The Connected Mom

Today we’re continuing our series on mental health issues . . . and specifically when it affects your spouse. We’re talking to Becky's dear friend Tracy Arntzen about finding hope when mental health issues enter your marriage. We chat about how to stay connected with God, and your husband, and also help your kids through that battle.

Tracy Arntzen is a passionate wife, mother of 3 sons, and longtime student of the Bible who runs a non–profit called Saving Susan Ministry. She and her husband, Jay, own a thriving business. Tracy has served on the North Georgia Autism Board, and she has helped found the Georgia Bridge Academy, which helps kids with disabilities find a pathway toward a career track. She is a speaker and is in the process of writing her first book. Every week Tracy writes encouraging devotionals through her blog on We Pray Through. She and her husband love to golf, hike and go on mission trips together. Tracy is passionate about God’s Word and prayer.

Connect with Tracy:

Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.
Tracy Arntzen

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with other moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and I have with me today my amazing cohost, Sarah Wildman, who is extremely techy beyond being beautiful, and she has two little boys, six and eight. Welcome, Sarah.

Thank you, Becky. It's good to be here, tech and all. And we are thankful for technology, because what's our topic we're talking about today?

Yeah, well, we are going to be talking about marriage, actually. We're continuing our conversation on mental health issues, but today we're going to be talking about what happens when those mental health issues enter your marriage and how, in the midst of that, do you connect more deeply with God, more empathically with other moms, and more intentionally with your child? Today's guest is Tracy Arntzen and Tracy is a dear friend of mine, and she runs a nonprofit called Saving Susan Ministries, which is so fun to hear about. We could do another whole podcast on that, Tracy. Uh, she and her husband Jay, own a thriving business. In fact, it's an elevator business. I've never known anyone who has run an elevator business, Tracy. On top of that. Tracy has served on the North Georgia Autism Board, and she has helped found the Georgia Bridge Academy, which helps kids with disabilities find a pathway towards a career track. She is a speaker and in the process of writing her first book, she also writes encouraging devotionals every week through her blogs that we pray through. She and her husband love to golf. They love to travel. They go on missions, trip together. And Tracy is just passionate about God's word and prayer, and she's a dear friend of mine. Welcome, Tracy. And why don't you start by telling us your story?

Thank you, Becky. Thank you for having me here, Sarah. It's really good to get to know you. And I'm, um, looking forward to spending this next 30 minutes or so with you both, actually. So I, um you know, I want to say one thing I would like Moms to hear is that there are seasons in our life when we're not equipped, but God equipped me through some really hard seasons. So what I want you to hear is just that God can equip you if you're walking through a situation or a season where mental health is becoming part of your family story. Um, I did not become a believer until the very start of motherhood, so we had already been married five years. And, um, so I was, at that time learning what it looked like to be a follower of Jesus, as I'm now committed to raising my children under the holiness and under the influence of God. Um, so I wasn't equipped at that time, but God did equip me. Um, but I had a thirst to be in God's word and to pray. And this later proved to be something that helped save our marriage and also helped save my sanity. God had placed me in some beautiful places to learn about His Word and to learn how much he loved me and how much he loved my family. So ten years into marriage, three kids later, mental health came crashing through our front door. It didn't politely knock and say, May we come in? No. It crashed through our front door. So, again, I'm in a season where I didn't feel equipped, um, but God did equip me. And there's a lot of chapters in my story, but I think these chapters here, um, I can really encourage moms who might be listening today.

Tracy, tell us a little bit about that mental health issue that you were talking about and what that looked like in your life.

Yeah, our children were young, so, you know, the demands of young children are a lot physically and emotionally. But my husband was juggling a very successful career and family, and all the while not even realizing that he was very depressed and was dealing with a lot of anxiety and some mental health issues that needed to be dealt with. Um, so when this kind of surfaced, it was very frightening. And here we're in a place that we don't know anything about. Um, and because of stigma, we hid behind our front door with this place that we were in.

Yeah, and I find it so intriguing because, um, first of all, Jay, your husband is my hero, because he battled depression, but was honest about it despite the stigma. And I know it wasn't always like that, but I think so often, um, not to throw men under the bus, but when men deal with depression, they don't want to admit that, right. They want to prove that they're macho and that they're not depressed, even though maybe all the signs are there. And yet Jay came out with his story. Tell us about that, Tracy. How did he decide to come out with this?

