Ever since I was a little girl with auburn ponytails and a shy smile, I’ve been told I’m one of the kindest, sweetest souls you’ll ever meet. If this is anywhere near true, I got it honestly. My parents were true earth angels, good-to-the-core, hearts-wide-open, feed-everyone-and-impart-Godly-wisdom kind of earth angels. My big sis says we hit the lotto with our parents, and she’s right.
But even earth angels are human. Mom battled clinical depression for many years. My earliest memories include what felt like a cloud of sadness that lingered throughout our home. Whenever anyone asked my parents when Mom’s depression began, they both offered the same response, “After Karin was born.” Ouch. With zero intention, their words hit me to my core. I made Mommy really sad, I’d think as I watched her lie in bed for hours on end. Or saw her too-thin body from barely eating. Or heard her sobbing.
And Dad, my first hero, only loved Mom more through her pain and tried to protect her from stress and the world’s demands as much as possible. Almost daily he’d remind us, “Shh, quiet girls. Mom is trying to rest.” So, I learned how to be quiet. Really quiet.
On the outside, I was a polite little girl who used her manners at every turn. Thank you. Yes, please. No, sir. Inside, I was shrinking myself. I was agreeable to a fault and hesitant to share opinions. I quelled my needs, certain that voicing them would burden others. My good manners included over-apologizing even if I wasn’t at fault. Saying “I’m sorry” to others a lot is a habit I still find myself managing from time to time. It’s residue from feeling I caused Mom’s depression—because of the tape that still periodically runs in my head: After Karin was born.
The truth is that Mom was clinically depressed after I was born. But that’s not the whole story—a story I wouldn’t learn until I was grown and married. And when I did learn, it broke me all the way open. It also gave me the gift of clarity, and clarity can never be overrated. Clarity frees and liberates, helping us release old beliefs and ways of thinking that weigh us down and keep us from soaring.
Understanding my parents’ story showed me that their four-word party line response was rooted in deep heart wounds they sustained together. I hold no ill will or anger toward them; I only feel compassion and empathy for the hard parts of life they endured and overcame. They did their very best. And Mom eventually gained the courage to seek professional help when I was about 13 years old. It made all the difference in the world for her and for us. Our family was blessed to witness Mom enjoy her life for many years after that as she continued to care for her emotional well-being.
As a mom of three, my own heart aches for the profound pain my mother endured during those early years of my life. I remain in awe of my father who never wavered as a husband and dad, standing in the gap and holding us all together. I’m so grateful for Mom’s bravery in taking the steps to finally access the support she needed to heal.
Like Mom, I eventually found the courage to seek help for my own well-being. After all, the journey to healing my own wounds is inextricably linked to my mother’s healing journey. And this I know: Healing is everything. If we don’t deal with our deepest wounds, they will deal with us—make us physically ill, steal our peace and our mental health, block us from discovering and fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.
So, heal. Do the brave, hard work. Take all the time you need to understand and heal, inside and out. We’re all worth it.