How Depression Stole My Smile

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As a child, a friend of my father’s gave me the nickname “Smiley” because he said he never saw me without a smile. Even at the funeral of my own brother, he wrapped his arm around me and whispered, “You’re still smiling, Smiley.”

It was true. Every picture I have as a child and teen I had a smile on my face. But entering into adulthood, that changed. Looking back recently at pictures I realized, almost every candid shot anyone has taken of me shows a very sad individual. I just looked miserable. And after some reflection, I know a few of the reasons why.

Illness Made Me Too Sick To Smile

Depression and happiness quote, "Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory"

When I got pregnant with my first child, hyperemesis gravidarum stole my physical health from me. It stole my ability to go where I wanted, to walk outside, and to have a conversation. It especially stole my ability to eat.

Poor health is not something to be reckoned with but a lot of people don’t realize the effect it has on mental health as well. During that time,  I felt as though my life was over. My amazing husband pushed me to do as much as I could, but honestly I just didn’t want to.

I was miserable, and I was scared. This illness had stolen my health, and it began to steal my smile as well. But when my beautiful baby came into the world, it began to return again. Then when Charity was just six months old, I found out I was pregnant again.

This worsened my health, both physically and mentally. That second pregnancy created the most difficult episode of depression I believe I had faced in my entire life. But Kirsten brightened it all up.

Then came another positive pregnancy test. Kirsten was very little, only a few months old. And I was very scared. I didn’t know if I could handle another pregnancy so soon. With tears streaming down my face, I crawled back into bed with my husband and whispered, “It’s positive. I don’t know if I can do this.” God decided I couldn’t, and took that baby home with Him not too long after we knew. The heartbreak of that miscarriage cannot be described. And it thrust me back into the pit of despair.

Our third and fourth children were planned. We knew what to expect in terms of illness. But that didn’t make it easier. Health wise, I was slightly better than before, but the constant fears and remembrance of those early pregnancies were hard. But I was able to eat, and eat I did. Too much. So much that looking at my body then created more feelings of sadness.

Loneliness Destroyed The Reason To Smile

Loneliness is real and loneliness is scary. When my hyperemesis got bad enough that I had to quit my job, my husband had to take on another one. I wasn’t able to drive. I didn’t want to talk on the phone. So instead, I curled up in a ball on the couch and just cried. I was alone.

When my husband would encourage me to go to church or other places, I was so miserable physically that I couldn’t manage to engage with other people. I was too afraid I would puke in front of them. No one wanted to be around me, and I don’t blame them. I was a miserable person. But that led to loneliness. And loneliness stole yet more of my smile.

Church Made Me Afraid To Smile

It’s sad to have to include church in a list of reasons I lost my smile. But it belongs here because contrary to this quote, church isn’t always a place of healing, and sometimes people do feel they need to hide their problems. Unfortunately there are a lot of hurtful people in some places of worship. There is a lot of legalism and a lot of judgment. I want to say here that I am all for a good, loving, Biblical church. But sometimes church can hurt. I recommend you check out this post for more about this topic.

Comparison Said I Had No Right To Smile

Truer words have never been spoken. While it can be a lot of fun to see the new experiences and events of others, when we focus on those things, rather than on the good in our own lives, it can bring a feeling of complete depravity.

As a stay at homeschooling mom of four kids, it’s easy sometimes to say, “I wish I could get a job so we could have more financially like ______” or, “I wish the older kids went to school so I could have more time like ______” I have even found myself feeling upset because my kids weren’t invited to a birthday party. When I entertain thoughts like that, my smile vanishes.

But I Will Reclaim My Smile And This Is How!

An image of me and the smile I am reclaiming from depression

After that moment when my husband said the word “divorce” I realized something has to change. I have to break this cycle of depression and anxiety. And guess what? I’m doing it! I have looked back at pictures again, and I’ve been seeing my smile more and more. These are a few of the changes I have been making to my own life in attempt to reclaim my smile.

My Health Has To Improve

I have become addicted to Pepsi, like, seriously addicted. And it’s not a good thing by any means. I believe the pop, combined with constant snacking has had a lot to do with my weight gain. In addition, however, due to the previous illnesses, and depression, I have lost a lot of muscle tone and endurance. With my husband’s help, we are going to engage on a journey of healthier eating and exercising. I’m not really sure I can do it, but we are going to try. I want to be able to run and play with my kids without finding myself out of breath. And I am going to do my absolute best to get there!

Engaging With Others Has To Be A Priority

Even though I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t necessarily want to be around people, I am going to. I need the support of others. And I just need to see others, even when I can’t get up the courage to talk to them. I have returned to attending church. I signed my girls up for a community tee ball league. And I am trying to work up the courage to host a few play dates at our house. I’m not quite ready for that last one yet, but I am going to do my best.

Religion Is About God, Not People

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

While I am attending church, it is currently more about socialization than worshiping God. At this point in my life, for one reason or another, I do not seem to feel God in church. Rather, however, I am developing a close relationship with HIM like I used to have. I am doing this through personal Bible study and prayer.

Church can be great! If you commune with God there, good for you! If you are like me and struggle at church because of anxiety and depression, you need to read this post.

Social Media Has To Go

Social media has caused a lot of problems in my life with comparison. It’s so easy to see someone else’s life on a screen and not realize the struggles they have. You see the perfect pictures, the amazing birthday parties, and the homemade costumes.

But you don’t always see the screaming kids (and moms). You may not see the four outfit changes before that picture was taken. And so, to protect myself from this habit of comparison, I know deep down that social media has got to go. Although I have to admit, I’m not quite ready for that step yet.

Has your smile been stolen by depression? Do you smile as much as you used to? If not, what are you going to do to get it back?

Depression tried to steal a lot from me, especially my smile. But I am determined to get it back.

 

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Reclaiming The Smile