Yeah, I think men, especially our generation, were just taught that they need to be strong and not to have weakness. But, um, really, we all have weakness. We're all broken to some degree. Um, and I think, um, it's more courageous for a man to step forward and say, hey, I'm struggling. I need help. And he was getting help. Um, but one weekend, we were at a marriage retreat up in the North Georgia mountain surrounded by 120 people from our church. And we had a time of sharing. And, um, he just knew that God was calling him to speak out. And so he leaned over and said to me, I'm going to go share. We were taking turns sharing certain things. Um, and he got up and in front of 120, just shared his story for really the first time that he had been struggling. And it was hard and shared some details that were very private and intimate, but yet, um, I think we hid behind stigma to feel safe. Um, stigma doesn't keep us safe. It doesn't hiding this doesn't keep us safe. We can testify to that. But the beauty of it was so many people came forward and said, thank you for sharing. We have this in our family. Wow. And it was just overwhelming how many people came forward and shared their own story with Jay and I personally. And that really showed us that weekend that there are a lot of people. And so I want to say to Moms out there, you're not alone. You are not the only family in your neighborhood or even on your street, um, that walks this journey of mental illness affecting your family.

Yeah, I love that Tracy. And I think you touched on something that I want to go back to for just a second, if we can, because you said that these were private issues, and yet you shared them. And I think that that's something that our listeners need to hear, because sometimes, yeah, we want to keep things private, and yet in order to find the healing that we need, we have to become vulnerable. And Jay was willing to do that, and you supported him in that. But what would you say to the mom out there who's listening right now? And she's leaning in thinking, I know my husband's depressed. He won't admit it, and he doesn't want me to blow the whistle on it. He doesn't want me to tell anybody. What would you say to her?

Gosh, I wish I could come and have a cup of tea with her.

And, ah, open coffee.

Tea or coffee and pray with her. Um, I do want to encourage that mom with some practical suggestions as well, um, because it's hard. I'm actually the one who pointed out to my husband, I think you're dealing with depression.

How did that go over?

I think, um, it went over fine. I was very gentle. Um, sometimes as women, we tend to use a lot of words. He often tells me, you use so many words. So I was intentional not to use too many words. I was gentle, and I said, let's just sit on this for a day or two and let's process this. Um, but he responded actually with relief, like, oh, this is what could be going on now. What do we do with it? So if you're going to approach your husband, do it in gentleness and love. Not when some of his behavior that might be coming from that place of depression or anxiety, not when some of that is surfaced. Timing is really important. Um, not when you're getting ready to go to a family or union in 20 minutes. So be real careful about when and how you approach this. Um, and if your husband does or doesn't respond well, I would suggest a couple of other things. Um, seeking out someone to speak to for yourself, a counselor or life coach, because verbally processing and just processing this with another person who's not in the middle of it with you is so helpful. Um, but also gosh cling to God and have some ways we can talk about that specifically, because I think that is the one thing that helped me the most. I think you can find yourself at a crossroads or at a fork in the road. I can cling to God in these times, or I can run from God, mhm, and I believe both have very different outcomes.

Yeah, I do, too.

Circling back to what you had started with Tracy about how in some seasons you're not equipped, that really sticks out to me. It doesn't sound encouraging right off the bat, but I know that you felt like you eventually did get equipped. So could you walk us through a few things that you did to run toward God?

Yeah. And I want to just express that there's so much hope. We were in a dark valley, mhm, for a long while, and there's so much hope. And how I got equipped was I committed that I was going to walk through. And I resolved that I was going to walk through this, and I was going to walk through it. We weren't going to stay in it. We were going to get through it. Now, sometimes that through takes a while. Our, um, pastor always says, soul work is slow work. And there's some soul work that was done in both Jay and I outside of the mental health issue. Um, but I did it by just resolving that I was going to have time with God every single day. Now, we had three young kids. My husband traveled a good bit, so to say we had a busy house was an understatement, a lot of physical demands. But I resolved that I would spend time with God every day. And for me, that worked best early in the morning. So I would get up at four or five in the morning. Um, I always had my alarm set by 530, but I often would wake in before that. And I trained my mind, this is my time to spend with God. So whatever that best time is for you, mom, take it. Find the rhythm. And it's the best time for you, not for those you're caring for, because self care to take care of yourself. So what's your best time? Mine is early in the morning. Maybe some it's late at night. Um, but one thing I do want to say is my husband and kids saw me doing this, I would sit in that space with God until someone came into the kitchen and needed to be fed, or my husband was up for work. They witnessed it. And my husband told me, he's told me more than once, seeing you do that was such a powerful testimony. Mhm just watching you honor your time with God, no matter what was happening around us, spoke volumes more than the words that you could have used to describe what was going on.

