Dark Days // Mental Health
Depression, postpartum depression, the baby blues, bummed out - call it what you may but it sucks and makes for really hard days...
I experienced postpartum depression with both of my boys. It didn't set in with my first until he was nearly one year old. I think the newness and excitement that comes with your firstborn kind of carried me through that first year, and then the reality of my situation hit. I was no longer a free-spirit, able to go and do as I please, travel the world as I had done so much of in the past. I began to feel like a caged bird, and the depression slowly crept in, making it extremely difficult to swing my legs out of bed in the morning.
Soon after our second child was born, I experienced a new level of postpartum depression, and this level was even more debilitating than before. I could hardly move. The depression was paralyzing. I couldn't breathe. I felt hunger pains but had no will to eat. I was slow moving and tired, always wanting to sleep. I would get in the shower just to sit on the floor, let the water hit my face and wash away my tears, feeling so helpless and alone. My husband once found me in our closet, hunched over on all fours, dry-heaving into a pile of saliva and snot on the floor. He rubbed my back and reminded me to breathe. I was a complete wreck.
And yet, I had a newborn and 2 year old to take care of.
We ALL have dark (or cloudy) days, some may be darker (or cloudier) than others, but we all experience it on some level. I asked my granny if she dealt with any depression when she was at home raising her 5 children. She responded, "No, I was only focused on doing what had to be done to survive. I didn't know there was any other way." We went on to talk about today's world and how there are so many options/choices/distractions out there. She grew up in small town Montana, raised her children on a farm and lived very simply. I think there is something to that.
I am a firm believer in the power of simplicity - a simple life leads to a peaceful life. A complex life is crowded and the larger the crowd, the tighter the squeeze, making it hard to breathe!
Ok, so live simply and eliminate some distractions - the key to happiness and mental health?! Nope, I'm definitely not saying that but I do think it's a step in the right direction. I don't have the answer or fix-all. I think it probably looks different for each person and situation. All I can do is share my story, in hopes that my experience and perspective might help someone.
For what it's worth, for me, personally, I have to keep my mind renewed in God's word. I find healing, comfort and strength when I read that He has a plan for my life (Jer. 29:11), that He never leaves me or forsakes me (Heb. 13:5) and that He sees every tear (Psalm 56:8). These are words of life that are promises to me and I use them to combat the darkest of days.
I am also a lover of the great outdoors and fresh air does wonders for my mental health. Even a simple walk around the block will lift my spirits.
During my days of darkness, I began to see a counselor and that helped tremendously. He asked all the right questions, got me to open up about things I didn't even think related to my current situation but did, he listened intently and handed me tissue after tissue to wipe up my tears. He was a huge piece in my puzzle to recovery. There is no shame in seeking medical help, whether that be in the form of counseling or medication. Maybe it is just something you need temporarily, like I did. Or maybe it's something more permanent? But how will you know until you seek out the help you need?!
And last but certainly not least, someone to talk to and pray with, a friend that is willing to sit in the trenches with you, as you crawl your way out. I've been blessed with a few of those trench sitters (my husband being one), they know who they are! Whether it's a family member, friend, mentor or accountability partner, find that person you can be raw + real with. They play a vital role in fighting the loneliness that comes with a dark day. Life was never meant to do alone.
Again, I don't have all the answers and by no means is this a "keys to happiness" write-up but I do believe in the importance of mental health and feel we shouldn't shy away from it, but rather, TALK ABOUT IT! I'd like to encourage you to be pro-active and make a plan that works for you. Find some steps that you can take when you start to feel that heaviness creep in. Don't find yourself on the battle field, unarmed and without a strategy. Be prepared to FIGHT! We aren't promised a life without hardships but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my friend. We're in this boat together and with the right action plan, no one is sinking!
As for me, I'm good. I'm really really good. I'm married to a wonderful man that works extremely hard to provide for our family. He loves all of us with the love of Christ, unconditional and unending. I have two beautiful little boys that teach me something new every day. They have burst my heart open and shown me a side of love I didn't even know existed. I have family close by that we get to see often and that always does the heart good. I have the best of the best when it comes to friends, ones that I consider more like family. I am beyond blessed with the support system I've been given.
Do I still have dark days? Yes, of course I do! But I feel like I have the right tools to attack, head on. But some days, it gets the best of me and I carry the heaviness. I never stay there though, and I think that's the key. I get up and try again, with the help of my Heavenly Father and everyone else I listed above. Life is beautiful but messy and hard and short. I want the good to always outweigh the bad. So much love to you, my friend. I'm praying that you find the strength to reach out and get the help you need. Don't do this alone. You are worth it.