Dear Mama: What If It Isn’t Depression?

You’ve come through the infamous “fourth trimester.” Your baby is smiling and cooing, possibly sleeping regular intervals, and has probably taken over your social media feed. You’ve started to find your “new normal” and are incorporating your favorite friends and activities into your new baby-filled life–at least, you would–

Except that you can’t get yourself to want to.

As owner of a birth support company for nearly 9 years, I have worked with a lot of postpartum mothers who feel depressed. Now that I have moved into therapy and sat with women who are long past that fourth trimester (and often go years into parenthood before talking to me), I have come to witness something very important. Something I was unable to identify as a doula, and also unable recognize in myself when I was the new mother.

You are lonely.

The reason loneliness is so difficult to identify is that you are never actually alone. In fact, if anyone were to ask what you might wish for the most on a daily basis, it would likely just be time to yourself for a bath, or a chance to go for a run, or take a nap.

Of course, there are the community groups and Bible studies that you join, hoping to have adult conversation. But with those come  changed nap schedules, required contributions to the snack table, and the unfair comparisons that you tend to draw between yourself (and your children) and the other mothers who attend. You sometimes leave feeling sad and more alone than ever, not because you are depressed–but because you are lonely.

It’s not just you.

You are not the only one who feels this way.

While loneliness is not exactly a positive emotion, simply calling it by the right word is very empowering. It is not depression; it is merely a need to connect with the right people in the right way. 

Deciding what you need to solve loneliness is a much simpler question, with far fewer implications about you, than you may think. Take a few minutes to think about what it would really look like for your to find your tribe. (Snack-free events? Physical activity? Comparison-free zones?) It might be as simple as finding a walking buddy.

Whatever you decide would work for you, know that it is worth it to keep searching until you find your fit.

 

 

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner and  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator. She is the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC and the founder of the Adopt-A-Mom Project. She authored Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and is the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.

 

 

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I’ll Listen For You

I was invited into argument recently. It was tempting and juicy, challenging my character as a person as well as the experiences I have had and the knowledge I have gleaned from them (or have not gleaned, in the opinion of the other).

The Truth

The truth is, I am seasoned in the art of self-preserving argument. I was raised in it by the traits of a loved one who, rest his soul, trained me up in it. I have known, my whole life, the pain of being accused of being less than I am. Of my motives being false. Of my heart or mind being deceived. All for funsies. (Doesn’t that sound fun?)

Yes, the truth is, I have spent numerous occasions throughout my life wondering whether I ever saw myself correctly at all. Because when they are coming from someone you love so dearly, the accusations carry such ridiculous weight. It can take days, weeks, months to shake them off.

So It Happened

So it happened that somebody else did that to me recently. It was as unfair here as it was in the prior predicaments, and as untrue.

Of course you probably know, I am now a therapist. I help people with this type of thing regularly. But here I was. Vulnerable and human, and triggered. Having incorrectly learned from my own faulty experiences that saying anything at all just adds fuel to the fire, I was stuck.

I’ll Listen For You

A few years ago I met the most beautiful soul. She is twisty and complicated and always says more –in meaning, not words–than I expect. It is the greatest compliment I have ever given myself, to call her my soul twin.

She has leaned hard on me in recent days. Her path is pain-ridden like mine, the messaging she received so similar. And yet she shines. In all God’s glory, this woman shines.

So leaning back in, I asked her. Not for advice, though she is qualified to give it. But for her to listen for me. Because I was upset and in that state where I just could not hear God.

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I have been thinking a lot since that interaction. My friend did hear God for me and did deliver to me some deliciously empowering instructions from the ONE who LOVES ME. And it has called to my attention, perhaps now more than ever, how much we need each other. How badly we need just one person to hear our struggle without naming us with it. And I want you to know.

When it is you. When it is your heart that is hurting. When it is your belief or your identity or your calling or your purpose or your belonging in this world in question. When YOU are under attack.

I will listen for you.

I just want you to know that.

 

Jennifer DeBrito,CSP CCLD, CCBE was a Doula and Childbirth Educator in Colorado Springs. She authored Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and created the Christian Childbirth Class Expectant Parents Workshop. With a passion for all women in every stage of life, Jennifer now works as a Master Splankna Therapist, and serves the community as founder of Eden’s Promise, LLC and their nonprofit project, Adopt-A-Mom.

 

What Do You Need?

