Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The good days, the bad days, the worst days.

Here I am again.  It’s late.  Dark.  I’m not complaining, really I’m not.  There’s something warm and inviting about the nighttime.  It’s still.  Quiet.  I like the quiet, I think I always have.  There’s not a single soul asking for my attention, so here I sit with my legs curled underneath myself and my feet being warmed by my furry little space heater, Fig. The cat.  

When I’m left alone with my thoughts in the dead of night, something surprising happens.  Involuntarily, my mind calls out to God, unloading the pain and worry from the day, reaching for grateful thoughts to pour out so that I can rest.  On paper, that sounds more like precious quiet communion with God than it really is.  Somewhere along the line, bedtime prayers became some kind of weird ritual where I force myself awake so that I can pat myself on the back for being so righteous.  So tonight, when that all began, I got up.  I opened my laptop.  And here I am.  Aren’t you lucky?

The older I get, and the more time as I spend as a parent, the more challenging life feels.  On a good day, I find myself looking around wondering when the grownups are going to get here so I can go home and call my friends on a corded phone and talk all afternoon.  On a bad day, I feel like I’m seconds from drowning.  On my worst days, I feel like this:

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
   with sorrow in my heart every day?
   How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
       Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
   Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
   Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.” (Psalm 13:2-4)

Truth be told, I’ve been having a lot of those “worst days.” too many of the “turn and answer me, O Lord my God!” days.  I think we all have seasons like this.  Seasons where the nights feel too dark, and the winter feels too cold, and the house feels too messy and your jeans feel too tight.
As it turns out, I  may have just been describing every January that ever existed.  Ever.

But in all seriousness, life is hard, y’all.  Like really hard.  Like punch you in the stomach and spit in your face hard.   Sometimes it feels like the moment I stand back up, panting and writhing a little bit, (because I’m not an ultimate fighting champion, obviously) life turns right around and kicks me square in the penalty box.  And you know what?  When it comes down to it, and life has dealt approximately 500 more hits than I thought I could stand, I really truly want to give up.  I curl up in the fetal position, and I want. to. quit.
You know what the worst part about feeling this way is?  I KNOW life is hard for other people.  I know I’ve got things easy compared to pretty much 99% of the world, but it doesn’t feel that way.  Gratitude is probably like the furthest thing from my mind when I start down this path.  You know why?  Because life is hard, and I want to wallow!  “Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I WILL DIE!” (My emphasis added, but obviously that’s what David was saying.  I mean, Saul was trying to kill him, after all.)

So tonight, in my dark, quiet living room, I’m making a radical (for me) move to do something different.  Because as tantalizing as wallowing may be, I cannot believe, even for a moment, that despair is where God intends for us to live out our lives.  Tonight, I’m making the conscious decision to lay down the things that hurt my heart at the feet of Jesus and rest.  He said I could, so maybe tonight I’ll take him up on it.  And when I walk away, I hope to walk away with only one thing.


Monday, November 2, 2015


I’m not entirely sure where I first got the idea that I was unlovable, but this thought permeated every ounce of my existence from a very young age.  When my mom died in 1993, I blamed myself for her death.  I carried that blame for almost twenty years.  My childhood journals are filled with elementary scrawl detailing my loneliness and failings, and on my twelfth birthday, I remember crying myself to sleep and wishing I could just disappear forever.  That same year, worthiness interviews began at church, and I began to feel more and more weighed down by the fact that I just couldn’t be good enough.  I wasn’t worthy of anything, let alone love.  

I spent the first twenty years of my life always, at least casually, wishing I could die.  I had a myriad of reasons, but the reason that always topped the list was that “nobody loves me.”  The systematic emotional abuse that I endured for all of those years took a toll, one that I began to fear I would never recover from.  When I reconnected with the love of my life, I just knew that I would get better.  That I wouldn’t be governed by my feelings of inadequacy and lack of ability to be loved.  I KNEW he loved me as much as I knew the sky was blue.  But it didn’t change.  I didn’t change.  In fact, in the years that followed, my confusion about how he could possibly love me flourished.  

