White Lights Lead to Red Lights, Red Lights Indicate the Exit. How to Find Forgiveness in the Dark.

I was all set to post 5 Quick Questions, volume 2 today because volume 1 was FUN. And we’ll get there this week. I promise. We’ll play together and laugh and gag at our computer screens when I tell you about stepping on disembodied mouse heads in the dark. Cross my heart.

But a comment arrived a couple days ago that waylaid me, friends. And it’s important. Essential, really. It’s important because it goes way beyond the Parenting Game and gets right to the heart. Right to soul. Right to core of How We Parent + Who We Are + Being Human + Survival.

Once upon a time, I wrote about bringing home our 2nd and 3rd kids. About how long we’d waited to adopt them. And about how amazing it was to finally have them… except when I realized I was in a dark, desolate mental place and so it turned out not to be amazing at all. I talked quite frankly in that post about how hard it is to forgive myself for that time. For living in the dark. For not being enough. For being, well, so totally human when my kids needed me to be so totally divine.

This week, a fellow mama found that post, and she commented.

I’m late to reading this, she said. I want to say I can forgive myself for giving in, but I can’t. I was so deep in the dark side that I did swallow that bottle of pills. Ambulances came, and my daughter, little at the time, had to explain to the neighbors at the bus stop that I was in the hospital, but she didn’t know why. My marriage was a shambles. I had to take months off work, leaving a classroom with no teacher. But the thing I can’t forgive myself for is that I almost left my daughter with no mother. I did put one foot in front of the other. I changed my meds and went to marriage counseling and saw my shrink regularly and I came through, my marriage survived, I survived, my family survived. I’m a better mother now. My daughter doesn’t remember that day, but I do, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself.

Have you been there, friends? Deep inside the dark? Where the despair already swallowed you whole? And where white lights should lead to red lights, and red lights should indicate the exit, but there are no damn lights at all? 

I have. Oh, I have BEEN THERE. Not with the swallowing of the pills. But in the middle of the crash landing, breathing in the smoke from the engine fires, and sure, certain, I wouldn’t survive it.

And forgiveness after crashing the mama plane? Forgiveness for being so very broken when my kids deserved peace? How do I do this forgiveness thing? And why would I try?

Sometimes, friends, sometimes clarity comes when we see a fellow mama’s story. Because it absolutely easier for me to offer her grace than it is to offer it to myself. And yet, when we’re gracious to another, we begin to see that grace belongs to all of us, yes? Even me.

Oh, mama, I wrote in reply. Oh, mama, you are worthy of absolute love… BOTH the you who lived in the dark and breathed desolation and drank despair and acted on the absence of hope, AND the you who survived and found enough of the light to live and love again.

I don’t have enough of the pieces of wisdom for forgiveness. But I do have one piece, and it’s this… I keep working to forgive myself because I want to see my children free. Free from shame. Free from beating themselves up. Free to throw their shoulders back and hold their heads high and accept the fullness of the light despite the inevitable time in the dark. And I don’t know how to teach them to release themselves from shame without setting an example of living in full freedom myself. I’m not there yet. I haven’t arrived. But I’ll set my feet on the forgiveness path as many times as it takes. Because forgiveness doesn’t just free ourselves. No. Forgiveness is one of the Wild Things, and a world of unreasonable grace is where I want to live.

So, friends, there’s my piece. My tiny bit. My white light. And I thought, perhaps, you might have a white light of your own. A gracious word. A bit of wisdom. A story of love to share, like the stories you shared with Not Evan when he needed to breathe joy.

It felt like there were no lights when I crash landed ten years ago. And maybe that’s the nature of the crash landing, I don’t know, to be lost and alone and blind and afraid. But I’m starting to think it doesn’t have to be that way. Not always. Or not for long. I’m starting to think that we might help each other find the exits a little sooner. That the exits may be closer than we know. And that if I add my white light to your white light to her white light to his white light, we may find our way together.

……….

