My Mom, Depression, and Love

Depression often plagued our mom, and it sometimes blinded her to our own pain, but she still loved us so much. On February 18, it will be 12 years since we lost her, so I’m reposting a revised article from 5 years ago. I’m sure many of you haven’t read it yet.

“That’s where all the crazy people go!” blurted one of my fellow grade-school students as our bus drove past the Mental Health Institute on our way to a field trip of a museum and planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa. False shame reached out its grubby hands and strangled me as I stared out the window at that unfriendly brick building, my enemy. The razor-edged words sliced into my heart, slashing the scream begging to give voice, “My mom is NOT crazy!”

My mom often battled bouts of depression when I was growing up. She wanted to be there for us kids, but she couldn’t. Several times throughout my childhood she would have stays in various hospitals.

Sadly, shock treatments and pills were the norm in those days. She didn’t receive quality counseling to enable her to work through the deep-seated childhood rejection and emotional abuse that added to her depression. Inevitably her pain kept festering inside, ready to shove her into debilitating illness time and again.

What especially hurt her was that even the minister and elders of the church we attended at that time didn’t offer comfort. Whenever my mom was in the hospital, they wouldn’t even visit her, even after she came home. Their silence and lack of support pierced and twisted a knife into her heart and further stoked the fire of shame that undermined her self-worth.

Add to that shame… Fear. Raw fear. We often heard about hell, and we perceived God as a distant, furious Judge ready to punish us. We didn’t hear how the love of Jesus offers hope, how Jesus hurts when we hurt.

In spite of her periodical battles with depression, I still knew Mom loved us. But when she disappeared, emotionally and sometimes physically, it was so difficult to convince my child’s heart. Sometimes I felt so abandoned.  I’d see her crying or in hysterics, and it tore me up. Like many children, I somehow felt guilty for her illness. Why couldn’t I make Mom happy? What did I do wrong?  When she was suicidal, it devastated me. Weren’t we worth living for? When she was again taken to a hospital, I was lonely and afraid.

Subconsciously I began to believe it was my job to make everyone happy. I became a people pleaser to try to quiet my longstanding belief that I helped cause my mother’s depression. If anyone around me was unhappy or upset, I would try to “fix” it. If I couldn’t make someone feel better, my load of guilt became heavier. What is wrong with me that I always mess up people’s lives?

It took years before I worked through my guilt and feelings of desertion. But the more I healed, the more I realized what a wonderful mom I really had. Although depression sometimes snatched her away from us or plunged her into inescapable self-absorption, she loved us deeply. There was nothing she enjoyed more than to be surrounded by her family, and I believe she would have sacrificed her own life to save ours. In fact, she nearly did.

One day I was curled up with a book on the couch. My little brother was in the playpen in the kitchen next to the doorway leading to the living room. Mom was in the kitchen heating oil for french fries in an aluminum pan on the gas stove burner. When she lowered the basket of frozen fries into the hot oil, an explosion of light and a bone-chilling shriek shattered my serenity. I snapped out of my frozen-in-fear moment and raced to the kitchen to see fire climbing up the curtains next to the stove. Oblivious to the burning flesh on her hands, Mom screamed, “Get the baby out! Get the baby out! Get Dad!”

I grabbed my little brother and rushed out to the barn. Meanwhile, Mom worked feverishly to get the fire out; and if my memory serves me correctly, she succeeded before Dad arrived. But then the pain took over and consumed her, and Dad rushed her to the doctor.

The 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her hands took time to heal. But later on, it was those love-scarred hands that soothed my fevered brow and brought me tea and toast when I was sick and patted my back with encouragement to pursue interests I enjoyed.

Sometimes her loving hand became a safety belt. A sudden step on the brakes would spring her hand out to hold back the one in the passenger seat. We had some special moments when this continued even when I was an adult and we had seatbelts. As my mom became older and I was the driver, we chuckled when one day my hand sprang out.

How I loved my “crazy” mom! I’m so proud of how she broke the abuse cycle of possibly generations of moms. She had to battle the monster of depression and she couldn’t always protect us from harm, but she still managed to show us a mother’s love.

I am so grateful that in the later years of her life, Mom was blessed with a counselor who nurtured her and encouraged her to find her identity in Christ Jesus. She was finally able to experience Jesus loves her and know she has priceless value in His eyes. Her faith in a Savior who sacrificed His life for her grew and blossomed like a rose. Deep-seated thorns of insecurity and depression still tried to inhibit her from full bloom, but she was still, oh, so beautiful. Yes, depression often dominated her life, especially when we were growing up, but I still picture the deeper scars on one of her hands. Scars of love. Sacrificial love. Even when a spinal stroke paralyzed her and took away her freedom to hug us, she still wanted us to know we were loved. Fighting for breath, some of her last words were whispered in succession, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

I wish I could go back in time to those kids on that school bus. I would stand up to them and proudly tell them how much my “crazy” mom loved us and how blessed I am that she was my mother. I am a better, more caring person today because of her. And I know she is now with Jesus where she can forever bloom perfectly. There is no more depression and no more pain!

“When God Has Another Plan”

 

God Remembers and Cares About Our Tears

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
You have recorded each one in Your book.
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me.”
Psalm 56:8-9

Sad and alone. Sitting on a step with my arms crossed and leaning on my knees and my head hanging, I felt a lick of sympathy on my face. Someone had noticed my pain. Our dog had wriggled his way underneath my arms.

He comforted me like no one else did or could do at the time. As a kid growing up on a farm, dogs often were my best friends. They sat with me. They didn’t have to say a word. They just soaked in my sorrows as if they were crying with me.

Yes, dogs have the amazing God-given ability to sense when something is wrong and to comfort us. To be our faithful and devoted companions. It can never compare with the comfort God is ready to give us, but in hindsight I now believe that it was His way of caring for me even when I didn’t know He cared.

