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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When I wrote LIFE CREATIVE: INSPIRATION FOR TODAY’S RENAISSANCE MOM, with my dear friend Kelli Stuart, we set out to encourage creative women who feel they’ve lost themselves in this busy season of motherhood – painters and poets, writers and sculptures, actors, home decorators, seamstress’ and business owners, graphic designers, singers and bakers…
Sweet friends, I know how deeply discouraging it can be to find yourself in the dark ages of motherhood – having lost touch with all the things you used to enjoy doing – all the things you used to enjoy about yourself!
When moms lose themselves to motherhood, they tend to lose their tempers too.
Like they have to fight to be heard.
But I hear you.
When the dream come true of motherhood intersects all the other dreams in a woman’s life, it’s common to feel lost for a season. But you’re not lost – and neither are your gifts.
God did a wonderful job when He created you in his delightfully creative image… and then gave you children. Though there is much sacrifice in this season, He is still the God who made you cleaver and creative, and cast those dreams into your heart.
Think of each talent as a seed lying dormant beneath the earth. When springtime comes again, and it will come, and the sun warms the soil of your life, tender shoots will appear once more.
A reawakening – A rebirth – A renaissance.
Until that time, it is our hope that you discover ways to fit pieces of your creative life into the everyday, ordinary moments of motherhood. The birthday parties you throw, the forts you make, the nursery you decorate, the bedtime stories you tell, the lullabies you sing, the camera you carry in the diaper bag, the family suppers that you prepare, the cakes you bake, the preserves you can… all of these are opportunities for you to create and express love one mothering moment at a time!
As you express your love in creative ways, you are expressing yourself creatively!
Embrace that, embrace them, embrace yourself, sweet mom.
As I said before, there is much sacrificial love in this season, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself entirely.
In Life Creative we tell the stories of 20 women who are using their gifts in various ways in their homes, their cue-de-sac communities, their local church, and even online in this digital age – confined yet unhindered.
Ask For Help
One piece of advice that I feel is most helpful, advice I return to each time I begin to lose myself again, is this:
Share your feelings and ask for help. Whether you seek your husband’s help, your mother’s help, or that of a friend, reach out and simply say, “Remember how I used to love doing this unique thing? Remember how I used to serve in the church with this gift of mine? Remember how I dreamed of doing this or that before kids?… Would you help me figure out ways to fit a little bit of that inspired dreaming back into my life again?”
We call these people our Lifeguards. Friends and family who stand watch on the shoreline of our lives as we dip our toes into creative waters once more. They cheer us on, but they also stand guard and call us back to shore if the tide threatens to pull us a bit to far from home.
As I mentioned, it’s each to lose our temper when we feel we’ve lost ourself. But your husband didn’t marry you to take yourself away. He married you be cause he loves you. He’s on your team, whether you feel like it or not. Find a moment when you aren’t exasperated and feeling like a victim. Plan a date and come to him with love, then ask him for his help.
Ladies, you are so good at helping your little ones discover their creative design. You sign them up for classes and let them experiment with their fearfully and wonderfully made life. While you can’t run off to do the same with the same carefree exuberance, you can continue to pursue your life in Christ in creative ways with the help of loved ones.
Today, make a plan, reach out, ask for help.
How did God make you and what did He make you for? For motherhood? Yes! But what else? What other seeds are lying dormant, eager for the Son to shine His Light upon in the days and years to come.
For a Renaissance, a reawakening, is coming.
For more encouragement, grab a copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom
(affiliate link included)
Alright my dear friends, I have stepped over the edge of raising little people, into the unchartered waters of teens. Let me start by acknowledging that teenagers can bring a brand new set of triggers. Shoot! TEENAGERS CAN BE TRIGGERS! Strength cased in flesh, pushing for independence, sure they know more than we do and fast to tell us so… Of course, they are also WONDERFUL: interesting, thoughtful, and surprisingly unique.
But what’s a mom and dad to do…
Here’s our story:
It really began in those pre-teen years for us, when emotions flared (whether sad or angry or overwhelmed) and he turned suddenly to his room and tears flowed. I was thankful then that I had read books and blogs beforehand to prepare me for this sudden shift. Simply knowing it was coming helped prepare me for some of the changes. Not that I had all the answers, but I knew that my battle wasn’t with my emotionally explosive / fragile boy; this battle was to be fought at his side, teenager and parent.
