Last week was our third #SundaySisterhood chat on depression, and what a powerful topic. Millions of women struggle with depression in some form, whether it’s PPD (post-partum depression), SAD (season affective disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, or general clinical depression.
This post is to summarize all the comments from our Instagram chat (click here to read summaries of our first 2 chats on divorce and infertility). I hope you’ll keep following along on Instagram each Sunday night! A couple nights ago, we talked about losing a loved one (you can still participate by clicking here), and next Sunday on March 19 we’ll be talking about losing a child. Our final chat on March 26 will be on cancer. (If you’d like to host one of these chats, please message me on Instagram.)
UPDATE 4/3/17: Now that our series is complete, find the links to recaps on all 6 chats here.
To start with, I’m sharing Sarah’s story, which I think sums up a lot of women’s feelings about depression. She also shares some simple ideas for supporting other women who are struggling. Sarah’s an amazing mom, Christian, and friend to me on Instagram; you can follow her @theshaulisfamily. She blogs at www.lovejoypeas.com.
Did you know that over 40 million adults struggle with anxiety and/or depression? It's no wonder--we don't eat well or get enough rest or exercise, and that stresses our bodies out. Plus, if you are a woman, and have children, hormones are already doing who knows what, and cortisol (the stress chemical) just makes all those post-partum hormones go even crazier!
If you are fortunate enough to have never dealt with this issue, I am thankful for that. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. But with almost 20% of the population struggling with this, chances are you know someone who does.
Which brings me to my main point. Whether you have personally struggled with PPD, anxiety, panic attacks, SAD, or not, there are things you can do to help those that do. We need each other.
I have a friend who has four kids and lost her twin sister recently. On top of post-partum stuff, she had to deal with the death of her closest friend. I didn't understand what she was going through, but I wanted to help. So here are some things I did.
- Listen. She has said that was one of the most helpful things—lending an ear, giving sympathy, and crying along with her. It seems little, but it's not.
- Cook her a meal. She has to eat right? Sometimes when you are in the midst of a hard time, even cooking a meal seems like too big a task. Bringing over a meal every once in a while is a tangible way to show your support.
- Watch her kids. Sometimes I will take her two oldest kids for the afternoon while her two youngest take naps. That way she can clean, or take a nap, or just crash on the couch. Having a bit of alone time can be a great help.
- Go on girl dates. This is fun. We ditch the kids, and go out for a meal. We usually don't buy any clothes, but it’s fun to talk and just have time without littles.
I didn't understand what it was like. I helped, but I didn't know. Then 6 months ago, I had a panic attack while I was driving. Let me tell you, it's scary! I used to think all this stuff was just women being dramatic and wanting attention. I didn't understand. Perhaps it’s because people who struggle with this seem so normal.
But it is real. I prayed, listened to Christian music, exercised, and was more careful about what I ate. It has helped, but I struggle. I'm a pastor’s wife who appears completely normal. The only reason people know I struggle is because I tell them.
You see, this is kind of a taboo issue. Especially in Christianity. But it is so common it's something we should be taking about. It's something we should be encouraging each other through. Hormones and stress are very real medical things that can mess you up. But I think what messes us up more is not having people to talk about this with, not having support, and not having encouragement in our church.
We need to be praying for each other, serving each other in tangible ways, texting each other encouraging verses, and really just loving each other.
After all, isn't that what the Bible teaches?
Social media is such a part of everyday life now. How can social media affect depression, either in negative or positive ways?
Social media is such a part of everyday life now. How can social media affect depression, either in negative or positive ways?
(Host) peachesandpotatoesI have what I would call mild post-partum depression and some anxiety, especially during pregnancy (I think due to my multiple miscarriages). I don't talk about it much, because one of the ways I deal with it is by focusing on the good. But I feel like I can be more open about it on social media than I can with people face-to-face, and I think it's a good thing that social media is helping spread awareness and clear up misperceptions about depression. The support here can be amazing! On the other hand, I also think that can be a downside to social media, because it can take up so much of our time and take the place of our real relationships and support system (friends, family). I think our tendency to distract ourselves and compare ourselves to others on social media can worsen depression, but using it wisely can actually help ground us.
