Episode 1: Amber Cullum on Postpartum Depression

you Feb 16, 2021
Amber Cullum knows depression

Amber Cullum is the host of the Grace Enough Podcast.  She share with us about her journey with postpartum depression.

Connect with Amber on her website, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Ambers favorite gadget is... her milk frother!

Hear it:  

Watch it:

Read it:

This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode 1

Jennifer Uren
I am so pleased to have Amber Cullum as the very first guest on This Mom Knows and I'm excited for you to get to know her too. Amber iswife to Sam, a mom of three and a physical therapist turned stay at home mom. And she's also the host of the Grace Enough Podcast where she loves connecting women with God, people and resources to spur them on in their walks with Jesus and remind them that God's grace is enough. So welcome, Amber.

Amber Cullum
Thanks, Jenn. It's great to be here. You're doing it!

Jennifer Uren
Yes. It's gone from talking about it to "Oh, my goodness, it's a real thing!"

Amber Cullum
That's right. So that's awesome. I'm glad to be here for your first show.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well, thanks. Well, we're new friends having just met in North Carolina this past summer, and I affectionately call you my 'Southern Soul Sister'. Because the more I get to know you, the more I realize just how much we have in common. And we touched on a few things about you in the intro, but why don't you just take a minute and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Your family? How you ended up in North Carolina, something like that?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Well, as you mentioned, my name is Amber Cullum. I have three kiddos, 10, eight, and five year old. He turned five in October so he's still home. I mean, sometimes when I say five, I feel like he should be in kindergarten. I think he thinks he should be in kindergarten. But he's not. He's home. And I partially homeschool my two oldest kids. That is not a quarantine event. That is something that we have done for a couple of years now. It's a university model type school where they go to school two days, and then they're homeschooled the other three days. So that works well for our family. And so that's really what I do - I podcast and stay home with them, help school them. And we live in North Carolina but I was born and raised in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and lived there, went to college there, met my husband. And then we soon after we got married, moved to Florida, which is where he is from in Tampa and had all three of our babies and literally like Levi was born and we were moving to North Carolina. So that's a little bit about how we got here.

Jennifer Uren
Well, that's fun. It's beautiful in Kentucky. I love driving in there.

Jennifer Uren
I missed it so much when we first moved. Now I'm used...I mean, I've been gone from there for a long time. But yeah, it really is a gorgeous place. But North Carolina, it's pretty great.

Jennifer Uren
It's nice, too. Yeah. Well, there are a lot of reasons why I have enjoyed listening to your podcast and one is that you ask excellent questions, and you really engage deeply with your guests. But another is that as I listen, I hear you really relating personally with them on so many things and one thing that I've heard you mention, you know, several times has been that you have personally struggled with depression. So, let's talk about that. I know you have kids. So was your depression postpartum? Or is it unrelated to that?

Amber Cullum
Yeah, I mean, you know, it's interesting now that it's been a journey for so long, because I do think that I had some depression going on, before kids. But you know, it's a different, it was never something that felt uncontrolled, I guess. I mean, I think I can identify signs now looking back. But at the time, it was so much easier to keep a little bit of your physical and emotional health intact, primarily because I had a job that I enjoyed, I was involved in life giving ministry. I didn't have kids, so getting in physical activity was rather easy. So really, when it came about, my first son was born in 2010 and I had a pretty difficult postpartum time with him. But nothing to where it didn't go away eventually. In the sense of go away to where I went back to feeling somewhat normal. He was a very difficult baby - colicky - any mom out there who just thinks, "Oh, my gosh, I am not going to live." That's kind of how I felt with my firstborn. Um, and that can be really dramatic for some, but if you've had a hard baby, you know. You know! That's why I like this podcast. I know. This mom knows about having a very difficult first child.

Jennifer Uren
And it's a miracle you had two and three, right?

Amber Cullum
I mean, it really is. And so there's hope for you if you think "I'll never do this again." Because I mean, my oldest son is a delight now. I mean, he didn't, as people say, he didn't, he doesn't still cry himself to sleep, he doesn't still wake up, you know, 18 times a night. He's doesn't throw up every time he eats at 10 years old. So you will get through that phase. But it was after my daughter was born. And so my daughter was really my easiest baby. But my body fell apart after her. Not only was I having a lot of the emotional issues, but my physical body, she had some difficult times nursing with her latching. Therefore, you know, I got mastitis, and then I had thrush, which is something that a lot of women just know very little about, because unless you've ever had this yeast infection, as a result of nursing, you have no idea that the pain is just crazy. And so there were these physical things going on, even though she wasn't really a difficult baby. And so really, it was after her that I realized, okay, it is been, you know, nine months, and I am sitting in the floor, and I am just sobbing uncontrollably for no reason. And it wasn't going away. So that's really when I realized like something's not right.

