This is a guest post from my sweet friend Shannon. She’s funny, creative, talented, and loves her family fiercely. And she knows what it is like to homeschool through dark days when you would rather just stay in bed. She has been there—is there—but she doesn’t stay there.
Homeschooling During the Dark Days
When I say dark days, I don’t mean the ones where your kids aren’t listening to you, you worry that your kids aren’t where they should be academically and you stress yourself out, or you realize you don’t have all the things you need for the science experiment and you feel like a bad teacher…again.
I mean the really dark days of depression. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed and pretend the world doesn’t exist. The kind that’s mixed with guilt while your kids sit in front of the TV eating cereal for lunch for the third time this week. The kind that makes each breath difficult. That’s where I am today.
As I type this I have a tiny baby inside that doesn’t have a heartbeat. I found out four days ago. So I wait and I cry and I pray…but I also have to make the dinner, read the stories, wash the towels, find the lost toy train, meet the deadlines…the list goes on and on.
I’m very blessed with a husband who has shared my pain and the housework. But the brunt always falls on the mama, doesn’t it?
Walking in the Dark
So how do we function when we don’t want to? How do we go on and do all the things that need to be done when we barely have the energy to pull back the covers and put our feet on the floor in the morning?
I’ll tell you the only ways I can function right now – moment by moment…and simply. Gone are the to-do lists, the exciting lesson plans, the over the top ideas for art projects and field trips. They have been replaced by extra stories in my bed with popcorn, letting my little one play in his sand box until 10pm while I sit under the stars and pray, and sitting on the patio watching the rain.
There have been four days of beautiful, simple moments amongst the pain. And amazing lessons have been learned. Lessons that we wouldn’t have come across in my “plans”. We talked about popcorn while we ate it and we looked up interesting facts on my phone. We talked about the rain and how nourishing it is to God’s creation and that led to a discussion about seasons and how things change. And sitting outside and letting him play so late? That was just good for the soul.
Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t want to get out of bed. And many times I’ve just said, “let’s eat lunch in mommy’s bed…let’s read stories, let’s watch a cartoon, let’s color, etc.”
Now I know my depression won’t last a long time, thankfully. But after my last miscarriage my depression lasted for months. And hiding in bed certainly isn’t a long term answer. So, how do you function when you have depression? How do you do it all…or do anything…when you’re dealing with mental exhaustion and pain?
And, I’m not talking about the debilitating kind of depression. I’m talking about the kind that comes with bad news, stress, a traumatic experience or the kind that seems to sneak up on us out of nowhere. Debilitating depression is a monster all its own. And even though the things below might be able to help you, I know that it’s a much longer and more painful road to travel. I’ve been there too and if that’s you right now, just know you’re not alone.
Do you know the signs of clinical depression? You can learn more about depression and postpartum depression from the following websites. If you think you may be suffering from depression, please get help!
Postpartum Depression-Signs & Symptoms from the Mayo Clinic: Includes the symptoms of the “baby blues”, how to tell the difference, and when to seek help.
10 Things to Do When You Are Walking Through Dark Days
Here are ten things that have helped me when I’ve gone through periods of depression:
Enjoy the little things.
Look for things to enjoy. Little chubby baby fingers, the soothing sound of crickets chirping in the yard, the blue sky, your favorite coffee drink. Simple things that most people over look.
Related: Dear Mom of Little Ones
Pray and read your bible.
Journal if that’s your thing. But take time each day to be thankful for your blessings, because you know we all have a lot to be thankful for. An amazing book I just read is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It’s a beautiful book about writing down one thousand things/moments you’re thankful for.
Take time to give God praise, to learn from him and to lift your needs up to him.
Quit trying to be strong and think you can and should be doing everything.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says,
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
We live at a time where society says we’re supposed to be strong and be able to do it all – Wonder Womans in our home and community. But that’s not how God designed us. And men don’t need to be super hero’s all the time either. When we act like we are in charge of everything, all powerful beings in our home, we push God out. He’s the only real super power we should be relying on. If you try to rely on your own power, you’ll fall short every time.
Girl, it’s okay to admit you’re weak. It’s okay to admit to God that you need help. And it’s okay to admit to other people that you need help. See if someone can take your kids for an afternoon, take a nap when your kids nap, let someone bring you a meal. But whatever you do, lay your burdens at the feet of the cross. Take them right to the One who loves you more than anyone and can give you the strength to get through your day.
