I feel the need to update based on the events of the last few days. Not to add to the blabber of the media, but because if this had happened last year when I was in such a lonely and tormented mind-frame I am not sure how I would have responded to the tragedy. Babies are dead. Precious, precious babies. It hurts my heart to even say it- I am tearing up as I type this. I hope that you will bear with me as I try to get down some of the thoughts I have and some of the things I want to share- they might be a bit convoluted.
One of the first things I want to share is turn off the news. If you are already struggling with depression and anxiety, post-partum or not, you do not need to fill your head with images of pain and despair. I know that we want to know what’s happening, but there are other ways of going about that. This leads me to another point I want to make: we are not called to compare our burdens or our grief. Looking back, I think it would have been easy for me to see this situation and say “I have my baby, I have my family, and these people have lost a child/family member. Why can’t I just feel normal and be happy for that sake?” It doesn’t work that way. You will never know their grief and they will never know your struggle; each are uniquely experienced and walked through just as every experience with post-partum depression and anxiety is uniquely experienced. This season is difficult enough without the added weight in your mind that you should be feeling one way or another because of someone else’s experience. What has happened does not take away from the battle you are going through– the war waged inside you. It doesn’t make your battle seem any less important. But what it can do is provide the knowledge that you are not alone. There are others out there facing a battle, facing hurt, facing depression, facing pain. Don’t compare your pain to their pain. Pain is a non-comparable emotion.
I have to say: where is God? I think we all think it– especially those who are already walking through the battle of post-partum depression and anxiety and then some tragedy like this occurs. Where is God? To be blunt: I don’t know. Sometimes He can feel miles away when things like this happen. I don’t think we should be ashamed to say it if we feel it. When I first saw the news of the precious little 6-7 years old that had been killed, I felt miles and miles away from the loving God that I know in my heart exists. I know He is still the loving, kind, compassionate, ever-present God that is my redeemer and my love. But that doesn’t change that in that moment I felt an ocean of grief and misunderstanding between us. I don’t have an answer for this question. I don’t have an answer for why certain things happen in life and to be perfectly honest, I don’t want one. I don’t want to know the knowledge of why things happen. What I want is to be allowed to feel what I feel without judgment, without condemnation. The beauty of Jesus is: He allows that. He allows us to cry and be depressed and to grieve and to be angry and to stomp our feet in rebellion and cry in shame. His arms are never shut to us, they are always there waiting for us when we’re done. He is always standing beside us and longing to comfort us through our emotions. One thing I know is that we as humans, especially as Christians, don’t allow others to feel. We tend to admonish- to say that we are called to a higher standard and that our emotions shouldn’t rule our lives. Yes, we are and no emotions should not. However, God did give us emotions for a purpose: to feel. Just because we feel something doesn’t make it so. That feeling doesn’t become us (though it can if you let it). Grief, sadness, anger: these things we feel. We are suppose to feel. They don’t guide us, they don’t make our decisions for us and we must make the conscious decision to lay them aside when we are called to. But we have them and I don’t see the point in trying to shame them away.
This is where I ended up today in my thoughts. I ended up here, talking to God and saying these things, being honest. It was that moment when I remembered: HOPE. That’s where He was leading me. That’s what He wanted me to share with you today. Hope.
1 As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
3 Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
4 My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
5 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and 6 my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
from the land of Mount Mizar.
7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
8 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
9 “O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Depression, loss, pain, grief. All of these things come in life. We must work through them– we must feel through them. But where we should end up is back at the beginning: hope. I don’t understand many things. I don’t want to understand most things. But I do want to have hope. I want to love. I want to love you through this time in your life.
After the last few posts, I thought it would be good to maybe cheer things up a bit. Evalyn’s birthday is tomorrow (gasp!) and we are planning on taking her to a Pumpkin Patch to have some fun. I have learned so much and grown exponentially in the year that she has come into my life and I think that it’s good to focus on our strengths to celebrate victory. I want to share some of the things I have learned because I think if you allow yourself to learn and get vulnerable through your postpartum depression and anxiety, you too will begin see your strengths in victory!
