Depression: The days no one talks about.

We all know that fun-loving girl who loves to get a crowd laughing. She isn’t above embarrassing herself to create joy, laughter and bonding with others. Connecting with others causes a euphoria, a false high to bottoming out lows.  The connection and camaraderie feeds her soul. Communication, sharing, and involvement makes her feel heard, necessary and valid. But when the last person leaves and the silence sets in – she waivers between appreciating the silence and depreciated worth. She laughs more than anyone you know, but cries when the world can’t see.

Depression belongs to very convincing actors, often comedians, class clowns and lighthearted people who mostly are fun and overly selfless. Because in selflessness, making someone else happier, someone else whole– we forget temporarily that we are lacking and broken. And, no one wants to be or admit that we’re broken. The truth though is that we are all broken.

Broken carries a stigma, broken doesn’t feel fixable, broken feels heavy, insurmountable, and nearly impossible to share. Depression sometimes feels like screaming as loud as you can, and no audible sound comes out. Your body is paralyzed, your voice is mute and your mind deceives you and plays games that only the enemy can win. We need to know people feel this way. We need to make others aware that depression exists and what it looks like. Depression is not taboo, it is real.

Stop for just a moment, right where you are in reading this and think of a time that you felt the most alone, that you felt hopeless, unlovable, unreachable and non-existent. If you’ve never felt this before, I am asking you to imagine it, imagine your child feeling that way, a spouse, or a friend, a co-worker, maybe a neighbor even. And, then think how often you didn’t even realize someone was battling depression. Battling – suffering – living… these are words used to describe it

Most people won’t recognize depression. That is why so many are shocked when they learn of a loved ones suicide attempt or death. People won’t always understand you or me. They can’t see the feeling in your eyes, when life pulls you down as if it swept your feet from you in an undertow. They won’t understand that your heart is not built like theirs and even though you’re stronger than most and have made it through some awful things, you still get hurt. Words hurt, silence hurts, absence hurts – not being visible to other’s hurts, but the hardest is not being understood.

If you know me, I am willing to bet that you wouldn’t consider me as someone who lives with depression, but I do. Depression exists in a menagerie of personalities and those it affects can range from suffering from or living with depression. I live with it. The days I am speaking of are the very days getting out of bed is more difficult and truthfully sometimes impossible. Are those days often? No. I’m fortunate that when my depression hits, I know my lows intimately enough to know what I feel, is not always actual and I trust my God.

Depression robs us of hope, the heaviness of this spirit is meant to crush you, and wants to steal your faith, and isolate you. If I am feeling something that is heavy, I feel it only to process it and then to release it. The healing is in the release of the lies, the release of the shame and the release of the enemy’s hold on us. 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Depression is the devil’s playground, he makes you think, say and act like someone else. He pulls you into a swinging motion of highs and lows and moments when he fools you into thinking you’ve beat it, only to celebrate and feast at the moment you fail again. Resilience is tricky, it manifests in you a sense that you can just pick back up where you left off and try to get further this time. And some like myself, can. But some don’t. And a few of the ones that can’t will never speak of it until it is found in a scribbled note written with fear and pain in a moment they feel completely alone.

I don’t want you to write that note, or find that note. I want the idea of that note to fade away as an option. It is not weak to admit having depression, it is not weak to ask for help or to talk to someone who can help. That is strength and powerfully beautiful. That is loosening the enemies grip and reminding him that God is in charge and what he has set you apart for, is no longer the enemies playground for deceit and pain.

Resisting the enemy, places you in faith. Action creates faith, and with courage you can make the enemy flee. The opposite of depression is gratitude. Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – Isaiah 61:3

Take back your life, minimize the suffering and know it gets better. You can call these numbers below, and visit these sites for more information. You are fully loved and deserve to feel safe to heal.

Sucide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/ TEXT: HOME to 741741

National Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

We got married on New Year’s Eve. In our living room, wearing slippers.

My son and daughter stood beside me, and his son stood beside him and at about a quarter to midnight we shared vows that held more meaning and love then ever uttered by either of us before. We counted down with our friends to midnight and shared our forever kiss under our chandelier, in my $20 Ross Dress For Less dress, wearing our slippers in our very own living room. My heart was finally home.

Fuzzy leopard slippers no less. When I look back at photos of the night I married my best friend, I can’t help but smile. For as long as I can remember I wanted to get married at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Is there anything more romantic?! There is something about the excitement behind whoever you kiss at midnight being who you spend the next year with. Which meant if you married at midnight and sealed the vow with a kiss, you’d spend all your years together.

