insane people. Oldest has a serious case of I-want-it-my-way, which has come to seem manageable in the last few months. But not this weekend.

My dream of myself is: three screaming children, one stomping and lobbing toys across the room, and I laugh to myself at the absurdity of parenting. Then I calmly deal with each child. Later, it is all over, and I enjoy the peace and am quietly amused at the roller-coaster of my life.

Is that possible? Would that be a sign of a different kind of insanity?

The fly on my wall saw this: Mom hollering, throwing hands up in defense against flying objects, counting minutes until husband comes home, rolling eyes in exasperation, explaining sassiness to children, ineffectively threatening ten different consequences, finally announcing to children: "Today it is very hard to be your mom."

None of this is tragic for me or the kids, but the overall attitude does not help any of us. I've read good parenting advice that recommends, basically, avoiding emotional engagement with children who are acting crazy. It's a great plan, but containing the frustration is much more difficult than they let on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mapping, part 2

I'm starting to think about setting myself up with some substantial time for writing. That would probably mean arranging child care for a couple of days each week. Doesn't that sound lovely? It sounds amazing. It sounds like a schedule I could live with for a long time, with plenty of space to breathe and find out again about being me apart from people who depend on me. I picture it, and I can already see myself waking up on no-child-care days and feeling happy to be with my kids.

I also feel miserably unhappy and guilty every time I think of doing this. This is not what I planned! I expected to put professional work & writing on hold until our youngest goes to school. When we became parents, I imagined that I had the personality and interest to take the stay-at-home route.

And here's a strange little gem I found wedged in the base of my brain: "If I were a good mom, I would set aside my needs and make parenting decisions based only on what seems to be best for the children."

I know that's unwise and I can argue against every point.
  • "If I were". I don't apply this guideline to anyone else I know. If a friend described this scenario to me, I'd tell her it's a completely unreasonable expectation.
  • "a good mom". There is not one m.o. for "good mom." Good moms/dads approach parenting many different ways.
  • "I would set aside my needs". It's not helpful to my kids to grow up thinking Mom is a robot. Surely it contributes to becoming compassionate when kids learn to accommodate their parents as equally important members of the family.
  • "and make parenting decisions". This isn't just a parenting decision, it's a family decision, a who-am-I? decision. It affects everyone in the house.
  • "based only on what seems to be best for the children". There are many facets of what's good for children, and surely having parents who are not depressed (even reasonably content?) would be one.

Deconstructing a misguided notion is helpful, but this one is very firmly rooted. It's clearly been there for a long time and I've never even seen it before. Actually digging it out so I can think of arranging child care without sobbing might take a while.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mapping My Route

This post is going to be a two-parter. I’m afraid I’d lose all of you if I try to explain this all in one day.

For several months, I have attributed my depression entirely to the unpleasantness (to put it mildly) of Husband’s current call. Now I suspect I was wandering toward a cliff and this church thing pushed me over the edge. Now I’m trying to draw a narrative map of how I got to the house of depression.

Before we moved here, we lived in a small community, where we’d been for several years. We moved there before we had children, and had a well-developed social support system. By the time we were raising three very young children, I had many resources to help me. I had several friends who were also parenting multiple young children, and we could get together and share the load for a while. We were blessed to have dear friends who happily took over from time to time. My relationships in our congregation were considerably more substantial than they are here. When parishioners saw me, most of them had some thought other than “There goes the pastor’s wife with all those kids.” Although I was at home full-time with my kids, my identity did not seem entirely wrapped into theirs.

Then we moved. Moving adds a few bricks to the pile. I was ready for it. Like all families of seminary graduates, we did our fair share of moving and knew to expect a long stretch of adjustment and loneliness. We had not, however, moved with small children. That’s considerably more complicated. I did not figure out how to make friends, how to ask for the help I needed, how to feel connected in a new congregation when I was always chasing little runners. The load was heavier, and I didn’t share it much with anyone but my sweet husband.

Then the situation at church overwhelmed Husband. He couldn’t do much to support me and I added tremendous anxiety about his health and well-being, and vast amounts of energy trying to rescue him. (Misguided efforts, but I made them.)

I have struggled with the feeling that parenting did me in. I do not want to believe that I am not able to parent my children without becoming depressed. But now I’m beginning to think that parenting in a supportive community was about as much stress as I could live with over the long-term, and the additional stresses and reduced supports that accompanied our move were too much.

Now I’m trying to see how to map the near future. The atmosphere of my life is much improved, but the grinding monotony of waking up to my children—and not much else—every day is not working out well for me.

Friday, October 2, 2009


“The world is full of women blindsided by the unceasing demands of motherhood, still flabbergasted by how a job can be terrific and torturous.” Anna Quindlen

I was so reassured to read this. Quindlen describes exactly what I feel and promises that I am not the only one.

God has doused me with this kind of encouragement lately. My mom visited recently, for the primary purpose of helping me and giving me a couple of days away from home. The first evening she was here, we took all three kids for a walk after dinner. Said “walk” involved three children using three different modes of transportation and moving at three distinct paces. We went about ¼ mile in 30 minutes, and Mom and I spent most of that time chasing, cajoling, pushing, rescuing, or hollering.

When we got home Mom said the kindest words possible at that moment: “It’s certainly intense being with them. I can see why you need a little time away.”

I’ve also joined a Bible study group for moms. The group is not at my church, which is all the better because there I am not “the pastor’s wife.” One goal of the curriculum seems to be assuring moms that feeling tired or inadequate is to be expected, and sitting in a room full of women who laugh at the same mom-mistakes-I’ve-made jokes is a very effective way to adjust my sense of what’s normal.

It is a constant battle for me to distinguish between personal failure and symptoms of depression. Most of the signs of depression – fatigue, short-sightedness, ineffectiveness, a steady flow of guilt – look to me a lot like irresponsibility.