Motherhood, Depression, Anxiety & Everything in Between.
Depression, anxiety, and fear are things that have been a part of my life since I can remember. I had what you might call some traumatic things happen as a child, and they changed the course of my life forever. Can you relate?
I began to actually put names to the feelings and thoughts when I was around 16 years old. It was heavy and dark. I was confused and lost. I didn't understand what was going on, and it only got worse into adulthood. Well, let me start off by telling you this- if you struggle with mental illness- you are incredible, I love you, and I am proud of you. You are Courageous, Brave, and a Bold. You are a fighter, and a world changer.
I remember always thinking just how terrible, awful, and sick people that had depression were. My family has a history of it, and so I was already against the idea that I would be like "them".
I didn't want to be labeled as "that girl" with those "issues". I hid, I hid for so long. I Ran from the feelings and covered them up pretty well, but when I was alone, they would rush out like a flood. And the more that I hid them, and the more that I pretended like I was fine- the worse I became, and of course, the more it affected my life.
I had no intent in seeking counsel, medication, and or help. I knew I could just fix it all on my own. Like I had heard my whole life, they were just feelings- and feelings weren't really real. Just control them, and they would go. But you all, He pursues us, and I am forever grateful for it.
Let's Fast forwards past years or depression, isolation, and anxiety, to when I had my first beautiful child. It was a dream, it was every bit of what I thought it could have been. I was overwhelmed with joy, and I couldn't wait to meet her. It was an easy pregnancy, with no complications. What I was not prepared for, was post partum depression. This, friends- is when It all came to head. Leilla was not what you would call "an easy baby" by any means. She wasn't a sleeper, had all the tummy obstacles to overcome, and was from day one, a spirited child.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. This motherhood thing that I was already a bit uneasy about, was a nightmare. I was completely sleep deprived. My sweet husband was working 12 hour days, and I was nannying for an incredible family. Yes, blessings for sure- but difficult and hard situations. I was completely overwhelmed, with little to no help, and felt lost.
Add my depression & postpartum into that, and it was a storm.
That was the first year that I became intentional and even open to the idea of Mental Illness.I had two friends who spoke to me right away, and gently and lovingly said: "Alex, you're not ok". I reluctantly listened but knew that they were right.
I googled, read, and began trying homeopathic remedies to help with the imbalances. This began my journey to self-care, and really, my journey of healing.
No one can truly prepare you for what the Journey will look like, but what they can do is be there for you, as you journey to health, and abundance in a holistic life.
With my next two pregnancies, I knew what was to come. I had postpartum with Kingston again, and baby blues with Sophia. I guilted myself like a boss for working with all three children, which just led to more shaming and guilt. I also guilted myself for not breastfeeding long enough with Sophia. I was stuck in a vicious cycle.
I decided to stop nursing Sophia when she was 9 months old, and it was one of the hardest, yet best decisions that I could have made for me, for her, and for our family. I had to do it, for my own good.
Even typing that felt a little weird, you know, to put myself first. But really, I was also putting my family first. I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted from pumping and keeping up with her milk intake. I was doing everything. Pumping extra, taking all the supplements, etc. and it was still incredibly hard. It was adding to my plate of heaviness, and I needed to change this up to lighting the plate. Breastfeeding had been, and was so close to my heart, that making the sacrifice to stop breastfeeding broke my heart, but I knew that it had to happen.
Then, 2017 came. And I said a big yes to my Father doing a new thing.
This year, I began to truly understand the meaning of caring for myself. I was no longer cutting corners, leaving myself last, and forgetting all about my needs.
I went back to counseling, clung to Jesus & my sisters, and restoring continued for His Glory. And I was reminded that I have the victory because he has overcome.
I'm not sure if you're familiar with that overwhelming feeling of failure. The tight chest, the rage, and anger, the disappointment and discontent. The exhaustion and also guilt was a constant in my life. I wanted something to change. And so I pressed in, and continued my journey of health I realized that I had to accept some things as they were:
- Depression is not a phase.
- Anxiety is not a phase.
- Post Partum- is not a phase.
- Motherhood is hard and beautiful. There is no in between
- Mental Illness does not make you less than.
- Depression is real, and postpartum blues are too. There is no shame in that.
- Anxiety consumes you and holds you captive. Also real.
They all are real, and need to be looked at, and owned. There is no shame is saying YES to caring for yourself.
But, these things are not your identity, they are not a banner of shame or failure. They are not who you are. They are just a part of your story. A part of your life where God can come in and will come in and do his Redeeming, Reconciling, and Healing work.
The quicker you can say yes to caring for yourself & healing, the quicker you will begin to feel the cloud lift, and the journey begins.
Remember, this is not a sprint race, it's not even a race at all, it's a marathon, where you are allowed to stop and take water breaks, rest, and get then get up and keep going.
I believed that I could cure this all on my own. I actually at one point didn't even think you needed to really take them.
I began taking medication after Kingston was born, on and off and got back on them with Sophia (I probably should have stayed on them the whole time). The cloud began to lift.
And then, I shamed myself for that too. For taking medication. I wanted to be normal and not broken, I wanted to be healthy- little did I know, that part of loving myself correctly was taking my medication. I didn't stay on antidepressants for very long with Sophia but still continued to take my anxiety medication.
I had incredible friends and counsel, reminding me about the fruit that was in healing. That even though it was hard, it was also amazing.
I was taught, and have seen that your healing will not only impact you, but your children, your husband, and others around you. You caring for yourself will overflow in love into others lives.
Please, love yourself. Take a break, walk away. Get the cup of tea or coffee. Go jogging, sit down at night by yourself and do something that is life-giving. I would always tell people, that self-care for me started with drinking water from a glass instead of my water bottle. It made me slow down. I would also light a candle, open up the windows, and would listen to the sounds of nature.
You can also give the kids the non-organic chicken nuggets, eat the chocolate chip cookie, OR, eat the fruit. Whatever makes your heart happy.
We can't love from an empty cup. If we don't take the time and have the courage to look at the very hard things, then we will never heal. We will never get better, and we will stay stuck in that terrible place, the rest of our lives. I want you to know that I know that deep and dark place, friend. I have been there, and I understand.
Please know, your life is worth it because he has called you Chosen. I also know, that you are doing your best- keep going. Reach out to those trusted ones around you, and allow them in. Tell them where you are, and how you are hurting. And I'm telling you, He loves you, and hears you. Don't believe me? Read Psalm 116. A sweet reminder to us, from Him.
1 I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
2 Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
3 Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave[a] overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!”
5 How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
6 The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
7 Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.
8 He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
9 And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
as I live here on earth!
10 I believed in you, so I said,
“I am deeply troubled, Lord.”
11 In my anxiety I cried out to you,
“These people are all liars!”
12 What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
14 I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
15 The Lord cares deeply
when his loved ones die.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people—
19 in the house of the Lord
in the heart of Jerusalem.
Please, go tell someone who struggles with mental Illness that they are seen, loved and chosen.
And you- You, my dear are also loved, you are seen, you are not forgotten.