Candace Nassar

Well, welcome, everyone. We’re excited to be back on our MomQ Mingle today talking about mental health. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and Annie and I have both struggled with mental health issues in our families, we thought we would do our part to bring some light to the subject. You may, or may not, be aware that mental health is a crisis in our country right now, but perhaps you are aware that your thinking or your mood is consistently not where it used to be. Maybe you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, or maybe there’s someone in your life that’s struggling and you just want to know how to help. We’re glad you’re here, and we invite you to join in this conversation. So let’s get started. Before we do, Annie, welcome in. Give us the update. Hi. What’s going on? Hi.

Annie Mendrala

How can you see you? Well, it’s May Madness or Marathon May. We have graduation. I’m graduating this weekend from Dallas Seminary.

Candace Nassar

Oh, my goodness.

Annie Mendrala

Middle Son is graduating in two weeks. My oldest is coming home soon for a couple of days. So lots going on in May here.

Candace Nassar

Very exciting. I know moms that I’ve talked to, May can be even more stressful than December sometimes, just with all the end of the year things and activities, and like you said, graduations or parties or whatever. So I understand.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. By the way, you’re having a birthday celebration, right?

Candace Nassar

I am, yes. That’s what I have going on in May, the end of the month. My family, we are all heading on a big trip to celebrate my birthday. Actually, my boys both have birthdays in May, so I’m part of the May Madness. And yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re really excited. That’s so good. Yeah. So thanks. Okay. So mental health awareness. Let’s start by talking about the increase in mental illness over the past couple of decades. We know that it’s exponential, and let’s just raise awareness. Why do you think that is?

Annie Mendrala

Well, one of the obvious reasons is that the digital age has rewired the brain. It has rewired our ability to respond with patience and resilience. We’re a very instant gratification society now. So that’s definitely affecting our mental health. I think the other issue is just the face-to-face connection. We’re creative for connection. And with the digital era, comes a lot of separation, even with us right now. We’re face-to-face on a screen, but we’re not in person right now. But we do meet in person a lot. But relationally, there are people who work together that have never met face-to-face. So that’s just different. You miss out on all those cues for development. And then people are dechurching. It’s sad. People don’t have that faith connection in that community, and therefore, they’re losing this sense of self as those creating the image of God. And therefore, you’re left to wonder, what’s it all worth?

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. And chase things that are not going to satisfy and make us anxious and depressed. So, yeah, we see that. I know the youth have been hit particularly hard by the increases in anxiety and depression and even suicide. It’s the second leading cause of death in the age 10 to 24. Suicide is crazy. It’s so sad. And we know that it’s some of those same causes, the technology, societal pressures, shame and constant comparison, social media. I mean, the US surgeon general issued a warning about the use of social media a year ago, right during May, saying that it shouldn’t be given to adolescents less than 16 years old. And that is hard to hear. And the US Surgeon General doesn’t issue those warnings very often. It’s pretty stunning, actually. I gave my kids social media earlier than 16, and we had no idea back then, the consequences that could result from that. But now we do. And we’re seeing it. We’re seeing it lived out.

Annie Mendrala

When my kids were growing up, I looked at my best friend and we were raising our kids together, and we just realized one day, “Our kids are guinea pigs.” We don’t know what this is doing. It felt there were things about it that terrified us. We would often just shut it down and send them outside because we just were like, “Get away from this.” It felt wrong, but it has permeated our society, and we are not going backwards in time. We are going to have to learn how to live with this in our homes in a healthy way. And so I just don’t want any mom listening to feel shame around this, because I think this is an issue we all are facing. I face it for myself, right? I looked at Instagram this morning for a moment, and it started to take over and I was like, I got to get away from this. It seems so harmless, yet it is affecting our mental health. The other thing I was thinking, though, that we haven’t discussed, particularly, is that one of the things that’s causing mental health, I think, is this achievement-based society we live in.

Annie Mendrala

It’s all about how we are performing. How are we proving our worth through what we’re doing? And so I think that puts a lot of stress on parents, on me, particularly. I used to just worry all the time, am I doing enough to make sure my kids are given every possible opportunity to be as successful as they possibly can be? I put that on myself. And then maybe, subconsciously, I put it on them-that they’ve got to show up and perform. It’s a great conversation. I think it’s worth it in every home to say, “What’s happening in our situation?” Because everyone’s unique, that might be contributing to these feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and despair.

