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.
Are you weary today? Weary is an interesting word… It literally means tired, exhausted mentally and physically. When I read this scripture I find a great sense of comfort. The comfort I find in this scripture is that Jesus understood being weary. He understood being so mentally exhausted that all you want is rest. He understood the physical toll it takes on a person to have anxiety attacks day after day. He didn’t say “come to me all who are tired“…. We all get tired in our lives, we get over run by life and our circumstances. Jesus understood that, even He got tired. But what He is saying here is WEARY. He is acknowledging here that sometimes what are we experiencing is more than tired; He is acknowledging here that He understands that we are human– flesh and bone– living in a fallen, sinful world and because of that we might have to face the realities of walking through this place until we reach our home in Heaven with Him. The most important part of this scripture is what He is offering: REST. He is offering you (and I) a place of peace from the suffering. He is telling us that He will be the safe place, the place where our burdens our lifted and we are given the rest from our minds that we are so desperately seeking. He will be the place where we can sit and take a deep breathe and gather the strength to get us through another hour of the day, to get us through the next diaper change and feeding and sleepless night all while battling the chaos in our minds. He is saying to you: come to Me. That is the disclaimer in all of this– you have to go to Him. If you are weary today, if you’re having a rough day and you just need some rest and peace, find it in Jesus. Turn off the noise in your home whether it’s the TV or music or the computer and go to Him. If your baby is crying and can’t be consoled, if you’re running around trying to accomplish a million things, or if you’re laying in bed wondering how you’re going to manage to get the effort to climb out of your bed, take a moment and go to Him– even if it is just 10 seconds of saying “Jesus, I need you.” He will give you rest.
I think sometimes that we forget how beautiful brokenness is. Sure, it’s a messy and sloppy thing– usually coming with tears and runny noses and fears and “what if’s”. But there is something beautiful about being broken: being put back together (and maybe even finding pieces that weren’t there before!).
If you’re broken, if you’re hurting and need help, if your depression or anxiety is getting the best of you today I just want to encourage you to cling to Jesus. Cling to the love of your Savior, remember His love for you! He will give you strength– even if it’s just to get through the next hour. Sing Him a praise song, tell Him you believe He is your Healer. Thank Him for something in your life, tell Him how you love Him. You will make it!
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of His understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
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.
Evalyn’s first birthday is fast approaching (October 11th)! I know that every Mom says this but it really is true: I can’t believe how quickly it went by. I never thought I would be able to say that because when she was first born time seemed to be a burden to me: I was ill and miserable and I didn’t want to deal with anything. But now that I am not ill/miserable, I can honestly say that it was one of the best years of my life. Having a child is like no other experience; once healing comes, once you are healthy, and once you are able to enjoy your days I firmly believe you will feel this way too. I actually have a lot of things on my mind today that I want to share so I am going to try to limit myself on what I share so that I don’t get long winded.
1) Don’t let anyone (ANYONE) tell you that what you are doing is not enough. Let me just be honest: there is always going to be someone who does more than you and handles more on their plate than you. Everyone has different tolerances for the things going on in their lives and it’s the way that God meant us to be; if we were all constantly on the go it would be a chaotic mess! If we were all laid-back people then nothing would ever get done (because “hey, it can get done tomorrow!” am-i-right?). But I know for my life as a woman who is a wife, a mother, a daughter, a student, and many other things it can feel like what you’re doing is not up to par and it has a way of making us feeling inferior. My friend, I want to tell you this from the deepest part of my heart: you are amazing. It doesn’t matter if you have a billion things on your plate or if you have just a few: what you do is amazing! If you are content with your life, if you are happy with the way things are, then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Post-partum depression can make us feel less valuable, less purposeful because we are dealing with our own health– but that is not the case. We are dealing with our health; but we are dealing with the health of our families! Mothers are the heart of the family. You are invaluable. So get healthy, be healthy, stay healthy– whatever you have to do for your family and know that post-partum depression and anxiety doesn’t define you, in the midst of the storm and afterwards.
2)Mental illness is a touche topic. The cold hard truth is that there will be some people who no matter how much you express what you went through or how much it changed you, will never understand. You and I can argue, defend, and explain things until we are blue in the face but mental illness is one of those things that until it touches someone personally, is just not understandable. I’m learning and have learned through my healing process that it’s okay to just let go. Someone might say something hurtful or even uneducated regarding post-partum depression… But don’t let that dig into your soul. You know you. You know your Heavenly Father. You know what you went through and they never will– they aren’t you! So just let it be, remember to thank God for your experiences, your healing, and your life because walking through the waters of mental illness is something not everyone will experience. It changes you… If you allow it, it can change you for the better.