vgd121Obviously social media is pretty well known for causing comparisons among peers. You need to understand your triggers and make sure social media is adding to your life in a positive way and not just making you feel worse or more isolated. On a positive front the anonymity sometimes helps you speak out and connect with others who get it!
sundayswithstacieSometimes I think social media can be helpful because you can say how you're feeling to a stranger more than you might feel you can to someone you know. It can help if someone else is going through or has gone through the same things and can offer advice.
oohbotherI have found that social media can foster a sense of community - especially during the sometimes isolating moments of motherhood. It is hard to stay away from the Comparing game, which definitely brings up negative feelings.
tmbrollySocial media was horrible and fed my PPD demon. At the time I was only on Facebook and it seemed like every mom I knew had perfect babies who slept and breastfed easily. The moms were growing, preparing and canning organic free range who knows what while knitting hats for the homeless on their clean white sofas wearing beautiful clothes. 😳 Now I know that wasn't the full truth and most of them were just yearning for some positive feedback on all their hard work. But I couldn't handle it. The best thing I did for my PPD was delete my Facebook account.
buildingliteracywithbooksI feel like social media can be so bonding and yet so envy driven. I know I look at other feeds and wish I had their clean houses, cute outfits, and put together hair! I also know I love to follow people that share similar realities to mine and it helps to know you aren't alone.
peachesandpotatoes@tmbrolly oh my goodness, this made me laugh and cry!! I still struggle with this. And I agree, I've had to stay away from Facebook. I feel like IG has more of that community feel @oohbother touched on. Thank you so much for sharing, my friend!!
peachesandpotatoes@oohbother totally! I love the community here! I feel like I have to be choosy about who I follow and my own attitude so I don't play the comparing game. I love following people I feel a sisterhood with. Love following you my friend!
peachesandpotatoes@buildingliteracywithbooks yes I know! It can be deceiving too. Case in point...yesterday: posted a picture of my clean kitchen...currently: dirty dishes covering every inch of my countertops. Sometimes I like posting pictures of stuff like that or me with no makeup on just to keep it real! We're all trying to focus on the good, but social media can definitely make us feel like we don't measure up...which doesn't help depression. But I agree, following people that we share things in common with can give us support system!
thegracefuloliveI have mixed feelings about this. When my daughter was going through chemo we wanted the experience to be hopeful and uplifting so we always posted photos of her smiling and doing normal kid things. We never posted the throw up photos, or the crying photos or the ones of us holding her down while she screamed so we could do tests.... social media isn't the whole picture. It's a snapshot of whatever you want to portray.
thegracefuloliveFacebook is also very negative I think. Everyone arguing over political things. Sharing news stories about people beating animals or leaving their kids in the car... I avoid Facebook mostly because it tends to make me more anxious.
peachesandpotatoes@thegracefulolive you were also protecting your daughter, so good for you! And I think staying positive on social media generally helps with depression...and overall living life every day. Posting something positive on my feed every day doesn't mean I never have bad days, it just means I try to focus on the good. That's especially true for the times I struggle with depression! I agree Facebook is generally more negative and can trigger anxieties!
klein_kmfFor me, I tend to avoid social media when I feel really anxious or depressed. It is a huge trigger for me. It took me a bit of time to figure it out too! Now I know myself well enough to take breaks from social media if it becomes an issue for me.
bitsofsweetnessI had to be so careful not to bury myself in social media as an escape for real life and anxiety. It wasn't so much the content as it was just a bad diversion from things that would help me more. There were a lot of positive things too about it. So many friends who had encouraging conversations with me during that time.
glorifiedhomemakingAs with anything, it's whether we choose to be real and open or not. I follow another mom on a social media platform who is an excessive 'things are great' poster. She always seems to be alone though. I see her posts as a cry for the love and interaction she lacks. I don't want to come right out and say 'I think you have depression', but I try to let her know she matters above and beyond the worth she portrays in her posts. I think our addiction level to social media, coupled with our outlook on life will determine whether or not looking into the lives of others is positive or negative.
alifewithalittleFor me, social media can easily ramp up my anxiety if I let it. I tend to find myself comparing everything and everyone. I end up feeling more like a failure sometimes just by being on social media. So I make it a point to limit myself and when I find myself comparing too much and hearing those awful thoughts again, I take a break and find something more productive to do, like write or read.