Jennifer Uren
And because she was such an easy baby, compared to your first you were able to distinguish differently between what was the tired normal, I can dismiss this kind of signs because I have a newborn versus something's not right.

Amber Cullum
Yeah, I mean, and I think when it's your when you've had one baby, you don't really know what to expect. And I remember having one of my really good friends from Tampa, she'd said - our firstborns were right around the same age, and they were really, you know, good friends, they're still good friends - and she said, I just kind of always thought maybe it was something you were doing wrong, because her child was so easy. And then I remember her second child, her calling me on the phone and going, I think I have a Bennett! And she was like losing it. Because she's like, I don't know what to do. And so if you have a really easy child, you don't really know. But with Zoey, it was just one of those things where it was like, okay, four months, you can just pretty much expect your life to be crazy. I mean, even if your child is sleeping, yet your hormones are trying to get back into some type of normal, whatever that is. But you're still just trying to get in a routine of sleep. And what does that look like? And the changes come so fast that I knew once I hit about the six month mark, like oh, something something's not right here. So yeah, it helped.

Jennifer Uren
So did you think at first, did you? Did you go straight to this depression? Or did you kind of go? You were just stuck at something's not right, I gotta figure out what's going on?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, I mean, I remember so much again. Now, then I could start saying, Oh, well, I've had these times before, where, you know, I'll be sad for a long time. And then you'll have a couple of good days. And I just remember thinking like, this is eventually going to go away. I know, I'm six months in, and it's not going away. But I'm going to give it another month or so. I'm going to just you know, hang in there. Like maybe once I start exercising again a little more consistently, it'll get better. Those kinds of things. I'm older now I've had all these physical problems this time around. So it still took me a while. But I mean, the denial that - I don't know about people, I can just speak for myself and for my friends who have experienced the same thing - it's a real thing. No one wants to think like, I need something else. Besides my own willpower and prayer to get to the other side of this. So that went on up until about a year before I ever sought any assistance.

Jennifer Uren
And and you kind of alluded to this, but once you kind of realized what was going through your mind, I mean, were you...you were probably all over the place.

Amber Cullum
Like, my husband was so gracious, you know, but he was miserable. I mean, he comes home and it's like, you've worked all day and then you know, you're walking into, I mean, basically, just an eruption zone, right? Like, you've got a sad wife. You've got two kids under the age of three, and really, nobody's happy. Not that my kids were never happy and there weren't happy moments. But it's a nobody wants to sit and listen to somebody who's sad all the time. And it's hard. Cuz I know having been in that phase that that's why a lot of people don't share it. But my husband did finally get to the point where he was like, something has to happen. Like you, you have to do something. And we had a couple of really good friends who, the wife, which was one of my best friends, she she had severe depression before we ever met, to the point where she tried to take her life at one point and her husband, I mean, had to take her and admit her. And so he had a lot of experience with this. And Sam, my husband reached out to him and said, "What do I need to do?" And he was, you know, a very good support for him to say, "Well, first of all, you've got to address it head on, you've got to just straight up, say what you think needs to happen. She needs medication, and you need to encourage her to go do that and to stop putting it off." And then also, because he reached out to someone, his wife was much more willing to really kind of call me out on some things.

Jennifer Uren
Mm hmm.

Jennifer Uren
So I'm grateful for that. Because I don't know that I would have gone.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well, and because it can be a very lonely thing to walk through, like you said, you know, you can be hesitant to talk about it, because no one wants to listen to somebody, you know, going on and on about it. But it sounds like you were kind of, not backed into a corner, but you were surrounded by support before you even realized you needed to reach out for support.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, I mean, I thank God all the time that really, the situation we were in at the time, it was one of God's tender mercies towards me in my life, because my husband is not the type of person that would just come up and point that out and finally, say, "Okay, this needs to happen." And he didn't come to me forcefully and be like, basically, "you need to go on medication, and you need to go see somebody." But instead, it was like, "Hey, you know, we have, this is not normal for you. We know somebody who's walked this path. And they couldn't get through it on their own either." And so I'm just so grateful for him knowing me well enough to talk to me, but also, that he had the courage to reach out to a close friends, which we knew a lot of their journey, even though we didn't know them when it happened. We were very, very, very close friends, kids the same age and things like that. So I do it was a tender mercy of the Lord.

