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”


The Captivity of Guilt and Freedom in Christ

no condemnation

Does guilt ambush you, cutting you down at every turn? Is it like a heavy chain around your neck, holding you down in a quicksand of discouragement and despair? Does it lurk in the dark recesses of your heart, smothering out the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus?

There are two kinds of guilt. The real guilt because of committed offenses and the unrealistic guilt for imagined offenses out of feelings of inadequacy.

I am truly guilty of sin in my life and deserve condemnation. But Jesus has come to pay that price for me. He delivers me from all guilt. However, I don’t always embrace this with my whole heart. I still stew over things I failed to do or I have done that I should have done better. And I badger myself over wrong or selfish thoughts and actions, either past or present, that sometimes invade my life.

But I also have much of the unrealistic guilt. Sometimes my husband says, “There you go again… Guilt…” He says the word “guilt” is definitely in my vocabulary as I’m always feeling so guilty about everything, whether it’s something I do or something I don’t do. And I know he’s right. I am always beating myself up for something or other, and the root of the problem is an ingrained mindset of inadequacy and shame.

In My One Word for 2015, I listed under #4 of “What does the word FOLLOW mean for me in 2015?”

To swallow Truth and spew out lies. Too easily I am led along by negative voices, either from my own insecurity or from the devil who wants to discourage me. I want to follow God’s Truth with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to keep a tight grasp on who I really am in Him.

Whether our guilt is realistic or unrealistic, Satan works overtime to discourage us from remembering our freedom from the captivity of all guilt through Christ. He has come to steal, to kill, and to destroy us. He is happy as long as we continue to live within the disability and destruction of shame inside us, because then we won’t be thinking about Jesus and His freeing power.

But the Truth? Jesus has already paid for every one of our offenses – past, present, and future – and He doesn’t want us to heap either real or imagined guilt upon ourselves. He wants us to swallow this Truth He gives us:

❤︎ “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

No condemnation. God does not damn us or pronounce us guilty, because the Spirit of life has already set us free from the law of sin and death. (verse 2) We are guilt-free from both real and imagined guilt.

So why won’t my heart fully and freely swallow that and let it nourish my soul? What is holding me back? I’m not sure, except I think that for some reason I still feel like I should be punished. But that is a lie I tell myself, because the truth is Jesus’ love has made me worthy of being guilt-free. And maybe I’m still striving too much to “earn” freedom instead of accepting it with an open heart as freely given through Jesus’ sacrifice for me.

I definitely need to focus more this year on following and swallowing God’s promises and spewing out the lies that ravage my heart. I need to learn more to “be” who God created me to be and not be so consumed with doing. I need to rest myself more in my identity in Jesus. Another Truth to swallow…

❤︎ “Since you are precious and honored in My sight, and because I love you.” Isaiah 43:4

I hope that we can journey together this year collectively clinging to the freedom we have in Christ and letting go of the guilt that condemns us and threatens to consume us. The guilt that keeps us from following Jesus fully, joyously, and freely with great purpose. The guilt Jesus already took upon Himself in our place and doesn’t want us to try to carry ourselves. He loves us so deeply and He cries for us when we keep heaping guilt upon ourselves, whether real or unrealistic. He rejoices when we can lay this heavy burden at the foot of the Cross and believe His sacrifice is truly meant for us. No condemnation, because He has freed us!

“No Condemnation”

Praying we will swallow the Truth
that Jesus does NOT condemn us!



Linking up with: 

Holley – Coffee For Your Heart 

Jennifer – Tell His Story 

Kelly – Cheerleaders of Faith

Bonnie – Faith Barista’s Beloved Brews