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First survive, then thrive


{The spring will come again.}

Happy New Year!

I have so many goals this year, for me individually, for this blog, for my children, for our family…  I’m still working on writing them up and formulating a plan so I can actually achieve them all throughout the year.  So many years I have forgotten them by March!  This is a season I can actually wrap my head around goal setting, ambition, bettering.  I have energy, I am getting a reasonable amount of sleep, my mental health is almost 100% back to normal.  (Basically this is the first year in a long time in which I am neither pregnant, nor nursing!)  Last year was incredibly challenging for me and my family.  My fifth pregnancy was physically uncomfortable, though not as hard as my fourth (by a landslide), but what really suffered was my mental health.  I’ve written quite a bit about this because I think it’s critical that people understand that ante-partum depression is a real thing.  Last year at New Year’s, all I could muster for a goal was ‘survive.’  I kid you not, that was all I had in me.

In the last couple of weeks I have talked with several friends who are at the end of their rope and holding on with all their might.  Friends struggling with depression, raising children with difficult challenges, strenuous pregnancies, and the like.  My heart has felt so tender for them as I have almost emerged from that feeling of being buried under water for SO LONG.  I’ve given each of them a list of things that helped me, and I thought I’d share it for anyone out there who might be feeling under water right now.

  1. It will not always be like this.  I know it feels like it will never end, but it will.  Try to hold on to that and look for the light at the end of the tunnel while you traverse these darker, more difficult days.  Also, know that it’s OK to be in survival mode for a little season.  You don’t need to feel guilty about things like…

  2. Macaroni and Cheese is an acceptable meal.  I know, I know.  We all said we would never feed our kids from the blue box or drive through McDonald’s weekly, but guess what?!  It’s called survival mode.  I used to make homemade wheat bread all the time and literally every meal from scratch, and then, somewhere in between babies 4 and 5 I deemed chicken nuggies the best friend a mother ever had.  I also embraced lots of quick ‘Costco meals,’ and learned that it’s OK to just grab some frozen meat balls, bottled marinara sauce, and pasta at Trader Joe’s.  We’re scaling back on the processed food now that I’m in a better place.  Fewer drives though the yellow arches, more whole food.  It feels great.  But when you’re so sick or overwhelmed that you can’t even look at food, just let the guilt go and figure out something simple!

  3. Your children won’t remember this season in a negative light.  You might look back on this time as dark and crippling, but your children won’t.  They are small.  They are resilient.  As long as you hold them, read to them, snuggle with them, and tell them you love them, they won’t care at all (now or later!) about being properly dressed, having their hair combed, watching a few extra episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or having more quiet time at home than exciting outings.  They will remember that your house was warm and happy, they won’t remember the mess.  They will remember that you snuggled with them, not that you stayed in yoga pants all day.  And they might not even remember your shorter fuse if you make sure to hold them and apologize to them when you’ve gone bananas.  (The only caveat here is that if your children are old enough, they might remember some of this.  I have joked that my oldest might need therapy after my last pregnancy.  Truthfully, I hope it will help him empathize with people who are struggling and remember that he and his mother had some tough moments, but they always worked it out in love.)

  4. Get some help!  If you can afford to, hire someone to clean your house twice a month.  I really struggle if my home feels like a disaster.  My patience is diminished, and I can’t feel the whisperings of the holy spirit.  All last year we had women come in to clean and it was a tremendous boon to my soul!  (This year we are going back to doing it ourselves so we can allocate that money differently, and because we think in this season of life I can find the energy and time to teach the children how to help me.  Wish us luck!) Maybe that feels like a luxury you can’t afford, but what about swapping kids with a friend each week so you can have some alone time?  Is there a 12 year old in your neighborhood you could pay $5 to come fold the laundry or help clean up toys?  Do you have someone to talk to, either a professional or a neighbor or your mom on the phone?  You need people in your corner!  Find them and ask for help.  I know it feels humbling, humiliating even.  That’s OK.  Other women know what it is to struggle.  They want to help you.  And, believe it or not, there will be a time in your life when you get to be the helper.

I planned to post something else today, but this suddenly felt like a more important message.  Sincerely, friends, one year ago I was in the DARKEST place in my life.  I felt alone, apathetic, exhausted, and depressed.  All I could do was fake it through each day (and some days I got right back in bed once the kids were at school).  Some days were pretty good, and those were the days that gave me a glimpse of my former self.  They reminded me to keep the faith and hold on to the hope of a new season.  You got this, sisters.  You just keep surviving.  Pretty soon this time will be in your past.  And, having travailed through it, you will feel stronger, and you’ll hunger ambitiously to exercise and cook and craft and play and wash your hair again.  You’ll thrive in the next season.  And that’s good enough for now.



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