Candace Nassar

Yes. And trying to problem-solve some ways that just even within your own family community, that you can connect better face-to-face conversations and have those boundaries. It’s really difficult. But again, we know that it’s not good for us, and we have to have boundaries. So let’s talk a little bit about what contributes to good mental health. We’re talking about what can cause us to be not okay mentally. What can we do? What are good factors for positive good mental health?

Annie Mendrala

Well, and by the way, what you just said, I want to just reiterate, it is okay to not be okay. Let’s just start there. It’s okay if you’re not okay. If today you’re not okay, that’s okay. God doesn’t want you to stay there. And that’s why we’re going to talk about the healthy ways to get out of that. But it’s okay to not be okay. And it’s important to recognize when you’re not feeling okay. So what can you do? Well, I would say the first thing you can do is make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, right? Rest. And you were talking about this the other day about the phones at night. What did you say?

Candace Nassar

Well, just that it disrupts our sleep patterns-having our phones, right? If we’re on the phone right before we try to go to sleep, it’s activating our brain. It’s hitting the dopamine. It’s much harder for us to settle down. And then just even having it next to your bed, they say, your mind knows that somehow it’s close by, and it’s just disruptive. And so leaving that phone away. I started recently plugging my phone in downstairs from my bedroom and trying not to pick it up again until I have had my quiet time. And I think it’s a good practice for everybody, really.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah, maybe we’re going to have to go back to having home phones. And then when someone thinks, well, I need my phone in case of an emergency, if someone needs to call me. And that really, for me, having kids out of the home, I want them to be able to reach me or aging parents. But the reality is…

Candace Nassar

It’s a good point. It’s a good point, something we have to figure out. But, yeah, we got to have a good sleep. Absolutely key. And then we know diet and exercise are super important. And alcohol, I mean, Obviously, alcohol interrupts our sleep.

Annie Mendrala

So you’re about to say more alcohol is better mental health. No. Which, unfortunately, is what we say. We say, well, let’s all go get a drink. Let’s have a glass of wine and let’s numb out these feelings. But ultimately, it can lead to some really negative consequences. I mean, it’s so true.

Candace Nassar

It makes you more depressed. Alcohol is a depressant. So just watching that and everything in moderation, right?  It’s just that we’re not going to have good mental health when we are dependent on technology or anything else to make us feel good. And so that leads us, then, to saying that what we know, what God says is so important. Well, first of all, let me just say that the surgeon general, in his statement about social media, he also talked about the loneliness epidemic. The biggest public health crisis of our age, the last several decades, is the loneliness epidemic. And you started to allude to that as we’re not making those connections and we’re isolating ourselves more than ever before. I mean, people are, they’re living alone, they’re working out of their homes. They’re not connecting with other people. And you said a lot of people are leaving church or have left church or maybe never been to church. But what do we know that God says about connections?

Annie Mendrala

Yeah, we’re created for connection. We’re relational beings. We’re creatures who are designed just like God himself in his trion nature is a relationship. It’s an interdependence upon one another that we lift each other up. When one falls down, two are there to help them up. We need to be connected.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. God knows that. And it’s very interesting that I saw a Wall Street Journal article a couple of weeks ago referencing a study of 200,000 people in conjunction with Gallup and researchers at Harvard University, saying that those attending religious services weekly had higher flourishing scores than those who never attended. And flourishing was a variety of factors, but just feeling good about yourself and about your future and just all of those things and feeling connected that’s flourishing, and those who attended religious services. So this is a secular study. So that we know exactly what God said in His Word.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. You know what’s encouraging about that? That means that people going to church or hearing the truth about that where we are weak, God will be strong. When we are down, He’s there, He’s with us. He’s never leaving us. I love that. If people really are walking away from church with a sense of flourishing, it means that whatever they received in that time was hopeful. It built them up. It didn’t tear them down. And I think the church, over its history has, at times, torn people down. People have felt condemned or felt ashamed or left because they felt like they wouldn’t be accepted because of their struggles. But I really see the church is doing such a better job at this.

