So what is the truth behind postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is an identity thief and a lie straight from the pit of hell. It’s that simple. It is a tool Satan uses to steal our identity and prevent us from moving forward into the calling God has for us. It’s a deception that blinds us to the truth of who we are in Christ, who we are as a wife and who we are as a mother. The lie says, “You are alone,” when in truth, God is always with us. This identity thief is waging spiritual war against our bodies, souls and spirits and often the lies are so convincing that we can’t even recognize truth through the darkness. Postpartum depression is a spiritual attack against our womanhood and the very specific calling of motherhood. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Satan will use any method he can to stop us from fulfilling our Godly roles as mothers and raising up the next generation to serve Jesus. He knows if he can keep us broken and bound in emotional turmoil, not knowing who we are through Christ Jesus, then he doesn’t have to worry about us making an impact.
Knowing this truth about postpartum depression does not, however, make the symptoms during everyday life any less real or painful. Knowing this doesn’t mean we won’t experience suffering, struggles and heartache. It just means we need to keep this truth in the forefront of our minds so we do not become lost during the process. We need to know what is happening spiritually, as well as in the natural so that we are adequately prepared for the enemy’s attacks.
I experienced PPD after my first and third born daughters and my miscarriage. After my second, I did not have any PPD at all. My first experience greatly prepared me for this last time and I am very grateful the effects have been severely less this time around. With my first born, PPD started at the hospital. I remember holding her in the hospital room and not feeling any sort of connection. I didn’t feel overwhelming love or experience a special bonding moment with her. I didn’t cry about it, just sat puzzled, thinking that maybe something was wrong with me. I pushed those thoughts aside and gently, almost as if I was trying to convince myself, whispered “I love you. I promise. I am so thankful for you.” Other than that brief moment in the hospital, I didn’t have any symptoms of PPD until she was 3 months old. By then, I had absolutely fallen madly in love with my baby girl. The worry I had at the distant connection to her was long gone, and I loved being a mom. It was then that I also began experiencing irrational and overwhelming irritability and anger. My husband, unfortunately, carried the brunt of these uncontrollable bursts of anger. I would be happy and in a great mood one second, and the next I would be extremely angry or irritated. I would either explode into a yelling fit or run away to be by myself because I couldn’t handle the situation. I am so thankful my anger was never directed at my children, and I am also grateful my PPD was never so severe that I was in danger of harming anyone. I walked around in a fog, caught up in the thoughts rolling around in my head. I would replay tense situations, real and imagined, in my head until I was emotionally worked up over nothing. When I cried, it was because I hated how out of control I felt. I wasn’t sad, but I felt broken. My heart still hurts deeply at how I pushed my husband away.
Until I experienced postpartum depression myself, I didn’t understand the reality of it
PPD is different for every woman and the way symptoms are coped with is different as well. Some people feel immense sadness and cry, others experience irritability and anger like I did, and for some it is so bad they become suicidal or seek to harm others. These are all very real and uncontrollable symptoms that should be acknowledged. It’s important to have a support system. Surround yourself with loved ones that will encourage and not belittle, that will listen when you need to confide. However, be selective with who you do talk to. Most people will not be able to understand and when you are going through this darkness, the slightest tone of judgment can be harmful. I have lost friends and pushed family away because they couldn’t understand why I didn’t confide in them. Until I experienced postpartum depression myself, I didn’t understand the reality of it. There are chemical and hormonal changes that happen in our bodies during the first two years postpartum, along with sleep deprivation and nutrient deficiencies. All of these things contribute to postpartum depression. Having come through PPD several times, I spent a lot of time researching various treatments and preventative measures and plan on sharing those later on. There are little changes that can be applied that do not eliminate PPD, but certainly help in dealing with its effects.
The truth is that postpartum depression is very real and moms everywhere are suffering. I personally went to hell and back suffering through postpartum depression and questioning God on the why. Why did I have to have this? Why did I lack control over my emotions? Why didn’t anyone else I know deal with this? I became angry at God because I couldn’t understand. The whys in this life will drive us to desperation. Even Jesus himself, his broken body hanging on the cross, asked “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Sweet friend, if you are in the throes, or just coming out of postpartum depression please know that you are not alone. So many women experience different levels of PPD and the enemy keeps us quiet in shame. In Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, she says, “The real Jesus turns to our questions of why-why this brokenness, why this darkness?- and says, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Friend, hear my heart when I say I know what you are going through. I know how difficult each day, each moment is in this journey of motherhood. But our heavenly Father doesn’t leave us alone. He is there with us in our suffering and heartache. God covers us with His grace, which is sufficient in ALL things. (2 Corinthians 9:8) This coverage of grace is summed up well by Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way, “Over all of us is the image of the wounded God, the God who breaks open and bleeds with us. How do you live with your one broken heart? All I can think is-only the wounds of God can heal our wounds”…”suffering is healed by suffering”…”bad brokenness is healed by His good brokenness. Bad brokenness is broken by good brokenness.” The truth is that postpartum depression is an identity thief. The greater truth is knowing that our identity is found in Christ and His grace is sufficient in our suffering.