Both of us having been divorced were well versed in those vows not holding weight or sealing much of anything. However, as we dated we both taught each other what commitment looked like, felt like, sounded like and meant. This time around we wanted a different outcome, and when that is your goal, changes are a necessity. To be honest I think we both felt as though we were unlovable and unwanted when we first met.

Our Living Room

Neither of us had any intention of marriage and that was the last thing I needed to try once again. We were friends though, at first. I remember my daughter being upset when I said I was going to date my now-husband. She said, “mom, that is gross he is your best friend, you can’t date your best friend!” and she was really upset about that. Little did she know that him being my best friend is exactly what I needed. That and a whole lot of time.

We dated just shy of a year before living together, and three years before he proposed in the snow with the help of our kiddos. Then I waited a year of being engaged before we were married. Four years of our seven years together were dating and learning about what committing to not just each other, but to our children meant. And, that was the best decision for us.

Finishing Touches

We invited a few of those closest to us and decided to turn our living room into a ceiling to floor billowing ivory chiffon dream. Beneath the chiffon, our normally plain walls were covered in lights to add to the ambiance. I found a beautiful chandelier and with the help of friends and family, we pulled together all the little Pinterest ideas my heart could handle. It was nothing fancy, just love. Beautifully simple love.

Home sweet chapel.

My son and daughter stood beside me, and his son stood beside him and at about a quarter to midnight, we shared vows that held more meaning and love than ever uttered by either of us before. We counted down with our friends to midnight and shared our forever kiss under our overstock chandelier, in my $20 Ross Dress For Less dress, wearing slippers in our very own living room. My heart was finally home.

A love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries and this love is priceless.

Why I added my stepson into an old photograph.

This photo now shows all that it had before and so much more. It isn’t just the addition of another person; it showcases life. Real, down to the nitty-gritty life in all it’s glory and differences. It shows dedication, commitment and choosing each other – even on the really difficult days. The days when people who have been blessed in not experiencing the blending of two families, will almost always misunderstand us. The days when I’m told I will never be his “real” mom because he has a biological mother already. The days he is told he is not my “real” son because I didn’t give him life. Those are the days we choose each other more and now we are very much mother and son.

The photograph below was taken on my 34th birthday and it has been a favorite of mine for many years. When you look at this photograph you see a mother, son and daughter. When I look at it I see protection, love and strength surrounding our little family of three.

THREE PEAS IN A POD

Sweetly tucked just under my wing, yet still standing on her own is my daughter Gracie. Her beauty has always taken my breath away and her independence has always tested my strength while educating me simultaneously. This girl differs from the rest. She is an original. I see a young girl who loved softball and had dreams of becoming a lawyer and attending Harvard.

On my back is my son Gage. Just look at his sweet face and how he’s proud to wrap both his arms around his momma, but is still held up by me. He loved his momma more than anything and his sissy was a close second. Baseball and basketball were life, and he had dreams of being in the MLB or NBA.

Then there is me, proudly standing on my own two feet. No matter how many times I fell down, I always got back up. I became well-versed in God’s redirection and going back to the drawing board, editing and revising my life until I became a better woman and mother. I see a woman falling in love with herself for the first time and making her children proud. This photo became my life’s mission statement a visual anthem that said together, we had everything we needed and could make it through anything.

It is crazy how much history and memories a single photo can hold. On this exact day my boyfriend was preparing a surprise birthday party for me at my home. We had started dated seven months before and he had a son from a previous marriage, Cole. Cole and Gage knew each other from school and introduced us because Cole’s dad was the boys baseball coach. I was in a stage to push everyone away and pull my children closer. I was fine with a boyfriend, but not marriage, and most definitely not another son.

His son. That is what Cole was, he was my boyfriend’s son. He was unique and unlike my children. I struggled to understand and connect with him. He wanted to be just like his dad and their bond was unlike anything I had ever witnessed between a father a son. There was no room for me. If we walked beside each other, Cole would come in between us. He liked me but he didn’t like me having any attention that could be his. It was difficult to navigate and I won’t lie and say I didn’t get frustrated, cry and want out.

