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

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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.” Continue reading

Apple by Apple

Today I’m blending the pictures and poetry of our trip with to the orchard with the Burden Family into a prayer for autumn.  All photos compliments of my lovely and dear friend Jillian Burden.  

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Like any good Michigander, I can measure my years by trips to the apple orchard.

I can still remember with vivd clarity my kindergarden trip to the pumpkin patch and cider mill.  After wandering the fields of orange and green we were rewarded by a warm donut and fresh pressed cider as we squeezed together on the picnic tables.

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There is nothing in the world like a cake donut with fresh pressed cider, If you love it, you know it’s a comfort food born early.

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Trips to the orchard ring altogether wholesome, holding hands while crunching apples and leaves as you fill heap your wagon full of fruit.

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31 letters to my mother- Day 1- If Wishes and Hopes…

Dear Mom,

God I miss you.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’ve been gone nearly two years and then other moments I know that you’ve been gone so much longer.

Sometimes I wonder about the last moment I experienced the “real you,” before depression and disease took over.  Remember how we danced in the kitchen together when I was in high school? Can we talk about how obsessed you were with Celine Dion? We almost staged an intervention (and clearly I’m kidding)

When did you fully disappear?  I saw you come through a little bit the first time you held Noelle, I still remember how tenderly you kissed her on the lips, over and over again.

It bugged the hell out of my at the time but now that I look back, I know it was a lesson, a gift. I kissed Caedmon’s lips every day when he was brand new.  I wish you’d gotten to meet him, Mom.

I wish that I could go back and love you better.  I wish I knew how broken you were, had extended more grace, smiled more and scowled less.

The therapist I saw assured me that I did what any normal daughter would do when trying to cope with a mentally ill mother, one who was unable to be the Mom she needed.

But still, remember when you got the flu when you were staying at our house? I treated you like a big inconvenience and was truly awful to you that entire trip, but especially in those moments where you laid ill on my couch.

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for not understanding and I’m sorry for taking my frustrations out on you.  I’m sorry for putting high, healthy mom expectations on a woman who was too sick to meet them.

It’s not fair is it? Mom with depression don’t get half the grace that the cancer moms do.

I’ll never understand the balance in the trinity of personhood: body, mind and spirit.  Where does the soul go when the mind falls ill?

Where were you for those last years?  Did you see me somehow, through the pain and darkness?

Did you really ever know me at all?  Did I know you?

Someday soon I’m going to hunt for you, interview Cheryl, Cath and all your sisters.  I’ll ask questions and catalog stories.

Somehow, even though you’re gone I’ll figure out who God created you to be.

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae

Our mother’s laps and that universal longing

Over the weekend we housed 8 people in our tiny home for two nights.  Our friends Heather and Aaron came to stay with us over the weekend along with their sons, ages 2 and 3 months.

As you can imagine it was madness, life exploded all over the walls and floors of our home.  Luggage didn’t fit neatly into closets and Noelle kept trying to climb into the baby swing.  Friday’s breakfast dishes stayed where they were until we shoved them out of the way to make room for Pizza that evening.

Heather and Kasen

As we attempted to coax all four kids to sleep Heather stood in my kitchen nursing Kasen and singing him to sleep.  She opened with Somewhere Out There from American Tale and then transitioned perfectly into Somewhere over the rainbow.  He drifted off in her arms as I finished the dishes.

There is something about bearing witness to the intimate moments of a friend’s mothering journey that arrives as a special gift.  A baby nestled into his mother’s arms is a sacred and precious thing, don’t you think?

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Rain, Hope and One Mother of a Hard Day

and then it rained.

We’ve been having a drought around here.  I’ve written about it and the weather channel has mentioned it so it’s not a big secret.

When the heavens opened up with torrents of water on Saturday I gasped and took pictures of it through windows and open doors.

We let the kids play outside in the cool, wet backyard for hours and then plunged them in a bubble bath after warm cups of stovetop hot chocolate.

Kel and I kept looking at each other thinking, we made it! Made it through the crazy summer, the heat, the lack of routine and all the traveling.  Now fall was almost here, our salvation, our quenching rain, our return to the steady life.

We ended the day on the couch with Hunger Games and huge bowls of popcorn just like everyone else in America did on Saturday. It was blissful.

The next morning was supposed to be THE day, our no work, very sabbathy, family oriented day.

I wasn’t counting on the ghosts to come out of the closet.  I didn’t plan to fill up with anxiety and crippling fear about my memories of my mom and her death.

But the honest trust it that yesterday was ghosts and fears, one mother of a hard day.  I spent the day sifting through my mother’s illness and all the parts that were passed on to me.  Wondering and worrying, then worrying and wondering some more.

I wondered, as I often do, is this just an anxious day or the start of something worse?  The beginning of some terrible, final pronouncement on my life.

Yesterday was horrible, humbling and yet somehow absolutely normal.  You can’t go where I’ve gone and not wrestle with it sometimes.  You can’t ever totally get over it, it’s a piece of my puzzle that I have to work out somedays.

I had to ask for Kel’s help to get through the day without breaking apart.  I had to ask some friends to help me get a prescription filled.  I had to ask God over and over again to show me how I’m supposed to process this depression thing.

Will I have it forever?  Do I pray against it or come to terms with it?  Do other people think I’m crazy?  Should it really matter?

Am I see as one of THOSE people who need a pill to function?