As the years went by, my subsequent battles with postpartum depression left me feeling more beleaguered than ever, and my extreme inadequacy in being able to express love to my children and husband filled me with more self-loathing than ever before.  (No need to discuss all of this here, I’ve detailed it time and time again in the posts that preceded this one.)  I’d reached my absolute breaking point.  My heart was shattered into a million pieces.

Just to be completely clear about this-through all of these years, I was suicidal nearly every day.  We’re talking nearly two decades of suicidal ideation peppered with self-harm and attempts on my own life.   

Then I found Jesus.  

I thought I knew Jesus.  I spent my entire life learning about him!  But one day, by the grace of God, and surely without any other explanation, I started to realize that there must be more.  That Jesus had to be more than I knew him to be.  I was reading my scriptures and praying every day, but I started reading more. Praying more.  The answers I found shocked me.  The path that illuminated before me broke my heart and beckoned me forward.  So I stepped to the ledge, and with reckless abandon, I jumped into Christianity.  I poured out my heart in prayer and gave my life to Jesus. I promised to follow no matter how dark the days might seem, no matter what (or who, as I later discovered) it meant I might lose.  And for the first time-

I felt loved.

It’s been a year since I was born again, and by all counts, one of the hardest years of my life.  There have been sleepless nights, and months of therapy.  There have been children in the hospital, and lonely months. But there have also been times of immeasurable joy, precious laughter, blessings we could have never imagined, and love like I’ve never known.  

And I can count the number of days I felt suicidal on one hand.  

For the first time in my life, I’m free. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What do you do?

What do you do when your baby is hurting, but you don’t know how to help him because you don’t know what he’s feeling?  When you sit up wondering if the syringe you just emptied into his mouth is going to help him or hurt him? What do you do?

What do you do when your mama heart is hurting?  When the hour grows late, and sleep eludes you?  When your prayers become lodged between your lips and the ceiling, and the tears fall freely, and you’re weary?  What do you do?

What do you do when your mama heart is breaking?  When your whole world changes and nothing intervenes, and you’re desperate for answers, but there’s nothing to be seen?  What do you do?

What do you do when your mama heart is lonely? When the days are long, and the nights are longer, when your wall countdown’s for hospitals and your alarms are set for medications, and you don’t know who you are because everything is different, what do you do?

What do you do when everything’s uncertain?  When you don’t know where you’re going, and the questions just keep flowing, and you’re begging for some freedom from the life that’s never slowing, what do you do?

What do you do?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Go in Peace

As long as I have been alive, I have identified as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It’s shaped me into the person I am today, and it’s been the foundation for everything I’ve ever done in one way or another.  Throughout my years in the Primary, Young Women’s, and Relief Society organizations, I learned to identify myself as a child of God.  I learned that I was a literal daughter of God, and that His Son, Jesus Christ, my elder brother, died for my sins as long as I would try my very hardest to repent, follow Him, and endure to the end.  I learned that the Godhead was composed of three distinct and separate beings- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  I was taught that if I read the Book of Mormon and listened to the Holy Ghost, which I would feel both in my mind and in my heart, I would know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and thereby, I would know that everything I had been taught by the living prophets was truth.  

A great deal of importance was placed on these testimonies from the Holy Ghost, the Great Testifier.  The Holy Ghost is capable of testifying of truth.  Telling you exactly where you should go and what you should do.  When you read the Book of Mormon.  When you attend a testimony meeting.  When you hear a prophet speak. When you witness the beauty of the Earth, as created by God.  When you learn something new, the Holy Ghost is always there to confirm its truthfulness.  

