Life comes at you fast. That was the catch phrase for Nationwide commercials, and I definitely agree. Over the last nine years, I’ve very intentionally slowed various aspects of my life so that I can attempt to be more present in the present. I eschew too much future planning that tends to overlook today. So you’d think I would have space for unplanned events and the unexpected…anything. But Life has a way of showing up when you least expect it, and recently it showed up at my door, rolled its eyes, sighed, dropped a whole load of problems, and ran.
Over the past three weeks, each of my girls had her own individual freakout followed by a breakdown. From college applications and interviews to admitting to undesireable grades to a near-miss car accident that induces panic when driving, my parenting skills have been tested over and over and over again.
Many of you with children have been through a meltdown or five – maybe more. Perhaps you’ve figured out what tools you need to access in such moments. When my girls were young, my toolbox included special toys, O cereal, fish-shaped crackers, juice, diapers, and the indispensible Mommy shirt.
Now that the girls are older, my toolbox includes hiking, school pickup, long talks, music, and, occasionally, a double chocolate chip Frappuccino. As parents, knowing our kids means knowing what will soothe and comfort them in times of trouble.
But what do you do when every person in your family is in crisis, including you? Who do you call? What tools to you grab? Do you even know what’s in the toolbox? Or did the right tool get left outside in the rain, or get loaned to a neighbor? Not asking for a friend; I’m asking for myself.
I’ve lived with depression for as long as I can remember, along with Seasonal Affective Disorder. After an unfortunate counseling experience, I decided to help myself by treating myself like a college class. I got materials, studied, reviewed, and made good progress over the last twenty years. Three years ago, after a troubling health report, I changed my lifestyle to include more physical activity. Now I exercise daily, because it lifts my mood in addition to all of the other benefits.
This winter, I’ve really been struggling. My mom’s been gone for 17 years, but the holidays this year were particularly hard. Fears and doubts plague me daily. I’m so thankful that my girls are old enough to do so many things for themselves, because sometimes I’m just not able to get it together to cook a meal. Often, I’m doing all that I can to get them where they need to go and go to work. I’m great at faking it, hoping I make it. I also know that I’m fortunate to have professional help available to me, and I know how to get it.
I’m telling you this to let you know that I have hope that I will feel better. My hope lies in my love of God, persistence in following Jesus, and belief in the Spirit as my guide. My number one tools in equal parts are the love of my family and friends, running and training for a 15K, and the Book of Psalms. The psalms offer such comfort for me; I know I’m not alone in my struggles when I read them. I encourage you to spend time reading psalms, or any part of the Bible that gives you strength.
Write your favorite psalm/Bible verse/prayer on a card and put it in your wallet. Ask one of your kids to color it, or write it for you. Reach for it when you feel stressed, worried, or afraid. If you need ideas for verses, you could Google a phrase or word to get a list of relevant scriptures. And try to get outside whenever you can, especially if the sun is out.
Here’s a prayer that comforts me from Prayers New and Old, published by Forward Movement. I pray that it offers you peace and comfort through whatever Life drops at your door.
St. Theresa’s Prayer
Let nothing trouble you;
Let nothing affright you;
All things are passing,
God never changes;
Patience obtains everything,
Nothing is wanting to one
who possesses God.
God alone suffices.
What prayers or scriptures do you turn to in times of trouble? What brings you joy no matter how you’re feeling?
Miriam Summers says
Thank you so much for sharing. I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for many years and this past year, my oldest daughter was diagnosed anxiety and disordered eating. She was losing a lot of weight. I am deeply encouraged to know that I’m not alone. I was wondering if you have some tips on helping a daughter with anxiety. I seem to have a hard time lately helping her when I so obviously am struggling again.
Thank you so much for sharing,
Hi Miriam, I think that helping Kaia with her anxiety helped me with mine because now that she’s away in college I’ve suddenly been experiencing anxiety! I don’t know that I have any specific tips, but I spent a lot of time talking with her, affirming her feelings, providing perspective and a different viewpoint, and not letting any of her fears or concerns go unanswered. I was reading Psalm 100 yesterday, which I go to when I need to be reminded that God loves me all the time, and always will. God always provides the answers within us if we are still enough to seek and find them. Whenever she allows herself to feel her feelings and then move on – even if it’s to the next worry – she feels better. And each little success builds on the other. Let’s pray for each other!! I’m certainly praying for you and your daughter.
Donna Fowler says
Thank you for sharing this. It’s always good to know you aren’t the only pastor struggling with grief/depression and the juggling of roles: mother, wife, minister, just me. It’s even better to hear what has worked for someone else in her journey.
Thank you – just wanted to clarify that while I’m living the call from my baptismal promise, I’m not ordained. So you’ve got another level of accountability!
Ann Fraser says
So beautiful to encounter your honesty and your hope. Thank you for writing–I always love to read your posts.
Thank you so much for this vulnerability and courage. I can relate so much.
I find comfort praying the Anglican rosary. It helps me when I can’t stop my mind from running the worry track.
Thanks for that suggestion. I do love beads so I may give that a try, and recommend to my middle daughter who has anxiety.
Miriam, I have one seventeen-year-old, who takes on too much and judges herself (and others) too harshly, and we’ve had several college-application freakouts, followed by breakdowns, since the Common Application due-date this fall. Man, oh man, oh man. Thank you for sharing this. St. Theresa’s Prayer would be a better alternative than my go-to, a glass of chilled white wine.
Thanks for the repeated laughs! Your 17yo sounds just like my now 18yo.
Racheal Scott says
Thank you so much! These are words I really needed to hear. I use psalms to help me sleep when anxiety overcomes me. Racheal
I will pray for you, Miriam. I, too, have struggled on and off with depression, particularly SAD. I turn to music to lift my spirits – hymns, Gregorian chants, Bach fugues, Beethoven’s symphonies…
Hopefully your writing (which I really enjoy) is also therapeutic for you.
Thank you for your prayers! Yes, writing does help, as does knowing I’m not alone.
“Come onto me all The Who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 28: 11
Hello Miriam, thank you for sharing your gifts, and vulnerability. I, too, struggle with mental wellness and have teenaged girls. I study scripture daily. I use my parent tools. However, I also study the online podcasts, and participate in the meditations of LCSW Tara Brach. The philosophy is based in Buddhism, which is akin to Christianity in this context. The acts of meditation—20 minutes sessions—have been studied, and heal the synapses in the brain. My suffering, and the relationship with my family as demonstratively improved since taking on this practice. It has been a blessing—and all blessings come from God. For your own wellness, please consider it. It is a gift. http://Www.tarabrach.com
Stephanie Wight says
My dear Miriam, I will include you in my prayers for myself as I too live with chronic depression. I appreciate your ability to describe some of the inconveniences that we live with daily. Sometimes when crisis (or in your case multiple ones) intersect our already fragile life, it can be overwhelming. Take whatever tools you have in your arsenal and use them to repair yourself. Friends and family can help but the key is your magnificent God, always ready, always understanding, always patient and compassionate, and dispensing healing balm to your wounds. Bless you,
Pamela Macklin says
As always, Miriam, your words, either here or in Daily Devo, hit the spot with me! I am so grateful to you for all that you share. I shall hold you in my heart and prayers. We are in this LIFE together and that in itself is a comfort! Thank you for all you share! It helps this 68 year old woman on a daily basis!