He needs me on his team, sometimes even holding his hand, as we walk through this transition into manhood together.
As for the most practical advice I can give: When his moods swing and his demands are unrealistic, I remember what it’s like to have hormones shifting and shooting through my own body on a monthly bases. Sometimes I feel (and even act) like a crazy woman! Taking a look at my own hormonal tendencies helps me to parent form a place of grace. Of course, this is what the Christian life is like in all our relationships, inside and outside of our family. We’ve been forgiven much, and so we are quick to forgive. God has been long-suffering with us, and so we must suffer-long with others. God has been just and required righteousness from us, training us through His Word, and now we have the privilege to walk alongside our children as they grow up, pointing them to righteous choices and behavior… even when they are overcome by moodiness and anger.
Grace, long-suffering, and on-going discipleship will look different for each one of us – and different for mothers and fathers and daughter and sons. Ask the Lord to give you insight into what this will look like in your brand of family. For us, my husband has started getting away one-on-one with our boys for “man time.” I have friends with girls where the father’s have taken to “dating his daughters.”
As a mom of boys I bring the Word with me to the breakfast table, over pancakes on Saturday mornings. We still read good literature aloud around the dinner table too. And I still flop down on the bed at night with my oldest, and make myself available to hear his heart.
There are plenty of nights I tickle my man-child’s broad back or rub his gangly, hairy legs, and explain to him that just as his body is changing, so are his hormones. “Your voice is getting lower.. your smell is getting stinker…. your emotions are shifting from little boy emotions to man emotions.”
Sometimes he wants to talk, other times he just needs me near – not judging or lecturing or nagging about the emotional melt-down he’d just had.
Now that we’ve made the leap into teenager-dom, these hormonal shifts have come more regularly. And sometimes I forget what is happening in his body and respond in a primal, quick-tempered, knee-jerk sort of way to the behavior that is annoying and obnoxious! But the truths about gentleness we learned when they were young still apply today… perhaps now more than ever!
Ladies, whether your kid is 8, and working through angst going to school; or 3 and figuring out his place in this family with a new baby stealing the show; or 14 and transitioning into high school, finding his own two feet to stand on amidst peer pressure and a heavy school load… whatever they are going through and however they are acting out, our kids need us to slow down and remember that their behavior is just the branches of a great big tree, waving in the tempest storms of present circumstances. Of course we see the leaves falling and the branches whipping in the wind… but God is calling us as parents to look deeper – perceive what is happening down in the root system of our children’s lives.
And if you still can’t get a grapple on your short tempered emotions, you must take a look at the roots going down into the soil of your own life. Are we planted steadfastly by streams of living water, drinking deeply from God’s transforming Word? Or are we on social media complaining with our girlfriends about our teenager’s (or whatever age) behavior? Where are we drinking from? Where are we turning to for wisdom? Where are we going for discernment each mothering day, each mothering stage?
I feel so honored that many of you come to this place for encouragement and wisdom. I pray that I use every opportunity to turn your attention to the One who gives all wisdom when we ask; provides all strength when we are weak; and gave us His Holy Spirit to counsel and guide us through each life season (ours and our children’s.)
Ladies, today, take your questions and your burdens to God; ask Him for insight in whatever it is you need right now.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2, NASB)
For more encouragement each triggered mothering day, sign up to receive email updates. And if you would like to delve deeper into God’s transforming love, trusting Him to help you through your angry-mom tendencies, I suggest you grab a copy of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. By the sheer grace of God, hearts and homes are being transformed through the pages of this book (beginning with mine.)
For those of you who would like to understand what is happening in your teen’s developing brain, Your Teenager is Not Crazy, by Jerusha and Jeremy Clark, is a wonderful, educational read!
Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay, is an exceptional resource when trying to understand and apply real life, natural consiquences that will help teenagers prepare for adulthood.
affiliate links were included in this post.
Today we’re featuring one of the mom-artists who helped start it all. Back when the book, Life Creative Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom was just a dream, I reached out to artist Ruth Simons and asked for her thoughts on motherhood and creativity. This is what she wrote: “Never has there been a time like this for creative and artistic women to embrace the high calling of motherhood and the unique giftings God has given to each of us. There is indeed a movement– a renaissance — of the creative woman, the creative mom. I’m grateful that Wendy and Kelli have chosen to encourage this generation of women, right now, to embrace their God-given creativity to the glory of God, and to steward it well. This book is right on time.”
