Now that my son has turned 2, I have done a lot of reflecting.
I had written a post on here previously, one that when posted to my personal Facebook page, received a lot of positive feedback and I was told by so many that they could relate to it. This was my first article I sent in to be published by a website that I adore and follow: JustBE Parenting. In my original one, I described my transition into motherhood and had announced firmly that what I was feeling wasn’t depression. At the time, I don’t think it really was, I do believe that I was true to my personal experience. However, to err on the safe side, the editor removed this snippet as to not discourage family members from reaching out to new mothers if depression is what they felt. When she put it that way, I completely agreed with her rationale but I have to admit, initially it stung at my ego because I felt that this portion was very integral to my feelings at the time and my rationale for needing much space after birth.
However, now that I’ve grown and healed and prayed and purged my thoughts and soul to myself, my husband, my family…. I can’t say with complete conviction and honesty that I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression. I didn’t call it that before because it didn’t fit the mold that I had created in my mind.
For me, the depression didn’t happen right away, which is why it couldn’t be postpartum, right? (That’s what I kept telling myself.) Instead it crept in slowly, without even noticing until I completely lost myself altogether. It probably started around 6 months when I went back to work and wasn’t ready (but felt that I needed to prove to myself and the world that I was) but was full blown depressed by the time my son was a year old.
I’m sorry to the mothers I put in a different category when I thought of “postpartum depression.”
I’m sorry when I thought “it couldn’t be me.”
Instead, I thought identity crisis. Hormonal imbalance. Transitional period.
But the truth is, I was depressed. I’m just now clawing my way out of the darkness.
I am just now brave enough, humble enough to shout at the top of my lungs that I had been filled to the brim with sadness, with feelings of confusion, of being so very lost, indifferent to so many aspects of my life.
I don’t attribute it to my hormones. I don’t even attribute it to my son who needed me so badly. I genuinely loved that part of my life. I attribute it to an intense transition in my life, filled with immense change that ended up opening the floodgates to all of the hurt, pain, and confusion that had already been living inside me…murky feelings, emotions, and memories I had been hiding and running from for a lifetime. It bubbled up to the surface and rushed out like a wave that just wouldn’t quit.
Do I think this is what causes it for every mom? No. But I believe it’s what happened to me.
If you could have looked into my heart, mind, and soul, you would have seen the darkness of all my yesterday’s swirling around inside, eating at me, stealing my joy. There was no escaping it, I was constantly at war with myself. But on the outside? You saw a bright and smiling mother nursing and coddling her baby.
There’s a million and one reasons why it happens. There’s no one-size-fits all equation, which is why I didn’t recognize it in myself until my sister described her own situation (that sounded just like mine) and used the word “depression.” I had run from that word. Depression was weak, depression was caving, it was losing. I didn’t want to honor it, I didn’t want to submit to it, not realizing that hiding from it, running from it, only prolonged the chains.
Postpartum depression doesn’t look the same for everyone and it doesn’t always start the minute the mommy leaves the hospital. Sometimes it does. That’s why it’s so confusing. That’s why it’s so common but so hard to pin point.
This is also why there are so many mommy bloggers out there, you guys.
Because motherhood just rips stuff out of us. For some? It’s passion, art, writing. Some are uplifting and funny, some are sad and dark, but it’s something inside of us that screams to get out. It needs to get out. It needs to be validated. Read, seen, heard.
My depression wasn’t as severe as some. I never had thoughts of ending my life. I never once imagined harming my son. But I can understand deeply for those who feel that leaving would be the only way to escape it. Even though I miss him now in the deepest way, I always understood my brother’s heart and battle as well.
Although during this time, I did want to live a different life. I wanted myself, my same son, my same husband, and my same family, I wasn’t unhappy with ANY of those things. I simply wanted normal again and didn’t know what that was.
And in a confusing way, while keeping these things, I still wanted new everything.
SO new, in fact, that my husband supported spending a large chunk of our savings to have me live with my sister on the opposite side of the world for a month.
We’re not rich, people, that wasn’t a leisure vacation. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment and live on one salary. It was a sacrifice and a last resort because I needed to get away from my life and myself and my identity and leave it all behind to start anew. I needed someone who understood, someone who I knew how to accept their love and healing. Instead of seeking counseling, I chose my sister. And God-willing, it worked. I woke up. I purged out the ugly, and the sad, and the murky, and the dark in an environment that I felt safe in. I poured and poured and poured and poured until I thought there was nothing left. And then I poured some more.
That quote by Anais Nin?
