*This post originally appeared on Joy from Grace. It left such an impact with my readers there that I wanted to share it with the Deliberate Women readers. I pray that those suffering from depression understand that they are not alone and that those who know someone suffering can better understand how to help that individual.
For two years after we adopted our girls, I [Ginny] kept a secret from everyone. It was a secret I was ashamed of. It was something that I thought would be so horrible that people would see me as less of a person, less of a mom, and less of a friend. Honestly, I don't even think I really realized the name of my secret until my days of it were over.
I suffered from depression.
I knew something was wrong. I had been looking forward to meeting my children for over three years. I had dreamed about them, planned all of the things I would do with them, and prayed for them since the moment God put it on our hearts to adopt.
So why was I sitting in a hotel room in a foreign country, holding my incredibly beautiful daughters, and not feeling the joy I thought would come from the relief of finally being a mom? Why was I wanting to run for the door? Why was I panicking?
I chalked it up to just the normal experience of being a mom for the first time. But after returning to the States and still feeling like I wanted to run far far away, like I couldn't do this, like I was going to burst at any minute - I knew things weren't right. When I found myself staring at my reflection and dreaming of ways to end my life so my husband could marry a better mother for my children - I knew things weren't right. When I couldn't get myself to play with my children or want to spend time with them - I knew things weren't right.
Add on to these complex and scary feelings the fact that I wasn't sleeping due to the kids being up for hours on end at night, I wasn't eating or exercising, and on top of that, I was feeling overwhelmed by the unexpected duties of being a special needs mother. I also felt so alone because I knew so few moms of kids with special needs and trauma histories. I had no idea how to help my children, and I felt so inadequate for them and so overwhelmed. The combination wasn't good.
For two long years, I lived in this twilight zone of motherhood, not understanding why I felt this way, feeling so alone, and trying to hide the fact that I THOUGHT I hated being a mother. Everyone around me kept saying - your children are beautiful, so cute, and you must feel so blessed to have them! Deep down, I KNEW these were true...but why did I feel so unhappy? So lacking in joy? So angry? So inadequate?
I was afraid to go to a counselor because I thought for sure she would call the authorities to have my children taken from me if I opened up about my feelings I had. I didn't tell anyone because when I did open up to someone early on, she used it as fuel later to destroy me when she was angry at me. I thought for sure others would do the same. I hid behind pleasant Facebook posts. I posted pictures of smiling children, us doing fun activities as a family, and talked about life being so wonderful. I thought that perhaps if I did that, no one would know what was really going on inside of me. And those posts weren't all fake. There WERE glimpses of joy during those two years, but it seemed that each time there was an up, I fell down harder than before.
Have you been there? Are you there now?
We all have had these feelings at some point or another - but when things get severe and the feelings don't go away - when you are sitting on the bathroom floor dreaming of ending your life...friends, that is NOT ok.
Because I was so ashamed of these feelings, I didn't tell anyone. I shared some things with my husband, but I didn't dare share some of the things that were deep and dark within me. If he knew those - then he might run with the kids and never come back. He might leave me. He might hate me. If only I truly understood the deep love my husband had and still has for me.
I realize now that I was deeply depressed. I realize now so many things that I wish I had realized then. If you are feeling anything like what I wrote about above, I beg you to read on and pray for the courage to realize and act on these things:
1. I realize now that I needed help from friends and family. I was too proud to ask my friends to make meals or help me with my children because I was the one who was supposed to have it all together. I had always been strong. I had always been the one to help others. I could DO THIS. But friends - I suffered and my family suffered much longer than necessary because I refused to ask for help. It truly does take a village, and when we are weak, we need to reach out to that village.
2. I needed professional help. As scary as it was to risk sharing it all, I now look back and realize it was scarier NOT to get help. I wasn't going to lose my kids by sharing what I needed to share, but if I didn't get help, I risked doing things that WOULD HAVE lost me my kids. Thank God that never happened, but it was an unnecessary risk I took because of fear.
3. I needed to take better care of myself. I let myself go. I was so overwhelmed that I didn't care as much about what I ate, how much I ate, or if I exercised. I didn't do anything to make myself feel pretty. I didn't care how I presented myself to my husband. I was just worried about breathing and getting through each day. What I needed to do was take time out for myself, go out with my girlfriends more, buy a pretty outfit, get my nails done, eat right, exercise.
4. I needed God. Last week, I wrote about the importance of having quiet time with God EVERY DAY. I truly believe that the reason I began to pull out of my depression was because I made a decision to start spending more time with Him. It was almost funny because I worked at a church, but I barely made it to a Sunday service, and I barely read my Bible on my own. One day, about a year ago, I took out my Bible, shook off the dust, and began to read God's truth. This was truth I desperately needed because for two straight years, I had believed Satan's lives. I believed I wasn't good enough, I wasn't capable of being a good wife and mother, I could do it all on my own.
But God told me, "NO! With MY HELP, you are good enough, my daughter."
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
He said, "With MY HELP, your husband and those sweet children can call you blessed."
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her
God said, "With MY HELP, you can discover the right priorities and simplify your life so you can do what I called you to do."
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
By God's grace, I was able to pull out of my depression last spring. He pulled back the veil from my eyes so that I could experience the true joy of motherhood, I could see my children for the beautiful and precious beings they are, I could enjoy spending each day with them, I could feel like I WANTED TO LIVE AGAIN.
Since then, I have been feeling God's strong call to reach out to other women who are feeling the same way. I want you to know that you are not alone. I know that I am not the only woman to have felt this way. I know that because now that I have been opening up about it more to others, they have shared their stories. The problem is that we are all so afraid of what the world will think if we share this vulnerability. STOP.
To those who have been through this and are on the other side, women, especially those in the midst of the struggle, need to hear your story. They need to know they aren't the only one going through this. They need your support, your love, your wisdom and the wisdom you have learned from God's Word.
To those who see someone going through this, know they may not feel courageous enough or strong enough to reach out. Reach out to them. Offer to take the kids, to help them with meals, to take them out for a fun night or even just for coffee. Don't try to fix them. Love them, be there for them, listen when they need someone to listen. Don't judge...love.
To those who are going through depression right now, please feel free to email us at Deliberate Women and let us know how we can be praying for you. Please pray for the courage to ask for help. You need help. Your family needs you to get help. It doesn't make you less of a person. It makes you stronger. And most of all - GET IN GOD'S WORD and GET ON YOUR KNEES. I experienced such grace when I finally admitted to God that I couldn't do this without His help. He supported me and sometimes carried me through each day until I could finally start to take steps on my own. He protected my children until I could protect them. He literally saved my life and my children's futures.
I want that for you.
Joyfully (and I really mean that!),