In part one of my story I shared my experiences with depression beginning in adolescence. I’m picking up today on my story, focusing on what happened after I had children. Can I recommend never having a baby at a hospital right after a hurricane swept through your town? We all have our birthing war stories and I won’t bore you with mine but the fact that we had a hurricane precipated my son’s birth and subsequent issues that followed. Nothing dramatic but when you’re a brand new mom, you want everything to go smoothly so you can just relish the joy of finally being with your child. I had a seemingly endless list of irritating health problems following my oldest son’s birth and I was very stressed about it. Independent of each other they were mild (sciatica, for example) but combined, it became too much. I had a few visits to my doctor during the first few weeks of my son’s life and I remember my midwife saying “I wonder if you might be suffering from post-pardum depression?” In my head I thought “Are you kidding? I know depression when I see it and this is not it.” I responded that I was extremely stressed out from constantly being sick.
That began my step down the road of blaming everything else for my problems instead of the obvious: depression. I was always crying, always seemed to be incredibly tired, and very irritable. I said it was because of the stress of being a new mom, or that I was on my own with little help, or that my son wasn’t keen on napping during the day, or, or , or. I blamed my husband that if he were home more, I wouldn’t feel this way. I thought that since I had diagnosed people with depression in my work as a counselor, I would know it when I saw it. Not so. By the time my son was ten months old, I finally realized that I was depressed and my doctor gave me antidepressants. I took these until I was pregnant with my second son. Pregnancy was very difficult emotionally and I think the depression began to creep up on me right away. I made plans with my doctor to begin taking my medication again as soon as my second son was born, thinking it would help me keep it at bay. Hoping things would be different the second time.
I really anticipated not having any problems with depression since I was taking medication. But the irritability and sadness was coming over me in waves. I kept telling myself it was because my husband was working all the time and that I just needed some time to myself. Then I blamed it on the kids being sick with asthma all the time. Then I blamed it on the difficulty of my oldest son’s behavior. Then, then, then. Many times the answer to a problem is right in front of you and I was the problem, not anyone else. So many days of calling my husband on the phone crying about the kids, so many days wishing my life were different. I was the very person I didn’t want to be: yelling at my son, always irritable with him and my husband, wanting to just stay in bed and never get out again. And I couldn’t stop crying. Finally, one day I started wishing that my life was over, my lowest of lows. I felt out of control, that I would explode if nothing changed. It was then that I heard a voice saying “Remember that? Those thoughts are the very thoughts you sent people to the hospital for time and time again.” I with the plank in my eye. It seems we always have to get to the bottom before we’re willing to look up and ask the Lord for help. And then find that He was right at our side all along.
I got help from my doctor who put me at the maximum dose on my medication which has really helped. But it doesn’t work on it’s own. I have had to lay myself at the feet of Jesus time and time again asking for his grace and mercy. I have had to face my pride and accept that no amount of experience or knowledge in treating depression is going to keep me healthy. I have to depend on God to carry me through. I have to dig in the word, replace my negative thinking with the very thoughts of God. I have to be always in prayer. And I have to take off my mask and let others in my church community be the arms of God that surround me.
My journey into healing is an ongoing one, a daily battle. I am prone to depressive thinking, prone to all or nothing thinking, prone to expecting the worst. I have to stay connected to God each and every moment for once I turn away and get distracted by something else, I feel my steps falter. I have to be alert for signs of depression creeping up on me and immediately tell my husband and a friend. And I just pray, pray,pray. For how can I show Jesus to my kids if the plank in my eye is so large that I can’t see him myself? How can I show them Jesus when I live as though he does not have the world in his hands? How can I expect them to love when I can’t get out of the mess in my mind in order to step out and love others? But I can show them Jesus by telling them how he heals the brokenhearted, how he restores us to wholeness, and how he loves us unconditionally.
And by resting in him and his strength alone I can show them how broken people are healed.