I feel really strange writing this post, as I am in the midst of some of this struggle myself. It’s hard to admit, isn’t it? I can have long stretches of ‘normal’, but then the darkness and frustration hits and I feel like I lost all ground. I realize though that if something I found to work can help someone else, I need to go ahead and share it. And sometimes it’s good to know that you’re not alone. I hope this finds you with a clear enough mind to be able to let some of this sink in. I know how it is. Those times when you just can’t think. If that’s where you are, go straight to #2. Then come back to this when you feel able. And remember, you are loved.
It’s been 11.5 months since my sweet little boy was born. I had a very rough first few weeks emotionally, with days upon days of crying nonstop because, well, I just couldn’t stop. Add to that Baby’s cluster feeding which was so painful and general unhappiness if he wasn’t constantly comforted, I thought I was going out of my mind. The house became a dreaded place. I spent my life in one of three rooms – bedroom, bathroom or living room. I tried to get up and clean slowly the first week, but I was so weak and dizzy from labor, being awake for 40 some hours, then getting very little sleep due to feeding and baby’s messed up schedule, hormones crashing, having no appetite whatsoever, etc., etc., that it didn’t work very well. Which made me feel worse, because I feel so much better about myself and my house when it’s clean. And not just pseudo-clean. It was a sad, frazzled, lonely, scary, this-is-never-going-to-get-better, dark time. It felt like it would last forever.
I can’t believe that it’s almost a year after the fact. That season DID get better and it didn’t last forever, but I’ve been faced with days of ‘normal’ depression. I know some of it has had to do with stressful situations in our present, but other times it comes out of nowhere – waking up with a feeling of gloom and doom in the pit of my stomach, sudden sadness I can’t seem to shake. At that point nothing is good. This house project is never going to be done, it will never be a safe place to let my little boy run around in, I won’t be able to keep the grocery bill down, I have no desire to figure out supper, I see clothes that need folded and dishes to clean and counters to wipe down, and I ignore it because the thought of doing it is so depressing because the rest of the house is such a disaster. I can feel that I’m spiraling downhill and it scares me, so I go sit on the couch and open my Bible. I try to pray and can’t focus. So I try to read some and nothing makes the connection in my head. The tears come and even tho the baby’s upset and needing me, I can’t do anything but cry.
Do you know those days? There’s so much to be happy about, but you can’t. You just can’t.
#1 Be Thankful
Praying is hard during depression. Is He really listening? What do I say? Lord, it’s hurts. Everything just hurts, and it’s so dark… That’s a fine prayer. He wants you to call out to Him and tell Him what’s going on inside, but now is when you need to physically force yourself to turn your mind around.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Out loud, start reciting what you’re thankful for. Out loud. Father, thank You for a healthy, happy, strong baby! Thank You for his smiles that melt my heart and make me smile even through my tears. Thank You for everything You provide for me that makes my providing for him easier (toys, diapers, wipes, onesies instead of t-shirts, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, etc). FIND YOUR BLESSINGS. Name them down to the smallest, littlest thing. Lord, thank you for the drain in the tub that closes so I can take a bath! Keep going. Close your eyes and cry and thank Him, bringing to mind each and every good thing you have. This dark time can keep pulling you lower, or you can force yourself to stop soaking up the bad and amplify the good. It may not totally beat the sadness, but it can level things out and help you stop the rapid coast downhill.
#2 Be Kind to Yourself
I never like to encourage stagnancy, or laziness, but for crying out loud your body has gone through so incredibly much to make, birth, feed and care for that sweet child (or children!) of yours. You need to let it heal and recover. You need to feed it good, healthy, real food. Nothing artificial, genetically modified or full of sugar, lots of whole foods like pastured eggs, grass fed meat, organic fruit and veggies, organic sweet potatoes, and whole, preferably sprouted grains (oats, spelt, einkorn, kamut, etc).
And then you need to let yourself relax. Do something you like. Take a hot bath with essential oils and/or epsom salts. Watch a show that encourages you or makes you laugh. Don’t stress over chores. Take a sick day and only do the necessary, important things like taking care of the baby. I admit I’m terrible at doing that. I struggle and push myself mentally to do something. Just do something. So even if I can’t or don’t, I feel terrible about it. So any recovery I could have made by not doing anything I destroyed by beating myself up about it. Give yourself the ok to ignore the laundry or dirty kitchen. Know that once you are rested, getting those chores tackled won’t feel like nearly the marathon it looks like now.
Give. Yourself. A. Break.
#3 Be Open
I know we often have to keep functioning through depression. A lot of times we get so good at hiding it that it’s not really visible to those who aren’t living with us. That does nothing to heal your mind, or get you out of that darkness. Make sure you’re open with Hubby about what’s going on. I know sometimes it feels like he doesn’t understand, but that’s probably because he doesn’t. Give him some ideas on how he could help and don’t give up on him. Allow yourself to tell family members or those close friends that you’re struggling. They will not only lift you up to God in prayer, but will come and help you. This is definitely the situation where you need to let go and let them. Don’t feel guilty, but go back to #1 and just be thankful, and #2, be kind to yourself, letting others take some of your burden.
Believe you me, I hate sitting when someone else is working, most especially at my house. But after Baby Boy was born, my mother-in-law came over and cleaned. And I let her. I was exhausted and trying to learn how to breastfeed, and the last thing I needed was to feel guilty about her cleaning and because I wasn’t up helping. When people offer or actually come over and help, they aren’t doing it to make you feel guilty. They’re doing it to bless you. Let them. Let go of it and let them.
These last few months, I’ve texted my sweet girlfriend from church during some of my darkest times. She has either scheduled a day to come over right then, or promised prayer and sent encouraging words, or texted and said I have to stop at the store and I will be at your house right following, then would bring me something she knew I needed just to bless me. She knew I needed someone. So she came and played with the baby, and hugged me and talked me through things, and took charge of some house projects and got the area picked up so I felt better about it. She has been visible, physical proof to me that God comforts us through other believers, and I can’t tell you how much just writing about her and what she’s done for me and us warms my heart. If you have someone similar in your life, bless them by letting them bless you. Them knowing that you need them is a blessing in itself.
I know this isn’t easy. I struggle to follow these three steps. It’s not easy to be thankful. Or kind to yourself. Or open. But it’s important, and if you promise to try, I promise to also. 😉
I know this isn’t a cure. Sometimes it is related to nutritional imbalances. Please make sure you’re taking care of yourself nutritionally and then get in to see a functional doctor or clinical nutritionist who does muscle testing as soon as possible. My nutritionist has helped me more times than I can count, just by switching up my supplements and giving my body what it needs.
But sometimes it’s still dark. There’s a reason for this season. Maybe it’s to give you experience so that you can be that blessing to some new mama down the line, by true understanding of and love for what she’s going through. Maybe the darkness is where God will prove to you that He really is there and He is who will never, ever fail you. I don’t know what it is. I find myself questioning why I have to go through this too. Just remember that Jesus suffered for us, and He died for us so that someday all of these tears will be wiped away. Hang onto Him, dear mama. This season is but for a season.
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.