After a year of dating, we moved in together. Things were still challenging, but I loved his father, so we committed to making it work. Cole desperately missed having a mother, and I wanted no part in that. If you read my post, No, you already have a mom, then you know the story already. He’d ask to call me mom, and I’d say no. Yet, I did all the things a mother would do for her child. We spent countless hours at the dining table doing homework, working with teachers, reminding him to brush his teeth, to change his underwear, doctor’s appointment’s and everyday mothering. He had everything he needed. I just left the loving part to his dad. I couldn’t bring myself to be his mom plus he had a “real” mom, and I had my “real” children too. It was us three plus them two and it didn’t equal five. It equaled three and two.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

One day by the grace of God, things changed, my heart softened and became protective of him. There was a moment when I could no longer sit by and watch as Cole was let down and hurt. I realized that the person letting him down was not the only one; I was letting him down too. He had not stopped asking to call me Mom, and it was clear he needed me to say, yes. Maybe, I needed to say yes too, so I did.

From that moment Cole became my son, my real son. He didn’t become my son when his father and I eventually married three years later. Or at a point when he was more pleasing or easier to love – he became my son in the middle of messiness and a storm. He became my son the day he chose me, the day he asked me to be his mom, and the day I chose him in return. God placed us together knowing that storms make trees take deeper roots and two trees intertwined were stronger than one.

For approximately six months I’ve looked at this old photo of my sweet babies and I, knowing and feeling that something was missing. Each time I would share it, I felt a twinge in my heart that something was missing. Then I realized the something missing, wasn’t a something, it was a someone.

In a world where stepparents are cropping/editing out or even just leaving their stepchildren out all together, I wanted to add in mine. Luckily I have a dear friend who helped me re-create the first photo with the addition of Cole. My heart (and possibly Cole’s) needed him in this photograph that reminded me occasionally of who I am today as a woman and mother because he is just as much a part of who’ve grown into and become over the years.

ALL MY BABIES IN ONE BEAUTIFUL PHOTO

This photo now shows all that it had before and so much more. It isn’t just the addition of another person; it showcases life. Real, down to the nitty-gritty life in all its glory and differences. It shows dedication, commitment and choosing each other – even on the difficult days. The days when people who have been blessed in not experiencing the blending of two families, will almost always misunderstand us. The days when I’m told I will never be his “real” mom because he has a biological mother already. The days he is told he is not my “real” son because I didn’t give him life. Those are the days we choose each other more and now we are very much mother and son.

When I look at this new picture, I still see my beautiful and independent daughter who now has made room for another brother and wants to be a Science & AG teacher instead of a lawyer. Gage is still on my back, still smaller than most and loves his momma and basketball, but now wants to be a Veterinarian. Right in the middle where he belongs is my other son, Cole. I see a handsome young man who loves with a very open, gracious and giving heart. I see someone who selflessly spent hours every day for at least a week if not longer making me a Christmas present that no other parent received. I see a boy who came into my life scared of losing his father to a woman he thought was trying to take his place when all I wanted to do was share it. And, who just wanted a normal family with a mother and father – like I did. Cole is who I needed to become a better woman and mother, and I like to think I am who he needed to help him become a better man.

Being a parent has zero to do with biology and 100% to do with love and choice. Sometimes that choice is not ours to make but Gods, and he reminds us that while it may not always be easy, it is always worth it and for our good. Three plus two now equals a family of five. A real family.

The Man That Stays.

The love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries. I still believe this. Now, let me preface this with saying, no, I don’t think he loved me enough for the both of us or that I think someone has the capability of loving us back to normal. But what I am saying is that while I was learning what real love was and commitment meant, what it entailed, and the seriousness of my vows made to him – I also saw the person in myself that he was choosing to love each day.

Thank you.

The biggest disadvantage in my life has been loving temporary people, permanently. I’ve done this my entire life with not just loved ones but also romantic relationships and friendships.

Friends excite me. There is this enjoyment I experience in meeting new people, hearing their stories and the connection that follows. You know that feeling when you really click with someone and you just want to experience everything with this new friend?! That is me. And, I come on way too strong. Every time. It’s like I stick a fork in a light socket – its explosive, bright and exciting – until all power is lost and I’m left alone sitting in the dark.

So, when I decided to try yet again with not just love, but marriage –  the majority of people thought (maybe still think) I was crazy. But as we continue our adventure in this life, our 7th year together, I’m pretty sure God provided me with a blessing of a man who carried a couple extra buckets.

The love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries. I still believe this. Now, let me preface this with saying, no, I don’t think he loved me enough for the both of us or that I think someone has the capability of loving us back to normal. But what I am saying is that while I was learning what real love was and commitment meant, what it entailed, and the seriousness of my vows made to him – I also saw the person in myself that he was choosing to love each day.

