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.