I know, I know. This is the last thing you feel like doing right now. I’m taking it easy right now because medically I should be. But once this is over, I’ll jump on my rebounder (mini trampoline) for five minutes at a time. That’s it. Five minutes. I pick two songs to listen to and then I jump or jog in place. Not only is rebounding good for you (it’s cardio, strengthens your core, uses just about every muscle in your body AND flushes out your lymph system) it’s fun! When you’re finished, have your kids jump on it too. I hold my three-year old’s hands and sometimes we jump together. BAM! You just got your blood pumping AND you took care of P.E.
Don’t want to buy a rebounder (average cost is $35) go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long one either. Just walk to the corner or around the block. Set a simple goal. Most likely once you get out there and get going you’ll want to go further. You can easily turn it into a nature walk by letting your child pick up “treasures” (rocks, sticks, etc), discussing plants/animals you see on your way, or talking about the weather. If your child is older have them take pictures of interesting things they see along the way and then print them off at home for a nature journal or have them draw it.
Every day you should get a little sunshine, breathe in some fresh air and move your body. Even if it’s just a few minutes at a time.
Hang out with people.
I know this sounds like a list of things you don’t want to do. But getting out and seeing other human beings can give you a mental lift. Will it be short lived? Probably. But it still does your heart and mind good to have lunch with a friend, go to a bible study or meet another mom and her kids at the park.
When we’re depressed it’s so easy to grab fast food and eat processed/packaged food. And for some reason a lot of time our bodies seem to crave that awful stuff. So, what’s a depressed, exhausted mama to do? I buy fruits that don’t go bad quickly – apples, oranges, etc (even berries can last a week) and make sure the kids (and me) get one with each meal. Each meal. Peanut butter sandwiches for lunch? Have an apple with it. Frozen pizza? Everyone gets an orange. Is it loaded with every nutrient you and your child needs? No, but it isloaded with several vitamins and minerals. And you know that you’re putting something healthy in their little bodies (and yours). And don’t forget the protein mama. You need it. I keep a container of protein shake mix in the cabinet just in case. Look for an organic one that is full of nutrients. You’ll be surprised how a little protein can make you feel better.
Change your thinking.
Philippians 4:8 says,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Every time you have a negative thought, think about this verse. Train yourself to think of things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable. Body shaming thoughts? Rebuke them! Instead replace them with a thank you to God for giving you that body. Thoughts about that horrible news article you read? Give the situation to God and thank him for all the good in the world.
Work with your hands.
Recent research has shown that people who create and work with their hands have less depression. Make a meal, crochet a scarf, make a beaded bracelet, work in the garden, draw, paint…whatever gets your hands and mind working. This could even be an art project with your kids or maybe it could be some much needed “me time” at the end of the day.
When I’m dealing with depression, every day I write down the one thing I need to do in order for my day to feel like it was a success. One thing. It might be teaching the kids, cooking dinner, mailing the bills or doing a load of laundry. And then I write down two other things that would be awesome if I got to, but it’s okay if I don’t do them. Seeing my life broken down into such simple terms makes the tasks so much easier to get to. I know, you have a million things to do. But if you only had time to do ONE thing today, what would you choose?
Sometimes you just need help, whether that be medication or counseling or both. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you go this route – instead, be thankful these things are available. If you can’t afford counseling call a local church – a lot of times they offer free counseling services. Do what you can to improve your depression, but if you get to a point where you can’t go on like this anymore, then please, get help of some kind. You don’t have to feel like this. Your creator wants you to be happy and healthy. And your family wants you to be happy and healthy too.
Dear Mom, Give Yourself Some Grace in the Dark Days
Don’t be hard on yourself. Everybody goes through these dark times at some point. Make the decision today to move forward in some way. Choose one of the above and try it out for a day, then two days. No matter what you go through in life, just remember that God is watching over you and He knows what you’re going through. Give him your worry, depression, disappointment and pain and admit your weakness and watch the power that unfolds in your life. You’re going to be okay…I’m going to be okay – even if neither of us feels that way at the moment.
And remember this verse from Jeremiah 29:11,
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
God’s got this mama. God’s got this.
Shannon VanBergen is a wife, home school mom, artist and a USA Today and international best selling author. When she’s not busy having fun with her kids you can usually find her writing, working on a project or looking for her keys. She writes her cozy mystery series under her own name and writes Christian Romance under the names Susan Vail and Vivian Wells.