May is Mental Health Month. Seems like a good idea–to have a month focusing on mental health–when it is month 15 of a relentless pandemic that requires us to do the very thing that gives life to living–connection.
Sometimes, it’s not important to change your mind or give you advice or push for you to feel better. Sometimes, it’s good for a person just to know they are not alone.
That others have made it through a hard time. A bit of hope. A story of hope. Just thought I’d share a phone call I recently received.
I had come to her mind because she was caught at a train crossing waiting for the train to pass.
N was walking to work and while she waited at the crossing, she called to thank me.
Let me explain.
N and I were in a playgroup when our children were young. 4 moms—each overwhelmed in our own ways with a toddler and a baby. We met one morning a week for a couple of years.
The idea was that the children would play together while we visited.
Nice idea—but it never worked.
One or the other of us was always up helping one child learn to share instead of steal toys. Endless poopy diaper changes, tantrum calming, toy-pulling struggles (“I had it first!”), or “boo-boo” soothing. It was chaotic—and sometimes seemed more trouble than it was worth.
Winter weather often required us to gather in a home, but when we could, we sought to meet in a park outside. Our hope was to have the fresh air and open space exhaust our little ones to get a brief respite in the afternoon while they slept. Sometimes that worked.
The park we often gathered was close to N’s house—she didn’t have a car and it was near enough for her to pull a wagon or sled with her two to the park to meet us.
The trick was this: to get to the park, N had to cross over railroad tracks.
Her depression didn’t want her to walk over the tracks—rather, the pull was to lie on them and wait for the train. The pull was strong, and we held our breath until she arrived at the park, pulling the kids behind her.
Scorecard- N:1 Train tracks: 0
Life was hard for N—the layering of post-partum depression on top of grief on top of more depression threatened to sink her.
The playgroup, as frustrating as it was at times, was a lifeline for her.
The play group was a chance for us moms to support each other—to buoy each other up during those effortful, exhausting and dreary days of parenting preschoolers. The playgroup was our effort to help keep N alive. When she felt so much pain it was hard for her to stay living—we were a support.
What she didn’t know that as we supported her, it was good for us. I didn’t quit the playground because of N—but the group meant I got out and was with other moms, discovering my struggles weren’t unusual.
N’s kids grew out of diapers, and she went on to finish her university.
Meds, therapy, prayer, friendship. Rinse and repeat.
Our children are all grown up now.
Her son was in the wedding party for my son’s wedding and vice versa. Beautiful kids—all of them.
And now, when she crosses a railway crossing, she doesn’t think about lying down on it—she thinks about calling a friend to express her gratitude. Goodness is in her spirit. Her call made my day.
Some of you might wonder if your depression will ever get better. N wondered that too.