It took me a long time to decide to seek help for my depression.
First of all, I didn’t know I had it. I honestly felt crazy. I thought that by definition a person with depression was always sad. And I just wasn’t. Sure, I had days and weeks and months at a time where I was incapacitated by the darkness that engulfed my life with the all-encompassing thickness of a severe Midwest storm. But morning always came.
It was a confusing process to try to reconcile those two drastically different realities—deep, painful darkness and bright, hopeful mornings—especially without any direction. I was honestly afraid to talk about the darkness I experienced. I didn’t want anyone to know. I worried admitting my struggle was akin to admitting I was faithless, weak, unlovable and inadequate.
I hoped that if I just pushed hard enough and far enough through the experience, the terrifying darkness would just dissipate. But it didn’t. It festered, and smarted, and intensified, like an unresolved sliver in my hand. The lapses of darkness grew longer, the wounds in my heart grew deeper, and the burden to carry grew heavier.
I felt like I must be doing something wrong. Each time after surfacing from drowning darkness, I convinced myself that if I could just increase my faith, my firmness of mind, and my resolve, I could keep the clouds at bay. I recommitted my life to seeking light and living right—every single time. But I couldn’t control the storms. After everything I could do, the darkness always returned.
After my daughter was born, the depression barged into my life like a sadistic thief. It seemed to rob me of all the joy and purpose in what was “supposed to be” one of the happiest times of my life. I remember those dark days with the image of me crumpled at the foot of my daughter’s crib, despondently pleading with God to give me the strength and skills to be able to function as a mother to the child (I then felt) He had so unwisely sent.
But despite the urgency and the faith and the fervency with which I prayed, Heaven seemed silent. Nothing seemed to change inside of me—where all was breaking. The darkness grew until like a volcano it burst, and my whole world went black from the ash. I remember the moment. I stood in the shower, the hot water raining down, and realized, this was postpartum depression. I think it was the first time while in the midst of an episode of darkness that I really identified with that word, depression. I think it was the very first time I allowed for the possibility of something more than my shortcomings or my sins to be the reason for my struggle.
So I sat Ron down on our faded, hand-me-down green couch. Through tears, I told him I thought I had postpartum depression. And then, I watched, as He became an answer to the prayer I had pleaded for so many times at the foot of the crib. The prayer I was sure had been unanswered.
He enlisted my mom and together we came up with a plan to meet our baby’s needs, but also to save me. There were still so many tears, so many hard, hard days, and so many miserable, sleepless nights. It wasn’t that my struggle was over, it was that I was no longer going it alone.
I didn’t seek medical help at that point. Perhaps that’s part of the reason my struggle with postpartum depression lasted eighteen months. I don’t know. But I do know, that I was helped, even miraculously sustained, through one of the hardest, most soul-crushing trials of my life.
I’ll be honest; I only told a few people—Ron, my family, and a few other close friends—about my struggle. I felt like admitting I had depression somehow left a dark black smear on my soul. I worried I would be judged as weak and rejected. And I didn’t then have the courage to face those fears.
In January of 2016, I finally felt the clouds lift. I felt vibrant and my life was full of purpose, joy, and vitality. It was a beautiful period of living for me. I felt like I was soaking in what mothering could be. I felt fulfilled and happy. It wasn’t that there weren’t hard days, but I was just different in the way I could handle the load.
We moved to Michigan after Ron graduated in April. I was emotional at leaving my beloved mother, family, and faithful support network of dear friends, but I also viewed it as a fresh exciting start for our little family. It was honestly a move I supported wholeheartedly.
About a month and a half after settling into our new surroundings, my world came crashing down. I fell harder and quicker and deeper than I ever thought possible. Wounds I thought were healed were torn mercilessly open, strength I thought I had gained instantly vanished, and faith I knew was mine was desperately tested. My ability to function in normal day-to-day duties entirely disappeared. I felt like nothing more than a hopeless puddle on the floor.
The darkness had grown until I felt like I was fighting for my life. In a moment of divine clarity, I realized simultaneously the gravity of the situation, and what role I needed to play in changing its course. And so, I decided to go see a counselor. Truly facing my reality took all of the faith, courage, and strength I had.
And it was worth it.
It was a lot easier to hide my secret in fear then it was to courageously face my darkness. But, living courageously is easier on my heart, than silently suffering in fear.
Depression has this awful side effect of making it extremely difficult to feel God’s love in the bottom of the experience. I’ve struggled with anger over the fact that I’ve been left to face this again and again. But I’m learning, that just because I can’t always feel Him or because He doesn’t help me the way I wish He would, it doesn’t mean He isn’t reaching for me. He is, most definitely. Most often He reaches for me through those closest to me. And when I shut them out, I’m shutting out the love, the answers, and the help He is trying to send.
I truly believe that “hope and healing are not found in the dark abyss of secrecy but in the light and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” (The Master Healer, Oct 2016, Carole M. Stephens)
It takes strength to reach out. It takes faith to trust someone with your secret. It takes courage to face the darkness of this trial.
But we don’t walk alone. I sincerely believe that. I believe that when we pray, He does hear, He does help. I believe He is closer than we think. I’ll be honest, I still have dark moments where I cannot feel Him. But I’m noticing that often He sends someone close to me in His place. And I’ve decided that is really no less a miracle than Him coming Himself.
It is still hard for me that I feel so alone inside when I have to face the darkness. But recognizing His help on the outside makes it a little more possible to find the courage, faith and strength necessary to face this depression.