This is a letter to my husband –

Broken women, run. We do, and often without notice or even our own knowledge. It is second nature to leave before being left. The thought of being valued, appreciated and wanted is unimaginable. And, the desire to find a man to love you when you are still learning to love yourself runs deep. We just want to be loved and accepted.

That is a whole heck-of a lot of baggage for one man. Yet you picked up each of my bags and built a home with me. You helped me unpack, sort and discard the items that I no longer needed to travel with – because my traveling days were over unless they included you. When my stubborn streaks and independence was full of “I don’t need you” and “I can do it all on my own” – you stepped back and let me do just that. And, patiently waited for me to come to terms with the beauty of wanting a partner and wanting the help – not needing it.

When my days crumble and go to crap and nothing makes sense, you let me collapse into your lap, sink my face into the side of your neck and cry, piss and moan or pout. When my hormones are out of whack and I am throwing a tantrum that makes a two-year-old jealous – you don’t engage. When my actions are full of quit and you see that I am preparing for you to do the same, you don’t. When my words and actions make zero sense or I am just flat out being a pain in the butt, you have no problem telling me to, “cut the crap!” And, then try kissing me. It is super weird, you are super weird  – but I love that.

If we argue – it’s quick. Mostly because my memory is shot – but still. If we disagree – we talk it out and then agree that I was right – okay, okay – mostly right. You laugh at my corny jokes and love that I get mushy over hallmark movies. You make goofy snap chat videos with me, and will retake pictures until my double chin doesn’t show. You watch the Real Housewives, and This is Us with me too – and possibly when I am not in the room. You let my daughter, now your daughter, paint your toes that one time, remember? Oh, and do you remember that time you dressed up as Olaf for Halloween? Yep, you are that man, that husband – that makes his wife happy. That matters you know, more than you realize.

You tell me I am beautiful without even looking at me – which at first bothered me because I thought beauty was visually pleasing. Until the day I was un-showered, hair thrown up in a messy bun, zero makeup – probably looking all kinds of unkempt – and you looked me in the eyes, pulled me close and told me, “I’m so in love with you and you are so beautiful.” It was then that it clicked, you see me differently. You see me with love.

You stepped in as a father, a coach, a friend and a support for my children. You’ve been reminded you are not their father, and then loved as being one. You’ve gifted me another son and afforded my heart the ability to stretch even bigger than I imagined it could. You showed me the beauty of understanding and meaning my vows. Love doesn’t always make sense. But it always makes a choice. It chooses to give the benefit of the doubt. It chooses to trust. It chooses to listen, care and hope. Most of all, love chooses to STAY. Sometimes, to be honest, I wonder if you were dropped on your head as a child, because that is the only explainable reason you could possibly love me as much as you do. Remind me to thank your parents next time I see them for possibly being inattentive.

You are the man that chose the remaining pieces let over. The scraps, if you will. It’s incredible the sustenance and substance you can find in what someone else discarded. I’ve learned commitment from you. I’ve learned unconditional love from you. I’ve learned what a real, godly and faith driven marriage is from you. And, I love you endlessly and want to say thank you for loving and choosing me everyday.

Friends with Benefits (of the doubt) and the Ten C’s.

We are not the others cancellation. We are collaborators doing life together. If your own friends can’t celebrate you than who can? And, if you can’t celebrate your friends then you need to reevaluate how you are “friending.” Being a friend’s cheerleader in life should be a desire that comes wholeheartedly and without any fear of being or receiving less because of it. You purpose set aside by God will never lessen or dissolve by another’s gain or step ahead.

“If you want a friend, first you must be a friend.” I’m sure you have heard this quote before but what I am curious about is if you believe it? Because if I am honest and blunt – two qualities that are sometimes like a bad gift, re-gifted until finally appreciated by the right recipient – then I would say most people don’t want a true friend. They want an agreeable friend.

The problem with that is that a true friend isn’t always agreeable. Friendship means the combination of affection, loyalty, love, respect, and trust. How can you possibly love, respect or trust someone who stands beside you with the sole intent of being pleasing to you instead of being more concerned with being a true friend to you?

There are ten C’s to friendship. I call these the ingredients to Friends with benefits – of the doubt. With these ten C’s put into action within your friendships not only will they thrive but you’ll recognize the difference between a friendship who benefits them or a friendship that benefits you both.

