4 Things To Hold Onto When Your Backstory Tries To Take You Down



It’s been nearly 5 years since my mom took her own life and it’s really hard to put into words how I deal with that on a daily basis.

Most days I am still in disbelief that this is a part of my story, my family’s story. I joke to new friends that I feel too normal to have such a dramatic back story.

The back to school days have me in a bit of a depressive funk. Some days it’s just a small gray cloud but once in a while it’s a bit worse than that. I am upping my meds since I am on a low dose currently and choosing to be thankful for Zoloft rather than feel shame that I can’t hack it “au natural.”

The bad depressive days are the hardest when I start thinking about my Mom, when the enemy creeps into my ear and says “maybe you will repeat her story, or maybe your kids will…. it’s in you, it’s in them.”

Genetics can be the blackest fears in the parenting journey because there’s no article you can google, book you can read, class you can take or therapy session you can schedule that will alleviate them. They are real, to say otherwise is to live in a false Camelot that won’t serve us well in the end.

You have your backstory and you’ve inherited your genes. Okay, let’s sit with that for a moment… but then let’s take another step.

So yes, they are real, our kids have inherited our best and worst traits, our eye color and bad habits, our scary genes and the ones that have the potential to unleash beauty and change in our neighborhoods. But now what? I can’t make my family history of depression go away and I can’t remove suicide from our family story. So, I have to work with it because I refuse to let it own me..

We have to work with the chapters that are already behind us, not deny them or let them dominate our futures, but authentically own them and learn from them.

Here are 4 good thoughts to toss around when those fears try to take you down.

  1. You are different people– Never before has YOUR unique blend of DNA existed so don’t believe for a single second that just because you have scary genes that your future is written for you. You are not destined to repeat the past, that is NOT how it works. It’s an ongoing story, you are writing something new.
  2. You have different resources– You can make different choices than those who have gone before. You have new information, new strategies and you can learn from their stories and even honor them in doing so. You live in a world where there is more honesty and support about disease and mental illness than ever before in the history of the world. There is help and new information far beyond the scope of your backstory, so use it wisely and well.
  3. You have each other– When I look at my family, especially my kids, I am terrified that the demons of depression will take one of us down. Then I remember that we have each other, we have an open forum to talk about what we may be going through and to support each other through it. We can hold each other accountable, care for one another and speak truth into each other’s lives. My brother and I can talk about where we came from and be brutally honest about it and our choices, I pray the same for our own children.
  4. You can tell a new story- God is still telling this story and he will not waste any of it, not even the hard parts. Just because you have a past does NOT mean you are guaranteed to repeat it. I don’t understand a lot of things about God’s will, but I do know that he has hands full of love for those who are striving to do a new thing. He is crazy about redemption, you are telling a new story. Believe it.

In Isaiah 43:19 God says one of my favorites things “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

You may have a hard backstory and be dealing with a hard genetic inheritance but YOU are a new thing that God is doing.

We are doing a new thing friends, my kids and I, you and your people. We have things in our past that we hate, that we wish we could remove from our stories even though they brought us to this very moment.

But we also have today, and each other, and the opportunity to write a new page in our stories.

What do you do when the bad parts of your past try to dominate your future? What do you hold onto?

(I am not a medical professional, if you are struggling beyond what a blog post can speak to, please consult your doctor to talk about your options, there is medication, counseling and many other therapies available to you and there is no Gold Star at the end for struggling without them.)


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  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    I think about this the most as it relates to my children. I can tell that my youngest has inherited some of my tendency towards anxiety. I worry about all of the things he might not try because anxiety rules his life. And yet, I know that I am a different person than my mother. I have recognized the anxiety in him and am doing everything I can to be a safe encourager. I can help him to write a story that is different than mine. And I can acknowledge that even my own story is still not complete, I have the power to continue writing new things into it.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Yes, your words ring so true, we can help them write their stories. I love reading it put like this.

  • Natalie Hart

    So much “Yes!” to all of this. I think of the value in being open about things like depression and anxiety within a family, naming the things that were unsayable in previous generations. I think about what a gift it is to even just be casual about getting help, about seeing a counselor without making a big fat hairy deal about it. I oddly love mentioning my antidepressant in conversation around the house, in totally nondramatic tones: it’s a medication I need, and if there’s to be no shame around mental illness, then the first person to act like there’s no shame is me.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Exactly, the naming of it is so wonderful, we have COME SO FAR in 30 years time! I rejoice for the freedom we are finding in being OPEN with each other !

  • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

    You have so much wisdom. I really appreciate you speaking into this – so few are doing this.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you friend, I really appreciate your words!!!