thesimplemamaOh social media. I have a love/hate relationship with it. And I will say that there are certain times of the year when I have to be careful and stay off of it or I struggle with the comparison trap (like around Christmas and summer time). Comparing myself to others definitely brings about anxiety in me. Good thing I have my friend tribes to keep me grounded.
justdoingmybestWe need to be supportive whether we've experienced ourselves or not.
ashleynewell.meI think social media is so rough. We are all concerned with numbers and taking pretty pictures that people forget that this isn't what reality looks like.
peachesandpotatoes@klein_kmf good for you! I've also had to take breaks and set "rules" for myself. Recognizing triggers for depression and anxiety can be life changing.
peachesandpotatoes@alifewithalittle great ideas! I love how you're listening to your body and your heart. Taking a break and doing something you love can be the best self-care.
peachesandpotatoes@thesimplemama isn't it interesting how social media seems geared to induce anxiety? I think both God and Satan can use it as a tool for their purposes, but it can be hard for us to discern when it's healthy and when it's not. Friend "tribes" are definitely one of the ways God works in our lives through social media--I've seen that myself. Like you for example, my friend!
firstname.lastname@example.org so true...I think living in a virtual reality is a big factor in depression nowadays.
littledove.justineI think social media can have negative AND positive effects, like you said. One thing I see that could aid in depression would be comparison, thinking that everyone else has their life together except for you because all you see are the tiny squares on Instagram. But it has also given people an outlet to talk about these issues more openly.
If you've struggled with depression (or anxiety, PPD, etc.), what's been the most surprising part of it for you?
(Host) bitsofsweetness Anxiety & PPD looked nothing like what I thought. I wasn't in bed depressed or worried ; I just had no coping abilities and panic attacks that were triggered for months by our kids. I didn't bond with our baby right away. Their needs and demands were all triggers for me and it was so hard to have no control over it! But, that's when I found out what was going on.
peachesandpotatoesSuch a great question! I think the most surprising part is finding myself struggling with it at all! I've always been a pretty positive, stable, hard working person, so it's confusing to find myself with no energy and motivation some days, or with a fog or feeling of unnamed fear hanging over me. Recognizing it for depression and anxiety has helped me so much though...When I name it, I can stop blaming myself and start doing the things I know help. And even if it doesn't go away completely, it's still easier to deal with than wondering what's wrong with me. I can keep it in perspective, knowing my hormones will fluctuate, and that some days will be good, and some not as good. That's the other surprising part for me...it's not constant. It can hit when I least expect it!
bitsofsweetness@peachesandpotatoes the unexpected is such a hard part! It's not fun having the day go so different than you'd planned.
eikoappYou are awesome!
vgd121Surprising part- when you have a moment of clarity and realize what is happening / how your life has been taken over or changed because of sadness and depression. You don't recognize yourself or a situation but at the same time it feels familiar.
bitsofsweetness@vgd121 seriously so! My postpartum depression was so different than I realized. I didn't think it was depression.
sundayswithstacieWhen I had my first almost 13 years ago no one had told me about PPD and I didn't understand why I was feeling the way I was when I had something so wonderful just happen. I'm so glad that now it is more openly talked about.
peachesandpotatoes@vgd121 that's so true! I describe it like another person is trying to take over my body. When I'm thinking "this isn't me," that's when I know the depression has hit! It took so long to figure that out for me though.
oohbotherI've recently been extremely surprised by how many other women are struggling with anxiety right now. I've always felt isolated in that journey, but I'm beginning to see that I'm definitely not alone!
bitsofsweetness@oohbother you know, I am so glad people are opening up more and more about it. It really is an encouraging breath of fresh air to come across someone else who says, "I've been there too. You're not alone."
tmbrollyThe anxiety! And paranoia. I thought PDD was feeling sad and unmotivated. I cried a lot but over extreme anxiety.
buildingliteracywithbooksThe lack of control. You don't feel like yourself but you don't know how to get YOU back.
bitsofsweetness@buildingliteracywithbooks that is so spot on. I told people I felt like someone else had the remote to my brain.
