Monday, February 17, 2014

Toward the Light





Darkness. It is a setting which existed even before the formation of the earth. Before there was light to oppose it, to shine into it. Before the two entities were separate, there was only dark. 

It only takes the tiniest bit of light to penetrate the dark. A candle, a flashlight. A kind word or an unexpected smile. But sometimes, we simply cannot see it. Our vision is obscured by negative thoughts, the seemingly futile circumstances surrounding us, and self condemnation. Our glass isn't just half empty. It is bone dry.

For over a year after having my first child by means of an emergency c-section and losing my grandmother the following day, I lived in the dark. Although I'd battled a cycle of depression for most of my life, the events surrounding the birth of my son sent me into a pit so deep I thought I would never clamber out of it. I had a loving husband who treated me with the utmost respect and a beautiful child who was healthy and the most flawless thing I'd ever done, but none of it could permeate the desolation that followed me everywhere. We lived in a gorgeous area of Northern Utah surrounded by majestic mountains and vistas through every window of our home, but I felt as though I was living in a black hole.

Mental illness is not a subject which many people like to discuss. Some people shirk around it, try to make jokes and belittle the matter, and others simply ignore it. But it is real. It affects people in various ways and the symptoms are vast, but a chemical imbalance in the brain is not a condition you can simply snap out of or escape by just trying harder. No amount of busyness could improve my mood, and when caring for a newborn, there is plenty to do. 

At my six week check-up, I told my doctor about my emotional state and was prescribed an anti-depressant. Although I have heard of many success stories from people who take one regularly, it did not work for me. My state of depression progressed to nearly suicidal. I couldn't sleep, I barely wanted to eat, and was dismally attempting to care for an infant in my zombie-like state. 

A year after my six-week check-up I had a regular OBGYN visit and my doctor noticed I was still suffering from PPD. He prescribed another pill, which gave similar results, and at that point I decided to see a therapist. For me, making the decision to talk to someone I didn't know about my emotional and mental state was more scary that taking a medication which altered my brain. I was terrified. There was pain which I had buried so deep for so long that I was convinced that if it was brought to the surface I would crumple right there on the sofa in the patient room. But admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness. It shows strength. A faith in something you may not be able to see just yet.

I would be lying if I said it was easy. There were some fervent tears shed on that couch, but I can honestly say that seeking professional help was one of the first steps I took toward seeing the light again. I was able to cope with issues I kept hidden for most of my adult life and receive objective advice and perspective from someone who was not involved. Other steps forward were finding a supportive group of moms and reaching out to the community around me, becoming involved in our church and serving others. Each of these actions opened my eyes to the big, bright world around me. But the biggest step was surrendering all of my burdens to a God who is greater than my fears, anxiety, or self-loathing. He is a God of peace, love, and mercy.

For several years, I never shared this experience with anyone except for my closest friends and family. Now, I share with anyone who asks. I want people who feel as though the light will forever elude them to know there is hope. Even when you don't see the light, it is still there.

I believe in a God who often uses medication and science to heal, but this method clearly didn't work for me. Sometimes the most difficult step toward healing is admitting you need help. Saying no, I'm not fine, and being okay with that. The worst reaction you can have to depression or mental illness is to ignore it. Restoration begins with admission that there is a problem.

Acknowledging the dark is the first step toward seeing the light.


"'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” John  8:12

71 comments:

  1. This is an amazing post. After my divorce I fell into a deep depression. I saw a therapist for five years and I took anti depressants for most of that time as well. Sometimes doing the "hard thing" is the best thing.

    Erica
    We Three Crabs

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    1. So true, Erica. I'm glad to hear you were able to find a way of healing that worked for you.

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  2. I have had mild depression, and I always found it helpful to tell my husband what I was experiencing so that he could support me. Telling others is certainly not a sign of weakness but one of the best things we can do to help ourselves.

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    1. That's so true, Jennifer. Talking to someone you trust does help.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this very heartfelt post. I suffered from PPD after my daughter was born and it is very real. I was ashamed to admit I was having problems, but now know it would have benefited my family to have sought help.

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    1. Yes, I was ashamed for a long time too, Tanya. Hearing stories of other moms who suffered from PPD is what made me realize I wasn't alone. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your inspiring situation here with us, I've also suffered PPD and at the time it seems endless, but a little light shines a long way in the darkness.Good lick xx

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. It can seem endless but there is indeed hope.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. I had horrible PPD, and have suffered with depression most of my adult life. I really hate taking medication, but I must say "fortunately" my depression is mostly a medical issue and has been taken care of with medication. The PPD was something completely different. I had an amazing therapist and a wonderful pastor who helped me remember that as long as the kids were fed and safe, I was successful that day.

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    1. What a blessing to have a pastor who was able to help you through a rough time, Jessica. I'm glad you found the best way manage your depression and believe sometimes medication really is the best solution.

