Saturday, May 6, 2017

The struggle is real.

I sat in the big brown chair in our living room surrounded by my 1 1/2 month old whimpered on a blanket, my 1 year old running around making all kinds of funny noises, and my husband playing with the both of them. I sat still, staring. I wasn't even thinking about anything because I couldn't. I couldn't focus. I couldn't relax. Every thought was anxiety-ridden, stressful. My body tingled and my eyes were foggy. My heart was so full yet so numb. I just wanted out of my own body so I could enjoy, taste, see, FEEL something other than stress and darkness. Postpartum depression weighed heavy on my back. It started the evening my first daughter was born. She was sick so I was only able to see her for a minute before she was whisked away to the NICU. I was also sick with a high fever so I didn't get to see her for 3 days. Overwhelming hard pain. It's been over a year and I still can't linger on that fact. Anyways. I remember that night, sitting in my hospital bed, recovering from the most traumatic day and a half of my life thus far, hearing voices and seeing things that weren't there and SO scared that someone was going to come into the hospital and steal my baby or hurt us. I just knew something bad was about to happen, like death's angel loomed over me and I couldn't get him to leave. That's when the monster called depression leeched itself onto my self. A year and a half later, by God's grace alone, I can breathe a little. A month after Josie was born, we found out we were pregnant again. I was already struggling with PPD, so mix in more hormones and the anxiety of having 2 under 1 made it a little harder to breathe. I did experience joy, of course, during this time because I LOVE my daughter(s) more than anything but I will not pretend that it was a joy not accompanied with the monster. As months went by, the depression softened it's grip a bit. Or maybe I just became so used to it's company. I laughed at my daughter's silly faces, kissed her soft chubby cheeks. I went on a few dates with my husband, went on trips, and over time, the monster was easy to hide away in the back of my mind... but he left a mark on my mind. The sun wasn't as bright. The birds weren't chirping. It was like that monster stole away all of the joy around me, hiding it from me. I knew it was still there in reality, but I couldn't see the beauty around me. That monster had a hold. I so wanted to enjoy every little detail of my amazing life. I was so thankful for a healthy baby and a wonderful marriage and the fact that God gave us another baby in such a short period of time, I will never take for granted. But with depression and anxiety, no matter what reality is, no matter how good life really is, your mind cannot comprehend it. Something won't let you just be. My mind was constantly consumed with BAD and it became my inward norm.

I love and believe in Jesus so automatically, I thought that what I was experiencing was a spiritual thing. Either I didn't trust God "enough" or I was going through a "dry season". I thought that my faith was the issue so I got angry. I COULDN'T physically have any more faith than what I already had. I couldn't even comprehend how I could do that in my own strength. I couldn't possibly muster up any more HELP ME GOD pleas, any more I'M TRYING TO TRUST YOU prayers. I was tired. So I became angry at God and blamed Him. "You are in control so CHANGE ME. DO SOMETHING for me. If i don't have enough faith in you and if I am supposed to muster up that faith on my own, in my own strength, then forget it. I'm out. I'm hopeless. Forever this monster will have a hold of me. Sorry, I failed you God. I don't have enough faith." I was ignorant of the monster called depression, specifically postpartum depression. Which isn't a faith issue at all.

As the birth of my second daughter approached, I was scared. Scared of the unknown. Scared that I would experience another traumatic birth again and go deeper into the belly of depression. My anger towards God turned into pure desperation. The depression convinced my mind that I was going to die during childbirth. That monster has a way with words. I was terrified. I begged God to save me. I was detached from reality in my mind yet on the outside, who knows, maybe I seemed fine. I really couldn't tell you because I was so consumed with the thoughts in my head that I couldn't control.

The birth of my second daughter, thank God, was amazing. No complications. Perfectly healthy baby. Healthy mama. I was on cloud 9. All was right in the world... maybe, just maybe, that monster decided to leave and go find someone else.

In Christ, I am free. I am no slave to anxiety, fear, depression, sin. But when you are experiencing a physical or mental illness, it sure feels like you're a slave to it. And yet, I tried to hold tight to the truth of the Gospel that Jesus broke every chain that could or would ever try to bind me up. Still, it didn't take anything away. Yes, it can. I believe that Jesus can heal any disease but He also chooses to take the long road and carry us through trials. And despite what I was taught growing up, He sometimes chooses medicine to heal our brains. And medicine is not just for "crazy people" which is what I picked up from the church. That and a whole lot of silence on the topic of mental illness and depression. Thank God, He is teaching me otherwise.