 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
50 comments
  1. Beth,
    Stories like this are why I love to read this blog. I’m 18, with no kids, and not even really little siblings. There are lots of funny mommy blogs out there. There aren’t as many that directly address things I’ve dealt with. At 14 years old, my plane crashed. As the oldest, this was terrifying for me. I was used to being perfect, and suddenly, nothing was right. Reading how you, and other women, kept moving forward, and survived the plane crash gives me strength through the turbulence I’ve been starting to hit now that I’m in college. I also love your interpretation of God as Love. As someone who only truly found God a few years ago, it is so reassuring to see a woman who was raised Christian end up with the same conclusions and beliefs that I have discovered for myself.
    Thank you so much for finding your lights, and reminding me that they’re always there.
    God bless you

  2. Another one coming late to the post and saying thankyou.

    I had PND with both my kids, ending up in the psych ward when my little one was 18months and my older was 4. it was a long road back, I’ll be on meds for the rest of my life. Turns out I have mild bipolar too.

    I now foster babies, i am so thankful that I am well enough to do this, but all the time, I feel the guilt that I can give these babies things that I couldn’t give my own children. I don’t remember much of their first years, I know I was emotionally absent. They were loved of course, but not in the same “present” way these babies are.

    Having said that my kids are now 9 and 12 and they are awesome kids. They have so much empathy and understanding, I sometimes think they love these babies more than I do. I worry about the long term negative effects of their first years, but I can see positives in their characters too.

    After reading this post and replies, I am going to try and be more proud that I have gone from the psych ward on suicide watch to mothering these beautiful babies, it was hard but I did it! (with LOTS of help)

  3. I stumbled upon your blog today by way of a friend’s facebook post. I know this post is months old, but I am so incredibly grateful to have found it. I have read a couple of your posts about depression and I printed this one out. I am going to share it with my husband. I sit here crying my eyes out as I type, but I am feeling a little flicker of hope in what you wrote and the comments of so many of your readers.

    The last couple of years have been pretty difficult for my husband and me. Our youngest son was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2009 (he was 2 years old). He died on October 22, 2012, just 11 days after he turned 5. He fought so hard for 3 yrs., but ultimately his poor little body couldn’t fight massive infections brought on by his chemotherapy. I also learned I had cancer last year. I had breast cancer and had to have a bilateral mastectomy. I tell you this not to “tally up” our pain, but to give you a idea of the scope and weight of the blackness that presses down on us. We are both in talk therapy – alone and together – and my husband is on medications (his depression seems to be most severe).

    For me your blog posts have done a couple of things – first, I realize that I am likely suffering from depression in ways I hadn’t fully realized. I really thought I was doing “o.k.” relatively speaking, but your description of depression in one your posts talked about it as a visitor that doesn’t always look the same – so true. I will definitely be talking to my therapist about some of the things I have been experiencing (The enormity of effort it takes to socialize, the breakdown of communication with my husband and others, etc.). Second, your honesty (and that of some many of your readers) has given me some insight into the spiral of guilt that goes along with the depression. I think this is affecting my husband very much. Even though this is a “mommy blog,” I think it is just as relevant for Dads and frankly anyone who has people depending on them and loving them.

    We have an 11 year old son who is still with us and who needs his parents. He graciously understood when his brother’s needs took center stage so often in his life. He truly never complained about the time and attention his little brother received. In fact, he lavished his little brother with love and attention too. I am humbled to be a Mom to such courageous, generous and loving children. I owe it to them and myself to keep fighting my way out of the dark. It really does help to read about the struggles of others who have fought their way out. When I share this with my husband, I hope it will give him a lift as well. Regardless, it helped me, today, and that matters. Thank you.

    1. I just sent you an email, Dana. This is part of it:

      I haven’t lost a child. I don’t know what you’ve endured. But I do believe this: our most powerful expression of love as mothers is bearing witness to our children’s lives. Standing there, watching them, seeing them. You did that. Every once in a while, in tiny glimpses, we get to bear witness for other lives, too. And I want you to know, for this moment, I’m bearing witness to yours. I see you, mama. And you are beautiful.

      I am not Jewish, but did you know that there’s a Jewish tradition surrounding Proverbs 31, the passage about the virtuous woman? The opening line of the poem is translated “a woman of valor, who can find?” In Jewish culture, husbands memorize the poem to sing to their wives on the Sabbath. Rachel Held Evans, a Christian blogger, writes, “the praise is meant to be unconditional. But the blessing goes beyond the family. Ahava [an Orthodox Jew] explained that her Jewish friends cheer one another on with the blessing, celebrating everything from promotions, to pregnancies, to acts of mercy and justice, to battles with cancer with a hearty ‘eshet chayil!’ — woman of valor!” And so I want to say to you — for all the places this life has taken you, for bearing witness to the precious life and death of your younger son, for championing your older boy with such deep admiration, for releasing parts of your body, for enduring cancer of your own, for somehow navigating marriage in the midst of the dark, for reaching out with love to strangers, for continuing to fight your way out of dark… ESHET CHAYIL, Dana! Woman of Valor. And your husband? Ish Gibor Chayil! Mighty Man of Valor.