Jennifer Uren
Absolutely. On both sides. It really is her situation to know she could help you and encourage you that way, I'm sure. So you went. So you had support from your friends, you went to a doctor you got on medication? And did that? even things out? Did you still have to do counseling? What What got you through or from coping and surviving back to thriving?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, I mean, once we I finally said, Okay, I'm doing this. And so I made an appointment, and I went to a doctor. And I finally just was like, you got to let some of the stereotypes go, you've got to let some of the fears go of what people will think the embarrassment, the, you know, all the things that we go through, that it's easy for us to blame. It's stereotypical. And so you don't want to get help. But the reality is our own flesh struggles with that, too. It's not just the way it's perceived by the world that has a lot to do with it. But we struggle with it, because we want to think - me, I shouldn't be saying we, I should be talking about myself - I wanted to think I could overcome it. And you know, as a Christian, you do have to wrestle through Is this me not having enough faith? I wasn't in a situation where people were saying things to me like, Oh, just pray harder. Oh, just read more Bible verses, memorize more scripture, I feel very fortunate that I wasn't in that situation. Because I think that shame can add a whole other layer to how you feel. But I was putting a lot of it on myself because I felt like I knew I I knew I was perceived by the Christians around me as being a very strong believer, a very strong follower of Christ and so you have to wrestle through that, you know, in your own mind. And so once I finally went and said, "I'm going to get on medication, I still was like, but I'm not staying on it." You know, I mean, I'll take this for a little while and then I'm going to get off of this. But I learned a little bit more about the way your brain works. And it's interesting because my background is physical therapy. And so I do have medical background. I mean, I've had neuroanatomy and neurophysiology and so I don't know if I just had forgotten in my mommy phase. But like when hormones like serotonin and things like that, when you have a deficit in that, you don't just regain those types of things. But instead, you can do things that keep them at the level where they are now. So it's not like you can just, I don't know how to describe it. But let's say you had 100% of something, and you went down to 90%. Well, from that point forward, you can only get back up to 90%. You don't necessarily go all the way back up to full. And so that was something that the, the psychiatrists that I saw said, "You know, I just want you to be aware of this, it's, once you start taking this, it is something that you will need in order to keep those levels up." But then she was so gracious to explain why we need that. And so you know, I went on the medication and knew it would take a couple of weeks, but it was an extremely low dose. And honestly, the the change was so fast for me. And I often described it as before, I felt like, I would walk into a room and there could be 100 people, and I'm an incredibly social person. People make me very happy. Well, most people. I like to converse with a lot of people. That's what I should say. But I would I mean, it's like, I would be talking to multiple people and I would feel all alone. And it didn't matter what someone would say, what someone would do, how people would respond. I felt like I was the only person in the room and nobody else knew I was there, even though there were hundreds of people. But afterwards, like it was like that, that fog that cloud that what felt like this little barrier around me went away. And then I wrestled through some things of feeling like well, now I don't have any emotions. I feel like I'm emotionless. Like nothing makes me cry, because I am a very as you can tell if you're watching this, I mean, I have a lot of emotions, both positive and negative. And so I had to wrestle through that. But yes, it cut the fog, it allowed me to get past that place of "oh my gosh, I'm never going to get out of this." It allowed me to start seeing things from a positive viewpoint again. And so of course, then the journey after that was very long, but the medication originally helped a lot.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, and are you still on medication? Can I ask?

Jennifer Uren
I am? Yes, yes.

Jennifer Uren
So you've just said, this is part of what gets me back to that 100%. And that's okay. Because it's no different than taking insulin for diabetes, or, you know, vitamins, you know, iron deficiency or anything like that.

Jennifer Uren
That's right, well, and I wrestled through that, too. I remember when my third born, when I was pregnant with him, I did not have to come off medication, the kind I take. It's a very low dose. And so I can continue taking it while pregnant. But I just decided I'm going to. Okay, and so I did, I came off medicin, and I was like, oh, maybe I won't need it, you know. But yeah, that just wasn't the case. And so that was another layer that you, you have to work through. You know, again, it's this, it's getting past this guilt, this shame. What does God believe about me what's really true versus what am I putting on myself? What is really true versus what other people are putting on me, or what I perceive other people are putting on me. And so I worked through that again and once I decided I would start back on medication. At that point, I knew I will take this for the rest of my life. And now it's just yeah, I mean,

Jennifer Uren
and so you're on the medication, it's what you do in the depression is, it's just not who you are anymore. Because it's you've worked through all the things, and I'm sure it rears its head every now and then. But it is not. You don't walk around going. "I'm Amber and I have depression. You go. Yeah, I'm Amber. And you know, depression has been part of my story."

