Where the Sad Girls Go, How to Love Someone Who Is Depressedby Jennifer Renee Watson It is a pleasure to introduce you to Jennifer- one of my kindred spirits. I met this gorgeous minister’s wife, mother, and award-winning writer at a writers conference last February. She politely invited me to sit beside her and we chatted up writing, lipstick, grief, and cheered each other on as we met with publishers and agents. You are going to love her honesty. On the Loved Baby Pregnancy Loss Support Group we’ve been talking an awful lot about depression after loss. Read Jennifer’s take on supporting someone through the darkness. It’s one of those things people don’t like talking about in broad daylight. Thanks Jennifer for taking the shame out of this affliction. And if you want to join our Loved Baby community–please click on the above link to connect with other women who have experienced the death of their womb baby. And if you think you might be struggling with depression please visit the conclusion of the post. I’ve collected some help-lines. You don’t have to run alone.
I began to cry as we walk out of the doctor’s office.
“I’m so mad I could cuss.” I say, standing in the parking lot looking less pregnant.
“Do it.” My husband says, giving me permission.
“Then I’ll do it for you.”
And then he swears for me. I stand there in utter shock and then I double over laughing through the tears and say something snarky like, “You are going to split hell wide-open.”
We laugh through aching hearts and somehow I know that everything is going to be okay. We are going to be okay.
I think that is when I wrestled with my first encounter with real depression. Every fall it comes back and I wrestle trying to find words and look much like a Cymbalta commercial minus petting a cat and gazing out the widow.
I figured out where the sad girls go because at that broken moment, I was one of them.
I’m not sure if it’s connected to that time loss during multiple miscarriages, or just seasonal, but each year just as the leaves turn beautiful shades of orange and red and then finally let go giving way to winter. I become like the barren tree stripped of leaves and life, but it is still me, just the quieter version of me.
And in my head I go, that’s where the sad girls go.
Each year it becomes less of an issue, but I still go off–grid and have a hard time finding words. Even writing becomes difficult and I miss the more vibrant, spunky side of me. I stop making calls because I feel like I have nothing to say worth hearing.
The sad girls drift off inside of their head space and dream of brighter days. I feel so thankful that each year it becomes less of thing, but it’s still a thing. It’s real. But, I’m not sad. I feel hope rising to the surface of my heart because I know this will pass. It always does.
I’ve battled depression on and off for years and I remember thinking that my husband was strong enough to lift the dark cloud off of me. But, he couldn’t. Somewhere in my headspace, my winter months of darkness and bareness of joy, I wrestled with prayer and with God and stopped wrestling with others. My hands were up in surrender with the white flag raised, “God, If you can save me, throw me a lifeline. I’m desperate, I’ll take crumbs I don’t even need a full meal. I just need something.”
And God always came to my rescue. Sometimes it seemed like the sadness lasted for much too long, but it eventually left and my color returned. Laughter filled my lungs and a song spilled out from a renewed heart. When I couldn’t pray, I asked others to pray for me and had trusted friends to hold my hand on the journey. I never asked them to jump in my pit of despair with me, just maybe take me out for chips and salsa and give me a reason to change out of my yoga pants. And after the conversation became lighter and tears stopped, we would have a cake-date afterwards. Sometimes you just need to celebrate the small victories because if we can’t, our expectations might be a little too Hollywood, airbrushed fakeness, and not based on reality.
I’ve learned that letting others see my ugly and broken moments is receiving love when I’m the furthest thing from perfect. In the past, I wanted others to only see me when I was happy and living life to the fullest, but God has given me the truest friends and family that have been unwilling to leave my side at dark, broken moments. They love me just because, no strings-attached, no need to jump through hoops or fake anything. I just get to show up and that’s enough. Man, that’s nice.
So, how do we love someone in depression crisis and soul funk?
- Realize that it’s bigger than you. Ask really good questions about feelings and what they need from you.
- Realize that if you are doing all the things that they “need” and it’s still not enough, take breaks for your heart and do whatever you can to not to go into crisis-mode with them. Someone has to be the strong one; Lord knows it doesn’t feel fair. But someone has to be the voice of reason and hear the voice of God if the other person’s judgment is murky.