In the Summer of 2012, I found myself on a family vacation to Washington DC.  One evening, we found ourselves on the temple grounds of the Washington DC LDS temple, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness.  I walked a little way away from my family, and I began to pray.  Without any intervention from me, the sudden, urgent idea came into my mind, “It is no longer right for you to continue living.” As the tears began to flow down my cheeks, I felt the distinctive feeling that I’d always recognized as “the spirit,” the feeling that accompanied my prayers about the Book of Mormon, the feeling that lifted and enlightened me each time I sat through General Conference, the feeling that confirmed my decision to marry my husband, the feeling that met me at the births of each of my children.
“...If it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8)

This “burning in the bosom” that signified revelation from God for my life had confirmed my suicidal thoughts.   How could this be?  

From that moment, a seed of doubt was planted in my heart.  I knew that God wouldn’t command me to kill myself.  So I carried on anyway, but I knew that the feelings I’d relied on couldn’t always be accurate.

At the end of 2013, I found within myself, a desperate longing to learn more about Christ.  I looked for Him in sacrament meeting.  I sought Him in Relief Society.  I prayed fervently that I might come to know Him better.  I prayed daily.  Hourly.  Sometimes nearly every minute of the day.  I was studying my scriptures.  Begging for a calling.  Serving people around me when I could barely keep myself breathing.  I was working with all my might to throw myself into the gospel, and that is precisely the reason I was so shocked when I found my answer.
A casual study of the New Testament began to reveal the startling truth that the Gospel according to Joseph Smith (and the prophets and apostles who came after him), who professed to speak for God, was strikingly different from the Gospel Jesus Himself taught.

Ezra Taft Benson, speaking as a prophet said, “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” (Prepare for the Days of Tribulation, October 1980)

Jesus said: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25, KJV)

Joseph Smith tells us, “ The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” (D&C 130:22)

Jesus tells us, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, KJV)

Joseph Smith teaches us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings.  (see above)

Jesus teaches us: “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30, KJV) This declaration made the Jews reach for their stones to kill him.  For blasphemy.  

Joseph teaches us: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (AoF #3)

Jesus says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6, KJV)

Throughout my youth, I’d been sustained by my testimony of Jesus Christ.  These verses in Alma 7 comforted me on a very regular basis.

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

I believed in Jesus.  I trusted Him.  I wanted to follow Him.  Why then, were the things He taught so different from the teachings of Latter-day prophets?  My heart was broken, and I was lost.

One night, as I stood trembling on the precipice of this great change, I knelt in prayer with tears streaming down my face.  “Father? Which way do I go?  How could the faith that has brought me this far have been false? How can I remain in the church knowing what I know now? How can I deny my testimony of Jesus Christ to bear testimony of modern prophets?” That was when I knew.  The time had come to plunge headfirst into the unknown.  I was terrified and panic-stricken.  Weeks and weeks of tear-stained cheeks and sleepless nights followed.  The more I learned about the restoration (from church-approved sources) the more I knew I could not trust Joseph Smith.  The less I trusted Joseph Smith, the more I leaned on God.  The more light I shone on the doctrines of the restoration, the more discrepancies I found.

One night, I found myself in the car alone.  The radio was on, and I was blissfully tuned-out of my life.  I felt a distinct impression that I should turn off the music and begin to pray.  Now, I’ve never been one to blatantly ignore thoughts and impressions that felt like they were from any sort of higher power, so I did.  I turned off the radio, and for the first time in my entire life, I let myself speak to Jesus.  I thanked Him for His sacrifice.  I asked Him for forgiveness.  I promised Him my life.  In an instant, my entire world changed.  Suddenly my God emerged from his human-shaped box and was bigger than anything I could ever have comprehended.  More powerful. More majestic. More forgiving. More loving than anything my imagination could have conjured.  For just a moment, I felt released from the weight of my life, and was enveloped in a peace like I had never felt before.  My heart was full, my mind was clear, and I encountered the most encompassing feeling of pure love I have ever known.  After a moment of rest in this breathtaking new kind of love, the feeling gave way to an overwhelming sense of love for the people around me.  For my husband, my children, my family, my friends.  I felt so much love, and all I could think of was sharing it with everyone I encountered.  I rushed home, bounded through the door, and could barely contain myself as I grinned and announced to Christopher, “I want to be baptized.”  

