Depression and Motherhood - The Mom Club Few Talk About


519GcurDeYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend, author and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson. Recently, I asked Dr. Michelle if she'd be willing to write a message for my mom-friends who are currently struggling with depression.

Some of you know a bit of my experience with depression, as I shared snippets of my own dark journey in chapter 18 of Triggers. And so it is with an insider's perspective that I fully endorse Dr. Michelle's new book, Hope Prevails, and appreciate her ongoing support for moms.

I pray you find courage and companionship as you journey through the dark and into the light of healing and hope. For hope truly does prevail!


Depression and Motherhood

a guest post by Dr. Michelle Bengtson


“No one understands,” she whispered, as she brushed her hair off her face and accepted my offer of a tissue to dry her tears that gently flowed down her face.


“Oh, I think more people understand than you realize. The problem is that people just don’t feel comfortable talking about it unless they know others understand. But I do understand—I’ve been where you are.” I explained.


“You have? But you always look so joyful, and put together!”


“I am now, for the most part, but I still have to do the work to stay here.” I paused for a moment, taking a sip of my iced-tea, letting that sink in for a moment before continuing. “But I’ve gone through depression a couple of times in my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was very dark. But each time, I was right where you are…feeling alone, like no one else understood.”


“But no-one I know ever talks about it openly. Is it very common?”


I smiled before answering, not because the answer was a happy one, but because we all just want someone else to say, “me too,” and if we all knew the statistics, we would know we aren’t alone. We’re in a club that few talk about. “By 2020, depression is going to be our greatest epidemic worldwide.  In fact, more than 9 million women in the United States suffer with depression every year. I’d say that’s pretty common, wouldn’t you? And I was once one of them.”


She shifted on the couch, clearly becoming more comfortable as she acknowledged we had more in common than she previously realized. She dried her cheeks and leaned in, beckoning me to continue.




“I wasn’t much further out from my pregnancy than you are now, just a few weeks, when I ‘went down under’ and then got help the first time. My mother was the one who realized I was suffering from post-partum depression. I had never known anyone who had suffered from PPD before, so I was ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me. My baby was perfect, my husband was supportive, my home was beautiful, and yet I was falling apart. I cried all the time over nothing and anything. My mother knew what was wrong because she had gone through it, so she encouraged me to see my doctor for help and it made all the difference in the world. It was after that that I realized many women suffer, but often in silence, ashamed. But there is nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s treatable!”


We talked some more about my experience with post-partum depression, and then her own current experience… not sleeping, having no appetite, being irritable all the time, crying for no reason, not wanting to do things she used to enjoy, not wanting to get out with friends or family.


Then she was curious about my other experience with depression, since it ran deep and wide in her family. She feared the demands of motherhood, and the stress it could have on her physically, and emotionally.


What she didn’t realize, and what many doctors and therapists don’t discuss, is the fact that there is also often a spiritual component to the disorder. When we don’t consider that spiritual component, we’re really just putting a band-aid on it, hoping it’ll get better.


According to Scripture, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).


John 10:10 declares, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In the case of depression, the thief comes to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identity, but we can thank God that he doesn’t get the last say! Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, hope prevails, even in depression!


Part of the reason I wrote my book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” was to share not only my story but my clinical experience, helping people address the spiritual component of depression and heal it from the inside out.  


We have a very real enemy who attacks us incessantly, primarily through our thought life. Have you ever had thoughts like, “My kids would be better off with a different mother”? Or how about, “This is just too hard. I can’t do this.” Do you ever find yourself thinking that you’re a failure?


Can I let you in on a little secret? The same enemy who wormed his way onto the scene and tried to destroy Eve, the mother of all living things, is out to try to destroy you too! Those thoughts you have about your inadequacies as a mother? They aren’t your thoughts. They are from the same enemy who made Eve doubt what she knew to be true. And if he can get you down or depressed, he knows you’ll be less effective in your mothering responsibilities—the most important job you’ll ever have.


But the good news? God promises that, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).


