In the beginning, when the world grinded to a halt and everyone stayed home, I received a huge dose of validation as a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly people were realizing exactly what I do every day, and how demanding it is. After several weeks, we all settled into a new routine and got used to the new norm. The good feelings of validation wore off, and I started to feel the struggle. But I’m a stay-at-home mom. It’s literally in the name. I’m supposed to have the stay-at-home thing down.
Initially, it wasn’t too different from our day-to-day. The biggest change was we were no longer going out. We were no longer having play-dates. We were no longer doing our activities. You see, “stay-at-home” is a misnomer. We actually go out a lot. So we, like everyone else, were stuck at home and feeling the struggle. However, now I had the guilt of feeling like I should have this down pat since I am supposed to be a “stay-at-home” expert.
The routine became mundane. The house became extremely lived in (read: never clean or tidy). I was “on the clock” from the moment my kids opened their eyes, to the time they shut them again — 13-hour days with no weekends or vacations. There was no relief or outside support of the proverbial village. I felt very lonely even though I was isolated with my favorite people on the planet. Everything seemed like an exercise in futility. I was reminded of the scene in The Little House on the Prairie movie where Ma Ingalls is sweeping a literal dirt floor and just breaks down crying. I felt that…I felt that deep.
As it dragged on into the fall, I found myself saying the following:
“I feel kinda down, but I don’t have a good reason except, you know, pandemic.”
“I’m just struggling right now, but aren’t we all? It’s not like I can’t get out of bed or anything.”
“I’m not depressed, but I’m feeling pretty unmotivated.”
“I don’t have a right to complain. So many more people have it worse.”
I can manage to make my “I don’t have everything put together” still try to look “put together” by justifying and down-playing, but you can only use the phrase I’m not depressed, but… so many times before you start to realize you might need more help than you’re letting on. At one point, I found myself hoping to contract COVID just so I could have 10 days of quiet, uninterrupted time with next to no responsibilities – and an acceptable excuse to do so. My “aha! moment” came when I broke down crying one morning over the overwhelming prospect of making a simple household management decision. “Oh, no. I’m not dealing with things as well as I thought I was.”
SEASONS OF DARKNESS
Everyone has dark seasons. Maybe you have felt “the blues” every once in a while. Maybe you, like me, have felt darkness overwhelm you during this pandemic season. Maybe you’ve been dealing with it for quite a while or as long as you can remember.
Whatever your story is, you are in good company. Throughout the course of history, humans have been dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. You don’t have to look any further than the Bible to see real anguish and despair cried out to God. There is an entire book of Lamentations. And in fact, 42 of the 150 Psalms are songs of lament! As one of my fellow bloggers, Rachel, has written before, we as Christians, have the privilege to lament. We get to cry out to God in our troubles!
Are you in a dark season? Let your heart cry out. Let your heart lament. Tell our God you are heartbroken. Feel the feelings of grief and desolation. But don’t stop there.
Take Every Thought Captive
First, take a page out of our Psalmists’ book. Feel your deep feelings, but always end by reminding yourself of the hope found in our God. Meditate on His goodness and what He has already done for you. Memorize His promises and preach them to your doubtful heart.
Here is where I’d love to copy/paste the entirety of Jennie Allen’s book Get out of Your Head because I cannot do it justice by distilling it to a paragraph, but our thoughts have a huge influence on every aspect of our lives. We can often quell a downward spiral at its inception by taking toxic thoughts captive a la 2 Corinthians 10:5 and giving them to God for Him to renew and transform our minds a la Romans 12:2. What lies are you believing? What truths from God’s word can you replace them with and preach to your heart until you believe it?
I have been using Poor Bishop Hooper’s journey through the Psalms to help shape my quiet times. Singing the psalms has helped me be honest with the Lord, internalize Scripture, and speak His truths to my heart. My personal favorite psalms of lament as sung by them are Psalm 4 and Psalm 13. Another gorgeous rendition of a song of lament is The Sing Team’s “Satisfied in You (Psalm 42).”
Employ the buddy system.
A few nights after I realized I wasn’t coping as well as I thought, I spent an evening unloading on my husband. A week or two later, I shared with a few mom friends. The experience of acknowledging out loud my struggle was very freeing, because as Jennie Allen says in her book, “alone in the dark the devil can tell you whatever the hell he wants.” I do not like asking for help, but it gave me accountability and people who check in on me and speak truth over me. It has shed light on the darkness and created a strength I didn’t have before. After all, a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:12). Also, if you hear a friend using I’m not depressed, but… phrases, gently check in with them and help shed light on their darkness.
Consider getting outside professional help.
The above is all well and good. Sincerely, it is good. However, it may come to a point where you might need extra help. There are so many services – many even virtual! – where you can talk to a professional and get counseling or medication. I found myself at this point in my mental health journey, and I talked to my doctor to set up both of these options.
My hope in sharing my story is to show how easy it is to not even notice exactly how much you are struggling. If you see yourself in any part of my experience, I want to encourage you. He is good. He is for you. And you can be sure of this: He will answer when you call.