My eyes reluctantly opened. For a split second, I wondered if I would feel different today. But at that very moment, the smallest whisper of anxiety washed over me. I knew. That day the same black cloud would hang ominously over me just as it had the past month. There was nothing that I wanted more than to pull the covers up over my head and pretend that the day hadn’t come, pretend that I had no responsibilities.
My feet hit the floor heavily. I barely managed to trudge to my dining room table, the spot where I had perched every day for the last thirty days. I almost didn’t sit down. I almost turned around and went back to my bed to pull the covers up over my head. I knew what waited for me at that table. I would sit there, zoned out as often as possible, and then, when someone tried to talk to me, I would cry. I didn’t want to cry again. I had cried enough. I would sit there and watch my life happen without me. I would wish that I could get up and serve my family like I had done every day faithfully for the last nine years. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t run away forever, so I sat down at my spot at the table. At least there, my kids would remember what I looked like.
Post Adoption Depression
You see, we had just made a life-altering decision. We had adopted a child from our state's foster care system. It was something that we had wanted to do for so very long. Two years before, we were inspired to adopt when we enjoyed Sonlight History / Bible / Literature B & C and read about Gladys Aylward and George Mueller.
It had taken two years to get through the adoption process from start to finish. The waiting seemed like forever. But, once we finished our paperwork, we were quickly matched with a waiting child, and he was living with us full time within two weeks. My life had rapidly changed, and I don’t handle change all that well. I quickly spiraled into what I now know is post-adoption depression.
I had always been so happy. I was one of those almost obnoxious people who smiles constantly for no apparent reason. This depression was a total shock to me and my family.
I can remember sitting in my spot at the table across from my oldest son, asking him through tears, “Are you okay?” He looked at me with big eyes and said, “Mom, I’m okay. We’re all okay, but are you okay?” He was barely nine years old. Of course, the tears started flowing. It pained me to know that my child knew that I wasn’t okay.
Finally, my husband, who had been a champion for our family during my dark days, carrying so much of the daily load, sat down in the chair next to my spot at the table, and said, “We’ve got to do something. We need you back.” I knew he was right. I had been present in body, but absent emotionally for far too long.
I needed help. We needed help. My family needed me back.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
The first thing that nudged me forward was the realization that it’s okay to not be okay. I had just gone through a major life change. My life looked completely different within the span of one month. It was okay for me to need more time to adjust.
Then, I sought God. I didn’t feel like it, but I did it anyway. As a result, I found that while I truly trusted God, I wasn’t practicing it. I knew that God had led us to adopt, and I knew that despite the way I felt, I wouldn’t have changed the decision we made. I knew that I would have been miserable to know that I had a child out there that wasn’t under our roof.
Although my heart knew that we had done exactly what God wanted us to do, my head was working overtime to give all the reasons why it was a terrible idea. At that point, I realized I needed to change my thoughts. So I decided that every morning, when my feet hit the floor, I would repeat, “I trust You, God” as many times as I needed to. Any time during the day, when I felt the familiar palm sweats of anxiety rising, I would simply state, “I trust You, God.” Before long, I began to remember that God is in charge of my life, and he was unfolding this beautiful story in a way that only He could.
Do the Next Thing
My sister gave me some of the best advice. She had been through postpartum depression, and she knew what I was feeling. She said, “I’ve been there. Depression stinks, but it doesn’t last forever. Just do the next thing.”
So that’s what I did.
I didn’t think about the future. I didn’t consider my to-do list. I just did the next thing that was in front of me.
The more I applied this principle, the more I realized that I had actually gotten a few things accomplished. That felt really good, and it encouraged me to do the next thing, and eventually, over time, I fell back into my regular routine.
Using a curriculum like Sonlight made homeschooling through depression easier since I didn't have to make lesson plans. I just opened the Instructor's Guide and did the next thing, not worrying about staying on schedule.
Simplify Everything…and Then Simplify It Again
My family needed me, but the smallest tasks seemed monumental during these dark, foggy days of depression. So I knew I had to put a few things on autopilot. The key here was minimizing the number of decisions I had to make each day.
Our menu was one of those things. My husband helped me to create a simple weekly menu. No new recipes—just old favorites.
- Every Monday night was spaghetti night.
- On Tuesdays we had tacos.
- Wednesdays were PB & J sandwiches.
- On Thursdays, we ate soup.
- On Fridays, I bought a frozen casserole or pizza.
Not having to make those daily decisions took a huge burden off my shoulders, and there was a surprise benefit…my family loved it! We still use this menu system today.
When you are facing depression while homeschooling, it's okay to scale back in every area. Cut back your homeschool subjects to the three R's. Let your kids work as independently as possible. Allow older kids to take care of some of the read alouds. Or take a break altogether. That’s okay too.
Very few people knew that I was depressed. Even fewer knew the extent to which I was depressed. I was very good at putting on a good face when I needed to. I wish I hadn’t been so good at it. I wish that I had let more people in to see the mess that I was. But God was good. He sent help that lifted my spirits at strategic points in my depression.
Once, our dryer broke and someone from church came over and picked up all six loads of laundry, took them home, washed, dried, folded, and delivered them back to me. That was like a breeze on a hot summer day to my weary soul.
Others spoke encouraging words when they didn’t even know that I needed them so desperately. People messaged me and checked on me. During this season, I sent my youngest child to a baby-sitter during the day. As much as my family and friends rallied around me, I still felt that I needed more. So I sought medical help. If you are struggling, there is no shame in medication or counseling. In fact, it’s a wise thing to do.
Give Yourself Grace
I gave myself lots of grace during this time…buckets of grace. I gained 30 pounds that first year after our adoption, and I wanted to be mad at myself, but I just couldn’t. Not counting the calories of everything that went into my mouth was one of the ways that I survived that year. Now, two years and several pounds later, I am finally on the road to get my health back on track. But I don’t resent those pounds. I look at my extra fluffiness as battle scars from the season of depression that I actually survived. Give yourself grace.
You’ll Never Be the Same…and That’s Not All Bad
I’m on the other side of my battle with depression now, but I’ll never be the same person that I was before my depression. I’ve decided that transformation is not a bad thing.
I no longer look at people in the same light. I have so much more understanding and empathy for others. I’m now able to look into the eyes of someone who is in the depths of depression, and say, “I’ve been there. It stinks, but it doesn’t last forever. Just do the next thing.”
I now get the privilege to walk with others going through the same struggle and understand exactly what they need. I am so glad that I no longer see the world through rose-colored glasses. Now I see the hurt and the sadness, but even better, I see the beauty rising from the brokenness. And I must say that joy has never seemed sweeter than it does today, after experiencing its long absence.
There’s no ten-step program to homeschooling with depression. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple? But there would be no growth, no dependence on God, no renewed sense of joy if there were. The truth is that life deals us unexpected blows on a regular basis. And no matter what, you just keep going, trusting God to make your story—with all its crazy twists and ugly turns—beautiful for His glory.