Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Christian and Postpartum Depression

I have been praying about writing this post for awhile. Never having peace about it until now. Even as I write it though, there is a small voice saying, "Don't tell everyone you went through this...". Shame, anxiety, some anger, resentment, and pride are all things I am experiencing at this moment. Why? Because I am human. Sometimes, in Christianity, our humanity gets shoved aside (as it should, we are to be like Christ), but even though we should not submit to it does not mean it isn't relevant. I hope that makes sense. I am just going to share my heart about Post Partum Depression and the Christian Life and how those 2 things CAN and DO exist in the same life.

I would like to preface this by saying, I am a born again Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for MY sins. It took me quite a while to realize it was for me, but once I did, it changed my life. I could not survive anything without my God, my Lord and Savior, and the Comforter within me. He is my strength and shield and I do desire to please Him with my whole life. I am not only saved but I am surrendered. Meaning, I have given God what life He has given me, in the hope that it will be used for His honor and glory. I pray everyday there is nothing between my soul and the Savior and I have surrendered my will to His. I have a very loving and Godly husband. He is the greatest person I know and when I grow up I want to be just like him ;). I have 4 beautiful children that have given me so much joy and significance. I would not change motherhood for all the world. It is my calling- I know that now! God has been faithful, trial after trial, He has fulfilled His promises in my life and I cannot complain.

 The Darkness

Now for the hard part...I have suffered with postpartum depression. Gasp! It is true. It was a very dark time in my life and yes...I was saved at the time. It was after the birth of my first child Abigail. I remember being so happy when I was pregnant. Preparing to bring our first baby into the world- it was almost euphoric thinking about motherhood and all of it's joy! I was on cloud nine, making my birth plan, getting her room ready, praying for her future, and awaiting her birthday. My husband and I were so excited. Then the day came when I had to go in for a routine Dr's appointment and I was dilated 3 cm and my blood pressure was 210/130. The Dr. was scared to say the least and I was admitted that moment and put on magnesium sulfate. My poor baby would dilate to 9 cm and then curl back up inside me to 3 cm. It was awful. I was in hard labor for 14 hours and I was tired. I refused medication because I wanted a natural birth so when she wasn't coming and her heart rate was dropping, they came in and through my fatigue and pain I heard the word, "C-section". I burst into tears. I didn't want a C-section. I didn't want medication. I was trying so hard. I had prayed so hard. Why was this happening to me? and before I knew it I was receiving a spinal and being prepped for surgery. I remember shaking because I was so scared and cold and I remember feeling like I wanted to throw up but I hadn't eaten in so long nothing would have come out. Then I heard her cry, so much pain and hurt melted away and I cried tears of joy. To finally hear that cry you have waited 9 long months to hear is wonderful and overwhelming. God is a miraculous God. I am going to fast forward to going home. The hospital stay was a grueling experience (I was there for 10 days waiting for my bp to return to normal) but I will skip it for the sake of keeping this concise. At that time they used staples to keep wounds together so my C-section opening was closed with staples. Well, I am highly allergic to metals of any kind and it got infected and I was violently throwing up everyday. I felt very alone and helpless. I couldn't even get up to change my baby's diaper and then my husband had to go back to work and I was expected to pick up the pieces of my shattered dreams and move on. Continue with life with this new body, new responsibility, and overwhelming sense of failure. I felt I had failed before I had even gotten started. I COULD NOT clean, I COULD NOT pray, I COULD NOT think, etc... Everything seemed overwhelming. I had anxiety about Abby not seeing me smile enough, not hearing me sing enough, not having a spotless home, not having enough physical comfort, and the list goes on and on. I was consumed with worry and doubt (both sins by the way). Everything seemed so big that I lost the will to try. I stopped getting ready in the morning, I stopped smiling at my husband, and I stopped crying because I was sad (this is what really concerned me) the lack of emotion. Who was I? Where had I ended and my child began? This is what I started to wonder, because until this point- I knew who I was. I knew what God wanted me to do. I knew where He wanted me to be. But now...I was lost. I would read my Bible everyday and I would pray. I felt as though I was making more effort than I ever had before. I was striving on the outside but on the inside I was hurting. My life was on fast forward but I was in rewind. Some instances of postpartum depression people feel an aversion to their child, praise the Lord I did not suffer with this kind. Her physical and (I hope) emotional needs were met and I never felt detached from her. It was more like everything else. I was almost over attentive to her and gave up everything else. But I was riddled with worry and anxiety and pressure. This is a glimpse into what I went through in the beginning. I am going to share how I made it through without medication and I am praying this will be a help to someone.

You Are Not Alone

I did not understand that what I was suffering from truly was, postpartum depression. Finally, after 10 months I decided to talk to my husband. The poor man. He had no idea what was going on with me and I am sure somewhere in my selfishness I blamed him. We were lying in bed one night and I had tears streaming down my face and I said, "I think I am depressed... and I am scared of the person I have become." He rolled over in bed and said, "Whatever you are going through, we are in this together. I am here for you and you are not alone." That was  when the flood gates broke and healing started for me. I knew God was with me (though I wasn't really giving Him the faith He deserved), but I needed to know there was a physical person in my corner. The first thing you need to, if you believe you have postpartum depression is talk to someone. Make someone you are close to, that you can trust, aware of what you are going through. Getting it out, saying it, makes it easier to deal with because you are finally acknowledging that something is going on. Use this person as your accountability partner. For everything that makes you sad, that you dwell on in your mind, tell them 3 things that make you happy or bring you joy. I realized the closer I stayed in my walk with God to the day I got saved, the better off I was emotionally. Ask this person to keep you accountable in your personal devotions. Make sure they know when your prayer life and Bible reading is slipping.