I AM STRONG (through God). What I’ve been through in the last year is immense– simply having a baby, handling all of the changes that brings, balancing school responsibility, being a wife/friend/daughter is a humongous load on anyone. But having post partum depression and anxiety in addition to all of those life changes was a huge burden. But I got through it. Oh, I didn’t think I would; I thought I would feel that way for the rest of my life… But here I am, a day away from my daughter’s birthday, and I am happy, healthy, and not just functioning but thriving! I say this with the disclaimer that it is by God’s grace I am in this new place in life: He brought me through everything, He carried me, He loved me, and He healed me. He was the hope I needed when I felt hopeless. I am strong– but my strength is found in Jesus! What a wonderful friend Jesus is to those of us who are weary or burdened. I love Him so much!
I AM BEAUTIFUL. No, I don’t mean physically; physical beauty is fading and fleeting. It’s subjective to the eye of the beholder– what you find beautiful, I might not (but I would probably never say that). No, I mean I am beautiful to God. This may seem a weird conclusion to come out of post partum depression or anxiety, but let me explain… When I was dealing with anxiety attacks and debating over and over in my head whether an antidepressant was “sinful” or not, so much of my deepest fear was that I would be shameful to God– that He would look at me and shake His head in disappointment. But through this process I have learned this: I am pleasing to God! Yes, we have sin that separates us from Him and we live in a fallen world… But when we cry out to Him and seek His face, we are so beautiful to Him in our need. Instead of Him shaking His head in disappointment at me, I know He is lifting my head, kissing my face and wiping away my tears. He see’s me for me, the beauty that it’s inside of me that no person in this world can look deep enough to see: my soul. And He thinks I am beautiful! If the Most High God thinks I am beautiful, then goodness gracious– I must be!
I AM HEALTHY. Yes, I am saying it: I am healthy. I might still be taking medication to help the physical part of my body do what it needs to do, but my mind and my heart are healthy. My thoughts are healthy instead of sick, my worries are healthy and valid instead of exaggerated and terrifying, and my outlook on my life and future is hopeful and happy instead of fearful and sad. I am healthy and thriving and excited for what is coming next! Life is full of possibilities and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for because I know His way is better than my way.
I AM ME. I might be a Mom, a Wife, a Daughter, a Friend but I am still me. I still have my goals, my dreams, my passions, and my secret daydreams. I thought that becoming a Mom sort of stripped you of those things, not in a negative way but that being a Mom became the central focus of life. While being Evalyn’s Mom is the most important role of my life, I still have a heart for the things I did before she was here too which surprised me. I still desire to be a Nurse, I still have a passion for helping other Christian Women, I still like to shop for clothes and shoes and makeup (what woman doesn’t?), I still like to space out on a good TV show, I still like to spend time with my best girlfriends, and Christmas is still my favorite time of year. This is refreshing to me: that I still have myself in the midst of everything going in life. It’s good to know yourself, what you like (and don’t like), what you dream of, and what you enjoy. These things keep you going when you’re exhausted and dealing with a teething baby or when your antidepressant has only just kicked in and you’re having major anxiety; these things that make you YOU help keep your candle burning, even if it’s burning at both ends.
2 posts in 2 days? Phew, I am on a roll! I thought today that I would share an experience I had with anxiety and panic attacks– not to relive it but to help you or a loved one maybe try to grasp a little bit of what that hell feels like or what it does. I want you who are suffering to not feel like you’re crazy or that you’re the only one who has been through things like this and the only way to do that is to share my own journey. I want to say that I am not going to rationalize some of the thoughts I had, because I would be rationalizing my entire experience. My thoughts/feeling were at a time when I was sick and that is just the disclaimer I am sticking by.