3) I want to really stress how important I believe it is to find someone or many people who do understand what you went through. Even if it’s just a phone friendship or email or an online community. Mental illness is isolating– something people don’t grasp– and even the most good intention-ed person can make you feel awful without meaning to. But being able to vent and express your experiences is a vital part of healing. To be able to hear “Oh honey, it’s okay. I felt that way too!” or “Just ignore it, you and I both know that’s not true” can really make all the difference. I really encourage you to find a safe place to just be you. (Note: I am available anytime through my Contact Me page if you would like to get in touch with me)
I just want to share that I wish I could be there with you right now– I wish I could hug you and make you a cup of hot chocolate and tell you all of the things that are still in my heart about my experiences. Sometimes I feel alone– I feel like I am standing in an empty cave shouting and no one hears me. But I know you’re out there and I know that God gave me these tools and experiences for a purpose: to be here for you. I may never see your face or talk to you in person or even chat online, but if you are reading this and it is helping you walk through your post-partum depression then you should know that it many ways, I feel that you and I are in a special sisterhood. A sisterhood based on Christ, on love, and on grace. I hope that this week finds you well, and if you are still walking through the waters of post-partum depression and anxiety I hope that you have some moments of heavenly peace and rest.
This word is for those that are struggling back onto the road of life after experiencing the trauma of depression and anxiety and those like me who are on the other side of the valley. I want to say this: we who have suffered from Depression and Anxiety are not victims. By saying that I mean that although we are or have been ill and needy, we are not hopeless or helpless. It’s easy to be consumed by Depression and Anxiety– to let the illness become the focus instead of the healing. In the moments of anguish and torment we can’t see what’s ahead, no matter how hard our loved ones try to encourage us or tell us that everything will be okay. But seeing is not the same as believing. I couldn’t see my way out my Depression and Anxiety; it was dark and scary and lonely. But my faith became the lifeline to my salvation– my anchor in the storm. I was tossed on the rocks and torn apart, but that anchor was still firm: faith. Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Healing is coming or here for you so don’t be the victim of your illness, be the victorious.
What we’ve been through is war; a war for our minds, our sanity, peace in our spirit, and rest for our families. We’ve come through VICTORIOUS! We are victors in this war– not because we are strong and awesome, but because God is strong and awesome. As victors, I don’t believe that we are to live with an attitude of victim-hood or pity. We have been the needy– now we are the provision. We have been the ill– now we are the healed. We have been the broken– now we are the redeemed. Now is the time when we show ourselves strong– to began to recognize what God has done for us through our illness.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.
Note: I say this with the hope and prayer that if you have or are suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety (or any kind), that you have sought treatment– whether it be through therapy, medication, or education. I believe that treatment is the key to a full recovery and emotional/physical healing from postpartum depression and anxiety. If you have not sought treatment, I urge you to seek it out.
I spent a lot of time at my mom-in-love’s (abbreviated: MIL) when I was really sick and in the middle of some tough time (my side of the family lives nearly two states away from me). I thank God every single day for my MIL and I know that God had everything planned out so that I could be with her. There are a lot of reasons I spent so much time at her house, but the one I want to tell you about right now is this: it was safe. That might sound strange– as if my own home wasn’t safe, but that’s not the case. What I mean by that is this: she took care of me. She took care of me in ways that I don’t think she even realized at the time.
As I am sure you know, depression is a nasty thing that sucks the life out of almost everything around you. It makes the simple tasks that were once so easy to accomplish seem so overwhelming that all you want to do is bury your head in the sand and wish it all away. For me this was my home. When I was home I constantly saw the dust covering my coffee table, the marks on my kitchen floor that needed to be mopped, the laundry that was piling up (hello new baby!), the ring around my guest bathroom toilet, and mostly: my empty kitchen, which hadn’t seen a meal cooked in it since long before my daughter came into the world. It was overwhelming. I remember crying at my therapist appointment, my husband sitting next to me, and saying “I just can’t do it. Everything is so overwhelming.” It seemed that all I could manage to do was just feed my daughter, change her diaper, make sure she was clean, and hold her. Other than that, I just wanted to zone out from the chaos in my brain and stare at the TV all day. So I found a way to escape: I went to my MIL’s. Looking back, I suppose in some ways it was a bit like running away– but I NEEDED it. I needed the escape from the pressure I put on myself. If I didn’t have a safe place to go, I think I might have had a nervous breakdown on top of everything else I was dealing with. Listen: it’s okay to have a safe place to hide. We all need that place where we can just be, especially when our mind is the battlefield.
