Wooohoo! Aren't you thrilled and excited to read a post with a title like that?! Ha! The reason I titled it so bluntly and simply is because I want it to be easy for people to find if they're searching for the topic. It's a topic that's tough to "pretty up" anyway.
Why on earth am I talking about such a thing, you ask?
Well, in an effort to be honest in this blog about who I am, I think it's only fair to be honest about this too ("keepin' it real" as some would say). I struggle with depression.
I wanted to do a post about this for 3 reasons. First, the reason I just stated...to keep things real around here. Second, I know I'm not alone. When I was first struggling, I was hurting and confused and didn't know what to do. I would have loved to talk to someone who had been there. I'm hoping to be a help to other moms out there. And third, as a Christian, I feel a duty to tell everyone who will listen about God and what He's done in my life. In my times of great pain, God's grace has been made clear to me.
This is a good place for a disclaimer: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. My goal here is to share my experience. I do not claim to be an expert about depression. I write this post as a friend and fellow woman only. If you are struggling, PLEASE talk to your doctor. If your doctor doesn't take you seriously, then find a different doctor. If that doctor doesn't take you seriously, then find another. Keep finding another until you find one who will listen to you and will help you. You are not crazy. You are not defective. You are not a bad mom or wife. You do not somehow deserve this. You can not reason or sleep or exercise or eat or otherwise convince yourself to get better. This is a real illness, and you need help. There are tons of online resources like this, this, this, this, and this. But there's no substitute for a real, flesh and blood doctor.
OK, back to my story.
I call it post-partum depression because it started when I was post-partum...after the birth of my second child. I had a brief window of relief just before I got pregnant with my 3rd baby, but there's something about pregnancy and breast feeding hormones that really affect me in a nasty way. And I've been either pregnant or nursing a baby for the past...holy cow...did I do the math right?...6 1/2 YEARS! I just gave birth to my 4th child about 3 months ago, and am nursing him now.
How did I know that I was depressed? I didn't. All I knew was that I cried a LOT. I was angry a LOT. And I was overwhelmed a LOT. I also didn't feel like doing much of anything, even the stuff that I used to really enjoy. I spent much of my time just walking around the house weeping. I could not, for the life of me, do the dishes or laundry or any other housework. It was almost physically painful to even think about doing housework, and having such a messy house made me feel like I was failing somehow. All I really wanted to do was to crawl under my covers and sleep...for the rest of my life.
It was finally a comment from one of my sisters (who is a registered nurse), that woke me up to the possibility that this could be depression. But I still didn't truly take it seriously. Me? Depressed? I don't think so! I thought that all I needed was some "me time"...some more sleep...some more exercise. So my dear hubby did all he could to make those things happen. He let me sleep in. He got me a gym membership, and he gladly watched the kids as I went to the gym for 3 hours, 3 days a week. I had great legs...but was still not "right". I finally went to my doctor for help.
I wish I could say that going to the doctor was my first step in getting better. In fact, I felt very patronized by my doctor. They had me take a depression screening test that had questions like "Do you always feel sad?", "Do you never feel like doing things that you once enjoyed?" I didn't feel always or never about anything, so I scored very low on their dumb test. The nurse looked over my test, said something like "Oh, you've just got the blues, honey." She sort of patted me on the shoulder, gave me a sample packet of antidepressants, and said "Take these if you think you need to. Bye now!"
Months went by without me doing anything more. I thought I could simply fight the depression, and it would go away. I thought I just needed to be stronger. I thought I just needed to pray more and have more faith.
So I prayed. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I cried out to God from the very depths of my heart, and begged him to heal me. I begged for a miracle. There were many nights that I snuck off to the bathroom that was farthest away from the bedrooms (so my family wouldn't hear me) and just laid on the floor and cried and prayed. Then I got angry...why was He not answering me? Was He real at all? If He was real, then what was the problem? Did He not care? Oh, what a terrible time!
I finally realized that I was not getting better. Even worse, I was missing my daughter's babyhood. I still grieve that lost time to this day.
I went to our family doctor (it was my OB/GYN that I went to first). That wonderful man sat and talked with me for over an hour! I can only imagine how furious the rest of his patients were! But he talked through everything with me. I finally decided to start taking the antidepressant he recommended. What relief!
I felt "superficial" results within days (the anxiety and impatience). It took several more weeks to feel the "deeper" results (that gut wrenching pain and apathy). But those too went away.
There is one day, in particular, that I remember very clearly. It was a sunny day, and I remember thinking that it was the first bright day that I'd seen in months. The truth was that the greyness...the gloominess that had been covering me was finally lifted. And on that day, my son did something silly an I laughed. The sound of my own laugh startled me so much that I jumped and looked behind me to see what was making the sound! It had been a while since I had really laughed.
But I still had to make peace with the fact that I felt abandoned by God. Where was He in my time of suffering? I finally came to the realization that, simply put, everyone suffers. Even Christians. I am a precious child of God, but I am also a member of this fallen world. God doesn't promise a pain free life. I will feel pain in this lifetime, but I am not alone in my suffering. Jesus himself was sitting there with me as I lay crying on my bathroom floor. And I have hope that my suffering is not for nothing. God will bring good out of my suffering. And the truth is that I felt the Lord's presence so clearly during some of those rough times that it seemed that if I could just look quickly enough over my right shoulder, that I'd be able to see Him. His presence was that real. In a strange way, I miss those time for how close He felt.
I still take medication for depression. I still wish I didn't have to, but mostly I'm just thankful that the stuff is available! Maybe, after I wean my son, I'll work with my doctor to also wean myself off the meds. Maybe I won't . Maybe I'll be on them for the rest of my life, just as a diabetic has to take medication for their illness. I should say this too...I feel like ME on this medication. I don't feel numb or happy all the time. I feel like me. I still cry and get frustrated and angry...it's just not debilitating anymore.
So, that's my story. If you're reading this sentence, then I assume that you've actually read this excruciatingly loooong post! You must have read it because you can relate (in which case, I hope this was a help to you), or it's because you have someone in your life that this post reminds you of (again, I hope this helped), or it's because you must care about me (in which case...thank you!).