Friday, January 18, 2008

Mothers Trapped in a Dark Prison

Imagine This
The mother of three straightens out the bouquet of flowers on the table as she sets down plates for dinner, while listening to her daughter practice spelling words and stirring the soup with a smile on her face. As her husband enters the home and reaches over to kiss his wife, he not only smells a lovely dinner, but more importantly, he sees his in wife a radiant joy and exuberant happiness.

Or maybe, it looks more like this:

The dirty dishes are piling up in the sink, as the kids chase each other around the dinner table, the scent of burning soup fills the air, and Mom has collapsed on the couch in fatigue and tears. The tears flow unbidden and rush like a torrent without warning and this mother feels overwhelmed, irritated, hopeless and worthless. She no longer enjoys her weekly dance class or playing her guitar and it has become difficult to get out of bed each morning, never mind trying to get through the day with all of its demands and daily decisions.

If this mother experiences changes in eating and sleeping patterns in addition to the above mentioned symptoms, she may be suffering from clinical depression. Although depression gets plenty of press these days, many women are not fully aware of the causes, the symptoms, the treatments or the hope that can be found.

Depression and Women
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, twice as many women (20 – 25%) are affected by depressive illnesses than men. Though the reasons for this disparity are not evident, several factors may influence this tendency. Genetics combine with external factors to contribute to the potential for depression in an individual. High stress levels, though not proven to consistently create depression, may affect a person’s tendency towards depression. In addition, physicians agree that hormones play a part in women’s mental health (see for more).

NIMH states that “Significant loss, a difficult relationship, financial problems, or a major change in life pattern have all been cited as contributors to depressive illness.”
Being a mother probably adds the greatest stress into a woman’s life – motherhood encapsulates everything from relationship struggles to constant decision making. Usually, as mothers, we manage the household and all the people in it! We find ourselves in charge of cleanliness, health, maintenance, discipline, finances, and a host of others “stressors.” Even if you personally have never struggled with depression, you certainly know a woman who has experienced this debilitating condition.

A depressed person (and her caring friends) may perceive her behavior as lazy, irritable, or irresponsible, but moral judgments must be put on hold during this time. While the only way out looks like an athletic commercial: “Just Do It;” unfortunately, the training methods for escaping this jail are much more complicated than that. If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from depression, consult with a professional to confirm this diagnosis and to determine a course of treatment which may include therapy and/or medications. A person is considered depressed if she exhibits 5 of the following symptoms for at least two weeks: depressed mood, loss of interest in previous pleasures, change in sleep patters, significant change in weight, lowered energy, increased feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of death or suicide, or lack of concentration.

Cognitive behavioral therapy attempts to retrain the brain to think differently and in turn to retrain a person’s behaviors.
Paul urges us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The depressed person needs help seeing things from a different perspective, since in her mind everything is negative. This process of changing one’s thinking takes time: change doesn’t occur overnight.

A behavioral trait called “learned helplessness” often keeps the depressed woman trapped in this prison of darkness, because she feels she has no control or power to change things. As Christians, we believe that we all come to God helpless and that He alone controls the universe, but He also gives us strength to move forward in steps of faith changing our situation and our outlook.

The God of Hope
Ultimately, the rays of hope can penetrate the darkness of depression when a woman commits to treatment and to the One who comforts and cares for us all. In befriending a depressed woman, I would be careful not to quote formulaic verses or force change upon my friend. Instead, the path to hope comes through patience, through simply being there for a friend, through daily encouragement and through powerful loving prayers. Simple acts of friendship such as frequent calls or invitations to do something enjoyable together can give a depressed woman hope that she is not alone.

1 - Depression: What Every Woman Should Know has been revised by Margaret Strock
2 –

3 - The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fourth Edition

4 – The local Christian therapist (Darren Cox, MA LPC – Thankfully for me, he lives with me!)


Susan said...

I know my sister is depressed and has been for greater than ten years. She has no hope and has no faith. I pray for her but she tells me she doesn't need my prayers.

THe prison door you put up is so true to her life. I have heard her tell me how she is locked up in her own life. I think I will send her this blog and hopefully she will read it.

Denise said...

Thanks for this dear one.

MrsProverbs31 said...