thegracefuloliveThe surprising part is that my depression is not a reflection of my actual life or how I feel about my life! I always thought you should have a reason to be depressed but that's so not true. I LOVE my life! I mean I really truly do and I used to be ashamed to say I was on antidepressants because it seems so stupid to be depressed and be so in love with everything that's going on in life right now.
klein_kmfI was surprised at my symptoms. I didn't think that several of the ones I exhibit were actual depression symptoms at all. Which also helped to explain why I was a bit shocked to figure out I had been depressed.
glorifiedhomemakingThe most surprising part was how 'normal' depression can look. It's frequently portrayed to the extreme, but you can look like you have it all together and be fighting a terrible battle of depression.
alifewithalittleI think the most surprising part for me was how much anxiety from PPA could really affect my life. It changed me from being mostly confident to being afraid to go to the next doctor appointment, afraid to apply for jobs, afraid that taking a job would really cause more problems than it fixed. I still really struggle with my anxiety when it comes to looking into jobs, and I don't know how soon that might end. The other big surprise was how much a panic attack felt just like an asthma attack. It was awful.
littlemamajamaFor me, it was shocking that I didn't FEEL "depressed." I experienced rage, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, couldn't sit still yet had no energy, but did not feel sad.
peachesandpotatoes@glorifiedhomemaking so important and so well said. It's definitely an internal battle.
peachesandpotatoes@thegracefulolive I totally agree! I feel like I'm one person and my depression is another.
What are some things you can do to support a friend struggling with depression/anxiety/PTSD?
(Host) theshaulisfamily One if my best friends struggles with this. When I can tell she's having a bad day I'll watch her oldest kids during nap time so she has a few hours of "alone" time. It only takes me a few hours, but it helps her.
kelsey_johnson20 I struggle with the word depression because as a Christian I know that no emotion that I have should ever be stronger than God's spirit of hope, truth & love and if it is then I need to turn my eyes to Jesus and draw closer to Him evermore. But with that said I have struggled with 'post-partum depression' post baby blues. And it takes me until my babies are about 6 months to snap out of it. It was especially harder with my third. Many ladies in the church have made me meals, spent time with me, spent time with my kids, gave me bible verses to cling to and mostly prayed for me. Those are some things I would suggest to help in that area. But of course, I don't have all the answers only the Lord truly knows how to work in someone's heart.
peachesandpotatoes This is so important but so hard! I always want to cheer my friends up, but sometimes just listening is best. I always remind them how much I love them. If you've never dealt with PTSD for example, it's okay to say, "I don't understand, but I'm here for you." Taking a friend out just the two of you can be a fun pick me up, and being willing to reschedule if she's not up for it the first or second time around. (Or if you know her really well, try to persuade her the first time...she might really need it!) I'm a total homebody and would rather stay home most days, but I know it worsens my depression if I stay home too much without friends around, so being invited over is just what I need sometimes. I really appreciate those friends!
sundayswithstacie For me when I was struggling with depression years ago due to brain injury from a car accident,one of the most helpful things was just having someone willing to listen to my feelings without judgment. Just being there for me unconditionally.
peachesandpotatoes@sundayswithstacie I love that. I'm so sorry for your accident! I hope you're better now! That helps me @kelsey_johnson20, to think about it as a medical condition like cancer or breaking your arm. God is stronger than those things too, but they can still happen to us because this life isn't perfect. My depression and anxiety have often been side effects of hormone treatments and medications. Knowing God is there for me doesn't necessarily make it go away, but it definitely helps me through it every day!! I'm so glad you have a great sisterhood and support system in your church! That's so often how God works in our lives!
peachesandpotatoes@kelsey_johnson20 I love that! Drawing closer to Him brings me peace and light through the darkness!
oohbother I need to be better about this. I am so interested to read what you ladies do! I try to actively listen and pray for my friends when they ask for help.
theshaulisfamily@kelsey_johnson20 good ideas!! Yes...hormones can sure mess things up. I have/am struggling with that too. I think it makes things harder by it's still not an excuse to have a bad attitude. I find prayer, listening to Christian music help.
theshaulisfamily@sundayswithstacie yes. Listening is good. I have an older lady who will listen, and give me truth when I'm needing it.
