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”

 

44 thoughts on “My Mom, Depression, and Love

  1. I’m crying, Trudy. You have no idea how much this means to me. What a gift for God to give you such wisdom to see the love your Mama had for you.

    PTSD has returned with aveangance and I’ve sat trying to reassure my girls that Mama is going to be okay and that it’s not their fault (something I thought as a little girl) after an attack they saw me go through. My heart hurts for them because I know that it is traumatic for them to see me like that.

    Last time I didn’t get local church support. But God was by my side. I don’t know if it will be different this time either. It’s still not looked at in the same way as other illnesses within most churches. There’s real stigma attached. This time I’m not going to hide myself away and be ashamed (what I did last time). I have realized that there needs to be more people speaking up, so this covering of shame is stripped. It’s not right. PTSD did give me an incredible gift last time it hit- I got to experience the depths of God’s love and grace through the Presence of His Word and Holy Spirit. I know God will again use this for good. Thank you for being so open here. You are an incredible gift.

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    1. I’m so sorry PTSD is affecting your life so much, Anna. I’m glad you’re speaking up more. Shame can be a huge hindrance to healing. I love that you’re sitting with your daughters and reassuring them that it’s not their fault. As they grow, I’m sure you will teach them more about PTSD and in the end they will be more empathetic towards others. It’s so sad that in our pain, we didn’t get church support. But it truly is amazing how God displays His power in our hearts and lives, and we actually experience more of the “depths of God’s love and grace” through the deep valleys of pain. May we cling to the Truth of His faithful Presence no matter what pain we go through!

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    1. I’m so grateful this story has uplifted your heart, Lisa. God bless you, too! It can be hard when God has another plan for our lives, but someday we will see the beauty in it all. May we surrender our plan to Him and trust His!

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  2. So powerful Trudy. As a Mom who went through PPD, I look back at the moments when I was unable to be ‘present’, when I zoned out and I grieve deeply. Thank God for redemption. Thank you for sharing. Hugs 🤗 💕

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  3. Age has a way of giving us a deeper perspective, doesn’t it, Trudy? The details are much different in our stories, but I can relate to being able to look back and see how much–and how well–my mom loved me, even when I felt like she didn’t understand me. This is such a hopeful testimony … I’m so glad you shared it again today. And the song? Oh my goodness. Thank you for sharing that too. Much love to you this Valentine’s week, my friend.

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    1. Yes, Lois, age does have a way of giving us a deeper perspective. As does healing in our emotions and finding our identity in Jesus, so we can see more through His lens. I’m sorry you didn’t always feel understood, but I’m grateful you found hope here. Yes, that song is encouraging, isn’t it? I can see how you can especially identify with it. May we remember we don’t have to understand, trust He knows best, and rest in His sufficient grace! Much love to you, too!

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  4. Trudy, what shines through most in your heartrending words is the solid fact that you know beyond doubt that your mother loved you very much. She revealed that to you as best as she could, and the memory of her burn-scarred hands seems to show the Jesus-with-skin-on woman she really was beneath the pain of her mental illness.
    You’ve got me thinking if my two boys, now both fully functioning men, could have been affected or afflicted by my own brush with mental illness. Because even if most of it happened prior to them being born, I still bore the scars as such and it made me feel inadequate and unworthy as a mother.
    In parenting, I was also trying to make up for my own childhood where I felt lonely and lost, was abused and didn’t feel cherished by either parent, which left a legacy of shame, sadness and grief I’m still struggling with. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story in such a beautiful way. Much love and hugs to you, dear friend! xo ❤

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    1. I’m so sorry for how deeply you suffered as a child, Joy. My heart aches for you. A legacy of shame, sadness, and grief can affect us so deeply. Since you tried to make up for what you went through, it sounds like you broke the cycle and made sure your boys felt loved and cherished. And now you have a grandson to show that to as well. 🙂 Thank you for saying “her burn-scarred hands seems to show the Jesus-with-skin-on woman she really was beneath the pain of her mental illness.” It really touches my heart and gives me hope. Much love and hugs to you, too! May God give ever deeper healing in our families and in our own hearts and lives!