Amber Cullum
Yeah. And I mean, depression still is a part of my story. It is still something. I mean, just today, my oldest son was having to write these poems about every single person in our family and one person, either in our extended family, or that's a friend. And so he has to come up with these descriptive words as he's brainstorming. And then when he gets to me, and we're working through all the different ones, and I said, "Well, you could write feisty". And we look up feisty and I'm like, "Oh, I don't think that's it." That's Yes, I am feisty. But when you look at the definition, it also means that you're looking for arguments. There's two different definitions. And my oldest son was like, well, that's not you. I'm like, and I mean, I can be argumentative, but I don't just walk around looking for arguments. Yeah. But my husband had said, I said, "Why don't you go up and ask dad, I feel like, you know, I've been able to help you with all the other people, but you go as dad" and Sam said some positive things. But he also said, "and she can really get focused on the negative really quickly." And so that is part of a couple of things. I mean, I definitely grew up in a family where I would say we were more grumblers. And so while depression can be somewhat, you know, it there are there is proof, or it can be genetic. It can also be things that wounds that we've experienced in our childhood that has done, you know, some damage in our brain. And so the way that our brain functions, tends to be more of that woe is me. But a lot of that can be reversed. And so while it's still something that rears its head on a regular basis, I can think in compartments, so I can think about, you know, we have the spiritual self, the emotional self, the mental self, and the physical self. And I kind of know, when I'm getting depleted in certain areas, I know that the things that kick in now when depression comes up, or when it's raging. And so because I know some of those things, I can say, "Okay, do I need to get outside and treat my physical body? Better than what I've been treating it? Have I been active enough?" Because those are the things that release those hormones that are sure to make us happy and joyful. You know, when I think about the emotional health, "have I been in life giving conversations with people that I love? people that love me that pour into me? Or am I putting myself in situations right now, where I'm just being depleted? constantly?" Like, I know, I can ask those questions now and figure that out? I mean, same with spiritual? "Am I actually communing with a living God? Or am I just checking my boxes?" Because if I'm checking my boxes, then I'm kind of out of whack there. And I know like, oh, maybe that's part of the trigger that's getting ready to send me in this downward spiral. So yeah, I don't you know, I hope that helps someone. But it's really hard when you have a newborn, because you can't put it in those boxes.

Jennifer Uren
You're depleted everywhere!

Amber Cullum
You got to get past that. Because your hormones, you can't really control that early on. But you're now I mean, it's different.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah. So you are the host of the grace enough podcast. And it sounds to me like that shift in mindset of you know, growing up in a grumbling home and these types of things may was that part of what had you say, I want to start seeing work. God's grace is where the goodness is in in things around me?

Amber Cullum
Yeah, Imean, I wouldn't, I wouldn't say it really contributed to why I started the podcast. But I will say, when it comes to the title of the podcast, Grace Enough, I do remember, I went I did go to counseling, not after this depression came on, but back right after college, to work through some issues in my relationship with my mom and to deal with some of those things. And I really did a lot of studying on the grace of God during that time, and just this unmerited favor, like I cannot earn it. I have been saved by grace, you have been saved by grace, if you believe you know, in Christ. And that is not something of myself. That is not something of my mom. We don't earn this. And so when podcasting came along, and I really thought about that, it was, you know, God really can use any story. If you're someone who's walking through depression right now, if you're someone who grew up in an abusive home, if you're someone who grew up thinking, "Oh, my gosh, my life is perfect. We must be doing everything right." And now all of a sudden, you're realizing that's not true. By God's grace, if you surrender and you trust Him, He will use your life. He will, you can impact his kingdom. I mean, and so while depression, maybe didn't lead to the podcast or like, my experience with that definitely working through what grace really means. And why that's important. Yeah. played into that. Okay.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah. And I love on hearing the stories that you talk you're looking for. People are sharing the grace in the Yes, answers to prayer and in the no answers to prayer. And I, it just struck me the other day that it's so easy to focus on the yes's in the this, but the grace is there equally in the no's. And sometimes the now is grace, you know? So if there's there may be a mom listening today, who is who is struggling with depression or wondering if she might be? What would you tell her? I know, you're not a counselor, I know you're not a medical professional in that specific sense. But Mom to Mom, what would you tell her is a good starting point to just sort of help her discern if, if that's what she's struggling with? And the first steps to change that?