      Love to you all,
      Beth

      1. Dana, I will echo Beth’s words, you are a mighty woman of valour! You have endured and you are here. Loving and living, though scarred. xx

        And Beth, you are awesome! xx

  4. Beth, thank you for your down-to-the-core honesty. Corny as it may sound your honesty helps shine Light in dark places. I have no words to offer mostly because I probably don’t understand-guys can be a bit handicapped that way-even though we are sincere in our attempts. Blessings. I am praying for your words and wit to continue to be healing salve. I am grateful I get to see God at work in you and through you.

  5. Someone should live not because she is a mother but because she is a human being of her own worth. Too often when we have kids we’re automatically placed in the Mom category without any thoughts for our own needs. Don’t we get to be our own people? It’s like when you’re carrying a baby and people walk up to you and start talking to the baby without acknowledging you. Hasn’t that ever happened to you? It drives me crazy. By virtue of our motherhood, we cease to be women in the eyes of society. We’re not supposed to want things for ourselves, or have any sexuality or desires whatsoever that does not fit that of our husband (or boyfriend, or whoever).

  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is what I needed today. I’m in the dark, and have seen my doctor, and things are getting better. But as they get better, the guilt for the months that I literally have no memory of, that are just gone somewhere in the abyss is overwhelming sometimes. I just wanted to be enough, and I wasn’t. Not even close. My poor babies. My poor husband. Thank you for your words of hope and encouragement. Maybe it is okay that my husbands surgeries, and my postpartum hormones, and the money struggles, and losing my amazing father was just too much. Thank you for making me feel like seeing my doctor and getting medication isn’t giving up, but moving forward. Thank you Beth, and everyone else.

    1. “Maybe it is okay that my husbands surgeries, and my postpartum hormones, and the money struggles, and losing my amazing father was just too much.”

      I’ll just go ahead and tell you, Amber, that there’s no “maybe” here. It IS, in fact, okay — and very, very common — to have seasons when too much is just too much.

      “Seeing my doctor and getting medication isn’t giving up, but moving forward.” Yes. This is true, and even though Melissa’s comment above is about moving away from medication, this statement of hers is true for you, too: ““I see where I want to be and how I need to get there.”” What a beautiful thing, to be on a path to where you want to be.

      x’s and o’s

  7. My kids are bigs and sometimes I still struggle. On the meds I was on I know I was not the best Mama I could be. But the process of turning it around and forgiving myself has started.
    Over the past 2 month I have started that process of making changes in my life. Things that are important to me. There are still so many other things on my list. Most importantly was getting off the medicine that was making me not me. Making me numb like the things going on around me were not real. It’s been a wild ride these past few months to go from feeling nothing much to feeling the highs, lows, ands, ors, what if’s, and sometimes all these at once. It’s been liberating really. Next on my list is take control of and lose the weight that I feel this medicine caused me to gain. And today I decided the next step is sodas. I’m not sure how this will go, probably worse for my family with the caffiene withdrawals. But this to shall pass and for the first time in several years I see where I want to be and how I need to get there. And even with my insecurities and what ifs and I don’t knows I will get where I want to be.

    1. I love this story because it shows the both/and of meds. Thank you, Melissa, for sharing. Sometimes meds make things better. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they do for a while and then they don’t anymore. I was on my anti-depressants for 4 years. I’ve been off of them for 5. I’ll go back on them when I need them again.

      We’re the human kind of people. The kind who swing from well to unwell and back again. Sometimes we need a little help. Sometimes we need to make the swing move on our own. Both are OK.

      “I see where I want to be and how I need to get there.” Love to you as you make the swing.

  8. I’ve been there, in the dark place, and not being able to see the exit. Thinking there is no exit. I really don’t know what got me through. Just small things, putting one foot in front of the other. And friends.

    I wasn’t a mother then, so I don’t have to feel guilty about not being there. But there’s PLENTY to feel guilty about now, for being a stressed-out, yelling, and often unreasonable mother, instead of the wise, caring and patient one I want to be. So I know how hard it is to forgive yourself. We judge ourselves much harsher than we would ever judge someone else. Try to be gentle with yourself, like you would with a good friend or your child.

