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 DrMichelleBengtson.com follow her on Facebook or Instagram for more encouragement. Order a copy of Hope Prevails today!
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