This week after a painful experience with feeling rejected, I poured out my heart to God. All of the under-the-surface thoughts. The feelings. The questions. I put it all out there, had a good cry, and went to bed.

I was awakened sometime in the middle of the night with this question: “What do you need?” and I replied, “I just need to hear you better.” I went back to sleep.

I went about my life, of course, just like we all do in the midst of our hurt and questions. I think it was Thursday by the time I realized I was having a recurring dream each night with the theme of a calming, peaceful, crystal clear pool of clean water – with someone in it, quietly waiting for me to follow him.

So as I hopped on my stationary bike Thursday morning I pulled out the trusty interpretation book I like to use:

Water: (1) The Holy Spirit (flowing water); (2) The Word of God (still water); (3) Cleansing; (4) Heart; (5) Desire for God (thirsting); (6) Prayers; (7) Peoples; (8) Peace (still waters); (9) Calm (still water); (10) In the Spirit (in the water); …(includes more references about dirty water that don’t apply)

Clear water: (1) Holy Spirit; (2) Life; (3) Cleansing; (4) God’s word

And then it occurred to me that I had read something new earlier this week.  Somewhere in between underlined places in my Bible about confrontation and generosity, God had whispered something to me. And there he was, waiting to lead me back into it.

Offering personal, conversational instruction right there in black and white, God had already told me exactly what I was asking, before I had even asked it. And then he waited for me. Every night, he waited there in that pool of water, inviting me back into his Word so that I could know what he had to say about it.

I don’t know if this will mean anything to you but I am going to record it here for my own sake regarding God’s plans for me:

“And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:10)

And then today in reviewing more, I was also brought here where God spoke to me about the sorrow I have carried as a result of the conflict:

“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (2 Corinthians 7:11)

I can’t express the magnitude of the questions I was asking. Identity. Purpose. The big stuff.

All of it in 2 verses. Answered. Solved. Encouraged. “Keep Going.”

So I ask you this today: What do you need?  Are you pouring out your heart over something, but feel like you are missing the answer? Perhaps it has been waiting there in the still water; in the palm of your hand, inside your closed Bible, like mine was this week.

Pray – Test – Pray

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The last few times I have mentioned Splankna Therapy, I have noticed a new reaction: “Oh, muscle testing. Yes, I have heard of that.” Or, “Tapping. I have heard of that.”

Splankna is not synonymous with the methods it uses, but these people are on the right track.

I describe Splankna a few different ways. Today, the holistic approach of this pray-test-pray protocol. Listen with your heart and weigh it for yourself in prayer. If it’s not for you, no worries.  Stay discerning and hunger after Him. He’ll find you there on your path. But for those who resonate with what I’m saying here, lean in. He’ll meet you right here, too.

How we work: We are created to be comprised of body, mind (soul), and spirit. We are not and cannot ever be more body than mind or spirit, or mind than body or spirit, or spirit than body or mind. We are created in the image of God, who is also a triune Being. (For more on this, check out Expectant Parents Workshop: Study Guide).

  •  Body: Due to this inseparable connection, we do not just store or experience thoughts and emotions in our brain. Our full body, along with the brain, is a fascinating network of electrical impulses and neurochemicals regulated by the brain (and possibly even vice-versa). A helpful way to view it is like this: if our conscious mind is the computer screen, then our body is the hard drive.
  • Mind (Soul): Our mind is constantly working to make sense of our surroundings. Our subconscious (though flawed and biased) is very aware, and from a very young age (in utero, to be exact), it starts working to help us. Recognizing any situation that looks or feels like a situation we have experienced before, it will scan the body for stored information. Particularly if the information found is negative, it can be applied to (theoretically) help us avoid that type of experience again. The information is connected to our present circumstance, and is then utilized to “fuel” our response. (This is why sometimes we can recognize that our heightened response does not match the severity of a current situation, such as in PTSD or anxiety).
  • Spirit: As believers, we know that the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour us. In the moments described above, we are vulnerable. The enemy isn’t looking for a worthy opponent; he is looking for an easy win. So it is in these moments that he’ll present us with an offer for help which, in a quick and subconscious decision, can make sense to us. And although our battle was already won on the cross, the enemy is not finished deceiving and will lie, cheat, and steal to gain our agreement in order to move us out from under God’s authority in any way possible. This isn’t always a salvation issue, but it can be (and yes, unbelievers CAN and HAVE found salvation through Splankna) .