I woke up at 7 am on my own, despite the fact that Evalyn was sleeping through the night like I had been praying for constantly and I could have been getting the sleep I so desperately needed. I lay in bed thinking “I should go back to sleep, I need more sleep, today will be miserable if I am tired, go back to sleep” but my body was awake. The more I told myself to relax and go back to sleep the more tense and anxious, until I was literally shaking in bed. At this point I had experienced a number of panic attacks and I knew what brought them on and I knew that shaking uncontrollably was one of the signs. So my mind began to whirl and I kept repeating “I am not going to have a panic attack, I am not going to have a panic attack” but the more I repeated it, the more terrified I became of having one (which is also called Agoraphobia– yes, it’s real) and the more I started shaking. I should add here that although I can’t remember, I probably hadn’t eaten in a few days in fear of throwing it up when I had anxiety attacks so I was probably also physically weak. At this point my stomach started to turn and I recognized the feeling of needing to throw up, but I was shaking so much that I couldn’t walk. I also didn’t want to wake Jesse, who was sleeping next to me so I crawled out of bed– literally and crawled to the bathroom, on my hands and knees. I made it to the bathroom before the full blown anxiety and panic hit and I started gagging, shaking, and hyperventilating. I lay in front of my toilet on the ground because I couldn’t get the strength to get up again. It was probably only about 2 minutes but it felt like 15. I had nothing in my stomach to come up so eventually the gagging stopped and I tried to stand up, but I was shaking too much to even make it to the bathroom door. I opened the bathroom door and managed to crawl on my hands and knees back to my side of the bed, but I didn’t have the strength to get back into bed so I just lay on the ground. Eventually Jesse woke up, saw me, and carried me to living room where I sat the morning trying to recover. Evalyn woke up, needed feeding and changing and morning went on all while I was shaking and anxious inside. Eventually it got to a point that Jesse was concerned enough to call his Mom over. (I am skipping things to take less time.) I remember sitting on the couch crying while my MIL hugged me and asking “why is this happening to me?” It didn’t seem to get any better and it hit a point where I just wanted relief, so Jesse and I went to the hospital. Yes, we went to the ER. I felt ridiculous but I also felt like it was my last resort. They admitted me and took my history and asked me a bunch of questions that I can’t remember and told me to wait for the mental health Doctor. Meanwhile I was still a mess: shaking, felt like I couldn’t breathe, emotional, scared, tired, exhausted. I told Jesse “maybe they should just knock me out or something, I don’t want to feel like this anymore!” Poor Jesse, I am sure it scared him. I remember a very kind nurse coming in to check on me and though I am never pushy, I told her that I felt like no one believed me– what I was going through, and that I was scared and that I just wanted help and I just wanted someone to believe me. She was very kind and held my hand and told me that they did believe me, they understood and they were working hard to get the Doctor down here to help me. It was the first time I felt like I might actually get some relief. Awhile later the Doctor came in and asked me questions, like if I had thought about hurting myself or my baby– which was shocking to me. No, I just wanted to feel normal! The Doctor gave me some medication that helped with anxiety and I was extremely nervous to take it; I have a lot of family history with alcoholism and though I had never suffered from it, any drugs of any kind scared me and I worried I might turn into some sort of junkie. But the Doctor assured me that wouldn’t happen and explained that while it could be addicting, that many patients used them for anxiety for a few weeks and were just fine. It helped calmed my already frazzled nerves and when the medication kicked in, I was actually able to get some rest and calm down. I felt horribly embarrassed for going to the ER over anxiety and panic attacks, but I thought I was going insane! I just desperately wanted to feel like myself again. I left with a prescription for anti-anxiety medication and had previously received a prescription for an anti-depressant.
I can honestly say that it was one of the worst experiences of my life, but at the same time humbling. My body was out of control and I couldn’t just snap out of it. I thought I needed to be admitted to a mental facility, in fact I remember saying that clearly. I knew what normal felt like for me and this was not normal. The decision to use medication of any kind is very personal and private, but I want to share the internal battle that I faced while making that decision… I didn’t want to take the easy way out, I didn’t want to just think that God couldn’t heal me, and I didn’t want to be sinning. In fact, many of my panic attacks and anxiety after this experience were based on the worry that I was somehow shaming or sinning against God because I was taking medication. This is was a hell for me and it was completely unnecessary! Mental health, just like physical health, sometimes requires us to put to use Doctors and medicine. I finally came to the realization that if someone broke their leg, they didn’t just pray to make it better– they also went to the Doctor to get it placed and put in a cast so that it could heal properly. The cast doesn’t do the healing; the bone does. It fuses back to itself, it regrows the necessary things it need to be a functional limb again. I finally knew what I needed to know for my recovery and healing process: the medication didn’t do the healing, the recovery, the work in my mind. All it did was help fuse and rebuild the physical part of my brain that needed medical help. By going to therapy, counseling, post-partum recovery groups, anxiety classes, and just discussing it openly I was doing the healing that I need in my mind.