Mindful of My Mind (part 2)

Growing up, my mother dealt with depression.  To say that she suffered heartache as a young woman would not do her pain justice.  She lost her mother to cancer at 19, her grandfather to cancer at 20 and her cousin, which was like a brother, drowned tragically when she was 21.  In the midst of this she got married and not too long after, she had me.  Her one and only child.  There is no question in my mind that the severe tragedy she endured during those years added to the pain already in her heart.  Growing up she watched her mother slowly die from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  When other little girls were having sleepovers and dreaming of prince charming, my mother was praying for a miracle as she sat at the foot of a hospital bed.  Her father was an alcoholic and she lost contact with him sometime in her teenage years.  She was broken and bruised and because of that… I believe she did not have any strength left to fight the war that raged in her mind and emotions after I was born.   

Her battle inevitably became mine as well.  I can remember feeling hopeless and sad in my early teenage years.  I wanted nothing more than to just escape.  Escape my parents fighting, escape my low self esteem…I just wanted out.  As I got older and became involved in church I started memorizing scriptures on joy and began asking God to help me fight my depressed moods.  That season was amazing for me; I felt the cloud of despair begin to lift.  I was laughing again and each day was lighter and better…yet I still had to work hard just to feel normal.  During that time I got married and began ministering right alongside my husband.  Our life was wonderful and also very stressful.  We worked long hours and started the bad habit of putting everyone else’s needs before our own.  Soon my daily devotionals were spent trying to figure out the problems of others and my time with the Lord was more business than anything.  I began feeling isolated and alone again.  Even though I was talking about my feelings, I felt as though no one understood.  I was always pointed back to taking control of my emotions, praying harder and loving God more.  It’s true that those things are vital and of course they helped.  But, I was becoming exhausted from working so hard to maintain what others came by effortlessly.  During that time I read “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Ladies, this is an amazing book and I would classify it as one of the “must reads”.  In the book Stasi spoke openly about depression and her decision to go on medication.  As soon as I read that chapter, I knew in my heart that I should pursue the same route.  So, after talking with Barry and praying for direction, I spoke with my doctor.  You can read about that encounter in my earlier post on depression.  I stayed on the anti-depressants for a while, but I allowed myself to begin feeling judged, like I didn’t have the faith to overcome the battle in my mind.  In order to “fit in” I stopped taking them and I felt myself slowly slipping back.  But this time around not only did I feel down…I became anxious and worried.

Fast forward a couple of years.  After the birth of Rowan, my precious little boy I saw myself struggling more and more with my moods.  This time though it was different.  Throw in physical exhaustion, financial stress as well as the sea of hormones rushing through my body…all together I felt like a mess.  I was happier than ever as a new mommy, but there were days when I felt like I just couldn’t get a grip.  I was exhausted and even though I was staying faithful in trusting God for joy, I felt as though I needed something practical, I needed to get back on anti-depressants.   Luckily, this time around as I opened up about my feelings with some very good friends they understood what I was feeling and urged me to talk to a doctor.  But, not just any doctor an actual psychiatrist.  Honestly, I was kind of excited.  I mean now that we live in L.A. that’s the thing to do.  Anyone that’s anyone has a psychiatrist darling! 

So, I made my appointment and began the process of healing.  I started back on anti-depressants (Thank God) and realized after talking with numerous minsters’ wives that I was not alone in my battle.  Now, instead of feeling isolated, I am able to rejoice in the fact that I am on the road to recovery.  I’m not there…but I’ve started the process.  Not that life is all rosy, but I can say that I do not have to spend my prayer time trying to psyche myself up to enjoy the day.  Laughter flows more freely, the anxiety and worry is sub-siding. 

I feel like I’m living life again, instead of watching it pass me by. 🙂

This is probably the most difficult post I have written.  My hope is that as I have opened up about this topic that others will feel free to talk about it as well.   When it comes to depression, being honest with yourself and others is part of the healing.  I am praying for you wives out there, you don’t have to go through this alone.

26 thoughts on “Mindful of My Mind (part 2)

  1. Thanks for sharing. As a pastor’s kid, I have watched my mother struggle with depression my whole life. As a soon-to-be pastor’s wife, I’m in prayer that God will help us maintain that ever-elusive balance between our social lives and our ministering lives.
    According to my darling, depression is often a work-related risk for ministers; I’m sure this is the same for the wives of ministers. I pray that your treatments are effective so that you may be more effective for The Kingdom.

    Blessings,
    TPW

  2. Jana: I was finally able to publish the guest post (on depression) that I was telling you about last week. I was waiting for her blog to get up and running. Just wanted to let you know about it.

  3. Jana, as you can probably see from all your comments, this is a much needed and very refreshing post! I sense that women in ministry are yearning to be real & I take my hat off to you for getting the ball rolling. I am sure many will find comfort in your openess about your struggle & know as we walk together the “weight” will lift & we will all have victory in the areas that we struggle!

  4. Dear Jana,
    I have just found your site through Sarah and am touched by your honesty. I will pray for you as you work through your depression. Most likley in the future this will turn out to be one of your most effective areas of ministry to others. May God richly bless you and your husband as you minister together for His kingdom.
    Sherry

  5. Jana,

    Thank you for your transparency! My mother-in-law has fought this for it seems a lifetime and we have prayed with her and for her and walked through myriads of different treatments.

    “Captivating” changed my life! I loved that book too. Truly an eye opener.