  9. Thank you to everyone for the comments and the stories. We’ve moved around a bit in the last few years so I don’t have the “mom” friends that others have to turn to…this blog and the comments help so much. We have 4 kids, ages 5, 5, 4 and almost 2, and we both work full time.

    I lost my dad when my twins were 6 months old. I remember crying at the funeral and the thought I remember most, selfish as it was, I didn’t know how I could raise children without his support. He was my constant to tell me I’m doing a good job when I needed to hear it. (My husband is supportive but he pushes me to do better – which is what I need most days but not every day.) And the thing with his death is that he really wasn’t ready to die, he wanted to continue living his life. Ironic enough, I got pregnant with my now 4 year old sometime around his funeral – and he was born on what would have been my dad’s 65 birthday. For someone who went through fertility for 2 1/2 years prior to her first set of children, that’s about as amazing to me as it gets.

    It really is helpful to hear there are others overwhelmed – with raising children, or being a child, or just daily life. I was fortunate in a way to go through my darkest time prior to my husband and children. I truly believe life is a gift and I’m lucky to still be living it. Some of us just need extra help – if you’re in the dark place, get the medication, get the therapy, get the support from this blog, wherever it may be, we’re all lucky to be living this life. And if you ever really are in that dark place, your children and your family are NOT better off without you. They need and want you here with them always.

  10. I will never forget the moment about three years ago, when I was strapping my baby girl into her car seat, which was on the traffic side of the minivan because her brother could climb into his seat himself on the other side of the car. I stood there buckling her and a car was approaching and I thought ‘I could just throw myself backward. If I do it fast enough, right at the last second, the car won’t see it coming and it could be over, just like that. I could be free from feeling like this.’

    Thank God there was enough rational thought left in me not to lean back. Thank God I was already in therapy so I could describe the moment to my therapist and she could help me make some sense of it – my life felt out of control and that was sort of the ultimate way I could feel a sense of control – I had a say in whether I lived or died.

    The worst part of all of this was that I had no good REASON to feel this way. I had everything – a devoted husband, two young boys and a baby girl, a job that was tolerable if not exactly joyful, lots of supportive family living nearby. And that just added to the shame spiral. I was miserable, and then I hated myself for BEING miserable, which only made me feel worse, and I just kept sinking down and down and down… and I could not see the light.

    Only now that I’m (mostly) healthy again – I say mostly because it takes daily effort – can I see how broken I really was back then. I can also see how far I’ve come. It makes me sad to think about the time I lost. The joy I could not fully experience because I was stuck in the darkness. But I’m working on forgiving myself for that because right now all I have is right now and I cannot allow that time in the darkness to block out any more light from my right-now life. And you know what? I think I’m a better mom because I worked my way out of the darkness. I think I’m able to live more fully and love more deeply because I got out of that hole – because I know now that I have the strength to pull myself out of that (with the help of a whole lot of grace and the amazing people around me). Beth, I also love your point about teaching your children to be free from shame. I want to grant myself some grace because I want my kids to know how to do that for themselves.

    I haven’t shared that part of my life with many people because it felt like something to be ashamed of. But reading about other moms feeling this way – even you, Beth, who makes me laugh and who I admire and have so much love for through my computer screen – makes me feel so much less alone and so much less like a failure. So I’m sharing here out of solidarity. I’ve been there too. And to all those women who are there right now – it will get better. The light is there. And you have the support and love of a whole community of women who’ve felt the same despair that you’re feeling right now. Sending love, gratitude, hope, and peace through the internet. I hope it is felt by at least one person who really needs it.

    1. On a practical note, I just want to add that talk-therapy was key for me. Making that first phone call to set up a session was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it took three full years of work, work, work that did not always feel like it was leading anywhere. But talking it through was an important way for me to learn how to change my internal dialogue. Yes, there are two voices inside of me (crazy lady alert!), and finally the tender, reassuring voice is louder than the mean, berating voice – although the mean voice is still there. Anyway, Andrea, if you have access to counseling I highly recommend it. Kristi Forehand Newman said it above brilliantly: “Do whatever you have to do to make it through each day and find your lights. Find a doctor, take medication, find your faith, find your muse. Accept what works.”

