You feel like you’re on a perpetual roller coaster. You’re fine one minute, angry the next, and crying the moment after that. It certainly doesn’t help that stress contributes to hormonal fluctuations which causes mood swings. Your feelings are all over the place, so what do you do with them?
I didn’t struggle with depression or anxiety until after I lost Trevor. I was pretty even-tempered, so my emotions often shocked me by how strongly I felt at times or how quickly my feelings could change. It took a very long time (and medication) to feel anywhere near normal again. It’s been almost two years, and yet I still struggle with mood swings. Fortunately, they don’t occur as often, but depression is still a struggle sometimes. When circumstances get tough or I haven’t gotten enough sleep (child #4 is still not consistently sleeping through the night!), I tend to have a relapse. Sometimes it’s just being down or feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, it’s a complete, laying in my bed, sobbing for a long period of time meltdown.
First of all, it’s OK to have feelings, whatever they may be. After going through the trauma of losing your other half, it’s perfectly normal to feel all sorts of things and to feel them intensely. However, we have to be so careful what we do with them. It’s easy to sin in our anger, especially by snapping verbally at our kids since they’re the ones we’re around most of the time. It’s easy to become self-centered when we’re struggling with depression and neglect our responsibilities. Don’t ever make a choice based solely on feelings. According to Jeremiah, the heart is deceitful above all things. It’s OK to feel your feelings, but don’t be lead by them. Be lead by what you know is true. Be lead by what the Bible says, not by what you’re feeling at the moment.
The next thing that I’ve come to realize is that I’m an emotional wreck if I feel all of my feelings and those of my kids. I finally figured out that I was allowing myself to become depressed when one of my kids was or to become angry when one of them was upset. Not only can I not speak wisdom into the situation when I do this, it also adds chaos to the moment. I can help them so much more if I take a step back emotionally. I can validate their feelings and talk through a situation with them without feeling all of what they’re feeling. I can identify with them without taking on what they’re struggling with myself. This may seem obvious, but I think as moms, especially single moms, we’re prone to doing this because we hurt when our kids hurt. We have to be careful to empathize with them without taking on all of their emotional baggage. We can talk openly with them, pray with them, and pray for them without taking on their feelings. I have found parenting a lot less exhausting once I realized this.
Finally, there’s a few things that can help you sort through your feelings. You can pray and ask God to help you identify what you’re feeling and why. I have found journaling especially helpful for this. It also can be helpful to see a Christian counselor who is trained to help you talk through your feelings. Whatever you do, don’t stifle and ignore your feelings. They have a way of coming out.
You can also refer to this earlier blog about things I do to help me when I’m down: