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.
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.