Candace Nassar

Yes, absolutely. From the pulpit, counseling services so often are available through the church or church-sponsored facilities. So, yeah, the church is doing a better job. And then interestingly, another part of the study showed that you can’t just show up to the service to benefit. I mean, you’re going to benefit some. But to get the full benefit of attending religious services, you need to be engaged. You have to actively participate. And that It says that those who do that, tend to feel more love for others and it enhances their well-being mentally. Isn’t that interesting?

Annie Mendrala

That’s so good, because when we know the people around us, we give them a lot more grace because we can assume the best of them instead of making judgments about the worst. So if you’re in a small group with someone and you see them at church and maybe they just don’t ever look, you look at them and you think, I don’t know. You just make a judgment about someone. But when you know them, you can tell, “Oh, they’re having a bad day.” Or, “Oh, that’s just the face they make when they’re just listening.” Or I don’t know. I just think of the small group serving alongside people, knowing their stories. It’s interesting as I am serving in prison ministry, watching inmates learn to hear each other and understand each other’s stories gives them such more patience and empathy for one another. I think it’s the same in the world in general. When we know people, we extend grace to them.

Candace Nassar

Yeah. And people are lonely everywhere. And so we can just reach out to our neighbor. It’s interesting how focusing on others just can change our perspective. And the study showed that this is all validated. So I love that. So let’s talk a little bit about the Bible and mental health. Does the Bible mention mental health, Annie?

Annie Mendrala

Well, I was thinking about this question. The reality is that the Bible doesn’t define mental health disorders. It’s not a medical book that’s going to help us. But what the Bible does do is it teaches us how to respond appropriately and in Godly ways to our emotions. God filled us with lots of emotion. He is a God of a lot of emotion. Being emotional is not being mentally ill. It is part of who we are. It’s what makes us such a beautiful part of creation. But the Bible really talks a lot about how we respond to emotions appropriately. And I thought about the scripture. Jesus is about to go to the cross. His hour has come, and He’s with the disciples. They’ve had dinner. They’ve been through a bunch together. He’s telling them a lot of things like, “I’m leaving you.” And they’re like, “Well, wait, we’ll come with you.” He’s like, “No, you can’t come.” And they’re so confused. They’re already super confused. He’s telling them all kinds of things. And then He says to them, He says, and by the way, “In this life, you will have suffering.” So I’m sure at this point, they’re like, “What are you talking about?”

Annie Mendrala

And then He follows that up with, “But be courageous, for I have overcome the world.” The reality is Jesus warned us, We’re going to have trouble. We’re going to have suffering. And by the way, He suffered in every way possible. He can empathize with us. The reality is we will suffer, but we can have courage because He’s overcome. The courage is that we have hope in Christ. And that’s what His Word is there for. The entire story of scripture is a story about redemptive love. God knew that we could not do it on our own. And He wanted to show us how much He loved us-that He was never going to give up on us. So, there are all our fears and doubts and grief and all of that. There are all our mental challenges. He wants to help transform our thinking. And that’s what the Bible is about.

Candace Nassar

Yeah. So many passages are about how to deal with our anxiety, our emotions, when we feel lost, hopeless, alone. There’s so many characters, people in the Bible that had these struggles and wrote about them. The Psalms are filled with David’s Lamentations and other Psalmists who just poured out their emotions, and they felt deserted. They were, Where are you, God? And why do I feel so downcast? And yet they were able to work through it with God as he met them where they were and encouraged them. So, that’s a huge thing. We also hear from Elijah and Jonas as they got to the end of their rope and they were just like, “God, I’m done. Just take me.” And we’ve all felt that at some level, I think. And, so it’s so encouraging to know we’re not the only ones who feel this way, and yet we’re not alone.

Annie Mendrala

God’s not surprised by it. You can’t push God away with your doubts and your confusion, your depression, your anxiety. None of that. God is ready to be alongside you.

