My children began their school years in our local elementary school. Every day we’d wake up, eat breakfast, and walk up the hill to the bus stop. I’d wave good-bye as they drove away, return home, and begin doing whatever it was I was doing that day. I became an involved parent in the classroom and around the school. The office staff knew my voice and my name. I ignored the piece of my heart that ached when I’d miss my children during the day.
I continued counseling and my psychiatrist kept increasing the dosage of my medication. One session she looked at me. “I cannot increase this anymore. You are taking the maximum dosage. We need to discuss what is causing your depression.” You see, the voices had ceased speaking years before, but the overwhelming feeling of dread never went away. I had to get to the source of my pain if I was going to get better.
I had been sexually abused as a child. Later, at the age of 17, I left my family and moved to Oregon. There I met my husband, married, and 4 years later became a mother. I was now the mother of three children who were being taught things I didn’t agree with in school. I was married to a man I didn’t love. I went to a church with beliefs I no longer believed. Instead of facing reality, I was sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch begging her to medicate away my pain.
In 2007 my father-in-law suddenly died of lung cancer, and my world started falling apart. My relationship with my husband was crumbling. Our children were pushing us away. Our business was failing. I was struggling with depression. We’d lost hope. Then my husband had a CRAZY idea. “Let’s buy an RV and travel across the country.”
Yes, because when everything is going wrong the best thing to do is just run away from it all.
We made plans, hired an operations manager for the business, bought a travel trailer, and informed the school our children would not be back in the fall. June 27, 2010 we began “The Great Escape.” For two months we traveled around the western United States. Something happened that I didn’t expect — I fell deeply in love with my children. I released control over my children and began to just love them for who they were. I had no idea that parenting them the way I had longed to be parented would heal my heart and bring relief from depression.
I began homeschooling in September 2010 with plans to spend the next few years traveling across the country. Once I let go of the whole “school-at-home” idea and began to homeschool, the depression started leaving. As I gave my children permission to explore what they wanted, I began to allow myself to explore what I wanted. As I encouraged them to try new things, I began to try new things. As I began to tell them people could be trusted and life was meant to live to the fullest, I began to believe I could trust and live life fully. It wasn’t just my children who were changed by homeschooling … homeschooling changed me.
I discovered I like traveling. Writing. Photography. Stalking Watching Birds. I discovered my favorite evening activity is curled up on a couch, kids snuggled, reading Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle. I discovered I love the way my soul feels standing next to an ocean, hearing the waves and soaking in the feel of the spray on my face. I discovered that although I reject my childhood faith, I love Jesus more than seagulls love french fries. Although I’m not a domesticated, traditional type of woman, I love my children deeper than anything I could ever describe. I explored every inch of life with my kids until one day I found the depression no longer controlled me.
I left for a trip to Nashville last month. As I was leaving, my daughter, the one who was pushing me away in 2010, came running out to the car. She threw her arms around me and said, “Do you think our relationship is good?” Before I could answer, she continued “Because I think it’s really good. I love you and will miss you and that’s why I want you to come home.” My heart burst into pieces. I kept back tears. I drove away thankful to know those years of depression have been replaced by these years of joy.
My journey still continues. There is no cure for depression. Although the symptoms are recessed, I will manage it the rest of my life. I’m off all medications and use natural practices to keep my chemistry and mood balanced. If/when it flares again I am prepared. I’m at peace with who I am, where I am, and what I am. The dark nights of desperation are behind me, and I look forward to these years of parenting teens, navigating college, and guiding my children into adulthood. I will always have regrets but being a momma will never be one of them.
Thank you for reading my story. I pray that you found hope in my words. Depression can suck the life out of you, but you don’t have to surrender to it. Please know that you are not alone…that there is life after depression.