Wow! Our God is a good God. I was depressed for a long time. No one came and helped me the way you have expressed, but crying out to God has helped me a great deal. I cannot imagine going through depression without God. But, then again, if we allow God to be the center of our lives, there's no such thing as depression.

Anyway, depression is a critical problem. When I was depressed, I didn't want people to tell me why I was depressed. I wanted them to listen to me. Just sit there and listen, then pray for me. Tell me they understood me. And, pray! Does God still love depressed people? I often wondered. The answer is of course, yes. But, I didn't feel it. I couldn't see because God was not my focus. My total attention was on "what's wrong with me?"

A lot of people who are depressed does not know they are depressed. They just feel bad and cry a lot. They don't dress up, they dressed down-they wear whatever they can grab out of the closet. They keep to themselves, they don't want to socialize because they feel out of place. I was such a person. I have come to value myself as Christ as drawn me out of that pit.

If anyone is visiting this page and see this, the best thing you can do for this person is pray and listen. Get to know them, try and find out what their passion is by spending time with them, offer them genuine friendship. Send them cards of encouragements-not address the direct problem. Just let them know you were thinking of them. When they feel that genuine love from you, chances are they will snap out of the depression.

Well, I think this is very long, but I'm very passionate about this subject because I was in this kind of prison for a long time.

God bless all the women who is presently facing this problem. My prayer goes out to your sister, Susan.

Susan said...

Thanks Heather,

This is a topic that does need to be brought out and discussed.

Thanks for being sensitive to this need.

patjrsmom said...

What a great topic. I know lots of women--myself included--who particularly struggled with postpartum depression/anxiety and while it is short-lived, it is just as affecting as if it appeared any other time.

God Bless,

Amy L Brooke said...

Great post.

Depression is such a hard thing. I know from experience. But, God is always there. Thanks for the reminder.

carol @ i throw like a girl said...

Great article! More Christians need to understand depression - that it is not a lack of faith or a spiritual weakness, but something that can be treated and overcome with compassion and understanding. Thanks, also, for visiting my blog!

Van said...

Great informative post. I can send it to so many friends who suffer. Actually, I will pass it on as a resource in a couple of weeks when I talk to a group of women on despair and dignity.

Lelia Chealey said...

Very informative post~thank you! Been the one that can't get out of bed & can't explain my sadness when my life looks to be running so smoothly. God is such a Healer!!
Thanks for sharing & thanks for visiting me. :)
Many Blessings~

Anonymous said...

I popped over here from Robin's heart at home and am so glad I did. I have clinical depression (med free for 3 years praise the Lord) but I do still struggle. This post has been an encouragement to me. Especially since I just found out a few hours ago that my grandmother passed away last night. Thank you for this post!

Tina Vega said...

What a wonderful post! So many women are struggling and so many are trying to erase the symptoms of depression without dealing with the underlying issues. This is a great resource (for those with depression and those loving someone who is depressed; I will be sure to pass along!

Sarah said...

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing!

Miss Sandy said...

Thank you for this much need post and all the helpful information you included. I know womeone who can benefit from your post, I'll send them here.

Miss Sandy

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Great article! I love this. Good info. Thanks so much for sharing this. Thanks also for the comment on my blog!

eph2810 said...

Heather, what a wonderful and helpful article. I pray that someone who needs to read it, will come across this post.

Blessings on your week and always.

Anonymous said...

Hi stopped by to visit, glad I did. Great post. deep subject that no one likes to admit, been there done that!! God is good I am FREE:) nice to meet you.

lori said...

An IMPORTANT post Heather...You know it is so real and can go unnoticed and excused for a long time!!

I have a special friend who I need to share this with and hopefully she could recognize herself....becoming a mom when you wern't ready to be one....that only can compound it..running away needs to be RUNNING TO GOD...

thanks girl!

CrownLaidDown said...

Praying that this post takes flight to many women, who are longing deeply to know this. For me, it helps me to understand better for dear ones struggling in this pit called depression.

Thanks so much!

Elisa @ Extravagant Grace said...

This is a great article on a subject often snubbed by Christians. I'm glad to have your thoughts and links to those resources on the subject. Would you mind if I linked to this article from my resources section on my blog?

Blessings, extravangantly,