So God Made a Mother is Here! 🎉

Self-care is the modern mom’s mantra. It’s the buzz word in parenting groups. We slap a hashtag on it and use it as a marketing tool on Instagram to sell skin care, leggings, coffee, shakes, powders, and bath bombs. We’ve made it into a meme, a platitude married to a motivational quote with a picture of a sunset or some mountains. We, effectively, have reduced “self-care” to stolen moments in the day or quiet moments in the night when everyone is finally in bed.

We often think of it as the little things we get to do for ourselves: a trip to the store alone, a new makeup palette, our time at the gym or a lunch date with a friend. And, if those forms of self-care serve you, I think that’s wonderful. If a bubble bath and a glass of wine at the end of the day fills your proverbial cup and refreshes you so you can wake up the next day and kick butt, I think that’s fantastic and you keep doing you.

But because I have depression, my self-care needs to look a little different. You see, I’ve got a darkness in my heart and some ugly in my bones and if I don’t manage that, if I don’t protect my mind like a junkyard guard dog, then that quiet, inky passenger, mental illness, can sneak in like a thief in the night and steal my happiness, my sanity and my motivation.

A year ago, my self-care looked like me sobbing on the phone, telling my husband to take me to the doctor immediately. That day my self-care looked like shaking and ugly crying in a doctor’s office admitting that I don’t know what’s wrong with me and nothing I do is helping. Self-care looked like admitting I had a problem with anger, and sadness, and anxiety. Self-care looked like admitting that my family was suffering because no amount of walking outdoors, working out, bubble baths or motivational photos on Instagram were filling my cup. I was serving my family from a glum, empty vessel and I needed something more to help me.

I left the office that day with a rattling bottle of pills and some teary-eyed hope that I had just experienced my last mental breakdown. It wasn’t, but that’s OK because I’ve learned to adjust my self-care because of it.

I’ve been taking my prescription for about a year and in that time, it’s helped tremendously—but, in my usual fashion, I got cocky. I got lazy. I got busy. I know the medication I take brings me back to myself, I suffer no side-effects, and my quality of life improves. But still, at some point a few weeks ago I stopped taking it. I don’t suffer immediate effects from suddenly stopping it and I’ve been advised I can take it daily or just when I need it. I, obviously, need it daily. I don’t remember when I stopped taking it, but I can see now how the depression crept back in. I can see the signs I ignored.

I stopped prioritizing the gym. I stopped taking care of my body and started eating crappy foods. I started watching more TV. I started sleeping more. Then I started being tired during the day. Then I got irritable. Then I was suppressing undue anger toward my children for doing things that kids just do. Then I started running the old, awful narrative—you know, the things you tell yourself when you’re up late. The little thought bubbles that pop up and keep you awake—you’re being a terrible mom, and a crappy wife, and a lazy person, and the house should be cleaner, your family deserves better. And then, those thought bubbles stayed with me during the day. And the narrative played on repeat in my mind.

Then suddenly, I was back where I was a year ago. A sad, mess of a person unable to make decisions or finish a thought, trying to hide in bed all day. Exhausted because the thought of taking my children to the park is just too much. Turning my phone off because talking to people is hard when they say, “Are you OK? You seem tired.” And it’s hard because you know you’re not keeping up the illusion. Yes, I am tired. No, I am not OK.

And then, I had a little breakdown. Nothing huge, just some sobbing in the bathtub and wondering why my brain is broken. I stayed awhile, hugging my knees, listening to my children play happily outside on the trampoline while my husband watched them from his office. Thankful that they don’t know Mommy is a mess and Daddy is working harder than I want him to just to pick up my slack.

When I was done, I grabbed my clothes from the counter and knocked over my little bottle of pills. I stared at them, dumbfounded. “Well, there’s the problem and the solution, dummy.” It was then that I realized I hadn’t been taking them and that is why I was struggling so much. I skipped a major part of my self-care.

The fact that I’ve written about this, freshly showered and dressed, means I’m obviously back on my meds and doing fine and will remember to take them. Going forward, self-care will include taking my medication and fiercely monitoring my mental health because when it declines, everyone suffers. It’s important to recognize the signs that depression is worming its way back into my life and that’s where I messed up last time. I ignored those signs and fell farther than I should have.

Sometimes self-care is ugly. Sometimes it means examining yourself objectively and recognizing that behind that pretty face and social media hype, you have some kinks in your consciousness that need attention beyond what you’re able to give it. I maintain, and you’re open to disagree with me if that’s your jam, that self-improvement is the highest form of self-care. Now I don’t want to seem like a pill pusher, but my self-improvement and self-care starts every day with a little pill, because I know that’s what I need.

You might need something different than I do, but if nothing seems to be helping then let me say: you have permission to see a doctor. You have permission to seek help. You have permission to put your health ahead of everything else, mama, because the world will keep turning and you deserve to be here to enjoy it. There’s no shame in the mental health game and it’s OK to seek help.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Binky Bell

Binky Bell is a stay-at-home mama to three little boys and wife to a burly bearded video game nerd. Stationed in Utah, she writes about peaceful parenting, personal development and the pursuit of a peaceful, happy life. 