    2. Dear Eleanor,

      First off, I love your name. 🙂

      Second, I know your comment here is from quite a while back, but I had to reply. I identify with WAY more of your post/comment than I wish I did. After my baby girl was born I took a walk one day by the canal, and suddenly thought “I could just throw myself in.” And since I can’t swim, well, you know. It scared me. It scared me worse than anything has ever scared me before. I already knew I was in a dark place. A very dark place. But I didn’t realize it was THAT dark until that very moment. I tried to get help. I went to see a counselor. But the one meeting was such a bad experience that I was afraid to try again. So I just talked to my mom, my hubby, and my best friend. That was it. To everyone else, I just kept trying to smile and keep going like I always had. It wasn’t just the birth of my baby that put me in the place. It was the accumulation of so many, many things. Getting married and becoming a mom to two (almost) teen boys in the same day, realizing said teen boys were basically toddlers that I would have to teach and train and try to do the best I could in a few short years to make them MEN so that they could function on their own, the miscarriage of our first child, the death of my little Nana six weeks later, my husband being unemployed more than employed during the first 3 years of marriage, my father having a surgery that should have been not such a big deal and almost dying because the doctors put on pain meds he was HORRIBLY allergic to, my brother having serious health issues, and more – but this list is getting ridiculously long. But when I spell it all out, it makes me think maybe I have a right to feel more than a bit crazy. It makes me think maybe I have reason to feel discouraged, beat up, alone, and depressed.

      In any case, for right now at this moment… hubby is unemployed. Again. And we just recently found out I am pregnant. Again. (SURPRISE!!) I am less than thrilled. And I’ve been feeling ever so guilty, because I never want a child of mine to feel unwanted. I hope my feelings change as the pregnancy goes on. But I’m scared. And overwhelmed. And while things feel very dark right now, I don’t ever, ever, EVER, want to get back to THAT dark place. So. I have an appointment set up for next week to go talk to a maternal mental health counselor. Here’s hoping she can help me ward off the scary dark places and get back to where it’s light and peaceful. Even if everything isn’t perfect.

      Thank you for sharing part of your story. I’m afraid I’ve written a book in response. 🙂

      1. Ruby,

        I’m not sure how I ended up here… reading these comments, but it feels like it was meant to be.

        I see you. I see your courage to reach out for help. I see you taking steps to do what is best for you (and your family.) Positive thoughts are being sent your way as you navigate a second child and reminders of dark places.

        May love and light surround you!

  11. As mama’s we always look at what our kids have accomplished not what they didn’t do in the past. And as mama’s we should also look at ourselves in that same light. For those of us who have been in that dark place for one reason or another at one time or many times in our lives. Be so extremely proud of yourself for coming out of the dark whether you did it by yourself or recognized you needed help. YOU DID IT!!! And that isn’t something to feel guility about or hide from. YOU DID IT!!! And that is the best present you can give your kids.

    I LOVE Gaylin’s post from the child’s perspect. Kids are so resilient. Each day you place guilt on yourself they are affected somehow. The kids have long forgiven you (regardless if they even knew about your dark place) so forgive yourself and stop affected them even to this day. BE FREE! YOU DID IT!!

  12. I’ve been there in the dark. I’m just starting to dig myself out. I have no words of wisdom to share, but wanted to say that even in something so dark, if feels good to find someone who’s been there too. Someone who understands. I look back on a few short weeks ago, and can’t believe I could have been so selfish to think that my children would be better off without me. There are still times when I feel like I don’t deserve them, that I am and will always be an awful mother. Thank you for sharing some of your light, it gives me hope that maybe one day I will feel like I am enough.

  13. Please forgive my double commenting. I am FLOORED. Beth, you have no idea how amazing and far-reaching your funny little blog has become. We all have our own perceptions of how everyone else is doing, and although my heart breaks for these other awesome moms sharing their dark stories, I am so, so , SO thankful that they are doing it. We just need to come clean and tell it like it really is. My first baby, on whom I had pinned all my adolescent hopes and dreams was colicky for what seemed like her whole first year. I thought she hated me. Inadequate can’t begin to explain how I felt. Her 2 brothers and 2 sisters all were born in the next 11 years, and honestly, as much as my 19 year old pie-in-the-sky self believed that I was born to be a mother, looking back I can’t believe I actually DID keep them alive. And we also started our family while (briefly) in the military, and it seemed like ALL the other marines were either single or cheating. My husband was NEVER faithful. And whose fault did I think that was? Mine. And while I spent what I know now was truly years in a considerable depression, my babies were quite literally raising themselves. This tears me up every time I think about it, because I will never get those years – those years that I should have been loving and cherishing every moment of-back. There are some horrible details that I will leave for another day, but suffice it to say that the thought of separation and divorce caused me unimaginable grief for a short period of time, and then I finally began to heal. Though I was raised in church, I had fallen away during this time (one more thing to feel guilty about – just what my children really needed I witheld!) And then I met this truly wonderful man who loves me the right way, and we have this awesome little boy. And we have a loving and supportive church family.
    The bottom line is, I had no hope. And now life is wonderful. (At the core, anyway. I still find plenty of things to complain about, and my house is not clean, and we have no time, and, and and………….) Remember that you are precious. God loves you, and He will not give up on you. And you found this blog, where all of us imperfect, real moms hang out.

