I struggle to write you because words are critical and precious. The pain that you are in is unmeasurable and practically impossible to understand. Though I've experienced many of your hurts, fears and anxieties I can never comprehend your exact agony. I tread lightly because I fear I will diminish your experience. I am in tears as I think of what you must be enduring. It has only been a few short years since postpartum depression wreaked havoc on my life, the pain is oh so fresh at times. I question, "What could someone have said to me that would've made a difference?" I've spent weeks reflecting on what you might want to hear and what you also need to hear.
1. You are not alone.
Frankly, if I was you that would make me angry. Most of the time you feel very alone in your illness! Most people don't know how to talk to you. Your spouse in probably freaking out or withdrawing. You have a baby who needs constant attention. Your body is desperately trying to heal. Your mind and heart are broken. But you have the advantage of resources. Utilize them and you won't be alone. Use your friends and family for support. Find a great counselor. Ask some people to pray for you. I will! Find a group of gals to exercise with. Stay in contact with people. Talk to someone, someone who will listen. I know of one person who will listen, comfort and not ask for a bunch of explanations — God. I promise you that God loves you and will listen to your heart's cry. He wants for you to be whole and healthy so you can enjoy your baby.
Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. he will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
2. This will get better.
I never in a million years thought I would get better. I thought my diagnosis of PPD was similar to a diagnosis of diabetes, something I'd always have to live with and manage on a daily basis. Even as I made significant steps toward healing I never imagined myself whole. Here I am … better. Perfect? No. I've dealt with a lot of pain post PPD. I'm not going to lie to you or sugarcoat any of it. I've struggled with a few relapses. But today, on this day, I feel like a million bucks. It's almost hard for me to write that because I feel like I'll jinx it. But I'm telling you, this season of life will pass. It's not fast or easy by any means. My PPD lasted 18 months plus. But I got better and I'm still getting better. It's a process, a very irritating process!
Psalm 40:1-2 I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.
Here are some questions that you may have. These are questions I had in my head as I was struggling. Most of these questions I asked directly of God. My faith was strengthened a million-fold as God sustained me through my depression. I often share these questions publicly with ladies and they typically respond with, "Oh year, I was wondering that too!" For me, the best place to find the answers to all my questions is right in my Bible.
Will I ever overcome this illness?
Romans 8:37-39 "… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Where can I go for help?
Isaiah 41:13 "For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."
Deuteronomy 33:12 "… Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."
Does God have power to help me?
Psalm 18:35 "You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great."
Jeremiah 32:17 "Ah, sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
Can God give me peace?
Psalm 29:11 "The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."
Isaiah 54:10 "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion for you."
Will God stick it out with me?
1 Samuel 7:12 "Thus far has the LORD helped us."
Isaiah 40:28-29 "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
Does God truly see and hear me?
Psalm 31:7-8 "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place."
What does God expect of me?
Psalm 42:3,5 "My tears have been my food day and night. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."
Can any good come of my illness?
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
This may be a difficult Mother's Day for you. The only way out of it is to go through it. Cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, whatever … it may not bring any smiles this year. Even your baby may bring no joy this time. I pray that with time, rest, medication, counseling, whatever it is that you need … that you will find your way to wholeness. I believe with all my heart that God gave us children to enjoy them, not to be in psychiatric units or counseling offices because we gave birth to them. Take a deep breath, get some sleep. You may be in this for the long haul. If you need a friend in the meantime who gets a lot of what's hurting you, please email me. I'd love to be your new friend!
Sue McRoberts is the author of "The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained Me During Postpartum Depresson" and a blogger at Totally New Moms. She is a survivor of postpartum depression.