Amber Cullum
Yeah, I mean, the first question I would ask is, are you in a place where the majority of your day you feel trapped? And I'm not talking about trapped like, "oh, I'm a parent, and I don't get to do the things I used to do." But I mean, do you find yourself sitting in the middle of the floor and weeping at times uncontrollably, and really not knowing what you're weeping over? Do you get that feeling where you walk into a space, and you should be happy, but you're just like it, nothing, nothing makes you feel excited to be there excited to be a part of it. And it's not all about feelings. But this is certainly something that will help you identify, if you're experiencing depression. It's almost like this darkness that's just over you. And it's indescribable. I mean, if that is you, you probably are struggling with depression and I would say, you're not alone. God sees you. God knows your heart in a way that nobody else does. And even if you're crying out to him, and you feel like he is not answering, the fact that you're maybe listening to this and considering right now that it might be you is him answering. Because it doesn't mean that when we pray, and maybe God doesn't take away our pain, or our sadness, or our sorrow, it's not really that God's not answering. You know, sometimes it is through that person who comes along and says, What's wrong? And that triggers in you, oh, my gosh, something is wrong. Mm hmm.

Jennifer Uren
Or validates it

Amber Cullum
That's right. Listen to that still, small voice and don't push it down. And find one person that you feel you can trust and say, "I'm struggling, I know I need help." And then you just have to take the next step to get the help. And that's not easy. I know. So if you don't have that one person, General put up all the things, please reach out to me, because I didn't want to tell anybody.

Jennifer Uren
And sometimes it feels easier to tell someone you don't know than it is to be vulnerable with somebody you do know, especially if you're not sure how they're going to react.

Amber Cullum
Yeah. And it was years before I told so many people that I take medication for depression. Years. Even after some people knew it. I mean, it's totally normal to feel like something is wrong. And you don't want to admit it to anyone. But that's the thing where, you know, realizing that God knows every intimate detail of who you are, of how you feel, how you're wired, and what's going on with you can bring comfort. Because he already knows he is not sitting in judgment over you over these feelings. And so just ask him for one person that you can talk to.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well, that's very good. And that makes this seem like a really awkward segue because we're near the end of our conversation and now I go to a very light hearted question.

Amber Cullum
I'm sorry, I talk too much

Jennifer Uren
No, it's great. I the first time I heard you say actually that you know you are a medication for depression. What I heard and what I saw and what I loved was that you were so confident in who you are and who God made you to be that this was just a fact. It wasn't a definer it wasn't a deficit. It just It just was. And so hopefully that encourages you that and it's just, you know, it really was encouraging because it can be tricky with, especially in the church, it can be very tricky. It's a mixed bag. So...

Amber Cullum
It took me years to get there, though, so people need to know, it's not like I just arrived here.

Jennifer Uren
No, but your journey may help them get there faster.

Amber Cullum
That's right. I hope so.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Well, as we draw to a close, one fun question that I'm asking every guest because I am a gadget person. And I like the right tool for the right thing to save time and effort. So, what is your favorite gadget?

Amber Cullum
Okay, I'm gonna go as fast as I can. Because I have to say one thing first today, I oftentimes, when I'm looking over stuff like this, I'll look at my kids when I'm not sure about something. And I'll be like, I'll ask them the question, What do you think? So I look at my kids, and I'm like, What do you think one of my favorite gadgets, you know, is or Wait, what's the proper English there? And both of them look at me and go, your computer. And I'm like, I'm like, does that mean you think I use it all the time? And thankfully, they were like, No, no, but and I said, but it's for work, right? And they're like, Oh, yeah, you know, and so I started laughing. I'm like, I gotta tell Jenn that. But we came up with because I mean, I'm kind of a gadget girl, but not Not really. My frother my little - it's, you know, nothing fancy, it's battery powered frother for my coffee in the morning.

Jennifer Uren
Uh huh.

Jennifer Uren
I mean, I really do enjoy my coffee more since I've had that. And I think I've had it for about a year now. So I think it's my favorite gadget.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, that's great. That's good to know. Yeah. Oh, that's fun. Oh, well, Amber, thank you so much. How can people connect with you where they can? Where can they find you?

Amber Cullum
Well, if you want to listen to the podcast, I am pretty much anywhere. Apple podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, you know, Amazon Music, all the places just search Grace Enough Podcast. And then I hang out on Instagram probably the most. That is Grace Enough Podcast underscore Amber. And really, that's what it is everywhere Facebook. So you can find me in those places.

Jennifer Uren
And I will put all that in the shownotes as well.

Amber Cullum
Thank you, Jenn

Jennifer Uren
Thanks for sharing and thanks for being here and kicking the whole thing off with me today.

Amber Cullum
Well, I'm excited for you and your journey.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.