Yeah. I love Tracy, too, that you said that spending time with God is self care. Right. Because I think a lot of times when moms who are busy, they're raising little ones, they've got diapers or they've got school schedules, they think, oh, I can't fit another thing in, and it becomes an obligation for them. However, it's a form of self care. I also love that you said, find the time that works best for you. Um, for me, that was early in the morning, too, when I was raising young kids, because I just felt like I couldn't survive the day without going to God first. However, I know, like, for one of my daughters, who's very much in the thick of raising five little boys, she often spends time with the Lord when she's in the carpool line, right. Because she's got to go to the school to pick up two of hers that are in that school, and she's got the twins in the back seat, and they fall asleep. And so as she's waiting there sometimes for 45 minutes or whatever, she opens her Bible and she reads a few verses, and she spends time praying, and she journals, and it's her time to connect with God. I know other moms who are late night people, and so after the kiddos are tucked in bed, they open their Bible and spend a few minutes. When we talk about spending, uh, time with God and Tracy, I know that that is so your heart and mine as well. I just want to encourage our listeners. This doesn't mean you have to read an entire chapter of the Bible. It doesn't mean you have to read three chapters of the Bible. You might just land on one verse and think, I need this verse for today. And so maybe for you, you write that on a card and you post it in the kitchen. And that hour before supper when chaos is breaking loose in your house, you go back to that one verse. But it was the regular pattern in Tracy's life of doing that, of going to God in prayer, of spending time in the Word that has helped her get through this journey as a loving wife to a husband who was really struggling. And I just so loved that Tracy, because I wanted to reiterate that. So as you think back on, um, the season with Jay and on knowing that you're in this struggle as a couple, because it's really a couple struggle, right. It's not just like, oh, this is Jay's problem. No, it's our problem, because you're married, and there must have been seasons where you felt like, quitting. Quitting the marriage, quitting. Just like, oh, wow, this is tough. I'm out of here. So talk to us a little bit about that. What made you stay and become the wife you are today?

Well, I do want to say Jay and I are in such a sweet place of marriage. We are friends. We love to golf together. This weekend, we're going, um, away together. It's my birthday coming up, but we're going away together, two of us. Um, and we're in a sweet time, we laugh together. There were seasons when we didn't laugh together, but, um, it's just we did. I'm going to admit there were times and we talked about this recently where we both wanted to quit.


Both of us. Not just me, not just him, but both of us. Um, we made a pack, a couple of packs, a couple of promises to each other. One, we were arguing one time, and I'm sure I don't know who knows what it was even about. It probably wasn't important. But the underlying tension that can enter a family when a mental health or any kind of illness it could be cancer, it could be a lot of things, but when that tension just kind of is in your family um, we made a pact, okay? The next time we start to talk, but it kind of starts getting to an argument where it starts to escalate one of us. Let's have the sense to say, will you pray with me? Take my hands. Will you pray with me? And the first couple of times, it was, like, awkward and weird. And then there are times when I was like, okay, I'm telling myself, uh, the last thing I want to do is pray with you right now. I'm so in him as well. While I don't really want to pray, but I will, but after just a few minutes, it just softens the situation. And, um, we pray together regularly. Um, outside of mealtime, this doesn't count. Like, bless our food, oh, Lord, in front of our children. But we hold hands. Even if we're upset, we hold hands and pray. Um, so that was one thing that I think really helped us, but the other thing was when we verbalize, maybe we should give up on this. We made a pact we will not ever talk about divorce. Yeah, it's like we're not allowed to say that. And so you're not allowed to say it. I'm not allowed to say it. Um, and if we think it, we will remember that we've made a pact to not go. There not an option. I'm so glad we didn't.

Today, 35 years.

We're about ready to celebrate. 35. Um, but there were times when that was, like, a reality.