Connecting the dots: recognizing that these vulnerable times are confusing, we are wise to seek a little help with figuring out how our perception has been skewed from what is actually going on (aka, Truth seeking). We are blind to ourselves, and can end up caught in some of our coping mechanisms in order to survive, without a map on how to get back to where we started. That’s where the muscle testing and “tapping” come in. Using muscle testing, we create an emotional “map” to figure out how we landed in a given agreement with the enemy. Along the way, we also release the “fuel” of old situations using methods such as EFT (“Tapping”) and EMDR. We are then able to approach God with clear eyes and sincere hearts. We can confess that we were “punk’d” and admit the ways we chose to step outside of His authority. And HE responds every time in his covenant of love, because that is who He is.

And we can receive His mercy, and experience His healing.

 

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner and  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator. She is the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC and the founder of the Adopt-A-Mom Project. She authored Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and is the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.

 

 

 

Dear “Lost-Decade” Me

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candles-71089_1280Dear Lost-Decade Me,

That’s what they call it, you know. That span of time when you placed yourself on hold because you had children whose diapers and organic food and boo-boo’s weren’t going to fix themselves.

Those years when your name was MOMMOMMMMOMMM and sticky little fingers would slide under the bathroom door as you rested or cried or snarfed down some chocolate. And then you brought yet another human into the world all over again and somehow kept TWO of them alive.

You stayed in the trenches with them despite the tactile overload and postpartum depression and knowledge that your husband rather missed the old, carefree you. You successfully taught them how to not eat buttons or rocks, but more importantly, also how to love.

I am proud of you.

That whole-hearted commitment you put out there was really good stuff. I mean, like WOW. Since nobody ever really told you that, I am here to say it: Good job. You will not regret it.

There are few more things I would like you to know, too. Not about you-the-mom, but about you-the-you.

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Adopt-A-Mom Project

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 6 years since Eden’s Promise was “born.”

I remember when I was first getting started, a lone doula with no mentor.

A friend asked me, “So what’s the promise?”

I confessed that I didn’t really know yet.

Today, as I look back on that time, I see that something secret had already been placed on my heart. I didn’t understand how to explain “the promise” and I definitely didn’t know how it would unfold. I still had years of “heart work” ahead of me in which I would be simultaneously kneeling before God’s throne to untangle my own story, and helping other women to step into motherhood with strength and dignity.

I guess God knows that’s how I learn: hand me a scrambled, messy picture and I’ll make a game of connecting the dots.

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Mommy, Don’t Cry

A Glimpse Into the Emotional Lives of Mothers

By Jennifer DeBrito, Founder of Eden’s Promise, LLC

In the time since having my first child, I have personally faced the possibility of divorce more than once. I have lost a brother to alcoholism. I have *almost* lost a child.

I remember the first time my son caught me crying. He was maybe 2. I don’t know why I said it this way, but I remember explaining to him that my tears were “sad bubbles” coming out. He put his chubby little hand on my shoulder, and stood quietly with me until I regained my composure. It was sweet. And awful. I remember thinking, “Never again.”

Fast-forward nearly a decade, to today. Talking about life, a therapist friend of mine asks me, “Don’t you ever just cry and let it all out?” I respond, “When am I supposed to cry? My kids are with me all the time.”

She is quiet.

The way that the enemy uses our convictions against us is astounding. Prowling near me during that “never again” moment, I imagine him adding a whispered, “no matter what.” And I see that from that point on, instead of processing my emotions normally, my children witnessed me stuffing them away.

The point is, we are not wrong to shelter our children from our hardships. They are our children, not our friends—at least not yet. And they are most certainly not our therapists. But it is our responsibility to teach them to recognize and honor their emotions, and handle them in normal and healthy ways. This begins with how they observe us.

Moms, you don’t have to be facing divorce, loss, or illness to be suffering. (Although, statistically, many of you are.) Lack of sleep, tactile overload, and a never-ending laundry pile are enough for most of us to break once in a while, too. The question is, how are you going to handle it?

If we want our children to grow into adults who process emotions well, it might mean that we need to ask for help. For me, that has translated into doing things like taking on a mentor who runs a household like clockwork. And yes, it has even meant saddling up and heading to therapy. Don’t be ashamed to to do whatever is needed for your children to be happy and healthy.

 

 

 

Not sure where to turn? Contact Eden’s Promise for assistance in finding the right resources for you.

Photo courtesy Danielle Victoria Photography

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner and  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator. She is the owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC and the founder of the Eden’s Promise Initiative. She authored Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and is the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.