I was not myself. My mind was. not. right. I was a shell of a person who was doing an ok job at pretending that everything was normal. Everything was ok. It was just a mild case of the baby blues.
But it wasn’t. Because I had begun to question everything about myself. I was heartbroken that the one thing I was supposed be good at (motherhood) I was failing miserably at. I was terrified all the time. I was experiencing panic attacks. The thought of being left alone, especially at night, was nerve wracking. I did just enough around the house to keep up appearances. I kept the television on all the time—silence was deafening and caused me to get panicky. Everything was not ok.
I laughed at all the jokes, smiled when I was supposed to, and engaged in conversation all the while thinking thoughts that terrified me.
Anxiety and depression run in my family. My mother suffered with clinical depression for years. I don’t know how she did it. She suffered for years before finding a glimmer of hope for treatment (to put that in perspective, I felt like I was hanging on by a thread after 8 weeks). She heard an ad on the radio for a clinical trial on clinical desperation, she picked up the phone and asked to be a part of it. That was the beginning of treatment for her. I thank God for that ad on the radio. I thank God that he caused my mom to have the courage to pick up the phone and make that call.
Back then (in the early 90s) depression had a much bigger and much more negative stigma hanging around its neck. For years my mother was afraid to tell anyone what she was thinking and feeling for fear that they would institutionalize her. Once she sought treatment she was still hounded by those well meaning (albeit ignorant) folks who told her she could pray through it or be healed from it without the help of western medicine. Over the years my mom has shown great courage and vulnerability in speaking so openly and honestly about her struggle with depression and how she sought treatment.
As I have struggled through depression since having my daughter I have become more and more convinced that those who struggle with various mental health issues should not and cannot do so in silence. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying you should write about it on the internet)
I remember sitting in bed while nursing my baby girl and thinking, “I guess this is what life is now. I don’t know how I’m going to continue living this way, but I guess this is what life is after having a baby.”. I thought about death CONSTANTLY. I thought about all the bad things that could happen to my sweet baby girl. I thought about losing everyone close to me. I thought about eternity and was absolutely crippled with fear. All. of. the. time. I thought about heaven and how my husband wouldn’t be my husband there. And I wept. For weeks I wept. My mind was a hamster wheel of nightmarish thoughts and my heart was a hurricane of emotions. I was afraid to share what was going on in my mind because I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s life if they were living in blissful ignorance.
I didn’t know how someone like me, who claimed to be a Christian, could be so afraid. I was becoming more and more convinced that I’d tricked myself into believing that I was a Christian. I’d convinced myself that my whole life I’d been living a lie. I begged and begged God for forgiveness and I begged and begged Him to save me, yet I still had no assurance of my salvation. I would call my husband while he was at work and sob—hoping he could share some magical thoughts that would comfort me, if only for a moment.
I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I read God’s word. I listened to sermons. I couldn’t find a way out of the fog.
It took awhile for my husband to realize that I wasn’t ok, that this wasn’t just the baby blues. That this wasn’t something we could pray our way through. We sat at the dinner table one evening as I tried to explain to him what had been happening in my head and heart. He encouraged me to call my mom, I told him maybe.
Later that evening, through tears and out of sheer desperation, I shared just a snippet of what I had been experiencing with my mom—she immediately said it sounded incredibly similar to her depression and that I should call my doctor.
And so it began. Treatment. Hope. Beginning to feel like myself again.
Now I’m loving being a mom to the most precious, most joyful, on the move, and sweet baby girl. I can engage in conversation and be fully present. I can be at home by myself without leaving the tv on. I can laugh sincerely. I can claim Christ’s promises to His people as my own with confidence.
I’m still on my medication. I still meet regularly with my doctor. We’re still waiting to find out if my depression is defined as postpartum depression or if it extends beyond postpartum.
Now, you may be wondering why I would share some of the nitty gritty details of my experience online?
Because there was a moment. A moment when I was standing at my kitchen sink washing the dishes when I understood. I understood how people could reach the point of ending their own lives. I understood how people could think that what they were doing was not selfish, but a service. I felt like I’d become a life suck to those I love and care about the most. I felt like I was a second rate mother to my daughter. I felt like I was dragging my husband down with me.
Because the suicide rate is rising at a startling and heartbreaking pace.
Because Satan attacks us when we are most vulnerable.
Because my mom shared her experience with me and that made all the difference in my story.
Because God condescends to use people like me. People who are broken. People who are scared. People who are clinically depressed. People who struggle with anxiety. Far from perfect people who are riddled with the effects of the fall.
Because I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet in search of someone that could tell me I wasn’t a lost cause. I wasn’t without hope. I wasn’t wrong. I was just sick. And there was help to be had.
Because through it all I saw God’s faithfulness to me. I saw it through my husband who spoke truth to me when I could not speak it to myself and showed me tenderness, love, patience, and support. I saw it in my mom who knows the struggle all too well and who I didn’t have to explain anything to—she was my “me too” and “it will get better”. I saw it in my doctor who was proactive in his treatment of me and tender in his interactions with me. I saw it in God’s drawing me closer to Himself.
Depression feels like a curse—at the very least it is part of the curse. But God uses ALL THINGS for the good of His children and for His glory.
“18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
I read the above passage with a fresh understanding of what it is to join with all of creation in groaning as we await being set free from the bondages of sin, death, and yes, depression. I read it with a renewed thankfulness, a renewed hope, and a renewed zeal to share what our great God has done in my life. Even and especially through the pain of depression.