2020 Reflections: Change, Growth and Postpartum Depression
What a year it's been for all of us.
I've been avoiding writing this blog post for weeks because I wanted to share what God has been teaching me in a helpful way, but I haven't known how. My blog has been sparse and silent because I want to be real about what I'm going through and learning, but there's a process to growth. I didn't feel ready to share in the thick of the battle, I wanted to wait until I had something (hopefully) helpful to say first.
But, summed up, for me, this year involved so. much. change.
In February, I celebrated 1 year of marriage. In April, I gave birth to my first baby towards the start of the pandemic. In July, I moved 686 miles from my home in New York to North Carolina. In August, my husband became an associate pastor. I went from being a full time graphic designer working in an office, to working part-time from home, to freelancing a few hours a week. All the while, our world has been full of political tension, sickness, unrest, loneliness, and disunity (About five minutes spent reading the comments section on any Facebook article will reveal that lol).
My career changed, my home changed, my friend groups changed, my city changed, our world changed, I changed. I started to feel slightly depressed in July, but ignored it. Finally, in November I went to the doctor with the encouragement of a friend and was officially diagnosed with postpartum depression. My body had changed, my hormones were changing, the chemicals in my brain were changing. Change. Change. Change.
For awhile, things felt really dark. All I could see was brokenness. Depression looked like losing motivation. It looked like crying daily over small things. It looked like feeling anxious and a tightness in my chest that wouldn't go away unless I cried it out. It looked like cancelled plans, days in bed, and on the worst days- not wanting to exist. But now, PRAISE THE LORD, I am seeing purpose in the pain.
Recently, these familiar verses came to mind, and stopped me in my tracks.
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed." - 1 Peter 4:12-13
When I read "do not be surprised as if something strange were happening to you" it made me feel sooo dumb in the best way. That was basically my attitude right there. In every hard thing this year, I've been so surprised and desperate, like, "What is happening to me? Why is this happening? Why are things falling apart? Why does life feel so hard?"
I couldn't see God's glory. I couldn't see the purpose. I couldn't see what God was trying to teach me. I only saw brokenness.
At one of my lowest moments, I was having a cry session by myself. I don't think I'd ever felt so low or empty. The depression was hitting hard, but I could tell there was something else going on too. While I was trying to identify what I was feeling, I felt God say something to me. Not audibly, but as clear as day, He whispered to my heart, "Your idols are failing you."
The tears stopped flowing. I stopped feeling desperate and sorry for myself. That statement replayed in my mind, over and over: "Your idols are failing you."
And I knew what it meant.
All the changes of this year basically meant that every security and comfort I had was being taken away. Things I'd put in place of God or too high priority in my life couldn't hold the weight. These verses came to mind:
"But My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate declares the Lord, for My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water." - Jeremiah 2:11-13
Before I elaborate, please know that I realize postpartum depression is very real, and I can't control the chemicals in my brain. So don't get me wrong there. That was the 'fiery trial' I was enduring this year. But, in that moment, I realized there was more going on with me than just battling depression. There were idols in my life I had never recognized before, and they were letting me down - because that's what idols do. I was "hewing cisterns for myself, broken cisterns that could hold no water."
When it came down to it, I was struggling with losing control and being in a place where I needed to be utterly dependent on God and nothing else. I always knew that was the right way to live, and I think until then I thought it was how I was living... but, it wasn't. This low place where it felt like every category of life was unsure or unsteady, I had to let go of earthly comforts and depend. on. God. Moment by moment dependence.
Since that realization, I've been trying to pray:
"God, what are you trying to teach me right now?" instead of, "Why is this happening to me?"
"Lord, how are you trying to reveal Your glory to me?" instead of "What did I do to deserve this?"
It is God's grace that He allowed these changes to break me a little bit. It's His grace that these trials have shown me His glory - revealed what needs to change in me to live a more God honoring, purposeful and peaceful life.
My depression isn't gone. Some of my difficult circumstances haven't changed. But now, I am trying to embrace the refining that God is doing in me through this season. I'm not perfect at embracing it. But I am so thankful that God loves us enough to let difficult things come our way in order that we can experience the benefit of understanding His love and grace even more.
I wanted to encourage you all with this:
"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." - 1 Peter 1:6-7
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." - Romans 8:18
As Scripture says, I want to be overjoyed as His glory is revealed. I want to worship Him and praise Him. I want my pain to bring purpose. In the hard times, I want my worship to grow louder and stronger because God has been so faithful to me. He's only proven His love and grace more and more.
I can claim this over my life, because it's true:
"The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing." - Psalm 23:1
He is everything to me. He's all I need. In the highs in the lows, in the midst of depression, and Lord willing, when there isn't an ounce of depression left. He's it. He's the whole thing.
I love this quote by Beth Moore, and through each season, I come to understand it more and more:
"And, one of these days, when your days are almost done, and you have thanked every wonderful human being for all they've meant to you, you will then be able to lock eyes toward the One alone and say to Him with a riveting certainty that takes the whole house down:
You are the reason I am.
You are all my reasons."
If you're struggling, you're not alone. I encourage you to turn to God in your trials and not away from Him. These trials are GRACE. Because through them, we are being refined - knowing God and depending on Him in deeper ways than we could imagine. God will meet you right where you are. It's a promise He makes to us. He is more than enough. He is everything. I want my life and my testimony to proclaim the glory of God. He is who He says He is. And He's proven that to me.
"Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you." Psalm 116:7