My friend and I walked around the block. With every step we took, our hearts opened more and more towards one another. Two babies in tow, puffs on hand, and water for replenishment. We were ready for our hour together. Our hour to gush about our deepest struggles. Our hour to walk off the stress. Our hour to cry together. Our hour to share in each other’s burdens. This was our scared hour. As I walked with my friend, she shared some of her deepest heartaches in her life right now. I listened intently, as I related to several things she was describing. We have different struggles, but oh such similar feelings in the dark places.
Because I’ve been open about struggling with postpartum depression, I’ve received several messages from other mommas about it. What were my signs? What were my symptoms? When did I know I needed extra help? So, I thought I would share a bit here at GLOW because we’re a whole bunch of women, and I’m sure there are others who struggle. And more than that, I can GUARANTEE some of you know someone who is struggling with anxiety and/or depression and need some help on how to HELP your friends. So, here we go. Buckle up because I’m going to be candid.
I’m a generally happy-go-lucky kind of person. I’ve secretly held onto my pessimism, but most of the time people would describe me as optimistic. I did not have a background of depression. Yes, anxiety, but not the gripping, dark anxiety that was something I needed extra help dealing with. I sort of viewed anxiety and depression as sadness and worry that people just needed to get over. They just needed a little encouragement to continue to strut along in their day, but I never knew that it was something more serious than that. “Mental health” has a stigma. Hardly anyone associates that with anything positive. And the sound of you dealing with MENTAL HEALTH issues is alarming! But it’s more common than we think.
June 8th, 2014 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was so precious and FRESH. Ha! Really, those newborns are ripe and fresh! I was of course overwhelmed after having him and had NO CLUE what I was doing. Baby dolls truly teach you nothing. But alas, we had him. We brought him home, and I was supposed to be the happiest I’d ever been.
But no… I was sort of happy… I guess. More weepy than happy. Everything made me cry. I couldn’t focus on anything. Nothing made me happy or really deeply sad. I was numb. But very weepy. I chalked it all up to baby blues and called it a day. Until one day I had the most terrifying and horrible intrusive thoughts about actually hurting my child. I mean those thoughts would bombard my mind, and I didn’t know what to do! I remember standing in the shower, bawling over these scary pictures in my mind just KNOWING my family was going to send me to a mental institution. I knew deep down that I would never hurt my baby, but those images were burned into my brain. Without notice or warning, they’d pop into my head…straight from Satan. I immediately decided to tell my husband and mom. They were both incredibly supportive but urged me to see our family doctor. I gladly obliged because I wanted help DESPERATELY. I Googled my symptoms and this PPD website came up. The intrusive thoughts were actually part of the symptoms! I immediately found some comfort because I knew I wasn’t alone in this. I thought I was, but this was more common than I knew. We have the best family doctor, and he didn’t judge me for what was happening. He listened, asked a few questions, encouraged me, and prayed with me. Then he prescribed me a mild antidepressant.
This didn’t help immediately, but I could eventually see it working. While in the midst of all of this, I didn’t even have the strength to have a quiet time with the Lord. I would basically sit and wallow in my darkness. Satan wants us to feel alone, so he tries to get us to isolate ourselves. That’s exactly what I did. I stowed away in my little house with my baby, and I SAT in darkness. Not literally, like a vampire. But figuratively, I would sit in the darkness. In these moments, no one could have pulled me out. I needed to sit there for a time. But no one knew I was doing this. I didn’t tell anyone. I would just blame my bad mood to my husband on sleep deprivation. I just needed someone to sit in my darkness with me, but no one knew I even needed that.
As I walked through this time, I journaled some. I got that journal back out to look at the things I wrote. These are some snippets of things I wrote over the course of several days:
“Satan begins working when it’s quiet and everything’s still.”
“I feel so alone.”
“I’m a pile of dry bones.”
“I feel numb and hardhearted.”
“God, I don’t feel like I can hear you.”
“I want to feel like myself again.”
“This is a Satan created illness that’s beyond painful to endure.”
“Unrest in my heart and mind.”
Then one day apparently I found some strength to read, I wrote out Psalm 13.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Then I wrote this out from the ESV study Bible about Psalm 13: “This is an individual lament for circumstances where the worshiper is on the verge of despair, his powers of endurance spent.”
That was how I felt. My powers of endurance spent. On the outside, everything was perfectly fine and normal and even happy. On the inside, I was spent. Completely crumbling. I had to focus on that “BUT.” Those last three phrases stuck with me. Words like “trust” “steadfast love” “rejoice” “salvation” “sing” “bountifully.” Those were the words I needed. I was in the pit BUT. I had to hold onto that BUT.
As time went on, I healed more and more. I opened up about all of this once I thought I was healing. Which, I now wish I had opened up as I walked through it. There’s no need to feel like you have to keep it to yourself until you have victory. There is victory in the vulnerability. Yes, it’s humbling, but it’s also necessary. Day by day, I got a little better. The Lord truly brought me through the darkest time in my life.
I share all of that to tell you something… YOU CAN GET THROUGH THIS. There is another side to your pain. Whether that’s mental pain, physical pain, spiritual pain, or emotional pain. There is no shame in getting help, and there is victory on the end of it. Yes, there are hard days full of tears and despair. In the midst of them, utter “Jesus.” That’s a step. And that’s all I could do some days. But I’m a living testimony that there is another side, and it will be okay.
I want to give a couple of pointers for those of you wondering how in the world you deal with your loved one’s mental health issues.
- Do not try to fix it. When we see our loved ones hurting, that’s our instinct. But it cannot be magically fixed.
- There are no magic words to make the pain go away. Letting them know you’re there, you’re praying, you’re sorry… those are GOOD THINGS.
- Sit in the darkness with them. Sometimes all they need is company. A hug. Someone to cry with. Someone to sit with. No words…no pressure. Just a time to sit in the presence of someone they love.
- Support them and encourage them in their path of healing… whether that’s counseling, medication, etc. As long as it’s healthy, of course.
- Try to get them out and about to do things they enjoy. Take walks with them, go bowling, throw a football, get pedicures, ride bikes. Whatever they fancy, encourage them to do it by doing it with them.
- Seriously get on your knees for them. Don’t just say you’re praying, actually pray. Fall on your face and cry out to Jesus on their behalf… sometimes they don’t even have strength to do that for themselves.
These are just a few tips from experience. Nothing to write a book about, just some things to take away.
I hope you know that Jesus truly is our hope. Looking to Him in the pain is beyond important. Some days, all you may be able to mutter is His precious name, but do it over and over. Then another day you may move on to Scripture. It can be a process, but take it a step at a time. We support you. We’re cheering for you. Keep on, sisters!