Here’s what you need to remember: God chose you to parent your child. He is 100% for you. And He loves your child even more than you do, so He hasn’t left you on this journey alone. He will guide you through this parenting journey, working ALL things together for the good of you and your child! The best way to fight back, is with the truth of God’s word.


When you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” remember, “God will direct [your] steps” (Proverbs 3:5-6).


When you berate yourself believing that you “aren’t smart enough,” remember God promises, He will give you wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).


When parenting is difficult and you feel like you can’t go on, remember God promises that His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9).


When you are at the end of your parenting rope, and you don’t know what to do, remember that God promised that He will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19).


When you are afraid, remember where that fear comes from, and know that instead, God has given you power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).


And perhaps my favorite: when you have made a mistake as a mother, and find it difficult to forgive yourself, remember that God has already forgiven you (Romans 8:1), and you can use this as a teachable moment with your child.


I see them as they come into my office day after day, week after week, each so similar, yet individual and unique: mothers. Some initially surprised, but ultimately honored by, and then fully embracing their God-given call to motherhood. Some longed and desired to be mothers for years. Regardless how they got there or how long they’ve been in that role, they have all had their share of insecurities, doubts, and fears about their adequacy as a mother, often made worse when they’ve fallen prey to the torment of depression. But there is help and there is hope available. You are not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.


Because of Him, #HopePrevails



Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She is the author of “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and blogs regularly at follow her on Facebook or Instagram for more encouragement.  Order a copy of Hope Prevails today!



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What to do when you recognize you've stopped smiling - depression is so sad


There have been recent days where I just start shaking from joy on the inside and can't stop smiling.  I mean, I make a bonafide fool of myself talking to every lady picking over mangos and shallots at the grocery store, and the boy bagging my groceries looks at me side-ways when I go on and on about those hazel eyes. I ask the older man in the electric shopping chair, who can't quite stand up tall enough to reach the bag of salted movie popcorn, if I can help.  He says yes, so we continue together up and down the aisles, both of us smiling.  And it feels good, for the man who is shorter than he once was, and for this woman who is taller than she was a year ago.  



Last year I was just coming out of Depression's grip. The hold had been firm because her fingers were many - Imbalanced hormones, adrenal fatigue, prolonged postpartum, parenting and marriage challenges I wasn't prepared to handle... all of it wrapped around my weary wrists like a vine with too many tendrils.  I'd rip at one, but another was always growing up  to take its place.

Today there are smiles. Smiles spilling out and collecting like puddles at my feet, where tears used to pool.

I don't believe in formulas or cure-alls, but I do believe in the power of healthy conversation, in testimonies, and in a kind, redeeming God who reaches down into the muddiest, muckiest messes, smack-dab in our soul sadness, and pulls us up and out.  Yeah, I believe in that stuff.  And Kleenex, plenty of Kleenex.  And gooey brownies too.

How nice it would be to sit criss-cross applesauce with you, pillows all around, a box of kleenex to wipe away the tears when ugly-cries shake us something fierce, and brownies.  Always brownies. But we can't do that, can we?  Not really. So we gather here together, because a blog titled drew you in, and your heart said, "Yeah, I get sad, really sad sometimes."

And so, at the risk of sounding like I have any answers at all, let's simply try to make sense of it, and reach out of our individual dark struggles and into the light together.  Or better yet, let us CALL OUT of the darkness; out of the darkness and into the Light.

depression quote

For Crying Out Loud!

If I were into formulas, equations that stated methodically that a+b=c, always, every time, than I'd start here. Depression is confusing. It's so stinkin' confusing that we whimper soft and alone, rather than CRYING OUT LOUD. But, For Crying Out Loud, Soul-Sisters, crying out is just what He wants to hear from us. Loud and bold and believing, "God, save me from this mess, I'm drowning in these tears."



