Day after day, week after week, one by one they come into my office in search of help, each so similar, yet individual and unique: mothers with depression.
Some initially surprised, but ultimately honored by, and then fully embracing their God-given call to motherhood.
Some longed and desired to be mothers for years.
Some gave birth to their children; others willingly and lovingly brought their children into their home and into their heart.
Regardless how they got there or how long they’ve been in that role, they have all had their share of insecurities, doubts, and fears about their adequacy as a mother, often made worse when they’ve fallen prey to the torment of depression. But there is help and there is hope available.
If you too struggle with depression, you are not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
“I dreamed that motherhood would be so joyful, happy, exhilarating. What is wrong with me?” she asked as the tears she had obviously been restraining now began to flow.
“Oh Sweet Girl, there’s nothing wrong with you. Don’t even entertain that thought. I know you’re in pain, but that pain is not because there is something wrong with you.”
“No one understands,” she whispered, as she brushed her hair off her face and accepted my offer of a tissue to dry her tears that gently flowed down her face.
“More people understand than you realize. The problem is that people just don’t feel comfortable talking about it unless they know others understand. But I do understand—I’ve been where you are.” I explained, as the softness of my voice matched the ache in her heart.
I remembered it all too well. When I was in that place, I would have given just about anything to know I wasn’t alone; to hear someone else say, “Me too.” Now, it was a gift I could freely give.
“You have? But you always look so joyful, and put together!”
“I am now, for the most part, but I still have to do the work to stay here.” I paused for a moment, taking a sip of my iced-tea, letting that sink in for a moment before continuing. “But I’ve gone through depression a couple of times in my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was terrible and painful and ugly and dark. But each time, I was right where you are…feeling alone, like no one else understood.”
“But no-one I know ever talks about it openly. It feels like I’m the only one. Is it very common?”
Depression is common
I smiled before answering, not because the answer was a happy one, but because we all just want someone else to say, “me too,” and if we all knew the statistics, we would know we aren’t alone.
“We’re in a club that few talk about. Depression is now our greatest epidemic worldwide, greater than cancer, heart disease, and AIDS combined. In fact, more than 9 million women in the United States suffer with depression every year. I’d say that’s pretty common, wouldn’t you? And I was once one of them.”
She shifted on the couch, clearly becoming more comfortable as she acknowledged we had more in common than she previously realized. She dried her cheeks and leaned in, beckoning me to continue.
“I wasn’t much further out from my pregnancy than you are now, just a few weeks, when I ‘went down under’ and then got help the first time. My mother was the one who realized I was suffering from post-partum depression. I had never known anyone who had suffered from PPD before, so I was ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me. Just as you said when you sat down.
My baby was perfect, my husband was supportive, my home was beautiful, and yet I was falling apart. I cried all the time over nothing and anything. My mother knew what was wrong because she had gone through it, so she encouraged me to see my doctor for help and it made all the difference in the world. But it still took time. It was after that that I realized many women suffer, but often in silence, ashamed. But there is nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s treatable!”
We spent the next short while reviewing my experience with post-partum depression, and then her own current experience…not sleeping, having no appetite, being irritable all the time, crying for no reason, not wanting to do things she used to enjoy, not wanting to get out with friends or family.
Then she was curious about my other experience with depression since it ran deep and wide in her family. She feared the demands of motherhood, and the stress it could have on her physically, and emotionally. Would she always feel this way?
Spiritual Component to Depression
What she didn’t realize, and what many doctors and therapists don’t discuss, is the fact that there is also often a spiritual component to the disorder. When we don’t consider that spiritual component, we’re really just putting a band-aid on it, hoping it’ll get better.
1. Ephesians 6:12
According to Scripture, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
2. John 10:10
John 10:10 declares, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
In the case of depression, the thief comes to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identity, but we can thank God that the enemy doesn’t get the last say! Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, hope prevails, even in depression!
“Hope Prevails” addresses the Spiritual Component of Depression
Part of the reason I wrote my book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” was to share not only my story but my clinical experience, helping people address the spiritual component of depression and heal it from the inside out.
We have a very real enemy who attacks us incessantly, primarily through our thought life. Have you ever had thoughts like, “my kids would be better off with a different mother”? Or how about, “This is just too hard. I can’t do this.” Do you ever find yourself thinking that you’re a failure?
Let me share a little secret: The same enemy who wormed his way onto the scene and tried to destroy Eve, the mother of all living things, is out to try to destroy you too! Those thoughts you have about your inadequacies as a mother? They aren’t your thoughts. They are from the same enemy who made Eve doubt what she knew to be true. And if he can get you down or depressed, he knows you’ll be less effective in your mothering responsibilities—the most important job you’ll ever have.
3. John 4:4
But the good news? God promises that “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
4. Romans 8:28
Here’s what you need to remember: God chose you to parent your child. He is 100% for you. And He loves your child even more than you do, so He hasn’t left you on this journey alone. He will guide you through this parenting journey, working ALL things together for the good of you and your child! “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
The best way to fight back is with the truth of God’s word.
Bible Verses for Mothers with Depression
5. Proverbs 3:5-6
When you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” remember, God will show you what to do. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
6. James 1:5
When you reprove yourself and believe you “aren’t smart enough,” remember God promises, He will give you wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
7. 2 Corinthians 12:9
When parenting is difficult and you feel like giving up, remember God promises that His grace is enough for you. “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
8. Philippians 4:19
When you feel like you are going under, and you don’t know what to do, remember that God promised that He will provide for all your needs. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
9. 2 Timothy 1:7
When you are afraid, remember where that fear comes from, and know that instead, God has given you power, love, and a sound mind. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).
10. Romans 8:1
And perhaps my favorite: when you have made a mistake as a mother, and find it difficult to forgive yourself, remember that God has already forgiven you, and you can use this as a teachable moment with your child. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Unfortunately, depression is not uncommon. Many experience it, and in fact, many aren’t even aware that that is what they are dealing with. It’s estimated to be twice as likely in women. Many mothers are plagued by depression. The good news is, there is help, and there is hope.
If what you read here today sounds like you or someone you love, let me encourage you to pick up a copy of “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” for more information on how you can overcome depression, recover your joy, reclaim your peace, and re-establish your depression-free identity. You don’t have to figure this out alone.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Depression doesn’t have to become a permanent part of life.
There is hope.
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the companion Hope Prevails Bible Study help the reader understand how depression comes to be, recover their joy, reclaim their peace, and re-establish their true identity, while knowing their worth, remembering their secure destiny, and being confident that nothing separates them from God’s love.
“As a counselor, I have read many books on depression, but I have never read a book that deals with the spiritual aspect of healing as thoroughly as does Hope Prevails. Dr. Bengtson draws from her own personal journey as well as her professional experience. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has tasted the pain of depression or knows a friend who is depressed.” – Gary Chapman, Ph.D., Author of The 5 Love Languages