All my life I have been a mind over matter type of person. If I hurt I would think, it will go away soon, it can’t last forever. If I had a headache I would just deal with it and continue on with life. I grew up with a mother who had (still has) bipolar disorder. She was constantly trying to put her problems off on me and would tell me I had it too and try to make me take medicine. I would hide the pills under my tongue and spit them out in the toilet after she left. This type of childhood left me thinking the worst things about clinical/mental conditions. I watched my mom and thought she should have more control over her condition instead of it controlling her. I hated that she wanted me to have the same problems she did (wouldn’t you NOT want that for your kid?.) I’m just a strong willed person and when she was in her depressed mood and I called her out for the things that she did that I didn’t agree with, like trying to kill herself, she and I would butt heads, A LOT. Over the years I came to resent psychiatrists and most forms of pain killers because I saw how much “help” they all were to my mother.
When I as 16 I started getting some pretty severe kidney stones and had multiple surgeries and different tests run to figure out why I was getting so many. I’ve been put on several diets but I still, 11 years later, get some pretty intense stones 2-3 times a year, and I usually pass 2-3 every single week. Each one hurts, but I, the mind over matter person, have come to except them and live with them, not love them, just live with them. I don’t let them knock me on my feet, I don’t wallow in the pain or let it make me miserable. I have come to embrace them and think of them as a test and trial that my father in heaven has given me to teach me things on this earth, in my journey through life. I chose to find joy in it, to learn from it and to except the things I can not change, because of course if this is a test, the stubborn, strong willed person I am, I WILL NOT let myself fail.
However this past December I encountered a trial like nothing I have ever experienced before. Up until then I had given birth to 3 amazing boys, the first one had colic and I was learning how to be a parent and so I was overwhelmed. Handsome hubby left for a deployment shortly after baby #2 was born, so I learned how to be a single parent to two kids and baby #3 had so many health problems after he was born that I didn’t have time to think about anything else except to just survive and find joy in the trial I had placed before me of raising a very sick, very tiny little boy. Of course with all three I went through some days when I felt inadequate and under qualified, but the feeling quickly passed when the baby would smile, or laugh or one of the other kids would come and give me a hug, I had the baby blues on occasion, nothing out of the ordinary. So now fast forward to last December (my favorite month of the year) when we had our baby girl. I had waited so long to have her. I shopped like crazy for her and spent so much time day dreaming about what it was going to be like to have a baby girl. I cried when I found out it was a girl, because I was so overwhelmed by all the things I was going to get to share with her from my childhood (like barbies and babies and princesses and my little pony), that I didn’t get to share with my boys. Her labor was the longest 18 hours (the longest of mine so far) of my life and it was all done without an epidural.
After she was born, I held her and was overwhelmed with how much I loved her. The first few days flew by in a blur, I remember just kind of going through the motions. She was a great baby. She slept all the time, ate really well and hardly fussed at all. She was just the perfect baby. But something was missing, I was missing, I was just going through the motions. I was anxious all the time, and my thoughts were all racing in a constant blur. I was on the verge of tears or full-out crying ALL THE TIME. At first I thought I was just tired, having 4 kids can be very exhausting. I would never let myself think about the words postpartum depression, because that was something that would NEVER happen to me. I fought the thoughts in my head all the time. I would tell myself to just smile, at least act like you are happy. Some days I didn’t even have enough fight in me to put on a happy face, so I just went through the motions like a robot. The battle raged on in my head and I wanted so badly to be happy. I would find myself crying for no real reason and when I tried to talk myself out of it, to make myself happy, it just made it worse. Of course I should be happy, I would think. I have 4 beautiful kids, an amazing husband, a wonderful house, and awesome group of friends, the gospel, so why can’t I be happy, and of course thinking all of that would just make me hate myself even more, because it was all perfect, I was just the messed up one. We would go do fun family things and I would just go through the motions. I would fight with myself in my head, pleading to just smile, or at least look like I wanted to be there. I would tell myself how much I hated myself because I could not force myself to be happy, doing all the things that usually made me happy. I was angry at my husband for not realizing what was going on with me, and I was angry with myself for not being able to “fight” those constant negative feelings better.
I never wanted to harm myself or our kids so I told myself I wasn’t depressed, it was just more intense baby blues.
One day however, I took my son to school and was in a daze the whole way there, in fact I don’t even remember anything about the drive to school or the drive home. When I got home I sat on the couch, held my baby and cried, full on massive tears that came from somewhere deep within me. There were no thoughts in my head at that time, I wasn’t even in my head, I was lost, completely lost and hurting. I thankfully did remember to go get my son from school, but again I don’t remember the drive there or back. And when we got home from school I sat back down on the couch with a blanket, turned on the tv and cried some more, in fact I cried for almost 3 hours straight and didn’t even realize it. When my husband got home and found our kids running free and me sitting on the couch looking very messed up he was in shock. I hadn’t wanted to talk to my husband before this point because he is a lot like me in the sense of mind over matter, and I couldn’t really explain it to him with any real solid reasons, because I didn’t even know why. So of course this all came as a surprise to him and he did the best he could for me that day. I think this is when I really realized that this was more than just the baby blues.
