My first recognized experience with depression was just after my first child was born. I can tell you the very moment that it started.
When I described to my nurse that I felt like a life-sized black curtain just suddenly fell over my life, she knew right away what was happening to me. Interestingly, she said that an astonishing number of women described that same black curtain when describing their postpartum depression. It was comforting to have her understanding, her empathy, and her knowledge. I knew that I wasn’t crazy, and that something very real was happening to me.
A whole year later I was still fighting mild depression. My husband, still wanting to understand so he could be supportive of my needs, asked me if I could put into words what I had felt during the most intense weeks (about six) of my depression. Even that far removed in time I could not answer him without crying, and all I could manage to say was “absolute desperation.” But I’ll try, now that it’s 13 years later, to put it into words for you…
…I was overcome with intense feelings of loneliness even though I wasn’t alone…
…It felt as if I was grieving the loss of a loved one, or even many loved ones…
…I was terrified, even convinced, that either my husband or my baby was going to die. I tortured myself with questions of “Who would I rather lose?” and equally tortured by the guilt that came with either answer…
…I felt emotionally disconnected from my newborn baby which just served to pile on more guilt. Physically, I was taking good care of her. But I would look at her, finally asleep in her cradle and think, “They tell me that’s my baby. She’s a pretty little thing, but she doesn’t really feel like mine. I probably should want to pick her up but I’d rather just let her sleep.” No mother wants to feel this way. These early days with our babies are supposed to be precious, the most magical of all days.
Other episodes of depression brought intense feelings of discouragement, defeat, and even guilt over things that normally wouldn’t cause guilt at all. After my son was born four years ago I told my friend that I was afraid I had ruined Lydia’s life by bringing a baby into our family. Wow. Looking back on that I can see how terribly distorted our thinking can become when we’re dealing with depression. The truth is, Lydia had been asking and praying for a baby sister or brother since she was about 2. She was now 9 1/2. Her life was indeed made richer by the addition of this baby. (Not to mention the fact the God brought this baby into our family, not me!)
With my post-surgery depression last fall came more intense feelings of loneliness, along with a general sense of doom. I was terrified of what was becoming of this nation (not that this is completely unfounded, but I wasn’t able to keep it in perspective). I was convinced that everyone in the world was unhappy. I even asked a friend at church, through tears, “Is everybody hurting? Is anyone happy?” She wisely discerned that I desperately needed to hear that not everyone is hurting, and yes, lots of people are happy. She added that I would be happy again too.
At that time I was also desperate to really believe that I was cherished, not just saved, by God. Looking back, I see now that many of my online friends were very proactive and very much wanted to please God and want others to as well. And that’s all very good — until you start trying to appease God and forget about his unconditional love. I needed to get back into His Word and find the evidence that I am loved by God himself. When you’re depressed you can’t do that. But I prayed and God brought me to Himself in little ways until I was ready to seek Him more intentionally. (I am now determined to write down what He is showing me… for next time.)
When I was hit with depression after coming face-to-face with my own foolishness in a spiritual battle, I was terrified that I would never be well again. I fully believed that I had arrived at a place from which there was no escape. I held on to my children emotionally as if they were moving out the next day. Every smile made me cry inside, knowing that one day they would be gone. Small things seemed insurmountable, like seeing that my bathroom floor was dirty. It made me want to curl up on the couch and never get up again. I was completely defeated.
Looking back at each of the four major depressive episodes I’ve had, I can see different expressions of the depression in each. But there were some recurring themes including:
- Illogical thinking,
- Intense loneliness,
- Feelings of defeat and despair,
- Feelings of guilt and unworthiness,
- Irrational fear, and
Depression is not logical. Your thoughts are not logical. Your body does not operate the way it should. Nothing makes sense. But there is hope: Depression is treatable. Those of us who fight depression can be victorious if we choose to do the hard work, to fight, and to depend on God.
So How will I fight?
Depression reaches into every dimension of a person’s life– physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. That being the case, we have to employ lifestyle changes that address each of those dimensions. That may include medicine, counseling, diet, exercise, healthy relationships, and many more tools — or weapons, if you will — that God has given us. I’m determined to find the weapons that work for me. I’m also dedicated to sharing what I learn with you.
If you’re fighting, or if you know someone who fights, please join me for this empowering journey. I’ll share what I learn as I learn it. I’ll also share how things are working for me and more of my story as it applies to the things I’m learning. I’d love for you to join me. (Please sign up for my mailing list to your upper right and “like” my Facebook page so you won’t miss anything.)
You’re in my prayers. Don’t ever forget that “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” Psalm 34:18, the Message
never alone, always held
To read the other articles in this series click here.