Am I seen as one of THOSE people who has a messy family with a suicide on the record books?

I won’t pretend these questions don’t surface sometimes, that’s of no good to me, to my family or to the world.

Trusting God never means ignoring the pain for his glory, it’s all about plowing through the troubles of the world, that’s what brings the beauty.

The sun set on yesterday and today I long to climb a mountain, to surround myself in azure blue offset by marshmallow clouds.  To get perspective from somewhere higher than I can see right here, right now.  I want to climb and ponder and to return home with deeper perspective.

But these stolen moments in my closet office may be all I scrounge up today.  So I will breathe thanks for these few quiet moments, even though the cat is in my face and making my quiet moments smell like tuna breath.

Is it all better now?  All good?  All gone?  No, but there is always something fragrant and hopeful on the horizon, isn’t there?  May we never stop scanning the horizon for hope.

******

Now for a total change of pace, the Rug Giveaway announcement.

The winner (selected at random) is Brenna D!

Congrats, the Rug is yours!  Hooray!  Now I get to send you a rug and hug you in Chicago at the Story Conference.  A hug and a rug, it doesn’t get better, eh?  (it probably does)

Thanks to all for helping me with Facebook page numbers, you guys amaze me.

Depression ≠ no faith

Image by graphicshunt.com/images/depression

I’m going to try to write about a frustration, a double standard and a serious personal issue all in one post, less than 1,000 words. So bear with me.

If you’re not brand spanking new to my blog you know that my mother took her life last year after a 30 year battle with depression and anxiety. Well I haven’t shared much about this but depression is a battle I’ve fought in my life too. I’ve been medicated and I was committed once, about 15 years ago. Today I’m pretty healthy, I have my ups and downs, my moods, but sometimes I feel blue, thick, heavy, and I worry.

I don’t have the same diagnosis as she did, my depression is a tad more situational and much less clinical. But I am her daughter, and I have inherited a piece of her struggle.

I’m not saying that I spend a lot of time fretting that I’ll share her fate, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t cross my mind sometimes, especially when I find myself feeling gray and hopeless. But doing that to my children, my family, oh God forbid, God FORBID.

It’s not always easy to be a Christian with depression, because there are still some people in the church that really don’t understand. And sometimes those people have hurt me with their lack of knowledge. When I’ve tried to talk about my struggle in church world I’ve been told:

1) Not to confess or talk about it, that doing so would give the devil a foothold.
2) To pray it out, that increased faith would get rid of it and that time in the word will give me strength and cheer me up about God’s faithfulness.
3) That taking medication for it invalidates God’s power to heal me.

My friend recently wrote me and said: “All I know is the more a depressed person hears that it’s their own fault, the more depressed they become. It’s like when parents say, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It just makes the child cry harder. “

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some depression that is spiritual and situational (it’s in the bible – Job and David to be specific) and then there is some that is chemical and genetic. The second kind can be inherited and recurrent, it’s the sort that can relapse and will leave a person always on their guard when the blues set in.

You have to understand depression before you speak into it, otherwise your words may have the exact opposite effect than what you’re going for. It’s simpler to understand cancer, we know that there’s a tumor and that a doctor can throw chemo at it.

But depression can’t be seen on a screen or radiated away. It takes patience, medication, and a tenacious resolve to climb out of the pit. And the cruelest thing of all is that it can rob you of almost everything you need to fight it. You need to exercise but you can barely get through the work day awake. You need to eat well but the ability to cook is beyond you. You need to work aggressively through counseling but it’s so much easier not to talk about it. It’s an evil thing depression, straight evil.

I may have recurrent and genetic depression, I may not, I’m not entirely sure yet. However, I pray that everyone in the church begins to understand that my depression doesn’t make my faith any less strong than your eczema, diabetes or whatever genetic disease you’ve inherited.

If you lost a parent to breast cancer or liver failure, no one would ever fault you for being on your guard against those diseases. If you expressed concerns that you might share in your parents fate, people would understand and encourage testing. If you found out you had cancer or needed dialysis no one would ever insinuate that this happened because of your lack of faith.

But people with a family history of depression don’t always get that same courtesy. I can tell you first hand that I’ve been told that my faith will deliver me from any of my mother’s problems with depression. Yet depression can be genetic, so what gives? There’s a double standard here, it’s understandable to inherit genetic cancer, but genetic depression might indicate a weak relationship with God.

We have to put a stop to this, it’s not the love of Christ, it’s… disease-ism? (like racism but with illnesses)

I’m not writing this to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you’ve said something out of your lack of knowledge, I give you ample grace because I believe your intent was lovely. Depression isn’t one of those things that you learn about until you have to, until it’s happening to you or around you. But as a church, a BIG C Church, we need to understand that some forms of depression are chemical and very real and difficult to understand and diagnose.

The brain, the mind, is in many ways the final frontier of the medical community. Less than 100 years ago people with mental illness were cast out, committed or worse, given lobotomies or had part of their brain removed. So, to say the least, we’ve improved.

I have prayed over this post, it’s not been easy to write, but on my heart I feel a call to bring light to those with deep faith, who still struggle with depression. My brothers, my sisters, if you are fighting along side me, you are brave, never stop fighting, never stop running, confessing and climbing. Just because depression is real and clinical doesn’t mean God won’t bring healing. It only means that if he doesn’t, our faith is still justified.

I hope I’ve brought a light, I hope I’ve encouraged truth.

And all the people said, amen?