Physical Awareness

You are experiencing physical changes. This is not a myth, this is real. Your hormones are off if you are suffering from depression. You need to seek medical attention but I do not believe from an MD. I would seek help from an osteopathic Dr. or someone who practices natural methods of healing. The side effects of pharmaceuticals outweigh the benefits by a large margin and it would be in your best interest to get your own hormones working properly again (not synthetic ones). I personally believe that diet is important. Everyone knows that you naturally feel better when you eat well and when you exercise so do these things. Get up early, work out, do your devotions, etc. Having a routine like this builds strength, inner and outer. Plus, getting your hormones balanced may be the ticket to you feeling completely yourself. I recommend the book, "Wheat Belly" written by William Davis, MD. This book has helped me personally. Don't disregard the physical aspect- it is real. Take care of your needs. If you are a Christian, you may feel as though this part is not important, but it is! Remember God gave you a body and you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Treat Him well.

Spirituality

This is the most important part. You first must remember there is an enemy. So often we forget that the devil really is walking about seeking whom he may devour. And the scary thing is...he has our playbook. He knows our weaknesses because we are not good at hiding them. He will try to make you useless for the Lord. That is his goal. He can't have your soul anymore but he can take your mind. Don't give him an inch. When something enters your mind that is a worry, doubt, or fear immediately turn it over to your Heavenly Father and let it go. Pray for strength, for peace, for contentment. If you do not give place to the devil in your life he will flee from you. Don't give him the opportunity to take your joy. Keep it safe. Safeguard your heart. I Peter 5:7, "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." It is interesting that the next verse in this passage is, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" When we deal with issues on our own we cannot fight and win. We are not strong enough without the Lord. Stay close to Him through this time. When we keep our cares, the devil twists them and cripples our abilities through fear. The next verse in this passage is, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." Ask God for these things. He has called you- He will be faithful to make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you. Claim this verse!

Make gratitude your attitude. I truly believe no Christian is further away from the Lord than the Christian that ceases to be grateful. The Lord has given you life and breath, He has blessed you. There are always blessings in the Christian's life. Even trials are a blessing because it means God has not forgotten you and He wants to use you in a mighty way! Be thankful! Things can always be worse than they are right now. Ask God to give you His perspective. This will help. Claim His promises, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee...", "...Godliness with contentment is great gain...", "...I will not suffer the righteous to be moved...". Claim Scripture that means something to you. Think about your salvation and what it took to save your soul from death. God has not forgotten you- He died for you. Psalm 56:13, "For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?".

Bear the fruit of the Spirit. Kindness is the most important aspect when you are in depression because it forces you to think of others. Believe it or not, this will help the healing process. When you are tempted to stay home and wallow, go help someone. Find a person in a situation that you can help with and do it. Bless someone else's life and it will bless your own. Show others the kindness that you want to be shown. Pray for others they way you need someone to pray for you. Be the person to others you want people to be to you. What is amazing about this, is people don't always return the favor, but God does! He sees your small deeds and rewards you. He returns the kindness even if people do not.

Feed your Spirit. This is important because in order to stay right spiritually, you must surround yourself with spiritual things. Reading a romance novel, watching TV, obsessing over facebook and social media, etc., these are not spiritual things. They are not necessarily wrong but do not give them the place the Lord should have in your life. Satan can use these as tools to feed your flesh. Surrender the desires of your flesh to the Lord and make sure you are yielding yourself everyday.

Final Thoughts

Read Psalm 13 and cry out to God. Speak the verses to the Lord. This Psalm helps us to understand how to handle a trial. We can go from sorrow to singing because of God dealing bountifully with us. Read Isaiah 43:1,2 and know that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle. Read Proverbs 3:1-14 and apply them to your life and the list goes on and on. Read Titus to learn how to be a godly woman, read I Peter to learn how to remember what God has done for you, read Psalm 51 to confess sin, read Hebrews to strengthen your faith, etc. God's Word changes lives, keeps us right, and is the only true unchanging thing in life. God honors His Word above His own name- that is how sacred it is. Use it to guide your life. Without it there is no wisdom or understanding- only darkness. There is healing. God is the great physician and you can get through this with help. Lean hard on your Savior, Seek the right medical and physical care, and help others. I will be praying for anyone who reads this because they are suffering.



2 comments:

  1. Ashley,
    I am so glad you posted this. I think women are afraid to talk about this subject in Christian circles because people think that if you are depressed, you are not a good Christian. I agree with your point that this IS a physical problem that needs to be addressed. I hope women realize that good Christians CAN become depressed, and that they don't have to be ashamed about it.

    Just this week I talked to my doctor's office about my postpartum depression. One of the midwives said that I most definitely have it, and we are working together on finding the best treatment for me. Just admitting it and talking to someone about it brings me great relief that this is not me. It is a sickness that WILL go away, but we have to work on it.

    I hope that many women read this and stop kicking themselves for something that is not their fault.

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    1. Tanya,
      Thank you so much for your comment! I love your perspective on it. It will get better! Acts 20:24
      - Ashley

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