And so it is with great joy that I introduce you to the art of Renaissance Mom, Ruth Simons.
Please introduce yourself to us by sharing who you are, where you live, and a bit about your kids.
I’m Ruth Chou Simons. I’m married to Troy and we live in Albuquerque, NM with our six boys, ranging from age 3 to 14. I am the founder of GraceLaced, a blog I began almost 10 years ago that expanded into an online shoppe featuring my artwork. I share daily from Instagram and am looking forward to the release of my first published book this Fall.
At Life Creative we believe that art morphs as a woman transitions from season to season. This is especially true of creative personalities. What did your creativity look like as a child, throughout school, or into your early adult years before motherhood? And what form does it take today?
I always loved art, drawing, painting, and pretty much every form of creative arts. But being raised in a Chinese home and community, studying art seemed not acceptable if I was an over-achieving straight A student. I began college at UC Berkeley while still in high school, and prepared for a major in Biochemistry. Despite being on track to succeed in culturally approved ways, I soon realized how much I truly loved art and writing, and I ended up graduating with a fine arts degree instead.
Ironically, I set aside my art degree for over a decade when we started a family. I served alongside my husband as he pastored and headmastered, but I never stopped creating…with food, with fabric, with crayons, and even with paint when naps were in session. I never could’ve imagined that God would ultimately use my talents and desires in this way (business, book-writing, speaking) many years later. I am grateful for this path where He has showed himself faithful instead myself capable.
In the busyness of motherhood it can be hard to find the place and the space to fit your passions within the practical places of family life. Where and when have you carved out the time to create in your busy days?
Even though it is now my job to create, I still have to find time to create for the joy of it, and not simply to fulfill deadlines. Sometimes that looks like a Saturday alone while the boys and their dad hike or do yardwork, but most of the time creating happens in the middle of all the family activities, and next to my kids. I’ve been known to paint in the living room while the rest of the family is watching a movie together.
I believe that God purposed our creativity to be one of the vehicles through which we can respond to the Great Commission call on our lives. How has God given you opportunity to share His love with others through your creative gifts?
I planned to be a missionary. I planned on my graduate work at seminary taking me overseas for the rest of my life. But, the Lord chose instead to use my words and my art to first minister the gospel to my kids –my most important mission field– and then online, through the platform that GraceLaced has become. I really had to decide what I was online for, and how I was willing to share, sell, and spread the word on my art and the words that accompany it. For me, it became a decision to adorn the gospel…share the truth of our hope in Christ…through social media, writing, and each print that ships out from GraceLaced Shoppe.
We spend our days caring for “our most beautiful creations” but there are other creations we long to pen, sing, paint, stitch and bake. It’s hard to embrace any other dream during this dream-come-true season of mothering. Share one of your dreams with our readers?
I dream of having a physical place/space that would bring together my business, art studio, heart for hospitality, and love for gathering women. I don’t know if that looks like a conference, weekend workshop, or a boutique for the business, but I know that the Lord never wastes anything He gives us, so I look forward to seeing how He will use all that He’s placed on my heart and in my hands.
Would you share with us one of your “creative crushes” – another creative mom who inspires you and why.
I’d have to admit that Joanna Gaines inspires me. I’m of course inspired by her creative entrepreneur journey, but I’m mostly inspired by how she involves her children and is unwavering about who she is and what she stands for.
If you had one piece of advice to leave us with, concerning this awkward dance between faith, family and the flourishing arts, what would it be?
Think process before product, always. Get caught up in the living out of the art in your personal, unseen life first, and all that you hope to produce flows so much more easily from that. Nothing depresses my creativity more than trying to perform my way into a creative existence. God is the original artist and creator; when we live in Him, we reflect His artistry and creativity so much more naturally.
Ladies, today is the launch of Ruth Simons’ brand new Be Still Series, a small collection to encourage us to wait on the Lord and trust Him through seasons when He blesses…and when He takes away. This series reminds us to rest in His sovereignty as we pray and await Him to redeem all things and make all things new. We pray these new prints, canvases, journals, and notecard sets will bring assurance and peace as we remember that God is STILL on the throne. Use Coupon Code BESTILL for 15% off your GraceLaced order today!
