Depression and Motherhood
The day I was officially diagnosed with depression, I cried.
I mean, I had been crying for weeks, but this was different. I was crying because my crying had a name. A name I feared. I was mourning my diagnosis. Being told I was depressed was just so... depressing.
It took awhile to sink in, but as I began therapy and the medication did its job, I wasn't so scared of it anymore.
Until I got pregnant.
It wasn't just the hormones, though those didn't help. I was terrified and guilty and angry and ashamed that my children would have a mom that struggled with depression. I tried to be proactive with my treatment during and after my first pregnancy. If you had asked me before baby #1 arrived, I would have told you I was ready for the impending postpartum struggle.
But I wasn't.
I was ready to fight the same battle I fought years before. I didn't realize my feelings and symptoms would look different as a mom, so I didn't really recognize it.
Now, looking back, the fog didn't really lift until I got pregnant for a second time. It was then that I realized I had walked through the first 18 months of motherhood just sorta numb.
I'm not a numb person.
I'm sunshiney and enthusiastic. I feel deep and laugh hard. Just sorta numb is just not me.
During my second pregnancy, I spoke candidly with my OB about the increased possibility of postpartum depression, especially since my second pregnancy involved twins. I was careful to monitor any changes and be open with my husband about where I was at. I had a couple of sad days when I felt the hormones wash over me in deep waves. I had a couple of tearful, fearful nights when the anxiety gripped my lungs. But these were sprinkled over almost a year. Almost a year, with only a handful of emotional lows.
Until one morning.
I woke up, looked at my husband and began to sob. Heaving heavy, strangling sobs. I couldn't stand. I couldn't move. All I wanted to do was sink into the mattress. My husband had to physically force me, gasping and weeping, into the bathroom to pee. A month of extreme fatigue and desperate sadness followed. The scariest and darkest time of my life, completely bedridden for nearly a month, with no end in sight.
I slowly came out of it. Little by little regaining energy and emotional stability. I started taking vitamins and antidepressants and going to therapy again.
I live with the threat of depression around every corner now, knowing that I could literally wake up one morning unable to move or function. But I choose not to live in fear. I choose not to live in the shame and guilt that my children have been burdened with a mom like me. I have decided instead to set an example through my depression. If this is the "thorn in my flesh" that I must travel with in this life, then let my children see me bear it well. Let them remember a woman who fought the good fight with every type of help--medicinal, spiritual, or physical--that was available to her. Let them see me as flawed and struggling, but committed to overcoming and believing God for healing and comfort every step of the way.
I think of the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego [Daniel chapter 3] as they faced the fiery furnace. "The God we serve is able to deliver us...but even if he does not...."
I pray that I am an example of a woman who stared into the fiery furnace of depression, knowing my God is able, but serving him regardless of the flames.
Today is a blue day. An "out of the blue," blue day. A heaviness about my shoulders and limbs. Sadness and fatigue pulling at my eyelids. Grayness clouding my normally sunny disposition. I'll make it till bedtime, pushing through, pulling it together, until I just can't anymore.
And I'll go to sleep knowing that "my God is able to deliver me, but even if he does not..."