This won’t make sense unless you read the first two installments here and here.
As I mentioned in the last post, God has used the post-partum depression I experienced and my ensuing breakdown for my good. Here is a quick snap-shot of what I have gained in the last year:
1) Breakdowns are no joke. Our minds are fragile and should be handled with care. (Just to be clear, what I have gained here is a perspective shift. No more can I say I don’t understand breakdowns. Instead, I say – “me too”. I’ve been there. If this can happen to me, this can happen to anyone. Our minds are fragile and deserve to be handled with care!)
2) Self-Care is critical. Think of it as a antidote to anxiety and depression. Identifying my needs and asking for what I need is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of health. Caring for myself is necessary and of vital importance. Kinda like on the airplane when we don our oxygen masks before putting them on our children. I must take care of myself first.
3) It’s when we are in our darkest moments that God is closest. It’s not in the calm and comfort that God does his best work. It’s when we are on our knees. When we are uncomfortable. When we have nowhere else to go but up that God refines us.
4) Trauma and triggers are no jokes either. We will not be defined by our trauma, but trauma is real and it must be dealt with. Validation is huge here. We aren’t crazy people. What has happened has made us feel crazy but we are NOT crazy.
5) God can use me even when I am weak. I don’t have to be perfect to be used by God.
I am grateful today that God doesn’t waste anything on us. Indeed, it’s when we go through the dark times that we are refined. I’ve been there – more than once. And it might just be where you find yourself today. If that’s the case – I want you to know that you aren’t alone. There are many other women that are in a similar place. I connect with them almost daily via email, text and phone.
If you find yourself connecting with this blog post or the previous two, I want to share with you some of the things I did as I started to work through this breakdown of mine. Maybe, just maybe, one of these things will speak to you as you start to figure out how to climb out of the hole.
1) Ask for help – for me, this was really difficult. I’ve always equated “needs” with “helplessness”. But I was desperate and was willing to do anything. It involved going to my physician and asking for medication (and for this drug-free-push-the-baby-out-momma, it was oh-so-hard to ask for). I asked my parents for extra support. I needed more help with my three little ones during this time. And they were glad to come running. I asked my friends to walk this scary road alongside me. (and this, I didn’t do perfectly. I look back and recognize that I could have leaned on my Go-To Girls a little more than I did. Did I say it’s hard to have needs? I’m still a-learning!). I asked Jason for comfort. I don’t think he realized the depths of my anxiety and fears until he walked in from EMB last July. Please, ask for help. Let others know your situation. Allow them to pick you up and carry you through.
Today I know that having needs is a very vulnerable place to be. It’s also how God intended. Having needs allows us to live in community. To break down the shame we build around ourselves. To recognize that we are not alone.
2) Get it out – I just needed someone to listen to me. I needed to get out all the unwarranted fears circling in my head. I was fortunate that Jason became this person in my life. And I know for some of you reading this – as you are reeling from all the trauma your husband is putting you through – your husband isn’t going to be that person you can get it all out with. That’s when having a group of Go-To Girls is terribly important! A place where you can say anything and everything. And the response will be, “I get it. Me too. I’ve been exactly where you are at.”
3) Self-Care – Taking care of me became top-priority. Kinda difficult when you have three littles under foot, no family in town and a husband with a cray-cray schedule. But let’s get realistic. Can’t we all give reasons it’s difficult,no matter the stage of life? It’s hard to take care of ourselves. Especially when your world starts to implode. I had to choose every day to take good care of me. It consisted of going back to the basics. What fills me up? And what depletes me? And how can I make sure I’m doing something every. single. day. that fills me up? It involved trying to put good food in my mouth as I tried to love myself well. I started juicing, for instance. It involved exercising as often as I possibly could. Even when I didn’t feel like it. It involved getting outside. Something about the outdoors – I feel free, I feel calm, I can let the tension go even if just for a bit. It involved being around others. The less time I had alone, the better. I devote an entire chapter to self-care in my new book. There’s a good reason for this – it’s important!
My prayer in sharing about this breakdown of mine is that you would realize that you aren’t alone. We all go through terrible-horrible seasons. It isn’t necessarily about doing something to take the pain away. But rather sitting in our individual circumstances. Taking a deep breath. Loving ourselves well. Doing what we can to help ourselves. And waiting on God. A tricky balance for sure.
I’d love to hear – for those of you that can relate to going through a terrible-horrible season (and I’m thinking that includes everyone), what helped you the most? Would you share it here?
And last, thank you for loving me exactly where I’m at. For covering me with your words of encouragement. It means so very much to me. This won’t be the last you hear about what it has looked like as I’m recovering from a horrible-terrible season. And I thank you for allowing me to start to share about it here. Love – Shelley