Children Don’t Get Easier, We Just Get Stronger

In: Inspiration, Mental Health, Motherhood
Children Don't Get Easier, We Just Get Stronger

“This too shall pass.” As mothers, we cling to these words as we desperately hope to make it past whichever parenting stage currently holds us in its clutches. In the thick of newborn motherhood, through night wakings, constant nursing and finding our place in an unfamiliar world, we long for a future filled with more sleep and less crying. We can’t imagine any child or time being more difficult than right now. Then, a toddler bursts forth, a tornado of energy destroying everything in his wake. We hold our breath as he tests every possible limit and every inch of...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Have Anxiety—But My Husband Does

In: Health, Mental Health, Relationships
I Don't Have Anxiety—But My Husband Does

I don’t have anxiety but my husband does.  We should have realized this years ago but we missed it. The realization came suddenly and as soon as it popped in my mind, it came out of my mouth. “You have anxiety.” I said. He looked at me trying to determine if I was joking or serious. “I am serious, you have anxiety.” His eyes left mine and found his phone. He picked it up and said, “Hey Siri, give me the definition of anxiety.” As the virtual assistant read off the definition she may as well have been reading my man’s personality...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Sure How Long I’ll Need an Antidepressant to Feel Normal…and That’s OK

In: Cancer, Child Loss, Grief, Mental Health
I'm Not Sure How Long I'll Need an Antidepressant to Feel Normal...and That's OK

I tried to wean off of Zoloft and couldn’t. And that’s OK. I had never really been aware of the world of antidepressants. My life has been relatively uneventful—with the normal ups and downs that most of us go through. I knew people on medication for depression but never understood. How can you be THAT sad that you can’t just be positive and make the best of your circumstances? How can someone be THAT unhappy ALL the time to need medication? I didn’t get it. I felt bad for people going through it. Then my 2-year-old was diagnosed with Stage...

Keep Reading

To the Mom With the Anxious Soul

In: Journal, Mental Health, Motherhood
To the Mom With the Anxious Soul

I see you, mama. You’re the one sitting alone at the family party. You’re the one hovering a little too close to your sweet babies at the park. You’re the one standing in the bathroom at work for just a moment of quiet. Your thoughts are swirling constantly, faster and more fearful that a “regular” mama. You find yourself spaced out at times, and hyper aware at others. You’ve heard the words “just relax” and “everything is fine” more times than you care to count. Sometimes you wish you could make everyone understand why you are the way you are...

Keep Reading

I Know You’re Exhausted, Mama—But Experts Say You NEED That Momcation

In: Mental Health, Motherhood
I Know You're Exhausted, Mama—But Experts Say You NEED That Momcation

I waved as our old blue truck rolled down the road away from where I stood, planted on the sidewalk alone. There I was staring down my first solo stay away from my husband and sons, and the only thought I could muster up was what on Earth was I thinking planning a weekend to myself in the city?  Would my kids be okay without me? More like, would I be OK without them? The answer to both questions was of course, yes, but in that moment I couldn’t help but have doubt because, well, you know—”time off” doesn’t exactly...

Keep Reading

A Morning in the Life of a Mom With Anxiety

In: Child, Journal, Mental Health, Motherhood
A Morning in the Life of a Mom With Anxiety

I wake up to the sound of my kids in the kitchen, the morning sun peeping through my window. I immediately cringe at the thought of having to parent today. And why? Because my anxiety and depression is so strong that I want to curl up in a ball and cry. I start thinking about all the things I need to get done, and then I remember that one child has baseball practice for two hours tonight. The other child won’t want to go and will pitch a fit. I roll over to get the sun out of my eyes....

Keep Reading

Our Daughter Hated School; We Finally Discovered Why (and How to Help)

In: Child, Mental Health, School
Our Daughter Hated School; We Finally Discovered Why (and How to Help)

I wish we had clued in to our daughter’s generalized anxiety disorder a lot earlier then we did. It’s not for a lack of information available, it’s just that you don’t research it when you believe your child simply hates school. I mean our generation struggled with complicated friendships, PE class, and strict teachers too. Even our great-grandmothers had to survive the “mean girls”. So, our children will make it through, too, right? The problem is sometimes it’s more than just struggling to fit in; it’s a debilitating anxiety that leaves them feeling like they are treading in water over...

Keep Reading

What It Feels Like to Parent With Anxiety

In: Child, Mental Health, Motherhood
What It Feels Like to Parent With Anxiety

When my second child was born he wasn’t crying. I immediately sat up in the hospital bed and asked the nurses what was wrong. “He’s fine. Everything’s fine.” But I knew they were lying. A mother knows, and my anxiety-ridden heart was in full-blown panic until I knew my boy was OK. He had swallowed some meconium and turned blue as he struggled to breathe. He had a rough start, but in the end he really was fine. My heart, however, was not. Having anxiety is hard. Having anxiety when you are a mom can be crippling. When you are a mom with...

Keep Reading

To the Husband Whose Wife Has Depression

In: Mental Health, Relationships
To the Husband Whose Wife Has Depression

To the husband whose wife has depression,  First of all, it’s already a blessing to your wife that you have chosen her to spend the rest of your life, even eternity, with. Depression is never a battle you’d want to face alone. So having you as her companion, either standing next to her or carrying her in your arms and being that support to her (sometimes, even literally), is a gift she may not always be vocally appreciative of. But trust me, she is deeply and unequivocally grateful for it.  It’s no question that she has her “off” days when...

Keep Reading

Divorce is Not God’s Plan A

In: Faith, Mental Health, Relationships
Divorce is Not God's Plan A

Divorce is not God’s Plan A. How can it be? It violently tears apart two people God himself knit together. It rips to shreds the hearts of those who once stared into each other’s eyes and said “I love you”; it makes meaningless the words and promises of lifelong love, commitment and “death alone can part us”. One day there is love. Then, something deeper and stronger takes hold of that love and crushes it until it is dead. For me, that “something” was mental illness. It stole my husband. It destroyed my marriage. He was attending seminary to become...

Keep Reading