Communication & Contribution. There must be open and honest communication for any relationship to strive, especially a friendship. And, it is a two-way street. Conversations don’t work well when they are one sided. They may be nice if you want to be right all the time, but if you think you’re right all the time, you are already wrong! So. There’s that. Both communication and contribution require feedback and action on both sides. On the days when they can’t pull the full weight of the friendship, you take on the task. You pick up where the other lacks. If you feel hurt, speak it. If you miss them, say it. If you want to see them, get your tush in the car and drop by. The days of “the phone works both ways so they could call me if I mattered to them” only works if you are calling too. So, call your friend!

Consideration. This is one of my top two favorites of the C’s. The reason being is that if consideration is given to any relationship it’s as if it’s the nutrients underground that causes it to grow. The true benefit of a friend is for them to know you well enough to know you meant better. If someone says something that hurts you, but you give them the consideration you already know they deserve, and the benefit of the doubt before you take on any anger or hurt – you’ve already won. A true friend won’t choose to hurt you. When a true friend apologizes to me when they think they have hurt me, my response is “I know your heart, and I know your intentions always come from a good place.” That consideration saves us both wasted time in a sea of assumptions and what ifs that can drown a skilled sailor. By the way, what-ifs usually don’t happen so give your wandering mind and sensitive heart a breather.  

Celebration. The girls and tribes that surround each other at each life event and celebrate them, are women after my own heart. You lost 10 lbs, heck yes girl! You got a new job, let’s go to dinner and celebrate! You got the job I applied for too, the better person for the job, won. We are not the others cancellation. We are collaborators doing life together. If your own friends can’t celebrate you than who can? And, if you can’t celebrate your friends then you need to reevaluate how you are “friending.” Being a friend’s cheerleader in life should be a desire that comes wholeheartedly and without any fear of being or receiving less because of it. You purpose set aside by God will never lessen or dissolve by another’s gain or step ahead. Grab a megaphone and shout how awesome your friend did and how proud you are to know a woman who goes for what she wants!

Confrontation and Condoning. Odd right? These two are my FAVORITES. What are these two C’s doing here and how do these two attributes benefit or define a true friendship? Easy. A true friend will confront you and will not condone bad behavior. And, this causes one of the biggest demises in friendships. Who wants a friend that doesn’t accept them treating the other poorly? Or a friend that says you shouldn’t cheat on your spouse? Or, that you should not allow someone to abuse you. God does and I do. We are not here to tell someone it is okay for them to set themselves up to self-destruct or to destroy others. The sin of passivity tells us just that. We are not to idly sit by and do nothing. And, when a friend does something to us, that is wrong, you are supposed to call them out on it. (Matthew 18:15-17) You pull them aside, address the issue face to face, remedy the issue and then forgive. That is friendship. Yet, so many want to be passive and pleasing – or to have others be that way to them. Not me, I want the truth, I want to be held accountable and questioned when necessary. If I am wrong, I will own it and make amends. That is how we grow. (James 4:17, NIV)

Challenge, Confidence & Competition. There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, right?! But, why are we competitive and how do we benefit? When we see others doing well, we want to do well. That is why people create like-minded circles to work-out, do bible studies with, etc. because can learn so much from the people around us who want better and more for us. I love a friend that challenges me, that adds a dose of healthy competition because they can see my ability as stronger than I can. And, this over time builds confidence, not just in yourself, but in your friendship. When you can sit with someone and they can see you need a boost of confidence and they not only help with that but celebrate when you step up to the challenge, that is beautiful!

Ah, the final C, and the most important, Christ. You had to know this was coming! If you’re not into God, or the bible and I just lost you – please keep reading. Because if you want to be a better friend, it starts with wanting to be a better christian. Christ is love and if we enter any relationship through love – it’s a game changer. With my friendships I’ve realized a great many of them were as if I walked through a crowd and picked from the most broken of people. A beautiful sentiment in part because who that is broken doesn’t deserve or want to be loved? After all God loves me and I have been broken most of my life. (Ecclesiastes 4:19-12)

I love first. I commit first. I do all these C’s first – jumping in with both feet and praying I make a big splash. That splash is for God. You see, it isn’t even about me in the end – it’s about him. That friend that walked away from me, that is okay because I know I did just as God says I should. That friend that needed someone at 1 am and never spoke to me again, that was God using me to help them. I’ve not lost friends; I’ve just been re-purposed to a new friend for whatever he needs of me. And, as a pinch to grow an inch, I’ll throw in a little extra C solely for his glory. Completely. Love others as such, just as he loves us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7