I had no clue when I sent that blue little iMessage, with one tiny simple question, that she would call me a few days later and unearth things deep inside me that I didn't want to unbury.
The truth is, I knew i wasn't okay. I knew things weren't right. I knew I didn't feel the way a new momma is supposed to feel (whatever that even is).
But I thought it would get better. I thought I was being dramatic. Maybe I was too self-centered. Maybe it was my fault and I was choosing to feel this way. Maybe I just wasn't strong enough. Maybe after all these years of longing to be a mother, it really wasn't supposed to be for me after all. Maybe Em would be better off without me.
On a December morning, my doula & i relived my entire labor & delivery. I bawled so hard I couldn't breathe. I was in physical pain. It was horrific. It was a tiny bit healing.
We then discussed my current thoughts, emotions, and circumstances. She patiently waited while I tried to find enough oxygen to form words & questions.
When in the depths of mental illness, we're too ill to know how ill we are. We need an outsider's view. In my case, I needed a postpartum professional to help guide me. Per Jeni's instructions, I took the Edinburgh postpartum depression scale test and was appalled at how high I scored.
I then met with a psychologist and was officially diagnosed with extreme depression and anxiety. Seeing those test scores was crushing. Why wasn't I strong enough to keep myself from getting this "bad"?
I began meeting with my Christian therapist. I tried medications (that didn't work for me) and my therapist recommended a health food store in a nearby town. I started on some supplements that began to give me a sliver of hope and healing.
But it was and is a slow, up and down, battle. Good days and bad days. There were days and nights in the early months of this year that I was close to harming myself. It is difficult to be in a place where you need to have the suicide hotline number in your phone contacts. One night in particular could have claimed my life.
The darkness isn't as black today as it was several weeks ago. It is still hovering, still here. Some days it threatens to envelop my entire being again. Some days it wins. Some days it doesn't. The anxiety attacks aren't as frequent but the anxiety is still present. Some days it courses through my entire body.
The truth is, I'll never be the same person that I was. Motherhood changes a woman. There is no going back.
My body will never (ever) be the same. My heart will never be the same. My brain will never be the same. My faith will never be the same. My marriage will never be the same.
But you know what, I don't think we're supposed to stay the same. The breaking, the remaking, the gut-wrenching pain... It's all meant to make us better. It's meant to grow us, as individuals and families and churches. It's meant to sanctify and transform us.
This journey with anxiety & depression may never be over for me on this side of eternity. Previous to pregnancy & postpartum, I deeply struggled with anxiety & medical trauma induced PTSD. I battled pregnancy depression during the first several months of carrying Emery. Seasonal depression is also a recent addition to my story.
But I'm learning to be okay with these facts.
In scripture, we see that our Father promises trials, He promises pain, He promises suffering. We should not be surprised by the storms, although it's not wrong if we are. Nothing could prepare a woman for the shock of postpartum depression, anxiety, and rage. There's no way to not be surprised when you birth a beautiful baby, that grew and kicked inside of you for 9 months, and you have no bond with her.
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote three of my favorite verses in the whole Bible.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
These weaknesses I have... The autoimmune diseases, the depression, the anxiety, the PTSD... God allows them to make Christ known in and through me. He offers His grace that is sufficient for each day. Even on the days when the furthest thing that I FEEL is peace, I can rest content knowing that even in the anxiety and panic and grief, Christ is still in me, working in me, growing me.
It's not failure or sin or wrong to feel and experience these things. The doubts and the hopelessness are not sin. As Kristen LaValley said on Instagram stories today, "When you're depressed, your brain is lying to you all the time. All the time." Depression & anxiety are illnesses that God sovereignly & lovingly allows. And through the struggles, He promises strength. He promises His presence. He promises hope. He promises grace. And He promises eternal triumph.
I don't have a perfect way to end this post. No pretty bow to tie to wrap it all up. I'm still in the trenches, still in the storm. But one thing I know to be true: if God is for me, who can be against me?
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.