- If you feel yourself fighting so hard, fighting with your loved one as you walk on edge through the crappy minefield and look them in the eyes and say, “We are treating each other like the enemy when we are allies.” And join forces again. Keep reminding yourself that this is not who they are, but as they wrestle with change in their hearts, minds, hormones, and brain chemistry, everything is pretty much based on fear and a lie. The things that used to make them happy don’t anymore and they don’t even know why. That’s brutal.
- Get help! You might need personal therapy, it’s so brave and should be celebrated, not an embarrassment. It doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you care enough to not give up. You need a friend that is sticking as close as a soul sister possibly can. Prayer journal, angry journal, or verbally barf on someone you can trust. Someone who can drop a truth-bomb like, “What is coming out of your mouth doesn’t line up with the Word.” Don’t let what you feel rule what you know to be true. Like, this too shall pass like a kidney stone with spikes the size of Texas, but it will pass. So, let me speak truth wrapped up in love and hold you while you cry.
- Figure out your default setting. For me shutting down emotionally is what I do. I’m working on it. When you feel yourself shutting down, ask yourself why. For me, my broken girl syndrome might emerge instead of the confident, godly woman that I have become. Anytime I felt backed into a corner, trapped, or embarrassed publicly, I would just check out and put up a wall to protect my heart. Or I would come out swinging. My default is flight, not fight. I hate conflict, but boundaries need to happen if someone is crossing lines and just expecting you to deal with it and be the nice one. Communicating is essential if you want to have something that lasts. Period. If you stop the lines of communication, you might as well stamp an expiration date on your healthy relationship.
- When you love someone, you do whatever it takes to protect the one you love. A person in crisis no longer knows how to protect and cultivate your tender heart; they are focused on what they are feeling and what they need. So, it feels very personal and selfish. Try to focus on what you love about them, remember the better days and pray for better days to be restored.
- Figure out their default setting. Harsh truth, anyone who is depressed doesn’t even know what their default setting is.So…there’s that. But, they do have a love language and things that fill up their tank.
- Stop doing the same things. You need something to look forward to. Try to break away from your normal routine and do something fun.
- Find a reason to hope and dream again, take your “wounded one” with you and live a little. No lists, agendas, or jumping through the hoops, just being together and chasing after joy and each other until hope returns.
- Just because they are depressed doesn’t mean you have to be too. When I was going through my seasons of depression, I didn’t need my man, or friends, to join me and set up camp there. It was my depression and because I love them, I just needed them to understand, love me, and pray for me. Not push me or tell me I’m wrong for feeling that way. I never expected them to fix me, so it would be stupid for me to feel like I am the Junior Holy Spirit and able to fix someone else’s depression.
Guard your heart and mind and take your thoughts captive, it’s the only thing you are accountable for right now. I’m so grateful for a God that loves me just because I’m His and I’m enough for Him, even when I’m at my worst.
You are not alone. You might not feel Him, but God hasn’t left you.
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands, Your walls are continually before Me.” (Is 49:16)
I get it, I know what it is like to wrestle with this and win. Don’t go through this alone; let someone walk you through this!
Much love and prayers,
Jennifer is a self-professed girly-girl who is convinced that coloring your hair is addictive and has an undying affection for refined sugar and red lipstick. She is a mother of two miracle babies and an out-of-box minister’s wife. Visit her Blog for more inspiration and real-talk.
If You Think You Might Be Depressed:
The loss of a womb baby is a taboo, misunderstood topic and many women feel very alone in their grief. Scholarly research tells us that women are at an increased risk for depression and anxiety after a loss- and it doesn’t matter the fetal age, “A woman who has lost her child at 11 weeks may be as distraught as a woman who has lost her child at 20 weeks,” says Martha Diamond, PhD (Research in Nursing & Health). My friend Cayci says- it was the hardest day of my life.
If you think you, or your loved one is battling depression I urge you to seek help. Your Ob/Gyn will be the best point of contact. Many, many women spiral unto this dark place after pregnancy loss.
NIH explains that people with depression have different brain chemistry than those without the illness. It is nothing you have done and you don’t have to fight the battle on your own. If you had strep throat would you go see your doctor? If you were diagnosed with cancer would you seek a professional? Likewise, if you think you might be depressed you should also seek support. There should be no shame.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Different people have different symptoms. The NIH says wome symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad or “empty”
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Feeling very tired
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
Love & Blessings,