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  5. Oh, Trudy, what a moving and tender remembrance of your Mom’s struggles and her endless love for her family in spite of it all. What courage it takes to live with depression when so many around you can’t, don’t or won’t (like the church folks) understand. Reading this today made me realize how far we’ve thankfully come in addressing and treating mental/emotional disorders that some suffer through no fault of their own. I know how much you must miss your mother, but I love that you take comfort in the knowledge that she is resting peacefully and pain-free with Jesus.
    Blessings, my friend!

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    1. Thank you, Martha. It truly is the mercy of God that even though she battled depression and went through a lot in her life, she still showed us how much she loved us as much as she could. I am thankful, too, how far we’ve come in treating depression and other mental illnesses. And even now, there are psychologists who can’t help as well as others. My mom’s psychologist for years seemed to just be a sounding board and never really helped her to heal and grow. I once told my mom about the one I went to and asked her if she’d try her. I still thank God she went. Ann Marie has a special empathy and compassion and she nurtured us to find our identity in Jesus. God watches over us so lovingly, doesn’t He? Without Him, we couldn’t move on. Blessings to you, too! May we rest in our Faithful Care-giver who gives us sufficient grace!

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  6. I’m so thankful that you knew, deep down, that your mamma loved you, Trudy. That may have been her greatest gift to you, despite her own illness and pain. I’m so sorry she had to endure so much but am SO very thankful that she had help in the end and ultimately came to know the love of Jesus. What a lovingly beautiful tribute you have written to your mother. Thank you for sharing, sweet friend.

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    1. I’m really thankful God helped me to deal with my own pain and gave me a different perspective on my childhood, June. Sometimes I have had blinders on that all I could see was the bad memories, but God has helped me to see through His eyes to the good memories. Yes, Mom had to endure a lot, much more than I have shared here. I, too, am SO very thankful she came to know the love of Jesus! May we cling to the Truth that anything is possible with God!

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  7. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story of your Mom, Trudy! I’m sorry she had to suffer so much- both the illness and the lack of understanding, especially from the church. I’m glad she came to know Jesus’ love for her in the end, and I’m glad that you are able to see how much she loved you, even though she couldn’t always express it when you were growing up. Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Thank you, Lesley, for your compassion and understanding. I’m glad she is above all pain now. I like to imagine her with the fullness of joy shining from her face and dancing with Jesus. 🙂 Love and hugs to you, too! May we fix our eyes and hearts on the One who loves us unconditionally and gives us grace to get through every trial!

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    1. Oh Deb, your thoughts bring tears to my eyes. To think that Jesus is humming my love song to her now is a glorious thought! I should remember that with God all things are possible. Much love to you, too! May we remember the powerful love of God who can make all things possible!

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  8. Trudy-
    This is so beautiful. I almost don’t have words but what amazing love your mom had for you. This brought tears to my eyes as I picture the struggle as well as the victory your mom found in Christ. I also am thinking of my mom especially when sitting in the passenger seat and having her arm stretch out to keep me safe.

    You have so many layers to your God story and your willingness to share these deep-seated emotional memories are a gift. I love you friend and the sweet encouragement of hope I felt while reading this.

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    1. I”m so grateful God gave you sweet encouragement of hope, Mary. Thank you for your kind words and your caring heart in picturing her struggle as well as the victory in Christ. I smile when I think of your mom also stretching her arm to keep you safe. 🙂 I love you, too! May we rejoice in the victory Jesus will always have over our struggles and losses, no matter how painful they may be!