Check out all of the be still prints (some were featured in this post) over at the GraceLaced Shoppe:
Thank you, Ruth!
Watching you blend your palette is always fun. However, hearing how you blend the art of home and the art of motherhood amidst canvases and paint brushes is most inspiring of all.
Ladies, if you have enjoyed this interview, check out our conversation with Renaissance Mom Mellissa Fischer, who listed Ruth as her “Creative Crush.” And don’t forget to grab a copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom for yourself, or the creative mom in your life. (It would make a fabulous Valentine’s gift alongside one of Ruth’s beautiful prints!)
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I drove clear across town multiple times yesterday, back and forth between homeschooling one and shuttling two. Wednesday’s are long. At day’s end we made it home and I made dinner, then we made our way out into the dark night for youth groups at church. Hours later, when the kids were finally tucked in bed, I turned my attention to the kitchen sink, piled high with dinner dishes, and I felt an old familiar pang. I felt like a victim again.
It’s been a while since I added to our ongoing “You are not a victim, you’re a mom” series. If the term resonates with you on a gut level, you may want to start here at the beginning of our journey out of the pit of a victim mentality and on to the high places of sweet surrender in this sacrificial role of motherhood.
Ladies, God did a good job when he made you mom to your specific kids and placed you in your specific set of circumstances. Though the dishes and the laundry and the bills all pile up… your family needs you to keep putting one graceful foot in front of the other. As you plunge your hands into scourging sink water, remember your own hot refining and lean into the heat. When the suds rise up, remember the cleansing God offered 2,000 years ago, once for all. For you and me and our complaining hearts. Lean into the purity that belongs to you, clean and covered. Don’t fall into the mud again, dear mom; the mud of bitterness, of harsh nagging and complaints.
I’ve no doubt you get weary. Sister, so do I. But God isn’t calling us in our weakness to do anything He can’t muscle with His strength, so bring it to Him – morning, noon, and nighttime too.
There’s nothing wrong with a good old fashioned cry session. Let the kiddos hop out of the minivan as you go ahead and lay your head on the steering wheel for a bit and cry. Tell Him all about your weak and weary places. However, if you truly want to see the power of God flow into your powerlessness, don’t just cry… CRY OUT. “Lord, I need You. I need You to show yourself mighty and strong today.”
Bring your burdens to Him, without ceasing. Siphon His strength by grabbing hard to the hem of his holiness.
Like the woman with the issue of blood, who dared take hold of the frayed corners of Jesus’s cloak… come to Him in faith, with all your own issues. What’s issuing forth from your life right now? Issuing out of your mouth – out of your heart and into your home. Perhaps it’s been an issue for years – exasperated sighs and unholy thoughts, words that tear down and hands that have lost all gentleness.
Reach out and cry out, and press into the hot water of refinement, remembering that the cleansing has already been done on your behalf and mine. He has healed every disease threatening to issue out of us again. Believe it, when you’re tired. Believe it when your children continue to struggle with issues of their own. Believe it and cry out:
I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the LORD
In the land of the living.
(Psalm 116:1, 8-9, NASB)
Reach out and cry out, yes, but also keep walking it out. Walk it out before the Lord in the land of the living, in the midst of the people you are living with.
They need you to keep doing your job, day after day.
When there are dishes, do them.
When there is homework, help them.
When there are fears, quiet them.
When there are growing pains, rub them.
When there are dirty clothes, clean them.
When there is sin, recognize that your job is to correct, and then correct.
When there is joy, recognize that your job is to celebrate, and celebrate.
When they are melting down from too much sugar, recognize it is your job to help them eat healthy. And you do that too.
And when they are tired, whining at the end of another long day, recognize it is your job to help usher them to bed. And you grab a few winks yourself.
It is so easy to feel the victim each mothering day, but they are simply children being children, and they need you to keep on being mom.
One foot in front of the graceful other.
Keep walking it out, taking your issues to Him. Remembering, He didn’t make us victims in our weakness, He made us victorious by HIs strength. He didn’t make us victims, He made us moms!
If you don’t miss any future posts from our on-going “You are not a victim, you’re a mom” series, sign up to have them delivered straight to your email inbox.
It’s common to find yourself overwhelmed by your children’s wrong behavior in this intense season of mothering. However, if you are exploding in inappropriate ways toward your loved ones, I encourage you to grab a copy of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses today.