Candace Nassar

Yes. We just have to reach out and ask, and He’s there. There’s a lot of passages about resting in God. I know I struggle with anxiety, and we’re going to talk about that in a little bit, but just learning to… One of my very first verses that I learned was Philippians 4, 6, 7, Be anxious for nothing, but in All things with prayer and with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Just learning to pray whenever I start to get anxious. And instead of trying to carry it on my own shoulders, to give it over to Him. And that’s one of the most beautiful verses to me in the whole Bible about God’s just intimate care for us and intimate love.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. I know. I love that verse. I love the verse about Proverbs 3, 5, and 6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.

Candace Nassar

Amen.

Annie Mendrala

And then in Romans about, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. Early in my marriage, we started some marriage counseling, and our counselor encouraged us to memorize that verse and to think about it, because as we faced conflict and how to live with another person, which then brought up all kinds of things from my wrong thinking. God just revealed, “Hey, you can be different.” And I really didn’t believe that. I thought, “Well, this is how I was created. This is how I’m wired. This is in my DNA. This is how I’ll be forever.” And God just dispelled that lie. He said, “No, you can be different. You can be changed.” Regardless of the struggle we face, it doesn’t define who we are. Our struggle doesn’t. Our mental health-the problem is mental health struggles start to define who we are, and we can’t listen to those lies. We have to have support.

Annie Mendrala

Amen. And that’s, again, we talked about counseling, community, being in the Word. I know that you and I both are very committed to getting up every morning and just reading the Bible. And I’ve actually started a practice of just sitting in silence, which is super hard for me. So good. Yeah. And just trying to listen to the Lord. And I cannot tell you how much that just calms me and prepares me for the day, and just breathing and sitting with Him. It’s just been amazing. So there’s a lot of things that we can do to help our mental health, improve our mental health, and a lot of it involves the Lord, for sure.

Annie Mendrala

I don’t know any other way, honestly. I just don’t know any other way.

Candace Nassar

Yeah, I agree.

Annie Mendrala

I’ve tried a lot of ways. Let me just say it. I’m a control freak fixer. And if anybody If you could fix this problem, I would have fixed it by now.

Candace Nassar

I hear you. Let’s go ahead and start talking about our own struggles. The first thing I want to do is say that we both, you and I, had to struggle with postpartum depression. Mine came really… I think I had it with all three of my kids, honestly, for sure, my first and my third. But it wasn’t until the third that it was debilitating and I had to get treated. Praise God that I had people around me that were able to come around and support me. But I had to admit that I can’t handle this, and that was really hard, really hard.

Annie Mendrala

I’m curious, how did you recognize… What was it that made you aware, Okay, this is not healthy. Something needs to be different.

Candace Nassar

Well, first of all, I wasn’t sleeping. We’re talking about quality of sleep. I had stopped sleeping for a number of factors, which we don’t have time to go into. But I literally laid awake most of the night, night after night. And so my brain chemistry was completely messed up with hormones and everything else. But I just wasn’t… I couldn’t even read my Bible because I was so dazed and confused and it impacted… I didn’t want my kids around me. I didn’t want my husband to be around. I wanted to just shrink into a hole and have no one interact and talk with me. And that was so not me. I’m a very extroverted person. And so I had somebody in my life that said, “I think you’re in depression, and you need to go see someone.” And I was like, “Really?” So praise God for that person.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. So you received that. That didn’t hurt your feelings. You received that truth.

Candace Nassar

I knew when she said it. I think the Lord just confirmed, “Yes.” Actually, some other things happened that He just gave me all kinds of signs that I needed to get treated. I actually started on medication, and it took months, but I got back to myself. And then to maintain all these years, I have to rely on Him every single day.

Annie Mendrala

Yeah, that’s interesting. So my story is very similar to yours in that I had three kids in three years, and actually all my pregnancies were very difficult in the sense I was nauseous the entire time. I was sick. And so with my first pregnancy, before I even had kids, I had had a miscarriage, and that was really terrible. That put me in a real deep depression for a time. And then I was so excited to be pregnant, but then I was so sick. And I wrestled with this as a gift, but I remember looking at a friend of mine who was pregnant at the same time, and I said, “Do you like your baby?” She looked at me like, “What are you talking about?” I was feeling just so bad that I couldn’t even enjoy this life that was growing in me. And then, when he was born, I immediately didn’t feel that nausea anymore. But then I had to sleep and everything. And then we had more kids. And over a three and a half year period, I remember waking up every day thinking, “I want to go to bed. How do I get back into bed?”