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  9. Dear Trudy,
    Thank you so much for re-posting this beautiful sharing of more of your story, Trudy! I know so well that feeling of “it was my job to make everyone happy.” My Mom suffered through so many illnesses, and I now know that some of it was indeed depression, but it was not acknowledged when I grew up either. I remember one of her mental collapses, and even though the Pastor came out to visit her, he didn’t understand the stresses that she was living under, and just said, “you can’t go on like this.” That statement from the Pastor I loved caused me to feel even more that I needed to make it better for my Mom! How beautiful though, that Jesus has brought her full healing now that she is with Him! And how precious that He has begun to have me walk through the process of lifting away that burden and yoke of shame too. I am so blessed by your heart of compassion and love from the Lord, Trudy! What a precious gift that you share that love with all of us here, too! Hugs & Blessings to you my friend! xo

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    1. It brings tears to my eyes that you also know that feeling of “it was my job to make everyone happy,” Bettie. I’m so sorry for what your mom suffered and how it affected you. I’m so grateful, too, that God is leading us “through the process of lifting away that burden and yoke of shame.” Thank you for your kind words and love! Hugs and blessings to you, too! May God heal us ever deeper and root out all that shame!

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  10. Oh, Trudy… your post brings tears to my eyes. Your mother was so courageous to battle her “demons” so that you and your family didn’t have to. What a blessing she was! And what an inspiration you are! This is an absolutely powerful testimony! Thank you for sharing your mother’s story so beautifully. Love you much! ❤ ❤

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. It was quite a battle, but I’m so proud of her for breaking that cycle. She experienced a lot of rejection and negligence from her mom, and she was determined to be different and to show us how much she loved us. She couldn’t always see our pain because of her depression, but she did love us the best she could. I was so happy when she learned of Jesus’ love! And now she can be where there is no more depression! I love you much, too! May we be so filled with the love of Jesus that we will tell of His wonders and great mercies!

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  11. Hi Trudy,
    I’m so glad you shared this story of your life again since I feel like I know so much more about you now. What a strong and courageous woman you are to care for your family and your mother during her difficult times like you did! What a beautiful spirit she modeled for you too, showing that there’s so much more to us and in our hearts than what’s evident in the outside. Sending lots of love to you! Xoxo

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Valerie. As I was working through my own pain, it was hard to see that beautiful spirit in her, but I’m grateful God led me into healing and recognizing her love more. Yes, there is always so much more to us and in our hearts than what is evident on the outside. I’m so glad God sees into our hearts and His mercies never end! Sending lots of love to you, too! May the God of all grace guide us and lead us in this life, and may we surrender all and follow Him!

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  12. What a lovely story Trudy. It is just so full of God’s grace and healing. Your mom’s scarred hands still displayed tenderness, care-taking, and love. I think of Jesus’ scarred hands and feet and how they touched the disciples when He rose to them. Our scars are our stories but also our healing marks, aren’t they? Hugs and blessings to you!

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. Hugs and blessing to you, too! I was thinking, too, of Jesus and how His scarred hands touch us with His love. I love what you say about our scars being our stories but also our healing marks! So true! May all glory be to God in our stories, even when we can’t always understand everything yet!

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  13. Oh Trudy.

    This, dear friend, is a gold mine, filled with memories and learnings, sadness, and joy, ups and downs so severe that you wondered if you’d ever find your way forward.

    But God.

    I can’t help thinking your Mother would be so proud of where you are today, how you are ministering God’s grace and tender healing touch to so many women who are hurting. She’s probably be astounded at the Christ-honoring help that’s available now and how shame and blame are slowly but surely being banished. And how the church is finally stepping up to the plate.

    Like this, here – http://hope4mentalhealth.com/

    Bless you on this day of love, friend …

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    1. There’s so much comfort in those two words, isn’t there, Linda? “But God.” He makes all things possible! Thank you for your kind and comforting words. Also for the link. I’ve added it to my list of links for the end of the month and to add to my Hope Harbor page. May we daily cling to our God who makes all things possible!

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  14. So beautifully written; thanks for sharing!! You don’t need to tell those kids on the school bus anything. You know it in your heart what a wonderful mother you had! May she rest in peace free from depression and pain! HUGS to you!!

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    1. Thank you, Jema, for your caring thoughts. It’s so true that I know it in my heart, so I don’t even need to tell those kids. It truly is comforting to know she does rest in peace now from all depression and pain! HUGS to you, too! May we cling to our God who always knows and understands what’s in our hearts, no matter what people say or think!