When I found myself upon stormy waters, Jesus beckoned me out of the boat and asked me to have the faith to walk on the water. I spent months thinking, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole,” (Matt. 9:21 KJV) and in an instant, I was transformed.  Jesus taught that He was the truth.  And the truth has truly set me free.

"Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over." 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Climbing Out

Four short years ago, I was a very excited/scared/pumped/terrified pregnant mama.  I didn’t have insurance, so I found myself in a low-cost clinic where they treated every patient like they were not only low-income, but also low-intelligence.  Because I was wary of the box I was being placed in, I had an anxiety attack when a med student approached me at one of my appointments and told me I would be meeting with a social worker before I went home.


A social worker?  What was wrong? How had I messed up already?

I didn’t know what “social worker” meant, so I freaked out.  I walked into her office, and she started questioning me about my history with depression, and informed me that due to my history, I had a higher risk of postpartum depression.  My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty.  I thought they were going to take away my baby.  

So I lied. And I lied, and I lied, and I lied.  

“No, no, no,” I said.  “My life is great.  Everything is going well.  I feel awesome.  Pregnancy is fantastic.  I know the signs of depression.  I’m not worried.”  They let me go, and my relief was so great that I bounced out of the office without a care in the world.

Then my James was born.  His birth was traumatic, and I didn’t feel the way I was “supposed to” after he was born.  I was scared.  Nervous. Confused.  Lost.

And then he started to cry.  And cry, and cry, and cry.  For two weeks, he cried.  And I cried.  One night, as I laid in bed preparing myself for his next screams, I found myself in a room filled with spiders.  They were crawling in around the windows and through the electrical sockets.  They swarmed the walls, and were all coming towards me.  I found myself in the fetal position sobbing.

There were no spiders.

I was sick. I was so sick. But I remained silent.  I was afraid that if anyone knew, they would take away my boy.  I couldn’t feel anything for him, but I knew I loved him, and I was plagued with thoughts that someone could take him away because my brain was broken.

Three months later, Christopher got a job in Louisville.  We moved, we got settled, I found out I was pregnant again, and my depression went away.

The second pregnancy and delivery were easier than the first.  I knew better from my first experience, so this time around, I lied about depression every step of the way.  I didn’t even want to be on anyone’s radar as “unstable,” so I said nothing.  

After Sam was born, the depression hit again.  This time, not so hard, but enough that my whole life was dragging.  I was concerned and confused, so I reached out for help.  My local ecclesiastical leader recommended a therapist.  She immediately started asking questions about my far-distant past, labeled me as a “difficult child,” and asked me for some tips about healthy eating.  Obviously, that was wildly successful. Another therapist, terribly wrong diagnosis, and bad psychiatrist later, I took matters into my own hands. (More about that experience here.)

Through a fantastic blog called Postpartum Progress, I diagnosed myself with postpartum depression.  Everything written here resonated with me.  I knew what the problem was, and I set out to solve it.  I emailed someone at Postpartum Support Kentuckiana who got me connected with the medical professional who saved my life.  The woman who officially diagnosed my postpartum depression, listened to what was really bothering me rather than deciding herself what the problem was, found me the right medication, and turned my life around.  


With my third pregnancy, I told my doctor everything.  I told him that I’d had major struggles with depression.  I told him that each time I’d given birth, I’d struggled with severe postpartum depression.  I told him that sometimes I wanted to die.

Guess what?  He didn’t take my baby away.  He talked through a treatment plan with me, suggested we wait two weeks to see if any “baby blues” would clear up on their own, and let me know that I could call for medication as soon as I thought I needed it.  I called the day after Abby turned two weeks old.  I fought through the depression with the assistance of my medication.  I felt inspired, comforted, and uplifted by following the Postpartum Progress Facebook page and reading through the blog.  Especially this post about the stages of PPD recovery.  