    1. Oh, and also – yes, there were anti-depressants and counseling sessions. Please, Andrea look into that if you need to. There is no shame in trying to get better – we all need help of some kind, sometime. Do it for yourself, do it for your kids.

  14. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your stories… and thank you, Beth, for this post. I am not a mother yet, so I am commenting as a daughter:

    I grew up with parents who had ‘addictive personalities’ (food, drugs, drinking, gambling, work, etc.). My father was diagnosed with clinical depression and occasionally bordered on being suicidal, while my mother has an anxiety disorder. I grew up in a very unpredictable household and I have many negative stories from my childhood related to their behavior. Now in my 30’s, I have spent the last several years trying to work through my anger and to understand why things had to be “so hard”. I have a good relationship with my parents now, after years of talking things out. My father cried as he apologized for being absent during depressive periods and for times when he might have scared me or hurt my feelings. My mother beats herself up about things she wishes she could go back and change. Each conversation, I tell them “…even when you ___, I always knew that you loved me”, which is true. Over time, I realized how much their actions resulted from self-hatred and the inability to forgive themselves. Dark thoughts led to the desire/need to escape in whatever way and I had to go along for the ride… Understanding the root of all that negativity helped me forgive as their child and I wish they could forgive themselves. I am alive, I am loved, I have learned many lessons (some the hard way, some with loving care), and I am strong even when I don’t feel like I am.

    For the mamas who are guilt-ridden over times you let your children down (perceived or actual), love is the only thing that truly matters. Recognizing your mistakes and forgiving yourself is an act of love for your children (as well as for yourself). Staying alive for your children when you would rather be “done” is a crucial act of love for ALL, as is seeking help. Perfection is unattainable, no matter how much you want it or how much society sells it. My sister calls herself “Mother of The Year” in that self-deprecating tone so often, yet her children are happy and well-adjusted and love her endlessly even on those hard days when she loves them but doesn’t like them very much at all. Aside from making it easier to understand and forgive, I have learned a lot from my parents as they have shared their struggles with me which helps me deal with my own obstacles in life. In the darkest times, there was light I didn’t see… and there was a lot of love.

    P.S. I used to equate ‘forgiveness’ with condoning an action (mine or someone else’s) and I always resisted because of that until I saw a quote that really hit close to home: “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed”. As long as we’re still here, there is always the next action and the next opportunity to be kinder to ourselves and others.

    1. I may have to reconsider the meds thing… but to the point of this reply, here’s another definition of forgiveness that has greatly helped me deal with the past:

      “You have forgiven someone when you no longer require them to feel the same pain you did when they hurt you”
      Nothing about forgetting here, everything about healing for you (and for them if they want it).

  15. Oh, the tears. How many of us have – and are – struggling alone? Thinking we’re the only one. For me, the lights only came with time. I needed the pregnancies and the nursing to stop. I also needed to learn how to be honest with myself.

    I do remember one time, when I was thinking that my kids wouldn’t be any worse off without me, that my dad just told me I was doing a good job, even if it wasn’t everything I thought it should be. That wonderful man has always seen right to my heart, for better or worse.

    Those of you in the middle of the dark, know that there are men and women all over the world right now, crying for you, hurting for you and your babies, praying you find the lights. Because even if we’ve never met you, we know your worth.
    You. Are. Important.
    You. Matter.
    Do whatever you have to do to make it through each day and find your lights. Find a doctor, take medication, find your faith, find your muse. Accept what works.

