Last year I experienced some of the darkest days of my life. Aside from the many devastating circumstances surrounding those days, I experienced the most terrifying, life changing experience called postpartum depression. After four successful births without having to experience this, my fifth birth- I was not so fortunate. Many hear postpartum and just think it's a new mom sitting in her bed crying her eyes out over nothing, but what they do not get is it's not nothing! Postpartum is one of the most traumatic experiences I've ever gone through.
I will try my best to explain what this feeling is like but unless you have actually gone through it yourself it may not be easy to really grasp. Let me give you a picture of a typical day in the life of postpartum: You go to bed the night before only to wake after noon the next day. When you wake up, you are still so tired and your body feels weak. Your head feels like it weights 50lbs and the effort it will take to get it off that pillow is not worth it! You see the sun peaking through the slats on the mini blind and the brightness makes your eyes sting and your body crave pure darkness. You hear your children outside your closed bedroom door playing and occasionally trying to get in your locked door but you don't want them to see you like this, they will never understand- so you distance yourself from them to protect them. Your baby cries to be nursed as your husband brings her to you, you latch her on and lay next to her as she eats and that is the only moment all day long you feel like there is any ounce of life in you, and any reason for your being. Once she is finished your husband takes her away and you go back to your bed, under the covers and cannot stop crying because the darkness is too much but yet so is the light! Crazy thoughts enter your head about how your children would be better off without you- and they are not thoughts of pity on yourself because you are incapable of having pity on yourself- you are your biggest critic! No matter how hard you try to get out of that room and go back to the person you used to be, there is no going back, you are stuck in this seemingly never-ending cycle of guilt, regret for not being able to be the mother that you want to be! When you try to get out of that room and walk out into the living room the light is shocking. You feel exposed, unable to move, and unable to function- you crave the darkness again! Ultimately you feel there is no way out! No way out of this darkened life, this cave you are living in, and you are doing nothing for anyone but making life harder.
Yes that was my entire 2012! On top of this I had many circumstances in my life that were abnormally traumatic and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, as well as severe anxiety.
I'm sure most are shocked by my post about this because no one knew that about my life last year except my husband. Even close friends did not know it was that extreme because I kept most of the details to myself. I became a very closed and personal person last year. Where I used to be a completely open book and didn't care what anyone thought, I closed myself down and tried to disappear. I realized after the first few months of going through this that people didn't want to hear how I felt and what I was going through. People didn't want to hear me tell them that I was losing myself and was thinking about committing myself because I wanted to end it all! I had friends walk away from me because my life was too negative for them and I couldn't just talk about positive things! I realized that the more I talked about it to others, the better I felt, but the less friends I had left. So I stopped. I tried a counselor but I just felt like I was talking to a wall when I was there. They just wanted me to talk and never asked me any questions, then when I was done they were like, "ok see you next time." I wasn't getting help I needed. I wasn't getting the help I was reaching out for. I had no idea what to do except get through one day and into the next.
This is such a controversial topic for so many, especially Christians. Christians are each others biggest critics. We like to look at another Christian and say "Oh there is no way they are saved, they have to take depression medication!" or "I thought they were Christians, did you see who she was hanging out with?" oh and how about "I cannot believe they read The Twilight Series, I thought they were Christians!!" Seriously Christians- did we receive forgiveness because we are all perfect or did we receive forgiveness because God had grace and mercy on how sinful we are! Does God really look at that book we read or medication and refuse our salvation because we are human and we are not living according to how other Christians think we should live? NO! We are told not to live according to how the world wants us to live, so why should we live according to how Christians in the world want us to live? We need to live according to how the bible tells us to live! This is the exact reason that people feel that they cannot express what they are going through to others for help because they will be told "you aren't relying on God by having to be on medication, or because you are feeling that way, you are a sinner!"