And you know what?  Postpartum depression was still scary this time.  Terrifying.  Awful.  Horrible.  

And short.  I refused to continue suffering in silence.  I reached out for help.  I told my story.  Warrior moms all over the world wrapped their [virtual] arms around me, and I shook off the shackles of depression.  I rose above the stigma.  I looked my PPD in the face, and I beat the crap out of it.

Because I am a warrior.  
I am a survivor.
And I climbed out of the darkness.  


So now, I invite you to help other moms like me climb out of the darkness.  On June 21, 2014, the longest  day of the year, we’re going to “Climb out of the darkness” for Postpartum Depression awareness.  How can you help?  Easy!

First: Register to climb. Find your local climb here.  
In Cincinnati, we’ll be climbing at Harbin Park at 8:30 AM.  Meeting at Shelter 11. Not in Cincinnati?  That’s ok!  This event is international. 

Second: Donate.
This donation to Postpartum Progress will go to help raise awareness for postpartum depression, and guide moms like me to get the help we need.  Your support could help save a mom’s life.  A baby’s life. A family.  

Third: After you register and donate, let everyone know you support moms and babies everywhere! Hashtag on facebook or twitter using #climbout

If you’re currently fighting postpartum depression?

Don’t give up.  It will get better.  The illness you’re fighting with right now is treatable.  The nights are so dark.  It is as hard as it feels.  But you can do this.  I promise.  If I can, anyone can.

See you on June 21!

Monday, April 7, 2014

On religion...and other things.

 This is a long story that may help you understand how I got to where I am in my faith journey today. You may find its contents "anti-Mormon."  As you read, please recognize the words as my thoughts, emotions, and personal experiences and not as personal attacks.  

Twenty years ago, I was a little snot-faced little brown-haired girl.  Freckles all over my face.  I was seven years old, and I was sad.  I was so sad.  Most of the time, I didn't know why I was sad.  There was the obvious-my mom had been dead for almost a year.  My papaw was gone too.  My best friend moved away.  We moved across town.  The kids in the new school didn't like me very much.  I was weird, but more than anything, I was sad. 

One afternoon, I was playing "Beauty Shop" in the garage with my Barbies.  I'd taken a metal bowl from the kitchen and filled it with soapy water, and was washing all their hair.  (Side note: this is a terrible idea.  If you ever want to wash Barbie hair, this is not the way to do it.)  In an instant, I noticed a hammer in my peripheral vision.  I picked it up, and began to slam it into the bone on the inside of my ankle.  I didn't understand why I was doing it, but something about the pain made me feel alive.  Later that year, I threw myself down the steps.  I must have gotten too scared to really go through with anything, because I caught myself enough that there was no real injury.

Years went by, and these inclinations to self-harm never left me.  Freshman year of high school, I used my fists to bruise my hipbones by hitting myself over and over again.  I knew in the deepest darkest corners of my mind that I was the most terrible person who ever lived, and that bruising my hips would help me remember how terrible I was in that I could feel the pain each time I took a step.  I went to the school counselor and told her I was worried about what I was doing, what I was feeling, and what I was thinking, and that I was sure I needed help.

She told me that if I was cutting myself, she'd do something, but I wasn't, so she wouldn't.  Then she sent me to class.

I walked from her office numb, sore, and confused.  Maybe it was normal.  So I carried the pain with me.

In the several weeks leading up to September 2005, I cried non-stop.  I cut my wrists.  I died a little more every day.  Finally, in a moment of desperation, I opened a bottle of pills, and I swallowed a handful of them.  I was sure I would die that day.  I wanted to.  But I didn't.

In all the years between 1994, 2005, and now, I wanted to hurt myself.  Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn't.  The postpartum depression brought those urges closer to the surface than they'd been in nine years. 