I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.… (Psalm 40:1-3)



This is the story of our Salvation.  We were separated and desperate for saving, then in a moment we cried out, "God, I cannot do this alone."  And that confession of faith in God's power was the key to unleashing His rescue plan for our lives.  But here's the glorious truth we need in the darkest days this side of Heaven's hold... We still need saving.  Here in this sin-drenched world we remain actively in need of His powerful, rescuing arm.

Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly!"  Those are two lives He came for; the life eternal and the life we're living-breathing now, full of abundant potential.  So here's the confession:  God, if you were strong enough to save me from sin's separation and give me eternal life... You are most definitely able to save me from the pit of despair and redeem the abundance I can't seem to find.



God's lifting hand often looks like the hands of real people all around us.  

The sign above my therapist's door stated, "This is going to hurt before it gets better."  And it did.  It hurt to delve into the dark places and learn coping skills that had eluded me so long.  It hurt something awful, but not as awful, I told myself, as continuing on in despair.  So I reached over the plaid couch, and over the silk flowers, and grabbed hands with the counselor; and I reached over phone lines and grasped hold of friends who never gave up on me when all I did was cry out loud, and I reached for my husband in the dark and clung to him.

If you are deep in the mire, and in desperate need of lifting, then tilt your head toward heaven and raise your hands for help.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay... He is strong enough to save, able to lift, and often does it through the flesh and blood people in our midst.


When a mess becomes our message.

He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.…

I spent the first three sessions with the counselor just crying.  I was embarrassed most of all that I couldn't stop myself.  But she waited and nodded and kept extending her hand across the great divide.  And when I was finally able to gulp down enough air to fill my broken lungs and exhale in a way that formed words, this is what I asked her: "I know where I'm going to end up on the other side of this, I just don't know how to get there.  Won't you tell me what the next step is?"

She smiled hope and squeezed my hand, "No, I can't.  All I know is that right now you're having a good cry. But you're right,you will get to the other side."

What she didn't say is that there on the other side is something more amazing than I ever imagined... Not only is it the complete, restored me standing there, it's my story, my testimony, my smile.  It's the new song in my mouth.  It's the hymn of praise to my God.  And many are seeing me here, and have put their trust in the Lord.


I've heard it, how God takes our mess and makes it our message - how God takes our test and turns it on its ear, making it our testimony.  But it's true.  It's absolutely true! Press on, it's true!

I don't know what step you're on; Calling Out Loud, Grabbing Hold of Hands, Knee Deep in Tears, in the Process of Being Lifted, or Here on the Other Side, Testifying to the One who Saves... But the only part of the equation that is true for everyone of us who believes is what's at the end of the journey =  A New Song.


Depression isn't always a Spiritual Condition - But the Answer is Pure Spirit.

For those of you still in the mud, the muck and the mire of depression, I want to tell you the hardest part of all for me. There was this tendency to feel like I was failing spiritually. "If only I was pressing into God, abiding, leaning in and praying more... then I wouldn't be so downcast. Then I would bear the fruit of JOY!" But sometimes there are medical, hormonal, neurological reasons so complex that our abiding selves still don't bear the fruit of God's Spirit this side of glory.


I could say, "I don't know," and that'd be the truth, but I think I might.  I think the reason God let's His Holy people experience great soul depression, is so that they learn the passionate saving love that raises us to life again, the redeeming love that sets us on a firm foundation, that puts a new song in our mouths that becomes the anthem inspiring faith from those who have not yet heard.


I believe that The Spirit of God is mighty at work in the midst of a Christian's Depression.

I used to think that the happy life was the life blessed by God. But here I am, after taking all the steps I didn't know how to take there in the therapists office, and I see that the blessed life is the life that had to CRY OUT, the blessed life is the life that had to GRAB HOLD HARD, the best life was cultivated in the persevering faith of a hurting heart, the blessed life experienced the LIFTING, and the blessed life now TESTIFIES TO THE SAVING.

Ask me why I smile.  I dare you to ask this broken woman, built back up and made whole again, why she smiles in the grocery store, in the pick-up line at her children's school, coming out of Sunday morning worship... Ask her why she smiles, ask her why she sings.