    Blessings to you!

  6. Thank you for sharing so bravely. Depression is serious and the help of a medical professional is so important and a psychiatrist is our expert. OUr brain chemistry is complicated and we need experts who clearly understand that. I hope others who read this can be encouraged to get support and understand that depression is a medical condition. Our family has experienced this and healed only because of the loving care of our incredible pshychiatrist.

    1. Nancy, I truly appreciate what you wrote. Depression is a medical condition and it should not be swept under the rug. I love how you extended such love and understanding through your comment. Thank you so much!

  7. Jana, thank you for sharing your heart here. It is refreshing to read true authentic people. And I sense you are just as authentic in person and not just in the blogosphere. My prayer is that you will respond well to the medicine you decide to take and be free of any guilt or pressure.

  8. Again your transparency and vulnerability is breathtaking! I am so glad you are writing about your struggles. And I absolutely love the book “Captivating”. In fact, that is where I got the phrase “Be vulnerable, Unveil Beauty” that I use in my paintings. Thanks for being vulnerable and unveiling your beauty for all to see!

    1. Wendy you are such a great friend. Thanks for cheering me on…I love how we have been away from each other for years, but yet we have reconnected on such a deep level!

      Love you and your ability to use art to capture the miracle of unveiling beauty!

      1. Dido! I think we have definitely connected on a deeper level than when we actually lived in the same state. I think we have both done a lot of growing up since then too!

        Love you!

  9. I also dealt with this after the birth of Bristol. So much pressure we put on ourselves. Thank you very much for bring honest and open on a topic many of us deal with. ❤

  10. Thanks Jana for writing this series. I’m not sure if I told you or not…but, I have fought post partum depression after the births of all three of my children. It came as a huge surprise after the nt first little one…and my struggle and story of wellness and recovery is one that I hope to share when I have more time.

    But, I did want to throw out a few things that were crucial in me getting help:

    My husband—he was able to talk to other husbands who dealt with PPD and after one of those talks—it was truly life changing now that I look back…he was able to recognize symptoms, signs and when it was me, hormones or sickness ‘talking’.

    Talking—over my 5 year ordeal with PPD I was able to find a doctor, mentor, medication and other friends that I could receive the help I needed. I thank God for EVERYONE of those as without support or really without taking the
    first steps of dialogue I would not be where I am today.

    Education—the longer I dealt with PPD the more educated I have become. I have read about different medications, the physiological aspect of PPD and really all of this can be ‘freeing’ in and of itself. It helps me to feel that I am not alone, weird, or isolated.

    Some sights I would recommend:

    http://postpartumprogress.typepad.com/

    and one that has helped with the parenting aspect is Malia Russell’s ‘difficult child’ series…because really, life doesn’t stop when you are trying to get the help you need….so I needed all the help I could get.

    http://www.homemaking911.com/parenting/

    Lisa Whelchel’s book: “Taking Care of the Me in Mommy”

    Love you friend!
    Kat

    1. Thank you Kat for the amazing resources! I appreciate you sharing about your experience, I had no idea. I totally agree that finding a support system in crucial, it is what made the difference in my recovery as well.

      I appreciate you and the role you have played in my life through the years. You are a wonderful friend!

  11. I appreciate how hard it is to write about your own depression. Good for you and thank you. I’ve found it is, in the long run, helpful to tell about your experience.

    God bless you.

    mp

  12. Thank you for sharing that. I actually met with a psychiatrist for the first time this year, too. Living in LA, it is easier to come by. I had to deal with my own thoughts about how my friends and family might see me and how it might be stigmatized, but the best advice I got was from my friend “J” who told me one of my lowest nights that no one would be able to help save me from this but me–not my mom, not my best friend. I had to make the choice to help myself and find a doctor and a therapist, he said. So, I did. My grandmother and my mother dealt with depression all their lives, and it’s something that has made me feel very different, alone, and tormented since I was at least 13 years old. Even at my happiest, I’m always haunted. Thankfully, I’m a little vain and I always remind myself when I get to the rock bottom thoughts that (most) every great writer has always suffered deeply from depression, and I can’t end the battle until I’ve written something amazing. However, after fighting it for so long with the help of medicine, therapy and some other good stuff (including talking about it to friends and family), I realized that for me there are more happy days than sad now; there aren’t these great valleys of sadness that make me feel isolated from others as often as I used to have; and sometimes I feel very, very happy. I also have to say that for me, finding an anti-depressant that worked took a long time and it was hard. I went through 4 different medications, gained 30lbs in the process, and had very bad emotional side effects from them. My side effects were worse, actually, than my depression. But, I found a great doctor and am working on fixing my thyroid levels (which can mimic depression symptoms)and found that a low dose of Effexor worked for me.

    My hope is that anyone who’s reading this post or this comment with depression won’t feel stigmatized. Depression is not a behavior or a character flaw. It’s a medical condition like a heart condition or broken wrist. Anyone would go see a doctor for those things, and this is no different. It’s not always easy to find a doctor or therapist who understands depression, but don’t give up.

    1. Lisa, thank you so much for sharing this with me and others who may read your comment. It’s very true that finding the right medication can be a process as well. I tried a couple of different types myself and gained a few pounds along the way. 😉 But, it is worth it and having a knowledgeable doctor makes all the difference in the world!

      I value the advice and insight you gave on the subject. You are a wonderful writer and a beautiful person! I love you Lisa!!!

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