So I decided, once and for all, I was going to get a tattoo on the inside of my wrist to remind me that I always come through on the other side of that pain.  That things always get better.

There was just one little hangup.  The church.  My faith told me that I must follow the prophet, and that the prophet had told me the answer to tattoos was no.  Period.  No questions asked.  At least that's what I'd been told.  In a moment when I decided something had to change, I decided to look up what had been said about tattoos.  I found this.

"It is sad and regrettable that some young men and women have their bodies tattooed. What do they hope to gain by this painful process? Is there “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” in having unseemly so-called art impregnated into the skin to be carried throughout life, all the way down to old age and death? They must be counseled to shun it. They must be warned to avoid it. The time will come that they will regret it but will have no escape from the constant reminder of their foolishness except through another costly and painful procedure."

 A few of the words in this quote gave me pause.  
so-called art

These all struck me as words that marked an opinion.  Later in the same talk, President Hinckley referred to body piercings as "absurd." Another opinion word.  I didn't recognize these as words that marked a commandment from God.  I tucked these realizations away, and tried to maintain faith that this prophet had been inspired of God and that God's ways wouldn't change, so this decision wasn't mine to make. After all, "When the prophet speaks, the debate is over," right? I willed the desire to get a tattoo out of my mind.  It held for a while. 

You see, I was a faithful garment wearer.  I put them on the moment I stepped out of the shower, and only removed them for approved activities.  I hated every moment.  They didn't fit me.  They made my clothes fit awkwardly.  [Insert about a dozen other reasons I hated wearing them here.  Elaboration is unnecessary at this juncture.] One afternoon, I was trying to get dressed, and fighting with all the places where my clothes wouldn't fit.  I was in tears, and Christopher looked at me and said, "Maybe you could write a letter to someone.  Find out if you can alter them, or make your own, or something.  It shouldn't have to be this way." In a moment of exasperation, I retorted, "Who would I write to?  And who would respond to me?  I'm a woman!" I gasped.  Surely those words hadn't just escaped me.  How could I raise my daughter in this place if I truly believed that she'd never be heard as a woman?  I closed my eyes and knew what I had to do.

A couple of weeks before this outburst, we had an opportunity to attend another church for an event.  We had a great time, and didn't think much about it until late that night as I lay in bed searching desperately for sleep.  Finally I woke Christopher to tell him what was on my mind, "Christopher?  I felt really good at that church today.  REALLY good.  I couldn't rest until I told you." There wasn't much conversation that night,  I mean, was like 3am, but finally I could rest.  

The next morning, after hours and hours of prayer, I determined that the best next step to take would be to study the New Testament.  "Surely if the Church is true, the New Testament will point me right toward it," I thought.  So I went to the bookstore and bought a few copies of the Bible in different translations.  I wanted to approach the words of Jesus with a fresh perspective, so I needed to remove all of the footnotes and chapter headings and read the gospels with only God's guidance. 

This is not the place where I will spell out  what I learned.  I can do that at a later time, but if you're curious, I'd urge you to pick up a copy of the bible in a different translation.  I enjoy the HCSB and the NLT.  (And a shout-out for the NKJV if going too far from the KJV freaks you out.) 

Each time I sit down to read, another gasp emerges from my throat as I read something that I never saw before.  After I read it, I go to the KJV, and sure enough, it's right there.  No idea how I missed it all those times. 

Furthermore, the history of the Church brought out some painful realizations.  I tried hard to be fair, but there were some things that I simply couldn't look past.  

This quote from Joseph Smith was the last straw:

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”  (History of the Church, 6:408-409) 

In this same sermon, Joseph Smith claimed to have only one wife.  At the time, he had 34. That can be verified on 

At the moment, I'm not completely sure where I stand.  I think I'm a Christian.  Not the kind you believe yourself to be if you're a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The biblical kind.  We'll see where this path leads, but what I do know for sure, is that I have seen more prayers answered, more peace in my home, and more love in my life since making this decision.  God has guided my path thus far, and I have no doubt about that.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Engulfed in the Darkness: My postpartum depression story.