I silently fought PPD and extreme anxiety as my second daughter grew and I had 2 under 1 for a month. Longest month of my life. Any time I got in the car with someone, my mind CONSTANTLY replayed scenarios of crashing over and over and over and over. I couldn't see clearly because of the horror movies my mind's eye was seeing.

I would try to tell my husband what I was feeling but since I couldn't articulate it well enough and since my mind was so foggy, I just figured it wasn't worth it. I knew he knew I had anxiety. My husband is extremely loving and supportive and only wants the best for me and as soon as I finally told him how bad the depression and anxiety was that I was experiencing, he supported me in reaching out and getting help. But for a while, it was my normal. I just accepted that this was just how it was, how I was.

The depression lessened but the anxiety was at an all-time high. I was home alone with a newborn and a 12 month old who was just learning to walk, toddling around and getting into EVERYTHING. I was recovering from a 2nd c-section, 2 within a year. Hormones were raging, my body was aching, my mind was spinning. Motherhood is such a strange thing. I was so thankful for my girls yet so exhausted. Hurting but happy. Depressed by joyful. So strange the thoughts and emotions always changing. It was overwhelming. Not to mention everything outside of my mind. The house, I couldn't keep clean. I couldn't keep myself properly hydrated or fed. Lila ate every 2 hours or LESS. My body was being used to care for another human and it forgot to care for its own self. My mind was being used by anxiety and depression and it was slowly killing me. I felt so outside of myself. I thought I was going crazy. I was SO scared that I would hurt myself or someone else. I couldn't take a bath in fear of drowning. I couldn't be around knives or even look at them in my kitchen for fear of stabbing myself. And when those thoughts started coming, I knew I had to reach out.

At the end of another overwhelming day, I finally mustered up enough energy to tell my husband how I had been feeling. He immediately told me to reach out to someone then after a few minutes, encouraged me that we talk to our pastor and his wife. I didn't know it but that was the start of stepping on the road to recovery. God was truly working. Even when I couldn't see it.

I believe God let me get to that point of desperation and darkness in my mind so that I would finally reach out. He brought me to the point to where I couldn't deal anymore on my own. Thank God He had given me enough grace and protection to seek help before I did something bad to myself. My heart hurts for those who believe the lie that they can't reach out to someone when they're hurting. If you're reading this, (especially if you're a Christ follower and you're struggling, stop believing the lie of man that depression isn't a real thing because it is). REACH OUT. SPEAK UP. Get help. It may hurt your pride, it may seem "not Christian" which is another lie all together. Jesus does NOT want His children suffering in silence. Motherhood is hard. Life is hard and we are not meant to do it alone.

After meeting with my pastor and his wife, they encouraged me to speak to a doctor that I trusted. God uses modern medicine to heal people of physical diseases AND mental issues as well. To say that isn't true is a pride and ignorance. On the other hand, you and I cannot place our faith in medicine to make us whole. It is simply a small tool among other tools to bring about healing.

My second daughter is 4 months old (and SO HAPPY!) and this past month that I have been taking medicine and reaching out to people, my mind is clear. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I hear the birds. Their chirping makes me giggle. I looked at the trees outside and thought BEAUTIFUL! I can belly laugh and finally feel like I don't need to be ashamed to be happy. I can clean my house and take care of 2 sweet babies without feeling like the world is crashing around me. I can close my eyes when I pray. I can focus on something for more than a minute. I have been able to sit and read the Word without thinking about a million other things. I can have a conversation with someone without feeling confused and incoherent. I can smell, taste, see bright colors, enjoy a cup of coffee. I jump up and down and act silly with my daughter. We laugh and run around. I don't feel like I'm running away from the monster anymore. Yes, I still have anxious thoughts. I may always have them. But what once felt like a huge heavy monster permanent on my being that I can't control, those thoughts and feelings now feel like an ant that I can pick up and move out of my mind when I need to. I can chop up vegetables without the fear of hurting myself. I drove 2 hours to visit family last week without my heart racing and palms sweating in fear of getting in a car crash and dying.

I am sharing this as a testament to God's grace in my life. God's goodness. I am sharing this for any mom suffering from PPD + anxiety. It's okay to get help. You are not "crazy". Being anxious and depressed is not normal and it's not a "phase". I'm sharing this to show people that I am weak and I believe in Jesus and I believe that He understands mental illness more than we do. He uses medicine as a means to heal people and sometimes He does it without. But sometimes He does. I'm sharing my testimony to show that I'm not perfect. I'm a mess but God is not. I am finally feeling the reality of being free. I hear the birds.