I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness”
Yea. That. That was my life. I needed to seek refuge with my sister. The other side of my soul, alone with my son. My sister who is only 16 months older than I, whose daughter is 1 year and 1 day older than my son. Who understood my season. Who understood me. Who knew how to heal me. I needed her. I needed her so bad.
I spent most of that trip whole-body crying and shrieking out loud, releasing a flood of tears that just wouldn’t stop. CLINGING to my sister, praying out loud with her through sobs, begging to God to just get me through, just fix me, heal me, TEACH me. Help me. We spent so much time in prayer, and discussing the word. She taught me that God tells us to bear each other’s burdens and that the reason I had been suffering is because I had believed the devil’s lies that I had to do it alone. She helped lead me back to the light. We spent time barefoot in nature, most times in silence but together with our babies.
I don’t know how in 20 days God unraveled my soul and revealed myself to me. I don’t quite understand what happened even still, but something changed inside of me while on that journey. I spent the first few weeks home floating on a cloud, but once the training wheels fell off, I spent the next two months crying, and digging, and reflecting, and searching, and praying, and WORKING on myself. My poor husband, God bless him, prayed with me and allowed me to release. To be heard. To open the floodgates wider, and let it all out without judgement, without reservation, without advice even. He let me work through my storms by myself, but while holding my hand, and kissing my wounds.
Looking back, my husband’s theory is this:
My life was made up of a collection of traumas. One after the next, at every new stage of life, starting from early childhood, throughout adolescence, into adulthood. It didn’t stop. And so, I never was able to process one or two or three or ten of these in succession, I never was able to heal. Once my life slowed down, once I was fed healthy love and stillness, everything I had ever held inside, everything I had kept pushing into the deepest and darkest corners of my soul…. it came barreling out at me. Tumbling down like an avalanche and I quite literally suffocated underneath the fallout. I had learned to run from each hurt in my life in order to survive the next one coming but when the “next one” never came, I had no where to hide.
I loved my role as a mother. I loved my husband, my life. But my past needed to be faced. It needed to be screamed at, clawed at, stared down… it needed to finally be aired out, understood…. it needed to be nurtured and set free.
I felt manic. I probably was. I don’t know whether to call my experience postpartum depression or PTSD. But I don’t think anything other than honoring my wounds and giving them one by one to God could have saved me. I gave it to Him. And I felt Him and I felt Him whisper to me,
I’ve been waiting for this. I never wanted you to carry these for so long, let me help you, let me take this, let me take over.”
And I did.
And as I type this, I’m shaking and I have chills all over my body because the words “submit to the Lord” can be so easily said, but to put them into action is a completely different thing. But I’ve learned to submit. I continue to. I practice this and I speak to the Lord each and every day now: And I will always let Him lead now.
Now I am ready to begin this new journey as a truly, genuinely happy mother and wife, sister, daughter, and friend.
I don’t feel hopeless anymore. I don’t feel alone. I have read so many women’s stories that have woken me up, touched my heart, and felt like a virtual hug that says, “I understand.”
And that’s why I’m so grateful. And that’s why I feel compelled to write this. To encourage mothers to travel within, face the darkness head on, OPEN up to someone you love and trust about it, and find WHATEVER it is that will bring you joy and healing.
I recognize now that there is no light without the dark.
Not on earth at least. The spiritual battle is constant and the enemy will always work to lead you back into the shadows. But what I’ve learned is that if you whole heartedly invite the Lord into your heart, He will give you pieces of heaven, He will bring you healing, and He will pull you through. It truly is that simple. Never easy. But simple. It will be ugly. It will be painful. You will have to do the work. But God will lead you and He will help you. And just like the pains of bringing new life earthside, the labor pains will bring about a new life within your soul. You will be reborn.
I care less now how it looks to others when I release the hurt. I cry when I feel it building within. I talk about it. I write about it. I will never let it grow again. I set boundaries and stick with them. I’m gentle with myself in my healing.
This world has told us to be perfect, it makes the world uncomfortable when we’re vulnerable, when we are transparent about our pain, open about our scars.
But I don’t care about any of that anymore.
The Bible speaks about living less like the world and more like Jesus and that as a result, those led by the world will outcast us. That doesn’t scare me anymore.
Because I finally know with all of my heart the truth. That I am healing, I am not broken. I am strange, but I am worthy. I am different but I am loved. And the most beautiful part?
So are you.
Did you work through PPD, PPA, or PTSD after the birth of your child? What was your experience? I think being transparent about these struggles and how we learned to conquer them can be healing to those who are still going through it. Together, we don’t have to feel alone. 💛