Yes. I love that, because I think Steve, my husband, and I made the same commitment, I think, in every marriage. And I want the mamas to hear this. It's not just mental illness, although that can be a piece of it. I think far more people are depressed than they even let on. However, it's all of life. Marriage is hard work. I think you watch the Hallmark movies or these glorified you can watch these glorified movies where everything works out perfect. That is not life. Right. And so, uh, marriage is a lot of hard work. And honestly, I think that God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness. Right. So he's trying to transform us in our marriage. We do need to make that commitment, and that becomes a sure foundation for your kids, because they know, okay, I can trust mom and dad. Yeah. They're arguing right now, but they're going to stay together. They're going to work this out, and they're in it for the long haul. Now, having said that, I, uh, do want to interject this, because if you are in a marriage please hear me. If you are in a marriage where you are being threatened or hurt violently, you need to leave. Go to a safe place, get some counseling, and figure out how to redo this thing. And you may need to leave for good. God's will is not for you to be an abusive marriage. That's not what we're talking about, though. We're talking about the normal struggles between husbands and wives, the arguing, the times when maybe depression hits or anxiety or baggage from your past that neither of you dealt with before you got married. And all of a sudden you realize, oh, I'm being triggered by my childhood and I need to deal with this. Then you stay in the marriage because God's intent is that you become more like Jesus, not that you just live a perfectly happy life. Right. Yeah.

I did cling to hope during those times. I kind of laugh, and I think, maybe hope found me. I didn't find hope.

Talk to us about that, Tracy.

Yeah. And it was through the discipline of spending time with God I brushed my teeth, I needed to spend time with God. And it became that was like, the some days that was the sweetest part of my day, so why would I not run into that? But, um, there is hope. There is hope.

Yeah. And I think you do. I love what you said, that maybe hope found you. Explain that to us a little bit. How did hope find you?

Well, I think, um, God gave me great hope through his word. And there were times, like you said, Becky, if you're, um, juggling the raising of children and your husband's not well, and you're like, I can't even get the laundry done. Oh, that was a time when I prayed whoever piece of clothing I was holding person that's a great idea. Ah. Yeah, I did, um, because I had three boys, and then when they got a little older and in sports, there was so much laundry all the time. Um, and you can get bogged down under. I can't even spend time with God because there's so much to do. Uh, but I would pray during that, but just spending time with God. And there were times when just a verse I would meditate on Averse. And I couldn't even get much more into my head because maybe the night before, I didn't sleep well because of the concerns that were surrounding us. Um, but just averse. Um, there was a song that really spoke to me for a long time. And sometimes I would listen to it five times a day because it gave me hope. So whatever glimmer of hope you find cling to it. Um, but I think through those things, through praying in God's word and filling my mind with spiritual music, that's how I think hope came and sat at my door and said, I'm here. Open the door.

That's so good. So one other question, Tracy, because we've been talking about staying connected to God, and your story of clinging to Him is really great. But we are also thinking about friendship. So perhaps somebody that is listening isn't in a difficult marriage situation, but they have a friend who is. Um, were there examples of friends in your life that came alongside you? And how could we mirror that if we're the friend coming into this situation?

Yeah, well, I think being vulnerable and creating a space for vulnerability is important. I think that day that Jay shared in that chapel at that marriage retreat, he felt safe there. So I think, how can we allow a friend to feel safe? Um um confidentiality is important. I think that's why people don't share, because they're afraid that everyone's going to hear about it. And that burden itself can be overwhelming. So I did have a few friends who I knew it was safe to talk to them, and I knew it would stay between us. Um, I had one friend who was long distance, but she was kind of an accountability partner for me. When I would be frustrated, she would let me vent, but then kind of steer me back. Um, and she also I gave her permission sometimes to tell me, you're kind of off base here. Your emotions are out of line. Um, because our emotions can so often lead our behavior. And when you're walking through hardships and trials in life gosh, the last thing we need to follow is our emotions, especially as women. Um, but just for friends to be safe, non judgmental. Um, I remember sharing with a friend. Um, and we had gotten pretty close, and they knew us very well. And she was shocked. She's like, I had no idea. And she, um, was just in kind of a state of shock. Six months later, she came to me because they realized her husband was depressed. Now, I'm not saying that we helped, like, unveil that, but it was unveiled and was obvious and but, uh, she felt safe then, that she could cheer with me because I had shared with her. And so not only did I walk alongside her, but Jay walked alongside of him. And to this day, we have the strongest bond with this couple. M. Yeah, it's really sweet.