So what was it about my MIL’s that I found safe? It was clean. Of course, there are other reasons but I am saving those for a later topic. In this instance for me, though, it was because it was clean. My MIL has always kept a neat, tidy, and clean home. It’s one of her great attributes; rarely would you walk into her home and find dishes from the night before (as I am typing, I am looking at dishes from last nights dinner at my house). And this made me feel so safe. I would walk in from the garage and her floors were clean, her kitchen spotless, and her living room free from dust. This made me feel safe from my own guilt over my house being not what I wanted. I could just be at her home and not think about the fact that I needed to vacuum or make dinner; I just held my daughter and zoned out– even slept if I needed to. And when it came time to eat, she always fed me. (Disclaimer: my husband is a fully capable man– he feeds himself and takes care of himself very well. The pressure I felt was my own, not his) I didn’t have to think about what was in the fridge or what I needed to go to the store for; food just showed up in front of me and I ate. The best part though, was the fact that I didn’t have to think about cleaning up afterwards. I just ate what was put in front of me and my plate disappeared and everything was clear. In my mind, this was nearly a vacation! This was safe to me; it was what I needed. Some of us have this fear of being needy– I did. I remember crying and being upset and saying “I don’t want to be a burden!”. Hear me out: sometimes we need to need. We need to know that we can’t do it all– and that it’s okay to not do it all. “But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, My power is made perfect in you.”” 2 Corinthians 12:9. Let someone take care of you: human and God. You will not always be in this position– someday you will be providing care or strength or safeness. I promise.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Never in a million years did I think I would be here. I never struggled with depression or anxiety in my life– I was always stable and happy. I love being joyful! But after my daughter was born, my life took an interesting turn. I sunk into a deep depression and suffered from major anxiety attacks. I won’t get into details right now because I have so many things I want to share in the future, but I will just say that I felt isolated and scared and weird and even crazy. I remember telling my Mom that I thought I needed to be put into a mental hospital– not because I wanted to hurt myself or my baby or anyone for that matter– but because I just wanted some relief from the anxiety and depression I was experiencing. My husband and Mom-in-love were an amazing source of support and care, but that only made me feel MORE guilty that I couldn’t just snap out of it (though I am SO grateful for their help now).
The one thing that I do remember with the utmost clarity is this: when I got on my knees (literally, for me) and cried (literally) to Jesus for help, He heard me. How do I know this? I remember one day in particular I had just returned home from a particularly rough appointment with my Psychiatrist, who wasn’t a christian. I was admitting to myself some hard things– I just wanted my daughter to go away so I could sleep and get better. That was so hard to say because in my head I knew I should have been in love with her. My Psychiatrist told me “It’s okay to be selfish” and I remember thinking to myself that Jesus wasn’t selfish, the Word of God says to be selfless and giving. I now understand what she was saying, though she didn’t say it very well (further evidence we’re all human) but that is for later on. And I was TORMENTED by her statement. Tormented because I thought “I’ve let myself be influenced by an un-Godly advice and now I am sinning” and my mind just spiraled. I was diving deeper and further into my anxiety until I just stopped and got on my knees in the middle of the day, right in front of my couch and my husband and just cried out to God. I was sobbing “God, why me? What have I done? I hate this– I hate how I feel! I just want to love my daughter, my life– You gave her to me! Why? I’ll do anything Lord!! I’ll be homeless on the street, I will give up everything to not feel this way! (I remember saying that so clearly) I don’t know what to do!” And I just sobbed and sobbed. There are mascara marks on my white couch to prove it too. Eventually, the tears ran dry and I stood up and told my husband I wanted to go for a walk. We were barely out the door when I said out of nowhere “I’m just sick and I need medication” and peace hit me like a ton of bricks. My knees almost gave out and I almost fell to the sidewalk– It wasn’t me that had spoken those words, it was the Holy Spirit. My Mom always said “follow the peace” growing up. God heard me. He loved me, He guided me, He answered my prayer. He provided the way to redemption from my depression and anxiety. My mind cleared and I was able to focus on Him– on His love for me. On how much this broke His heart see me suffering this way. I wasn’t cured– I had a long way of ups and downs until the good days became all the days. But when I cried to Jesus, He heard me and He gave me relief.
If you’re in the midst of torment, I just encourage you to just stop doing whatever you’re doing and pray. Let those tears fall, let your emotions out, tell God everything that is in your heart even if you think it’s shameful or bad or sinful. He already knows– He’s just waiting for you tell Him. Be angry, be sad, be depressed– it’s okay. Just be you; He loves you.
Psalm 31:7 I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.