So, in the past year I’ve given birth to two babies: my first cookbook and my actual baby, Eliyah.
I’m battling post partum depression. And it’s gnarly.
This past weekend was the most severe. I found myself in tears for most of the day, and not just quiet sobbing. Howling. Despair and utter hopelessness swallowed me whole, shrouding me in such darkness that even the bright light that is my sweet Eliyah and superhero-awesome Brendan couldn’t pierce through.
I’ve been dealing with this since she was born. And I wondered whether I should mention it on this blog, because I didn’t want her to read this one day and think that she caused this depression. So if you’re reading this sweetheart, it’s not your fault. It’s my hormones, and perhaps, my genetics. Not you, sweet girl.
I haven’t wanted to fully admit it, didn’t want to claim to have something that I didn’t have in order to shrug off any sense of responsibility or pulling myself up by my bootstraps. But I know that this isn’t something I caused, it isn’t a case of me being weak. It’s a condition. It’s the ultimate experience of having lies whispered into your heart, lies like: there’s something wrong with you because you have no maternal instinct, you’re not cut out to be a mother because (insert reason here), you’re never going to feel better, you’re going to ruin your baby because you don’t love her… I told Bren that it sometimes feels like I’m being attacked by a swarm of bees. Their sting so painful, so demanding of my attention, that I can’t swat them away with words of truth.
I’d been told that I’d experience euphoria upon Eliyah’s birth, that my heart would grow another chamber in order to contain all the love and joy I’d feel. And yet all I experienced was fear, feelings of being overwhelmed, fatigue and anxiety. It took me weeks and weeks before I felt connected to Eliyah, another fact that scared me and made me wonder whether I was cut out to be a mother. By God’s grace I have finally just reached that stage of loving her so much that I can’t get enough of her. But that took months. Months.
Depression steals my joy, which I realise is one of my prized possessions. But perhaps even more insidiously, it has stolen my connection to God. When the bees attack, when the fog swirls around me, I cannot pray, I cannot absorb anything in the Word… I feel like I’m on an island far, far away from God’s eyes and ears. I can’t feel His presence, nor His peace. I question Him, pummel my fists into His chest, demanding to know why He would let this happen to His daughter, wondering why He has abandoned me to my cold, fogged-over island.
I’m not entirely sure why I kept quiet. I suppose that, even though there’s so much more awareness of PPD these days, I still felt a bit ashamed. I didn’t want to make a big woe-is-me kind of deal about it. But in recent days, I’ve experienced such relief after hearing from another mother who experienced this dark night, who came out of it and whose words of encouragement were like fresh water for my soul. If I can do that for anyone reading this, then why wouldn’t I try?
I have “good” days and “bad” days, mostly affected by how much sleep I’ve managed to get. I’m trying to exercise every day, make sure I take my vitamins and eat plenty of vegetables (I juice if I know that I haven’t had enough that day). I’m getting myself into a support group, and I’m prepared to take meds if that’s what it takes. I take naps if I haven’t gotten enough sleep at night even if that means I don’t “do” anything else that day. I’m realising that taking care of myself and Eliyah has to be my top priority right now, over career, over anything else.
I’m coming out of the “bad” couple of days I had this past weekend, and much of that is due to the truth spoken to me daily by Bren and my friend who has been through it and speaks to me from the other side. And so, to any of you digging out of the pit, here are some pieces of truth that help me find the cracks of light in the darkness:
I have NOT been abandoned by God.
My mind is poisoned at the moment. Don’t listen too closely to what it says about me or Eliyah or Brendan.
He is not “doing” this to me. This is part and parcel of living in a fallen world with fallen bodies.
He is with me now more than ever.
I’ve given my heart to Him, and He is holding it tight in His hand. He will not let the darkness snatch me away.
I haven’t done something to deserve this. He is not punishing me.
God doesn’t make mistakes. Eliyah is His gift to me. He will give me everything (has already given me) I need to be a good mother to her.
God is faithful. He keeps His promises. He has promised to be with me, and so, He is.
This is temporary. This is not forever.
If you’re in the pit, I’m right there with you. But we’re going to get out this together, and God’s holding the flashlight! Take heart!