I love that. I love that. And I think, like, you mentioned being a safe friend and you mentioned confidentiality, which I think is so important. And you also mentioned not judging each other because I think there can be judgment, especially unfortunately in church circles, um, over, depression, mental illness. It's kind of like, oh, you should just rejoice in the Lord. Kind of like prayer. Yeah, suck it up, cupcake. Be happy in Jesus. So what do we say to the church, Tracy? I mean, how do we help the church and become a little more informed about mental health issues?

Well, I think, um, the church has done a lot of harm, not intentionally, but a lot of harm, um, in this arena. Um, I have talked to a lot of people who've been hurt by the church with this specific area. One woman, I know, her Christian church prohibited any kind of treatment, um, for mental health. Um, and she's only a living member of her family of origin. The other three parents and a sibling took their life by suicide.


So the church has done some harm and, um, the church needs to help this problem, not hurt this problem. The church needs to talk about it. We need to talk to our pastors, talk to those who are in family life care. Um, and it needs to be taught from the pulpit. Um, I'm writing a Bible study about this very topic for families. Um, the church needs to recognize that there's a lot of this in the Bible. Yeah, depression isn't from 1962 on. Um, no. If you go back and study scripture, there are characters who are clearly depressed for a long time and wanted to die.

Yeah, I love that so much. And I think we're not bashing the church. However, I feel like in this particular season in history, the church needs to wake up because mental health issues are on the rise. I mean, if you just Google the statistics, they are on the rise. Right? Anxiety, depression, suicide is on the rise. And so we need to begin opening the conversation. For those of you mamas who are listening, we are almost out of time, but I want you to hear us say God is for you. And if you're struggling with depression, God is for you. If your spouse is struggling with depression, God is for your spouse. And just like, if you got COVID, you would go for treatment. If you got the flu, you would go for treatment. If you broke an arm, you would go for treatment. Right. So our brain is a muscle like any other area of the body. And so when we're having difficulty in that area, god does bring healing. But he also provides medical care providers, counselors, coaches, and even medicine to help us function and cope and be the people that God has called us to be. And so if you're listening today, I want you to walk away from this podcast with hope. And if Tracy can make it in her marriage, you can make it in yours. Uh, again, we're not talking about an abusive marriage. However, if your spouse is struggling, stay in the marriage, because Tracy and I have both been married for decades now. And it's a beautiful thing when you get to the other side and you are each other's best friends and you know everything about your spouse, you know where they're hurting and where they're suffering, but you're in it for life. And that's the message we hope you're getting. Tracy, did you want to say something?

Yeah. God's word is what really carried me through jeremiah ah, 20 911. I think most people are familiar with that. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Good plans. I'm paraphrasing, but I think the following verse needs special attention. When you come to me and seek me with all your heart, I will bring you out of your captivity. Uh, go seek God with all your heart, and that's going to look different for every person out there. But I think because God knew I was seeking Him with all my heart, he brought us out of our captivity.

I love that. Tracy hey, that's such a great place to end. Would you just, um, take a moment now and pray for our listeners? Because I have a feeling a lot of them out there have spouses maybe who are struggling, and perhaps this is giving them permission to tell somebody and to find the help that they need. And we're giving them encouragement to go to God and ask for wisdom. So would you just close us out in prayer?

I would love to. Becky dear Heavenly Father, I come before You, Lord, on behalf of the women listening, the mom's listening, whose hearts may be, um, hurting, whose hearts may be even shattered as they're caring for young families and maybe their spouse or they are hurting. Lord, I just pray that you would allow Your voice to be the voice that they hear above all others. I m ask that you would pursue them, mhm to comfort them and to nurture them. Father, I pray for great wisdom over these families. I pray for protection, Lord. Lord, you know, those who need you. I pray that you would put people in their path that they could feel safe in reaching out and getting help. And for those who are in the throes and maybe in the middle of getting help, and it doesn't seem to be getting better, I pray that you will strengthen them, give them perseverance again, allow them to hear Your voice above all others. Father. We trust you. Jesus, we. Ask that you intercede for these families. And we know, Jesus, that you know about suffering, and we know that you meet us in the middle of our suffering. Father, thank you for your holy Word. Thank you for allowing us to live in a place where we can open Your Word in freedom. Let us not take that for granted. In Jesus name, amen.

Amen. Hey, thanks, Tracy. Thank you for joining us for today's episode on, um, the Connected Mom podcast, and we hope you'll join again next Thursday, where we'll continue to have re real conversations, helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. Thanks for joining us today.