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  6. I experience small bouts of depression, usually around my cycle, so I believe mine is hormone related. I find that telling my husband really helps me because like you say bringing it into the light lessens its effect. I am new to your site, and I think it looks great!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Gina! I'm glad that you can talk to your husband about it when you feel down because yes, it really helps to have someone you trust.

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  7. i am so pleased for you that you were enabled by the grace of God to seek the help that you so desperately needed. Thank you for your honesty. :)

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    1. I am so grateful too, Annette. His grace abounds.

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  8. Good for you for sharing your experience. Someone will read this and you will help them too. That's the power of blogging.

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    1. That is my desire, Deb. I've been so amazed by blogging community in the seven short months since I started.

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  9. What a heartfelt and inspiring post! Your site is beautiful and I'm sure you will be enormously helpful to others.

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    1. Thank you so much, Debbie. I sure hope so.

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  10. I also suffered from PPD with both kids, second time around Anxiety was thrown into the mix. I was on pills for about half a year and then through vitamins, diet and exercise I started to become "okay". I still have my off days but most of the time I'm working through the days pretty well :) Hoping you are as well !

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    1. Thank you, I have been doing very well since the experience described in the above post. I'm glad you found a method that works for you and we all have an off day every now and then. This long winter, especially, has that effect. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Nice post! I suffered with PPD after I had my 9 month old. It was very hard for me to accept, I tried to ignore which didn't help the situation at all. I wanted to hide it because it felt so wrong. This was the baby I tried for 2 years to conceive, why was I depressed?! It was awful. Finally I admitted I had PPD, got help and am not ashamed! I think it needs to be openly talked about more so people aren't ashamed. Thank you for writing this post!

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Angelica! I'm glad you finally got the help you needed.

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  12. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I pray this post will reach those who need to hear your words.

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    1. That is my prayer too! Thank you for your prayers.

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  13. You are so brave to share such a personal story! Never feel ashamed of your story. You never know how God will use your experiences to help others.

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    1. That is very true, Brittany. God continually amazes me as He works in my life and in those around me. Thank you for your encouraging words.

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  14. What I have learned lately is that everyone goes through crap at some point or another, the importatnt thing is to get help and DONT keep it all inside. Glad you shared this

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    1. Yes, we all do Adrianne. And you are so right. Sharing with someone you trust is one of the best things you can do. Thank you.

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  15. It is very hard for me to relate to this subject but I always though that admitting you have a problem with sth, no matter what it is, is half of the success in solving it/fixing it. So you are on a good way!

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    1. Thank you. I know it's not a subject everyone has personal experience with but I think most people can relate to going through a difficult period in their life.

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    1. I was glad to do so. Thank you for stopping here.

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  17. Talking to a stranger about my person struggles also terrifies me more than being on medication. Thankfully I haven't needed either yet, but your story is so inspiring that someday, if I feel the need, I would be more confident pursueing therapy.

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    1. That is so great to hear. Thank you for your encouraging words.

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  19. Beautifully written. You are a light in the darkness. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. That is so wonderful to hear, Andrea. By God's grace alone. Thank you.

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  20. Beautiful post - and hard stuff to share I know well, I've suffered from depression (PP and other) for many years, off and on. Sometimes meds have really been a lifesaver, sometimes not so much and I've left them alone for years. Doing what works best for you at the time (and times they do change! ) is the right thing to do. And sharing is always good. Blessings to you!

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    1. Yes, Lisa. You definitely have to find the method that works best for you and each person is different. Thank you for sharing and for your encouraging words.

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  21. Hmm.. ive been In times in my life where I ideally should have been depressed. It was really bad. But for some reason I never fell to depression. I dunno.. maybe its my personality which is quite funny and positive. Like I get bored of being depressed so I am compelled to entertain myself. I know its easier said than done.. but life will only give you a set of circumstances, nothing more nothing less.. its up to the person to cope with it and be happy and more importantly give happiness to loved ones. Hope my opinion shows another aspect of dealing with depression.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Shaleen. I have "dealt with it" as you say and was stated in the post and am living a healthy life now. My desire is that the post gives hope to people unlike yourself who fight depression.

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    2. This was a great post and I would really like to read more of your stuff so I will be bookmarking this page! I really must comment on what another reader said though...
      Shaleen Sharma...wow, I'm sorry but you should really look into therapy yourself, or at the very least talk to your doctor about why you feel no empathy. It could be a hormonal imbalance or something that keeps you from feeling (apparently) anything other than upbeat. That is not normal, when something tragic happens to just shake it off and skip along your "quite funny and positive way" and when someone is suffering from depression they cannot just 'deal with it'.
      I'm sorry if this sounds snarky, I certainly don't want to start drama on your page! I just couldn't let that comment pass.

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    3. I'm glad the post spoke to you, Sheila, and really happy to hear you will be bookmarking it. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  22. I agree that there is no shame in talking to a therapist. It helps a great deal to talk about your struggles with someone that you trust. Also, the fact that you are able to talk about it so openly and share your experience with others, shows me just how strong of a person you are!