Annie Mendrala

And like you, I didn’t want my kids around me. I didn’t want my husband. I just wanted to go back to sleep. And one day, the Holy Spirit, really, it was the Holy Spirit, just whacked me on the head and said, “Annie, this is not the way it’s supposed to be.” Because I had thought everyone else in my family had mental illness struggles, but I’ve got it together. And so I went to the doctor and this very compassionate, loving woman, an older woman, said to me, “I think maybe you need to take some medication.” And that’s all I needed was for somebody to say, “Yeah, you’re right. This is not normal.” And I’m telling you what, I popped that stick in my mouth, and they say, “Oh, it’ll take a couple of days.” Within 24 hours, I looked at my husband and I was like, “Is this what it feels like to be normal?” Good Lord. It was really amazing. But my pride kept me for all those years thinking, I’m just going to push through. I’m going to push through. But it took that sweet doctor who just said, “I think we could help you.”

Annie Mendrala

And it did. It was great.

Candace Nassar

Yeah. But I’m sure, as well for you, we know that medicine isn’t the answer. It isn’t the only… It isn’t the panacea, right? It’s just- Gosh, I wish it was. Yeah, I know. I wish it was. That’s why as we’re thinking about mental health awareness, we’re aware of how our mood, our thinking, our behavior is affected, getting help, getting community, and then trying to stay on a path of health, right?

Annie Mendrala

Yeah. I want to say that the reality is for me, taking the medication got me to a baseline  normal, where then I had the ability… Because when someone really is struggling with true physical mental illness, you can’t pray that away. There’s nothing you can do. Sometimes truly, usually the chemistry, your neurochemistry is… My sister describes it like this. She said, “It’s like we have red and green lights in our brain. And when things aren’t flowing, we have a lot of red lights. There’s a lot of stopping. But sometimes medication helps open those, turn those red light’s green. So then things can flow.” So if someone doesn’t struggle with mental illness or struggles with any mental health issues, realize that people want to be better. Nobody wants to feel bad like this. And that medication can really help get you there. And if you’re scared with your own children, maybe (and I guess we’ll talk about that in a second), but it just gets you to a baseline normal. And then, though, we have to take ownership of our lives. We have agency over who we are. And that’s where we really have to then rely on God to help transform us through the Holy Spirit.

Candace Nassar

Amen. Yes. So let’s go ahead and talk about it then. If we have both of us also, because of our wonderful genetic makeup, have passed on to our kids some of these things. I know for me, I had a child very early on show signs of significant anxiety. And we just went right away and got him some help because I knew what to look for. I wanted to nip it in the bud. And the sooner you do that, the better off they are getting treatment. I know.

Annie Mendrala

I wish when I was a child, and I’m not blaming anyone, but I struggled as a child with debilitating anxiety. I had stomach issues constantly. I lived in a state of fear and panic my entire first 10 years of life. And no one saw it because either no one was really looking or I was good at hiding it because I just pretended to be normal. But, I think as parents, it’s our responsibility to really see our children and to not minimize, to validate, to always be listening to them and to be curious. Because I wish somebody would have said, “Oh, look at sweet Annie. She needs some support.” And what a gift you could give your child at that point.

Candace Nassar

Yeah. Well, I had the same thing, Annie. And we both had a lot of trauma in childhood, and we’ve shared and I’m bonded over that, the trauma. And ironically, I also had stomach issues.

Annie Mendrala

That’s one thing to look for, moms, by the way. If your child is on the toilet a lot, you really need to go into that.

Candace Nassar

Gosh. My parents were just way too caught up in what their own problems were. And so, yes, connecting with your children, being available, that daily communication is just so essential. And we were talking about digital distractions earlier. We have to find ways to connect with our kids on a daily basis, whether it’s at the dinner table, in the car, whatever it is, so that we can be aware.

