As a result of the myth of the good Christian mother, many women learn that their feelings of dissatisfaction, sadness, and anxiety are abnormal and need to be tucked away so they can put on their happy Christian mom faces. I know several depressed women who took the risk of talking to their pastor or a church friend about their feelings only to be told to pray harder, get their spiritual lives in order, or recognize that this season of life is all about self-sacrifice so they might as well get used to it. Rare is the voice that says, "A lot of mothers feel the way you do from time to time. If you can't shake these feelings in a couple of weeks, please let me help you find a way to work through them."

To treat depression as a wholly spiritual issue, one that can be healed by a deeper relationship with God, only addresses a piece of the depression puzzle. Depression is not primarily a state of mind or spirit but an actual illness with physical, emotional, and spiritual ramifications.

Imagine how much more fulfilling our relationships could be if we let our pride slide away to reveal our real struggles and sorrows. I've found a great deal of support and strength through my friendships with a few other women who have suffered from depression some are mothers, some aren't. But no group or friends can do much of anything for us without our willingness to cut through the myth of the got-it-together mom and dig into the real emotional trials and triumphs of motherhood.

Article adapted from The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women (Baker Publishing House), © 2004 by Carla Barnhill. 

Other resources:

Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud
Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression by Nell Casey
The Joy of Visualization: 75 Creative Ways to Enhance Your Life by Valerie Wells
The Healing Moment by Betsy Lee (a website sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital)

Helpful tips on fighting depression:

• travel
• manual labor
• sunshine (and full spectrum lightbulbs used indoors)
• journaling
• walking
• massage
• good music
• crying
• getting out of the house (alone if you feel overwhelmed, with a friend if you feel lonely)
• helping other people
• giving up sugar
• planning at least one fun thing a month