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Diana! Yes, I agree that talking about our struggles openly with people we trust is one of the best things we can do.

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  23. This is a beautiful post of God's grace! I also suffered from postpartum depression and pretty much missed the first year of my son's life. I also had an emergency c-section and wanted a natural delivery so bad. I had some serious body image issues as a result. I struggled so deeply and lived in the darkness too. It was a spiritual warfare! I look back now, thankful for the experience because I now use that experience to fuel my blogging ministry. I am so thankful that you "found the light" again and chose to speak to someone. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration!!

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    1. That warms my heart to hear, Stephanie. Thank you so much for your kind words and I agree the spiritual aspect is very real. I wanted a natural delivery very badly too and I don't think any woman really expects to have things go the other way. Thanks for sharing.

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  24. Very moving post.

    I've always wondered how seeing a professional can help with a mental health issue, depression, or dealing with any personal issues or life obstacles. I think it's amazing how someone can train to help people in this way. It's sad that some will not make the choice to 'see someone'...and I think it's because some do see it as a sign of weakness or feel embarrassed, but also...have you seen how some mental health professionals are portrayed on TV and the movies? I bet that doesn't help people's perceptions or encourage them to see a professional.

    I''m happy to hear that you were able to seek help and find an approach to healing that worked for you.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Yona. I agree that people on TV with mental illnesses are often portrayed in a negative light, and many of those who suffer have become very accustomed to masking their symptoms. My personal opinion is that seeing a counselor or therapist, etc. is always a better first step than going immediately to medication which can become habit forming. Of course, medication is sometimes needed but each case is different.

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  25. Depression is a serious issue and I'm glad you were able to both find help and find an approach that worked for you. All of these conditions of the mind need far more attention than we, as a society, are giving them. Thank you for your openness and sharing your story, I hope others find comfort and aid from it.

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    1. Thank you, Jim. You are right that these conditions so need far more research and attention. It amazes me that neurology, so I've been told, is still in its "infancy." There is so much we do not know about the human mind, and the human body in general.

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  26. Thanks for sharing. I know this is something many moms struggle with and don't feel like they can talk about. Thanks for your bravery.

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    1. Yes, I agree Lindsey. Thank you for your encouraging words!

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  27. Thanks for being so candid and sharing your story. So many people battle depression and feel like it is a stigma to talk about. You can feel so alone and as though no one understands, but seeking help and praying that God heals you in his own unique way is so important.

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    1. Yes, Ana. Prayer is so powerful, as I've learned over the years. Thank you for your positive words and understanding.

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  28. You are so right that people don't like to talk about mental illness. Thank you for sharing your story. The more people who are open about their struggles, the less stigma there will be for others.

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    1. Yes, I agree Charity. I try to be as transparent as possible in my blog about struggles I've faced so that others will know they are not alone.

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  29. It is a blessing that you share your story. In my life I have also battled depression that was fueled by a tragic childhood. I had tried medication, but surrendering to God and removing myself from the situation is what finally healed me. Sometimes all it takes is the first domino to fall.

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    1. I agree, Natalie. Sometimes to do have to remove yourself from environments which are harmful. Thank for for your encouraging words.

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  30. What a brave thing to share your story! I have also had my time of darkness, when I couldn't get out of bed and had dreams of running my car into a wall... and that is when a small still voice told me to go get help. I am so grateful for that voice -- because it put me back on the path towards the light. I spent years on medication and talk therapy, but in the end I think it's actually an early peri-menopause that has lifted the fog fully. God and hormones work in mysterious ways.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear you found your way back, Natasha. God can do miraculous things when we call out to Him. Thanks for your encouraging words.

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  31. I love this, Abigail! As a Mental Health Therapist I cannot advocate strongly enough for people seeking help anytime they are suffering from a mental health issue. Thank you for sharing so bravely and honestly. I know it will help someone else acknowledge their darkness and seek help for it!

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    1. I am so glad there are people like you out there, Bobbi, who are shedding light on these issues. Thank you for your kind words!

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  32. I am always glad to share my struggle with anxiety and depression too- I always think if it helps just one person....... So thankful for your post!

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    1. I agree, Sasha! Letting people know they are not alone is so important. Thank you!

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  33. I too believe in a God that has allowed modern medicine to evolve and help His children. I also agree that sometimes medicine is not what we need, and counseling can be extremely helpful, even though it's scary. I've done both, and I'm grateful that help was available when I needed it.

    Congratulations for sharing your story ad helping other people see the chance to get help from whatever source they need.

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    1. Yes, I am so grateful for the help that was available to me too, Meg. Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you were able to find the path which helped you.

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  34. "Acknowledging the dark is the first step toward seeing the light." This is also true for those who are spiritually lost and looking for Salvation. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. Very true. I am so grateful for God's grace and my own acknowledgement that He is the light. Thanks for stopping here.

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