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      1. I so agree! Kindness begets kindness… that is what the world really needs more of! And if we can all lead by example, what a wonderful world it would be!! Your mother, even with her health issues, believed that through the love she expressed to her children. And while it may have been tough to always believe that the you were younger, you now realize how much love your mother had for you. It is through that love that you are the inspirational person you are today! ❤

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  15. Awwww, Trudy. This is such a beautiful post. You brought tears to my eyes. You had a beautiful mom. The way you describe the cycle you started on because of things makes so much sense. When we are children, we can’t understand the bigger picture. We can only see and internalize our perception of things.

    Seeing how God is working in and through you is a beautiful testimony of His healing love, my friend. Thank you for sharing this. It touched me.

    Have a great weekend! Sending you hugs and love.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jeanne. Yes, as children our perception is so different. Even as an adult, it took me a while to understand these things better. But as I’m working through the healing process, God is helping me to see through His eyes. God’s healing love is unfathomable. Sending hugs and love back to you! I hope you also have a great weekend as well! May we take comfort in knowing that one day we will understand everything that happens on this earth and see God’s bigger picture that will be ever so beautiful!

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  16. Dear Trudy- What a beautiful and moving story. What hope to hear of how God brought about such beautiful healing for you both despite so much pain. My heart hurt for you both as I read and I was touched by Gods kindness and how he heals so tenderly. Thankful that he doesn’t give up on us and it’s never too late. So good to meet up with you here tonight! with much love and hugs.

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    1. Thank you for your caring compassion, Susie. God’s healing love and mercies never fail, do they? It’s not easy to see when we are in painful situations, but in hindsight we can see more how God was with us all along. Much love and hugs to you, too! I hope you’re coping well. May we cling to our faithful God who never gives up on us and will never abandon us!

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  17. This is beautiful. Even more beautiful fact is that your Mom fought chronic depression out of love for you and your siblings. The world is filled with pain, but yet, hope comes to us in every little moment. I hope you have cherished those little moments, and have a positive outlook to the rest of your life.

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    1. Thank you, Cacophony. The healing love of God is so powerful, isn’t it? Through the grace of God, we can be broken and yet beautiful. I like how you say “hope comes to us in every little moment.” So true. May we open our eyes and hearts to daily see the hope offered to us through Jesus!

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  18. Oh Trudy, what a beautiful testimony of your mother’s love even in the throes of depression. I come from a long line of women who struggle with depression so I can completely relate, my friend. I’m really hoping it will end at my generation. I love hearing how your mom found Christ. There is truly no greater love than His. Thank you for sharing this intimate look at a woman who lived and loved so well regardless of the incredible struggle she was dealing with. Hugs to you, my friend!

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    1. Thank you, Candace, for your kindness and understanding. Depression can arise from so many factors, can’t it? Whether genetically or as a result of life situations, past or present. I am finally learning it’s ok to accept I need an anti-depressant. Yes, there is no greater love than Christ’s! We couldn’t live without Him, could we? Hugs to you, too! May we together cling to the love that will never, ever abandon, reject, or judge us!

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  19. Hi Trudy! What a riveting post my friend. I read every single word with love for you and for your dear mother. What a hard cross depression is, and it affects everyone as you so beautifully wrote.
    You had to deal with a lot of sadness in your young life, and although no one addressed your mom’s depression, and avoided her (how upsetting that even the church did that), no one really addressed your feelings either. Or your brother’s for that matter. That’s a hard cross to carry.

    Thank you for showing us how much you have gained through the years in strength and faith. It’s really a testament to your desire to make sense of it all, and the grace given to you to see the love that was truly there the whole time. Both in your mom, and in your God.
    Thank you for this beautiful post,
    Ceil

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    1. Thank you for your compassion, Ceil. Also for recognizing that not only were my mom’s feelings not considered, but neither were mine or my siblings’ feelings. God’s glorious grace is so astonishing, isn’t it? Without Jesus and His love and grace, there is no hope at all, right? May we cling to that only hope each moment of our lives!

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