Annie Mendrala

I think it’s so good you point that out, too. It’s like my parents, they were young, and they were dealing with their own stuff when I was a little girl. And so, it’s so important that we, as parents, get healthy ourselves so that what we have to give our children is good things-that we can pour out love and all of those things that as we heal, we can pass that onto them and leave a legacy. That we won’t have regrets. Now, we’re going to have regrets because we’re not perfect. And that gives God way more room for His glory in their lives, because if we could take credit, that wouldn’t be good. But I just think it’s so important that we do our own work. And I don’t know if you want me to talk right now about my own work that I’m doing.

Candace Nassar

Yeah, you can go. We got a couple of.

Annie Mendrala

So from my own childhood, (and I’ve talked to my mom a lot about this, and she’s given me permission to speak whatever I want. I always want to honor her because she has done so much work, she and my dad.), the first 10 years of my life, we talked about how the digital age is programming the brain. Well, trauma programs the brain as well. And so there were things that happened to me in my childhood where I learned to respond to life in some pretty unhealthy ways that carried into adulthood. And so recently, as I’ve done work on my marriage, God has just revealed to me, you need to go to work. And so I’ve got a counselor now. I love her. She’s a precious young counselor. At first, I looked at her and I thought, “She’s young. What is she going to be able to tell me?” She has so much wisdom. And so weekly, I’m going. And on my way, as I go to counseling, I think, “What am I doing? I’m almost 50 years old. I shouldn’t be going back.” But God said,” Annie, whatever you do for yourself, you will be able to pass on to others.”

Annie Mendrala

And that’s why I do it. And teaching MomQ, honestly, has given me great encouragement to do that work so that I can bring hope to other people.

Candace Nassar

Yes. And that’s really, gosh, that’s the most important thing. Knowing that God wants us to have… He gives us hope in Him. We don’t have to be hopeless. And if you’re praying about it, He’s going to show you the path to get to where you need to be, and whether it’s a counselor or accountability partners, community. I mean, gosh, we can’t say it enough-to plug into community and have other people in your life that you can share with. Just knowing that you’re not alone. It’s amazing. You were talking about small groups earlier, and I know in our MomQ groups, they start talking about things. It’s like, “You mean I’m not the only one dealing with that?” And there’s something about that that just boosts our well-being for the day.

Annie Mendrala

Yes. We’re not meant to be alone, I think. And when you share that statistic that this is about loneliness-it is a health crisis we’re in. It’s just really something for us to be curious about, to keep looking at and keep considering. I have to personally push myself to be with people because my tendency is to isolate, to withdraw. And I think God has put great people in my life, you included Candace, that say, “No, we’re getting together. We’re going to see each other. We’re going to be together. We’re going to keep going.” God has a mission and a plan for all of us. He’ll take everything that we’ve been through, and He’ll use it for His glory.

Candace Nassar

One of the things, I’m an extrovert, but when things are not going the way I want them to, or when… I mean, my husband’s had unemployment periods over several years and things, I do want to isolate myself because you feel like, “Well, no one wants to hear from me because my life is just in the or whatever.” But we can’t think that way. We just can’t. We have to get past that.

Annie Mendrala

The reality is I don’t have any perfect friends. I don’t pick perfect people to be around, so it’s great. Yeah.

Candace Nassar

No one is perfect. That is for sure. Well, Annie, thanks so much for this conversation today. I hope that you who are listening have gotten some encouragement from it. And we also would like to tell you that if you would want to reach out to us for prayer, or if you just want to share something with us or get help with how to find a counselor or something, we would be happy to help you with that. You can reach out to us at MomQ512 on Instagram or through our website at MomQ.org to request prayer. We’d be happy to pray with you. We hope that you will be mentally healthy in the next few, if you’re not now, that you will be, and God will just be there for you. So Annie, why don’t you close us in prayer?

Annie Mendrala

Okay. Father, we know that you are faithful. That you are faithful. It’s impossible for you not to be, God. We trust you. We want to lean into you. And God, just reveal to us, each one of us listening, reveal to us any wrong thinking, any areas maybe where we’re not, or just not living in that hope that you’ve called us to. God, send us the Holy spirit, the counselor who can live in us, who does live in us, who believes in us. God, we thank you for this time. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Candace Nassar

Amen.

What's your mom superpower? Take our short quiz and find out your greatest strength as a mom.

X