 Dear family and friends,

The following is the story of my ongoing battle with postpartum depression.  Please be aware that the following post may contain triggers for anyone currently struggling with mental illness.  Please also be aware that it's not a comfortable read.  


Two pink lines.  My heart is racing. I’m nervous.  Excited.  Terrified.  This isn’t my first rodeo, I already have two incredible children.  Two rambunctious, crazy, intense, loving, complicated children.  This child was planned, but the moment I saw those two pink lines, I knew this was the beginning of the end.  I knew this baby would be our last.  

I’ve always wanted a big family.  When my sweetheart and I started dating, I told him I wanted six kids.  I was serious.  Being in a big family has so many perks, and I wanted nothing more than to give my children, my perfect little boys, this big family.  But then I saw those two pink lines.  How could it be?  How could I know this was the end?  How could I stop at only three children? I wasn’t even thirty.  I was still a baby myself, but I knew.  This would be the last time I’d be sitting on the cold, hard edge of this white bathtub with happy tears in my eyes as I watched that gloriously dark pink line appear in the test window.  

My mind begins to swirl with visions of the future.  Tiny baby socks and shoes.  Midnight snuggles.  The feeling of the perfectly new, pink skin against my cheek.  The smell of gentle baby breaths, the little coos and sighs.  I have so many hopes and dreams for this perfect new life.  I’m filled with emotion as I anxiously await the ultrasound where I’ll know if this little person growing inside me is a boy or a girl.  I’m helplessly sick, but I don’t care.  There’s a new little one coming to our family.  

Beneath the visions of the miracle of childbirth and the anticipation of filling our home with tiny baby paraphernalia is a deep, dark, churning river of fear.  I’m fearful for my children.  Fearful for my husband.  Fearful of the consequences of this decision.  I’m not like other women.  The decision to have a child is the heaviest decision I could make in this life, even more burdensome than the decision to marry.  The decision to have a child, for me, is the decision to plunge into the fiery depths of life-threatening postpartum depression. 

The pregnancy, like any other, was a beautiful, wonderful, confusing, tumultuous time.  As I watched the vivid mental images of the exciting days ahead play on a loop in my mind, I scrubbed the bathtub with a toothbrush.  I painted the nursery blue, and then filled it with every pink artifact I could find.  Every detail meticulously planned. My baby girl was going to have the perfect life in her perfect nursery.  I just knew it.  Or did I?  As my belly began to swell, so did my uneasiness about the future.  With each perfect child who had wriggled his way into our family so far, I had experienced this devastating crash and subsequent mental war. Would it happen again?  How could I know?  I worried.  I paced.  I continued to scrub the bathtub.  Nesting is normal.  My pregnancy was normal.  Maybe this time, I could be normal too.  I clung to that meager pink shard of hope.  This baby was a girl.  Maybe things would be different.

The day our tiny princess was born was the most precious day of my entire life.  Everything was perfect.  From the magnificent man holding my hand to the photographer.  From the ice chips, to the doctor.  Perfect.  She was born in a hurry, like she knew our moments of bliss would be numbered.  I have never before, felt such love, tenderness, and serenity all at once.  For two short magical days, I experienced such profound beauty that I’m certain I will never be the same.

Maybe that’s why the crash was so devastating. The stark contrast between the euphoria of our first days and the anguish of the days that followed was too much to bear.  It felt as if my heart was being ripped from my chest and I was being flung into an abyss of endless darkness.

