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.
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.
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.