You probably didn’t expect this. You probably didn’t think that this could happen to you – that these nightmarish thoughts could pop into your head. You thought that the birth and early months of raising your new child would be fun, exciting, and fulfilling – but instead you find yourself doubtful, fearful, and hopeless.
Every day you battle the thoughts that race into your head. The whisper that tells you that you aren’t enough – that someone else would do a better job of raising your child. Your family would be better without you. The visions of awful things happening to your child – visions with frighteningly real and disturbing imagery – so realistic and terrifying that make you wake up in cold sweat, check if your baby is breathing every five minutes, throw away all the instruments that could possibly harm, and fear that your child is going to die at any moment (and that if they did it would be your fault). The panic attacks that make you feel like the room is closing in on you and you can’t breathe. The feeling like your stuck, drowning, alone, isolated – and yet, at the same time, not wanting to leave your house. The sudden urges to run, yell, hit, cry, scream, throw something against the wall (maybe even your child), or jump out a window.
The thoughts you have scare you and perhaps even repulse you. You aren’t sure where they come from – and yet, they feel so real, perhaps even tempting – so much so that you already feel guilty. The voice tells you things won’t get better. You’re crazy. No one will believe you. If you talk to anyone, they’ll think you are crazy.
And so the thoughts continue to race around and the voice gets louder and louder: The Voice of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
Have you ever felt any of this? If you haven’t, chances are that someone you know has – or is struggling with it right now.
But the things is – we’re not talking about this anywhere near enough.
So many of us go through these struggles (almost one million women report that they are suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety every year in the US alone) and yet for all the women that struggle with it, we talk about it very little. Those that suffer think that if they talk about it others will think that they’re crazy and those who haven’t suffered with it don’t quite understand what to do – and perhaps even think the sufferers a little crazy.
I know I thought these kind of thoughts were crazy, once. I distinctly remember a time when I was a teenager. I was part of a conversation where a mother told us about how difficult one of her children was. “Sometimes I felt like throwing him against the wall,” she said, “and sometimes I imagined him falling onto the knives that were upright in the dishwasher. He was such a difficult child.”
As I had never heard of this kind of thing, I was more than a little horrified. How could any mother think those things?! Yet, here was this mother telling me that she had. And yet, she obviously had not followed through with these thoughts – her son was now a healthy teenager.
I was one of the lucky ones – because I was made aware that normal people think these things and that they are able to resist those thoughts, get through it, and raise healthy children.
I learnt through her sharing that I was in control of my actions. My thoughts were just thoughts – and I could win over them.
And because I learnt this – and also later learnt that I was prone to depression and anxiety – I was prepared. My husband and I made a plan. I prepared my husband for what might be some signs and symptoms and how I would need his support. I prepared myself with coping strategies for when I became too negative or felt overwhelmed.
This is why we need to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety.
Because I was prepared, I had support, I knew I was not alone, I knew what to expect, and I knew where to turn for help – I have been able to win. Although I have struggled – I am winning. I don’t win every day, but I win more than I lose and I’m winning more than I was.
I shudder to think how things would have gone if I was unprepared, I thought I was alone, I didn’t know why I was feeling how I was feeling, or I kept all my thoughts to myself. I don’t think things would have gotten better – I think they would have spiraled out of my control.
Perhaps I would have still recovered and gotten help – but without knowing what I was going through or how to fix it, I’m sure I would not be doing as well as I am now.
We can win the battle over our minds – but God does not want or expect us to do that alone. He wants us to find healing in a community.
Talk about your struggles. Listen to other people’s struggles. Get people the help they need. Be the support someone needs. There’s someone out there who needs you. Be a woman that women can talk to. Be a woman that starts conversations.
We desperately need more women willing to say, “I’ve been there, and I’m here. You can come and talk to me anytime you need to – without judgment.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
If you are struggling:
Remember you are not alone – many other women have had the same struggles as you.
Remember your thoughts are just thoughts and you can win over them.
Reach out to someone for help–and don’t stop searching until you get it.
“Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).