  16. Oh, Andrea, if I could come and hold your hand, I would. I hope you can find a light, and someone close by to help you see it. My light was my little girl. I looked at her, and I knew I couldn’t leave her. My lights were lots of doctors, and family who loved me, and my mom who lived with us for two months just so there would be dinner and clean laundry. My lights were antidepressants and mood stabilizers and sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills. My lights were going back to work (Beth, I think you’ve been living my life) and learning to say “no” once in a while. Everyday you get out of bed, you are being the best mama you can be.

    Thanks to Beth, and all of you, for helping me see that.

  17. Thank you. Just…thank you. xo

  18. I’m in the dark right now, I can’t find a light. Every time I think I see a flicker of light it’s extinguished before I can tell where it is coming from. My ten years of being a stay at home mom, married to a military man is all but gone. Because of his choices I suffer and the only thing that keeps me from walking into the ocean and not trying to swim back out is because of my 4 children. I battle every day to get out of bed to get the older kids to school and I continue to battle to make sure my youngest is fed. But in the end I just want to quit. I don’t want to get up and face yet another day of pain. When does the light start to come, because I’m tired of waiting.

    1. Sending love, Andrea, and wishing I could send more because sometimes “sending love” is just not adequate.

      My lights over time came in the form of anti-depressant medication, anti-anxiety medication, sleeping medication (medicate much, Beth? why yes, yes I did, and I’m so proud I did something to help myself), counseling (although I quit after 3 years when I realized I didn’t have the time or energy to be that angry anymore… I still intend to go back someday), friends (from whom I stopped hiding the shit), finding a job outside the home that allowed me some breathing room (turns out I didn’t rock stay-at-home-parenting like I thought I should), and now, writing as honestly as I can.

      To tell the truth, my lights didn’t look like I thought they would. I thought I’d be rescued by God or my husband or my children or my friends. Instead, I had to examine a lot of the rules of my faith, my marriage, my job as a mama, and my expectations for myself. I had to spread out my doubts. I had to take a good hard look at what to keep and what was killing my soul. It was hard. And, ultimately, honest and good and true and real.

      I don’t know whether that makes any sense at all. Or any difference. It’s just my story because that’s what I have. But I’ll give you the real one, and I won’t sugarcoat the pain. I live with some measure of it still.

      Thank you for telling your story, too. The real one with the pain. That’s a gift. I don’t know if you know it. But it’s a gift. There are other mamas who are slamming their fists on the exit doors, too, and now they know they’re not alone.

      xoxo, Andrea. Still sending love. Inadequate, hopeful, prayerful, painful love.

      1. Thank you. I never thought I could feel such love and support from strangers. Maybe the love and knowledge of other mothers who have been in similar situations is the light I needed. It still seems very dark and it still seems to hard to continue but I believe the light hasn’t been extinguished this time. Thank you so much for your reply and thank you to “*that* mama” for taking time to write a stranger in need.

        1. I second Beth’s suggestion of medication. As one doctor put it, “If your arm was broken, you wouldn’t be expected to fix it yourself – you would come to a doctor and get some help! Why is your depleted seratonin level any different?” Another once told me about The Cup of Cope. Every day you pour a little more out of your cup of cope, and unless you have a way to replenish that cup, you will run out of the ability to cope.

          Sometimes, medicine is what replenishes, sometimes it’s exercise, sometimes it’s therapy, sometimes it’s prayer/meditation. Whatever it is for you, get help from a professional and surrender to the idea that the world wants you to be well and everyone loves you even if we don’t know you. We are all better if you’re better. Take care and don’t let this go another day. Do one tiny thing today. Call your doctor and ask for an appointment to get some help with depression so you can function – you are not alone!

          1. Hi Andrea,

            I don’t know you, but I felt compelled to respond to your post. I couldn’t “like” your comment, because it seems strange to “like” a comment that has so much pain in it. However, I wanted to let you know that your comment was read – your words did not go out into a vacuum. I know I will never meet you, but I will be praying for you and for your 4 children today. I know that’s not tangible, but it’s all I can offer. Please keep on keeping on. There will be a light someday. I don’t know when, but it will be there. Hugs from far away.

    2. Andrea, I will also pray for you. I’ve been in the dark. And now the dark comes and goes. Get some help from your doctor – medication really does help. There is light, don’t give up on finding it please! xx

  19. While I never swallowed the pills, I did make my husband hide knives and my razor and bathe the kids during my year of postpartum depression. My 4 and 2 year old daughters were raised by the TV that year and the baby and I cried a lot (he had colic on top of everything). I fed everyone breakfast and lunch and my husband did dinner and we counted it a success that no one was hungry or dead for the whole year. I like to tell myself I’m forgiven for that time, but sometimes it feels like a lie. I KNOW, Mama. I bet you’re a good one. I hope I am too.

