Monday, 1 August 2011

Becoming a Joyful Mother

Janet Camilleri, Editor of Footprints Magazine for Australian Christian Women continues with her series on her depression journey, and she shares with us about being a joyful mother while dealing with depression. (Written in approx. 2002.)

This morning my bible reading was from Galatians 5:22 & 23 about the gifts of the Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…"
My devotional suggested making these two verses into a personal prayer, by reading it out loud and asking God to make each fruit real in my life. I was surprised at how much I was able to pray about each fruit, and especially, JOY.

You see, I suffer from clinical depression and have been on medication for several years. I did try to go without it at one stage but I fell into the pit of despair very quickly; and it wasn't just me that suffered, my poor old husband and children got dragged down there with me.

Needless to say I wasn't a very joyful mother! My husband and I have realised that in my particular situation (with a strong family history and other variables), medication is the best way to handle my illness and who is to say that God does not sometimes use medication to heal?!

So this morning one of the things I prayed for was God's joy to fill me to overflowing. Not because it makes ME feel good (which it does!); but more because of the way my joy touches the lives of those around me, especially my family.

I have a theory that the devil is behind the epidemic proportions of depression in Christians in modern times. SATAN KNOWS THAT IF HE CAN STEAL A CHRISTIAN'S JOY, HE CAN EFFECTIVELY RENDER THAT BELIEVER USELESS!

Without joy (which is what depression is), we have no energy and are unable to serve and minister to others. Our minds become focussed on our own problems. Every little pain and ache is magnified -research shows that it's not just imagination -the part of the brain that processes pain becomes overactive in a person with chemical depression. In my case, I suffered from excruciating headaches. Now that my depression is controlled, I only get the odd headache at that time of the month.

DON'T LET THE DEVIL STEAL YOUR JOY! If you seem to have fallen into a pit of despair that has lasted more than a couple of months, seek help. If it's become an effort to mix with other people and to carry out normal tasks, talk to your husband, a trusted Christian friend or counsellor, or even your doctor. Don't be surprised if praying seems a real struggle; I found that when I had depression, all my relationships suffered and were neglected (mainly from sheer lack of energy); and that included the Lord.

Once my depression lifted, I realised how much my family had been suffering. Without joy, it was like I was in my own personal hell and couldn't seem to make real contact with anybody -let alone my husband and children. I felt so very alone, yet I needn't have. I had to take the mask off, and share with my husband that I did the bare minimum of housework and childcare, and felt like I was dragging around all day. I was irritable and I certainly wasn't a loving wife! Even my children missed out.

Oh sure, I could iron and cook and clean and wash, but without JOY, I didn't really care. What was the quickest and easiest dinner I could put on the table each night? That was what mattered. Not pleasing my family with foods they enjoyed, keeping to a budget, or preparing nutritious meals.

Sure, I cleaned the house but I was such a grump I'm sure my family would have been happier with a messy home with a happy Mummy! Once I started feeling better, I became more affectionate and "cuddly" with my children; whereas before it irritated me. I could go on and on about the difference JOY has made in my life, but I'm sure you get the picture!

Quite apart from the depression issue, my husband and I have discovered one of the things that brings the greatest JOY to our lives is GIVING. In order to give, we need to become aware of the folks around us -are they hurting? Do they seem overwhelmed? Distracted? Tired? Needy in any way? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you tune into the people around you, and how you can give to them. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. It's the simple things that can mean the most.

For instance, this morning my sister phoned. Her first baby is just 11 weeks old and he suffers from reflux and as a result, both he and my sister are very sleep deprived! My sister was in tears, and she herself said "You are the only one I felt like phoning, I knew you'd understand". Not only can I provide a listening ear, I am probably one of the few people she knows that is available for a distress call at 10 in the morning! Everybody else is at work!

I can't tell you the JOY it gives me to be there for her at this difficult time. But it could be anything -as simple as a card or a phone call to let somebody know you're thinking of them; sharing a good book that might help in their current situation; a box of chocolates; minding their children while they go to the doctor or hairdresser; taking a homemade treat and meeting the next door neighbours. Sure, the people on the receiving end will be touched but you'll be astounded at how much JOY it will bring to your own heart.
Paula C. Whitehouse for A Scarlet Rope of Hope