Every single tear we shed has meaning to Him. Whether they run from our eyes or make pools in our hearts. From birth to the present and on into the future. Every. Single. Tear.

God remembers our every sorrow as if He kept each tear in a bottle. He records each and every one in His book of remembrance. And I believe God adds His own tears right alongside ours. He cares that deeply.

God may not have a literal bottle or book, but He remembers every single thing that happens in our lives, including our suffering. He is a tender-hearted Father to us, a God who feels with us and weeps with us (Exodus 3:7John 11:33–35).

We are not alone, even when it feels like it. Many times in my life, I wondered where God was when I needed Him. But looking back, I now realize He was with me all along. Crying with me. Yes, He could have stopped bad things from happening to me. But He knew I would learn a deeper compassion and empathy if I personally experienced suffering myself.

God is for us. Always. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need to experience in order to better empathize with others who suffer.

I wasn’t always aware of this. There have been more fist-raised or curl-up-in-a-ball moments than I can count. I could see no purpose whatsoever in people violating me. But God is helping me to realize that if I hadn’t experienced the pain, I could not cry with others like He cries with me.

Do you feel sad and alone? Like no one cares? It may feel like it, and surely, the devil wants us to believe that. But it’s not true. I know it’s a rough road to recovery. When our trust is so shattered, it’s not easy to believe anyone cares, even that God does. We may become terrified to open our hearts to anyone, out of fear of being hurt again. But there are those who do care. If you are hurting, please know I care.

Above all, there is One who has unconditional love and endless compassion towards us. He yearns for us to run to Him and freely confide in Him. He will never, ever hurt us, condemn us, or reject us. He will lovingly apply His healing balm to all the hurts in our hearts. He never misses a tear we shed but cares and collects every single one in His bottle of remembrance, adding His own with them.

“He Knows My Name”
by Maranatha Singers

“He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call.”

New This Month: Links, Quotes, Books & More

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“God Help Me”
by Plumb


Thank You
to anyone and everyone who recommend
links, books, quotes, etc.
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ABCs of Jesus’ Love

Visit this page anytime and let me know if you’d like to add to the words describing Jesus’ love along with a verse supporting it. Remember, there is also a print-out of the original list.

 This month I have added an “D” Word:

❤︎  Delivering Love ❤︎
“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril,
and He will deliver us again.
On Him we have set our hope
that He will continue to deliver us.

2 Corinthians 1:10 NIV
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Books

I am not always able to keep up with the abundance of books that promote hope, healing, and freedom, so I haven’t always read every one I post here and on the Books Page. Though many are on my long wish list. 🙂  Many will be from recommendations of online friends. If you ever know of a book that is not listed and that supports this website’s mission, please let me know. 🙂

Divine by Karen Kingsbury

This is a novel that brings awareness to the reality of horrific child abuse. It’s hard to read, but the beauty of the story is that God rescued and redeemed Mary. Then He used her to bring love and hope to others suffering abuse.

“Mary Madison was a child of unspeakable horrors, a young woman society wanted to forget. Now a divine power has set Mary free to bring life-changing hope and love to battered and abused women living in the shadow of the nation’s capital. 

Mary is educated and redeemed, a powerful voice in Washington, D.C.—both to the politically elite and to other women like her. But she also has a past that shamed polite society. Her experiences created in her paralyzing fear, faithlessness, addiction, and promiscuity. At the crossroads of her life, only one power set Mary free and gave her a lifetime of love and hope. A power that could only be divine.” (Amazon Review)

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Hope Harbor

💞  Links That Inspire Hope and Healing 💞

💞 A Christian Perspective on Depression – Vaneetha Rendall Risner shares insights and an interview with Terry Powell. “Those who suffer with depression often endure silently, feeling shame and internal condemnation. For Christians, the struggle is often magnified by the assumption people are less spiritual if they can’t seem to ‘count it all joy.'”

💞 Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness?  by Bev Rihtarchik – Bev brings awareness to mental illness. Christians are not exempt from it. She shares her struggles with it and with the misconception some Christians have that it means a lack of faith.

💞 8 Powerful Promises to Calm Your Soul When the World’s Falling Apart by Bonnie Gray – “With everything that’s happening in the news – combined with all that’s going on in our families, our friends’ lives, with our kids, our jobs, or the heated politics – we can feel despairing or overwhelmed. Yet, in the midst of chaos, we have an anchor to hold onto in the storms of life: Jesus.”

Nature Retreat

“Never lose an opportunity
of seeing anything beautiful,
for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

These photos are from a 2015 vacation in and around Duluth, MN. I believe the falls were called Gooseberry Falls and the lighthouse Split Rock. I love how lighthouses guide ships, tossed about in nature’s storms, to safety. Just like Jesus does in the storms of our lives. (John 8:12) 🙂


🐾 50 Magnificent Natural Landscape Photographs – Stunning landscape photos

🐾 Dave Morrow Photography – Breath-taking views of landscapes and night skies

🐾 Todd Amacker Conservation Visuals  Amazing nature photos from the Appalachia, Gulf Coast, Southern Africa, and more

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Quotes

New quotes this month are about Healing, especially from abuse.

❤︎ “Whether you were threatened, experienced further abuse, or shamed into silence; it is common for survivors to suppress their experiences. You may have perceived that talking about the problem brings danger and more fear. In reality, talking about your abuse in the presence of safe others helps to validate your feelings and release years of pain.” – Dan Hitz

❤︎ In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

❤︎ “Often feelings of shame, powerlessness, and self-hate are bottled up with the memories, and as the memories come through, these feelings do, too. Yet healing isn’t just about pain. It’s about learning to love yourself.– Laura Davis, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

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