I took my seven year old out today to panera for lunch. We sat and talked a bit while we were eating and after a while I heard a woman behind me say, "isn't it such a beautiful day!" I looked behind me and there was an older lady standing up to leave. I replied, "it sure is I've missed the sunshine!" She began talking to me and we discovered we were both Christians and she actually knew my husband's family. She began to tell me that she has had the worse few weeks of her life. Her 38 year old son had tried to kill himself by blowing himself away with a gun! Her husband an a worker on their farm had found him on the property and rushed him to the hospital. They were all Christians, the husband, the wife, his three kids. They all began praying for a miracle!! He ended up surviving and within 2 days he was in the step-down unit! He did suffer some brain damage but he was alive! The doctors were completely shocked and asked them "what did you guys do?" they said "we just prayed!" The sad thing and the thing that stuck out to me the most was that NO ONE KNEW ANYTHING WAS WRONG! A grown Christian man who probably felt like no one wanted to hear it, was in such a dark place and couldn't see a way out that he felt the best thing was to take his own life.
Since last year I have overcome the depression tremendously. Since getting pregnant again I did have a slight relapse and fell back into it for a while recently but this time was different. I'm not sad like I was, I don't cry, I just couldn't get out of my room. I have good days and bad, more good this week and as the days go on it has gotten better! I realized that while in a situation like this it is so easy to tell someone "just read your bible," or " just cry out to God" but what we don't realize is that the entire experience people ARE crying out to God but their situation is staying the same. Why is it staying the same?
James 1:2 "count it all joy my brothers when you face trials of different kind..." SERIOUSLY! So in the middle of the darkest days of my life, instead of crying out to God "FIX THIS" or "HELP ME" I should try to find joy? How in the world do you do that? Well I can tell you now its not through seeking out friends to lay all your burdens on, at least it wasn't for me.
A few weeks ago while struggling with a milder version of this I really felt like I was finally hearing God after all this time. I realized that I have been so suffocated by the darkness that I was incapable of finding joy, or light anywhere around me. There was nothing positive, there was nothing I could hold onto and know I could get to the other side with, the darkness clouded my thinking. All I needed to do was to stop looking at the darkness, stop trying to figure out how to get out of it and concentrate on worshiping my Maker! The God who made dark and light, the God who created heaven and earth, and the God who gave me my very breath. No I'm not talking about reading my bible, or even praying...I'm talking about WORSHIPING! That is where the Joy is!
The lady at Panera concluded her story with this: She told me that after her son was stable she drove out to the site where they had found him on the farm. She said that it was a very dreary cloudy day and the sun was nowhere in sight! As she sat in her car staring at the place her son had shot himself she felt like God told her to get out of the car and WORSHIP him! She walked over to the spot he was found and lifted her hands to the Lord; as she did the sun started peaking through the clouds and it got brighter and brighter until it was just so unbelievably bright she couldn't take it anymore and had to go back to her car. A few minutes later a worker on the farm came over to say hello, she asked him "have you seen the sun come out today?" He said, "no ma'am the sun has been behind these clouds all day, not even a glimpse!"
This lady could have embraced the darkness of that car and the sorrow of her problems and life that she was living, but she decided to just step out of the car and throw up her hands and she found the light- simple as that!
I decided after my conversation with God a few weeks ago to Worship. I came out of my room, walked into the lit up living room and turned on a Hillsong DVD. My body was cringing from the light and ached for the darkness again, but as I began singing and Worshiping the maker of light an darkness, all that faded and it was just me and Him standing together in the light. No more sorrow, no more pain, no more darkness, just pure light.
Please do not judge your fellow Christians to be sinners just because they struggle with something that they need help getting out of, and please do not walk away from someone who does not have the strength to see light in the darkness. Just because we are Christians does not mean that we cannot walk through a dark tunnel and get lost- be the voice at the other end helping them find the light again! I get it can be draining, I've been on both sides of the story, but the level of involvement does not have to be extreme. Lending an ear to listen, a text that you are thinking of them, a email that you have prayed for them today! You do not have to spend hours on the phone with that person counseling or reciting bible verses, but do drop them lines of encouragement! You will never know how much one small message that says, "thinking of you" can mean to someone who feels the world has forgotten all about them.