  20. Okay, I’m crying. This hit a nerve. I’ve been in the dark place more than once. Cathie said words I could have written myself. Gaylin made me cry and hope desperately for that mercy. And it’s interesting that you felt compelled to share this today, because I have been hovering on the brink of a black hole today, not understanding why and angry with myself for even being in the neighborhood again. Thank you all. This helped a little.

  21. I too have been in the dark. Wondering why I couldn’t be happy with the tiny, perfect person in my arms. Why was it that his tiny cries made my head fuzzy and my heart sink. I didn’t have a bottle of pills in hand, but I did start systematically trying to push people away. I was a monster, not worthy of love or support. Luckily, my doctor noticed the difference and I got the help I needed. I have to forgive myself because my kids don’t deserve a guilt ridden mother. They deserve a strong, present mom. I will be what they see in me even when I feel less.

  22. I do not have children. I am on the other end of this feeling. When I was 11, my 16 year old brother died. My parents both went awol whether in mind, body or spirit, at different times while he was sick for 6 months and for many months after his death. This was in 1971 when there was no help for families of a child with cancer, no direction, no counselling, nothing. My 77 year old mother still doesn’t understand why we still love her.

    Because she is my mom. End of story. Forgive yourself because your children love you.

    As an adult, I came to understand that I needed help and I got it. Because I am worth it, because the past cannot be allowed to win.

    As all those ads say on tv, it will get better.

    1. That’s what I think about….if I can’t forgive myself, I am calling all those people who love me “stupid”…

  23. Yes.
    Been there. Also not with the pills, but at the time I thought it was only because I was a coward. And not enough. And wished I’d never been born. And how on earth could I possibly have been a decent mom when I was completely and utterly disfunctional? And now, when I have come out of the depths of despair I still have no forgiveness for the me that was back then.

  24. Many moons ago, before I had any responsibilities other than myself, I was dealt a heavy one-two punch by life – therapists still marvel at the unlikely timing of two back to back unrelated rapes within a two week period. I sank rapidly into depression unlike anything most people understand. I was totally totally totally lost within. The fabric of my understanding of the world was torn. I tried to end the pain in a number of ways – one was a sad attempt at a permanent ending and several others were less permanent and fumbling. I wanted to be numb, and I was most of the time. I never faced any guilt associated with my desire to escape – but I should have because if I had died I would have left behind a family and friends who would never have recovered from their loss. Somehow in the process of being a ‘victim’ I also became the criminal by trying to take my life from those who loved me. It would have broken lives if I had died, my husband wouldn’t have been my husband and my children would never have been born. And I’m only getting clear about this as I write it. Beth is right, it helps to write to someone else to get clear about self. So all that to say, guilt has no place in this moment in time – in my life or in yours. Though you will probably never escape memories of that time, the greatest injustice you can do now is to feel anything but pride that you survived and grace that you were given that chance to continue living. You survived so you can live and contribute, so you can be you, even if that YOU is changed or different or flawed or feeling raw still. Celebrate your survival from a pit of despair that most people can’t fathom. Find a way to celebrate daily. Forgive yourself by celebrating a life well-lived.

  25. I don’t have any great words, and I’m still kind of drying tears after reading the above, but I pray that this mama knows that many of us have been there, even if we didn’t have that bottle of pills. I was in such a dark place after having my first son, and felt alone because nobody took the time to tell me that they’d been there, too. It took me a long time to forgive myself for not liking my own child, but I did get there.

    Right now I’m having to forgive myself daily when I want to blame myself for the post-partum anxiety that I have. Anxiety that makes me muster all of my strength to get out of bed in the morning and face the day, where I know not everything will go the way I want, because life is messy and imperfect. I blame myself because I swore I would never let myself be affected by things out of my control, like hormones. I think I forgot how big that monster can be.

    This time, though, I know I’m not alone. That is what makes all the difference. Others care, love me, and remind me that God’s grace covers everything we do, even when we feel like He can’t possibly reach us at our lows. It’s what allows me to see at night that at least for one day the world didn’t fall apart, and chances are I’ll survive tomorrow.

    That’s my light. May it help somebody get another step closer, and I’ll try to follow it, too.

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