I cast my eyes around the blackness of the pit.  I can’t see anything, not even my own hand in front of my face.  The darkness is so thick it is almost tangible.  This barren wasteland is my mind.  There is nothing.  No warmth, no light, no hope.  My world is silent.  Not even my screams can be heard.  I am alone.  Just when I am prepared to drown in the darkness, I hear someone calling for me.  It feels safe.  It feels like home.  I reach upward for the hand I am certain I will find, for the life-saving warmth that must await me after this painful exertion, only to feel the tips of his fingers slip from my grasp.  And again I am plunging into the icy depths of this cavern.  

Is there no hope?  Is there no light?  Is there no one who can reach me?  How did I get here?  Where am I supposed to be?

I’m angry with the darkness.  Its presence mocks me.  This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.  

I’m supposed to be safe at home with my family.  Snuggling on the couch and giggling with my little ones.  I’m supposed to be reading bedtime stories and tickling toes.  I’m supposed to be sighing in contentment as the tiniest of them all wraps her miniature hand around my finger.  I’m supposed to be holding my husband’s hand and sharing a goofy grin each time our eyes meet.  We’re supposed to lock our doors and feel our home bursting with love and peace and joy.  And light.

I can almost hear them.  I can almost hear those babies singing.  And then the deafening silence returns.

The darkness of the cave is thick and heavy, and it exhausts me to keep my eyes open.  As the cold wisps of darkness begin to envelop my entire being, the ground begins to crumble beneath my feet.  How is this possible?  Surely there is nowhere lower than where I have already fallen!  I stumble across a widening gap in the weakening earth, and in an instant, my eyes close and I am transported to another place in my mind.  A place where I have control.  There’s a light here.  Not a warm light like the home I left behind; a single cold fluorescent bulb.  The room is chilly.  Everything is gray.  I am numb.  In the middle of the sterile room is a long wooden table, and on the table, two objects.  I move closer and recognize the metal on the left.  A knife.  And to the right, an orange bottle of pills.  I know this place.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  This is where decisions are made.  This is the only place where the choice is mine.  

Every bit of desire within me calls for me to pick up the knife, and when I do, I feel power in its cold, molded handle.  It feels comfortable in my hand.  The smoothness of this whetted blade should frighten me.  I’m certain that it is terribly sharp.  In an instant, I choose to take the edge off the numbness; to bring warmth to this gray place.  I drag the cool blade across my wrist, and the grayness of my mind is instantaneously replaced with color.  Red.  I feel the warmth of the blood rising up through the stinging skin, and for a moment I feel alive.  For a moment, I feel something.  In that moment, I realize that I hadn’t felt anything in a long time.  Not for myself, not for my family, not for anyone or anything.  I lift the knife again, prepared to flood my world with color once more, when the residual red is extinguished, and the gray room has turned black.  

In an instant, I hear a baby cry.  

I hear a toddler scream.

I hear a man sobbing.

And then I realize what I’ve done.  I recognize the darkness within me, and I see it flooding my home.  Smashing the windows, engulfing every light.  The choice is no longer mine to make, and I reach for the pills with increasing urgency.  I gather every ounce of feigned love I can muster and declare it as emphatically as I possibly can.  I wrench the bottle open, and immediately feel myself seized by a force much stronger than I could have ever hoped to be.

The impact of whatever has grabbed me catapults the bottle from my hands, and pills scatter.  Knowing that they are my only chance to take control, I fight with the force that is now attempting to restrict my every movement.  In one last, desperate measure to reach the pills, the elixir that will save us all, I kick against my adversary with all the energy I can summon.  We slump against the wall, and I gasp for breath.  When I open my eyes, a sob catches in my throat as I recognize the arms wrapped around me.  The steady arms that have saved me from myself.  The man they belong to.  His fingers softly brush the tears from my cheek, and the quiet strength in his gentle hand presses my head into his chest.  

I am haggard and battle-worn, but for a moment, I am home.


If you are struggling with postpartum depression or any of a whole host of other mood disorders, please check out these great resources.  And please, please, don't stay silent.  Get help.  Share your stories.  You can make a difference.

Postpartum Support International
Postpartum Progress
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline