There’s a dark place in motherhood that virtually no one is talking about. A place where hope disappears, sleep doesn’t come, praying feels useless and the only thing worse than the pain is the numbness. Everyone who knows this place experiences it differently, and though it doesn’t affect every mother, it affects more than you know. Someone close to you is fighting against this darkness without you knowing—your mother, your friend, your sister, your neighbor. Perhaps even yourself. Too many women don’t know how to recognize the battle raging inside them for what it is, and so they suffer in silence, confusion, and fear. I’ve been to this place and back, though my climb back to solid ground isn’t over.
I’ve written on the topic of Postpartum Depression before HERE, but I’ve put off writing more on the subject for far too long. I’m in a different place now and the darkness doesn’t suffocate me as it once did, but I haven’t forgotten the all-consuming hold it had on me back then. I remember the feelings of “Why me?!” so distinctly. It’s impossible in that place to not question why God would allow such an impossible load to be placed on the shoulders of a young mother who wants nothing more than to simply feel the joy of those sweet children He’s entrusted her with. To feel so broken, so worthless, and so entirely alone when other mothers around you seem to be overflowing with joy, energy, and purpose can completely rob a woman of the will to keep going. It’s so easy in that place of all-consuming darkness to believe that everyone you love would be better off without you there to weigh them down. It’s important to note that not every experience with Post-Partum Depression or Post-Partum Anxiety gets this severe or lasts long enough to feel this impossibly hard. But for some women, this is a daily reality.
For a very long time, I wondered why I personally had to face this trial. It felt cruel that after the painful challenges of infertility, I was again robbed of the joy of having a baby even with that baby in my arms. I have intently searched for meaning in this trial, because I feel that to suffer so deeply without purpose is a waste. I have strived to create purpose by allowing my PPD journey to be a driving factor in many of the changes I’ve made in recent months that have positively impacted my motherhood. Today, however, I find peace and gratitude in knowing that the purpose was greater.
For the first time in my life, as I knelt to pray last night, I found myself genuinely THANKING God for a lifetime of mental health struggles and most specifically for my own experience with the suffocating darkness of Post-Partum Depression. This came about because earlier in the day, I had found myself—not for the first time in my life—talking a dear friend through a moment of severe mental health crisis. I won’t pretend that I knew all the right things to say, or that I single handedly saved a life in danger, but at the very least I am so grateful that in those moments I was able to simple say, “I understand.” and “I know that feeling well.” One opportunity to offer even a sliver of hope, understanding, and judgement free listening to someone I love is more than enough purpose for all my months and years of suffering. I am so humbled that this sweet friend called me in her time of need.
It’s not a secret to anyone who knows me well that I am passionate about mental health and that for many years I have intended to become a licensed therapist. For as long as I can remember, I have had a longing desire to assist others who are battling through the pain of mental illness that is so familiar to me personally. About 7 years ago, I chose to put that dream on hold for a season to instead pursue my dream of motherhood. It would be a lie to say that I have not sometimes questioned my choice to do things in this order. Recently I have identified a specific desire to effect change among those suffering through PPD. Quite frequently I feel a longing pull to have the degree in hand that will allow me to confidently offer support to those around me who are struggling. However, I feel confident that it is not yet my season to pursue these passions. Thankfully, I have found peace in recognizing that simply offering my voice to shed light on this issue might be enough for now. Although my experience alone doesn’t provide me the credentials to be a licensed mental health practitioner, it at least gives me the ability to offer hope and encouragement to a struggling population of which I’m a part.
I’m noticing more and more that each time I open my mouth to discuss my varied struggles with mental health and PPD specifically, I somehow give permission for others to do the same. Verbalizing my struggles doesn’t seem to get any easier with practice as the fear of judgement and misunderstanding stays constant. However, each time my openness encourages another person to share their story; I find more motivation to use my voice for this purpose. I can confidently state that there is healing in speaking out about mental illness! Acknowledging my struggles and giving them a name gives me back some of the control that poor mental health has robbed from me. There is catharsis in simply uttering the truth of these challenges aloud (or through writing).
Had I not been open about my struggles previously, I would have been robbed of so many opportunities to connect more deeply with friends and acquaintances that have since opened up to me. Perhaps my dear friend would not have known that there was safety waiting on the other end of yesterday’s phone call. I hope and pray that as I continue to open up on this subject, others will find more safety and purpose in doing the same.
Will you join me? Do you or a loved on have something to offer to this conversation? Whether you share your experiences through social media, in conversation with a neighbor or co-worker, or more privately to a trusted friend or family member; I
encourage implore you to take a
chance on being open about your struggles. Suffering in shame and silence
creates a dirty cycle of further suffering. There is so much strength in
community! You never know what you might gain, or who might desperately need
your encouragement to be open themselves.
If you choose to share your story, I’d love to hear about it. Here’s to promoting understanding, and ending shame on the topic of mental illness!