My poor husband didn’t know how to help me. After a couple of weeks of living with me in this state, he kept telling me that I should get over it, that I could talk myself out of it, so I just quit telling him. I put on a brave face while he was home and dealt with the battles in my head all on my own. I didn’t feel like I could tell anybody else because that would mean admitting I was “weak, and couldn’t do it.” (I was VERY, VERY wrong in that assumption.) The big “nail in the coffin” so to speak was when our sink disposal broke and overflowed right before he was headed to work. He told me to block off the area and wait for about 8 hours till our neighbor was home from work and could come fix it. Up until this point I was fighting hard with myself. I was fighting my depression. I was fighting my heart and my head. I wanted to be there for my kids and enjoy life with them. I lost it at that point and just cried and cried. We had a nice, big fight, and during this fight I poured my heart out to him and told him how tired I was of fighting. I told him that I had been fighting every day, and that it was exhausting. I was so exhausted and so overwhelmed with everything that was going on in my head. I was tired of fighting by myself. I was tired of hurting. I was tired of missing all the joy in life. It scared him. He had never seen me like this before and had never known how bad I really was. His usual immediate reaction to things he doesn’t like or doesn’t understand is anger, and this time was no different, which made it even harder for me to talk to him. We talked fought for a long time, it was probably our worst fight ever. Noah was scared and worried about me and our kids and he did not know how to handle those emotions. He had a lot of preconceived notions to let go of, just like I had had to do several months before.
After we both cried a lot, and yelled way too much, and finally after we both calmed down and were able to start to actually talk to each other and listen to each other we both felt a lot better. I was able to open up to other people, to talk to my doctor, to talk to my friends and find the support system that I needed to help me make it through the last part of my depression. I didn’t want to take medicine, (not because I don’t believe in it, because sometimes in these situations it is necessary, but because after seeing my mother abuse it for so many years, I made a decision years ago that I would try other options for things before turning to medicine.) so having a support system was vital to my ability to continue fighting.
My baby was 4 months at this time and I felt like I had missed ALL of her tiny newborn baby things. It’s really kind of crappy when you think about it, they are only a baby for so long and when you are depressed and you can’t focus on that, you miss it. I missed A LOT over those 4 months. I felt like Christmas was just another day, I didn’t find any joy in pretty much anything the whole month of December. I tell my husband all the time now that I can’t wait for Christmas this year because for me, the real me, its been a year and half since the last one.
By 5 months my depression was leaving, and it was easier for me to find the joy in all the daily tasks and find joy in the journey. I learned a lot about myself during this time, I learned a lot about how to support others who are going through this same thing. I learned that sometimes all you can do is fight and sometimes it’s really hard to find joy in the journey and also that those times pass and that if you can learn to love them (after you have gone through them) that you will look back on that season of your life and see how much you have grown. My opinion on mental illnesses is different now. I still think people with them should fight it, because I know I sure did, but I also know that some times there are days when you don’t have any fight left in you and you just have to survive. During this time I began using the phrase “Im surviving.” when people asked how I was doing. I most definitely wasn’t fine, great, okay, or thriving, I was simply just surviving, and honestly sometimes that’s all we can do. And that is enough, it has to be. Because just like my postpartum depression passed so will the other difficult “seasons” of our lives, and sometimes all we can do is just survive them.
I turned to the Lord a lot during this time and pleaded for him to take my burden away, and while he didn’t take it away, because obviously I had some learning I needed to do, he did help ease it. When I went to him with tear-stained cheeks and could hardly speak because I was so overcome with feelings of failure and pain, he knew my heart. He comforted me and held me up through it all. I couldn’t have made it through if it wasn’t for him. He knew who I really was, and what I was going through. He knew that I was a good mom and knew that I could make it through, because he knows me better than I do. When all I could see was the pain and the darkness and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, he knew that it would come, he knew that the darkness would soon be lifted and that the light would shine brighter than it had before, and he knew that I could make it to that day. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. But I grew so much. I changed so much and learned that sometimes its always darkest before the dawn. And what a beautiful dawn it was.
My baby is 7 months tomorrow and sometimes I have survivors guilt. I feel bad for all the things I missed out on with my kids. I feel bad for all the meals I didn’t cook, for all the fun things I failed to do. I feel bad for not making Christmas more meaningful and for not being an attentive, loving, supportive mom for so many months. I look back and realize that I made some mistakes, but I did fight. We did secret Santa’s at Christmas and we took the boys to do as many fun things as we could, I still went through the motions but my heart was never there, I forced myself to do those things every time and hated myself for not being happier during those moments, but I fought and to me that’s what matters. I learned what a fighter I really am. I learned fighting sucks, but sometimes you just have to do it and I have learned that there are so many many bright days ahead and that while I can, I will make the most of it and I will find joy in my journey. I have learned that we never know when and what trials will face us, so when we are faced with the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope we dance. (man, I love Lee Ann Womack go here , to listen to the song)
These kids are worth fighting for!
This handsome guy is worth fighting for!
And I am worth fighting for!