Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Nicole Grodan, who speaks out about the stigmatization of therapy and medication in some church communities. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, it is not a sign of weakness to seek medical help for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In fact, it is a step of courage.
By Nicole Grodan
“Just pray more.”
“Have more faith.”
“Cry out to God.”
These were a few of the responses I got when I tried talking to people about what I was experiencing — a spiral away from reality and into postpartum psychosis. After welcoming another baby boy into our family, I started hearing whispers in my head and could no longer determine what was real. I was falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.
I love God and know he is there by my side. This I have never doubted. Baptized in the Roman Catholic Church and raised in Christian churches of various denominations, I would always be able to sense God’s presence in the midst of chaos. I’d be able to look up at the sunrise or sunset and know that everything would be OK, even if I couldn’t imagine how.
And I believed that God was with me throughout all of this, too. The insomnia. The shame and guilt. The whispers that haunted me.
In my younger days, I learned at church that we should not talk about painful things, but instead sweep them under the rug. Talking about these sorts of things proved you were bad and God needed to punish you.
I ignored that advice.
When I was at a full tilt of my postpartum psychosis (which was misdiagnosed as bipolar), I had lunch with a “friend.” But when I shared about the depression I was experiencing, she said I was being punished for my lack of faith and trust in God. She said I had to have been bad in my previous life and that’s why I was struggling.
When I shared that I thought I should maybe see a therapist and how medication might help, I was told that if I went to church, it would get better and that medication isn’t God’s way. She thought I was dealing with this because I didn’t have my oldest son baptized and this was God’s way to punish me.
Sorry, but that is not how God rolls.
Things got worse. Though I had two amazing children, I just couldn’t anymore. I had a plan, a method, a date. I arranged for someone to pick up the boys for me. I had written my letters of goodbye.
Earlier, I had a made an appointment to see a postpartum depression support group facilitator, but I didn’t want to go. In tears, I prayed for guidance. I begged God to help me. I asked him for direction. As I picked up the phone to call and cancel my meeting, I felt a pull. In a brief moment of quiet in my head, I heard, “Don’t do it. Trust me.” I put the phone down and went to my meeting.
There, I broke down. I spent a week in the hospital for my own safety.
For my recovery, for my healing, I needed therapy. I still do. I needed medication. I still do. I needed hospitalization, and I know that if I ever need it again, it would be OK. God will be with me. He is my strength. He gives me hope. And through my battle with postpartum mood disorders, he was standing with me each step of the way.
A few years ago, we found a new church. When I started sharing tiny bits and pieces of my experience with mental illness, I wasn’t shamed. I wasn’t judged. I wasn’t condemned. I was embraced. I was loved. I was encouraged.
My youngest is now 8 years old. He is my snuggle bug. My reading buddy. My library junkie. He cooks with me. We go for walks and we talk about everything. Though he doesn’t know this (yet), all those years ago, he saved me from myself. He is my hero, my heart, my reason. I know without a doubt, God blessed me when he gave us Little Dude.
I continue to share bits and pieces of my postpartum story with members from my new church, even when I’m terrified.
Now, when I reveal my pain, I’m given hugs, love and compassion. And I hear the simple, beautiful words: “Thank you.”