ertryg It needs to be really clear that depression is not an emotion. Emotions are a symptom of depression. Depression and its' forms (listed above) is a mental health condition with symptoms that may not be cured just by thinking on things that are true. Just like God may not choose to heal your cancer even though you're faithfully praying. Job was an upright and godly man who struggled with the trial of depression. Many people suffer in silence because of fear of judgment on their personal walks with God. For the sake of promoting openness (and thanks for facilitating that!) I'll tell you that I have a generalized anxiety disorder that stems from PTSD. I remember my first serious bout with depression while battling infertility. Then I experienced postpartum depression after my 3 babies. Trusting God's plan and purpose and taking one day at a time.
tmbrolly I wish someone would have said, "you might have PPD". I’m a health professional but when I was in it I couldn't see it. I never got help. It was horrible and really hard on my marriage. Now I'm very open with my friends so they can talk to their doctor and get help.
theshaulisfamily@ertryg I agree that it's not a "just trust God more" solution. I have had PPD (hormone/stress induced) for the past few months. It does seem like something people in our circles don't talk about. I have a hard time explaining sometimes that my symptoms are more physical. It's not that I'm sitting there worrying. I can be praying and listening to good music but my heart will still race. It's getting better, and my faith really does help. But t is a complex issue for sure. Thanks for your honesty. It helps to know we aren't alone.
buildingliteracywithbooks Be there. Keep bugging them. Keep letting them know you care. Don't withdraw because they are withdrawn. Ask them how you can help.
thegracefulolive I am very open about my anxiety and depression because It's a real problem for me and while it's not fun to deal with I don't want to pretend it doesn't exist. With me being so open about my own struggles it gives my friends an open door to just have someone to vent to that "understands" what they are feeling. It's hard to talk to others who have never had a panic attack or who don't have depression because they just don't comprehend why you should feel this way... as if anyone would choose those things. So I feel like the best thing I can do to be helpful is just "normalize" anxiety and depression for my friends and let them know I am available day or night to listen.
klein_kmf Definitely having someone to listen without judgement or insisting that my depression is merely a phase, a trial, or that I need to try/do x,y, or z. While it might be a phase (as in it will not be my state forever), it made me furious when someone told me that I should wait it out since the depression should lift in a day or two. I also have a person I can just call and cry (I get super weepy when depressed--everything sets me off).
theshaulisfamily@tmbrolly I've heard that often it's friends and family who notice PPD. Sorry for your struggle.
bitsofsweetness Anyone who took the kids was a huge help for me. Now, people who are a good listening ear and encouragement help a lot.
glorifiedhomemaking I struggled with PPD. Having people who were sympathetic without allowing me to throw myself a pity-party helped. Also, those who consistently reached out to spend time with me or just offer words that helped me realize I was not alone. Ultimately, it was the Lord who pulled me from depression, but I believe He also sent friends to help me along the way.
jessicabagley That’s thoughtful of you to do for your friend. I'm sure it helps her a lot!
theshaulisfamily@thegracefulolive being open and honest is good. Hope your friends can listen and I locally encourage you.
theshaulisfamily@klein_kmf I'm sorry you've had that experience. Hormones can do strange things....I often cry.
theshaulisfamily@glorifiedhomemaking so true. When I’m struggling my husband helps me make sure I don't focus on myself too. I think PPD makes everything harder. But I don't think it's an excuse for bad behavior. It just makes it soooo much harder.
alifewithalittle I’m coming to this a bit late, but I hope I can join in. I think for me, the big thing was having people help me work out what I needed. My PPD/PPA really meant my brain was too crowded with thoughts, so having people make suggestions of things I might need instead of just asking "What can I do for you?" was really the most helpful thing for me.
theshaulisfamily@alifewithalittle I feel you. Sometimes I feel like I can't think or make decisions. Glad you have some good friends to help you out!
gxe01girl I so needed this Monday and Yesterday!
theshaulisfamily@gxe01girl so you struggle with this? I know...it definitely helps to realize we aren't alone!
gxe01girl@theshaulisfamily yes unfortunately I do- I have since age 11 or 12, it’s difficult to say the least. It passes but sometimes lingers to the point you think it'll last forever! It is definitely nice to know we are not alone!
theshaulisfamily@gxe01girl it is!! You should follow @peachesandpotatoes I think she has more posts about this topic coming. :)