The end of 2010 was tumultuous to say the least. Change was coming and I swung from fury to disenchantment and back again.
From my perspective, I was losing my ministry, my friends, my home, my money, my world. I felt like we had failed in our mission to help plant a church in Utah and were coming back to live with my parents, shamed. But despite knowing that the move was coming I had something miraculous to look forward to, our first child. Loopy was due in February of 2011 and I poured everything into preparing for his birth and infanthood.
Despite my efforts, Loopy’s arrival did not go as planned. You can read about that elsewhere if you have the stomach for it. The birth and aftermath were traumatic to me but when we settled in at home, I thought I would be able to start my dream family life and have a piece of perfection in the midst of the circumstantial chaos. (Loopy was born while we were still in Utah though we had decided to move to a location yet to be determined.) We had the typical rough first weeks of any baby’s life; little to no sleep, nursing troubles, classic new parent bumblings. I thought everything was fine and normal.
I’ll never forget driving to a midwife check-up with Andy and telling him, “I know I’ve had a couple freak out moments, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have to worry about any postpartum depression junk. I feel great!” Plus it was Andy’s birthday soon and we were all excited to celebrate with our new son.
Andy went to get some carry-out nearby for his birthday. But when Andy left, Loopy started screaming and screaming. At first, I panicked; thinking he was hurt. But after checking every possibility, for some reason, I don’t know why, I went into a rage. I yelled at my baby to stop crying. I don’t know how long Andy was gone, maybe 15 minutes. As soon as he came in the door, I passed Loopy off and ran to our room to weep. I should have known that something was wrong with me from that first instance. But our focus was on Loopy for the longest time because his crying did not stop. After exploring a bazillion diagnoses, we can now assert that Loopy had a wheat allergy, severe acid reflux, colic, and a classic high needs personality. I’m not exaggerating when I say he often screamed for 10 hours in 24 hour period (and he was nursing for 12 of those 24!). It was torture, pure and simple.
Now, things in my life were dark, no doubt. But my circumstances did not warrant how I responded. What I am about to share is so ugly. But I promise I won’t leave you in the pit of the emotions that surged through me. Loopy’s crying literally made me want to die. I often described it as nails scraping on the chalkboard of my soul. I was an animal, moment by moment, all I could think of was my escape.
I wanted out.
My first thought was to leave my family.
I was convinced that I would be more of a detriment to them if I stayed. I lashed out at everyone near me. I said hateful things constantly and voiced the lies spinning in my head. My mantra was “Loopy has ruined our lives.” “I can’t be a mom.” “I just want to die.” “There is no hope.” “It will not get better.” “Loopy hates me.” I was completely horrified by my anger towards everyone, especially Loopy. I was outrageously self-centered and whiney. My dreams of being the perfect mom were crushed by a monster I couldn’t believe was me. Loopy was making me look bad and inexplicably I took it out on him.
I made a half-hearted attempt to battle these thoughts and actions. I prayed for help and extra patience. I sang my favorite hymns to trying and quiet my thoughts. But when the despair or rage came welling up, I just let myself be completely overcome by the surge.
I will always remember collapsing in the kitchen one morning, begging God to make the crying stop because I just didn’t have anything left in me and I knew I was going to lash out at Loopy again. I let him scream for about a minute, “waiting on God” and then went in and lost my cool with my precious son. That incident rocked me. From my perspective, I had come to the end of myself, called out to God and was left hanging, enslaved to my sin and watching helpless as it negatively affected my son. The sing-song voice in my head started a new tune that day, “God hates me.”
Eventually, I denied the existence of my Creator and Savior and got serious about ending my life.
From that day on, my mind turned into a welcome mat of Satan’s.
I know it sounds crazy, but those painful lies became comforting to me in some way, a security blanket. Others who have gone through a major depression can often relate. It was just so much easier to caress the lie than claw through the darkness to find truth.
This went on for many months. In fact, I struggled with PPD (postpartum depression) for over a year. There wasn’t just one turning point, but many. God’s grace was being pour out on my life continuously, I just didn’t see it.
His first mercy came in the form of my dear friend Linda who was also struggling with PPD right alongside me. She gave me the chance to vocalize my thoughts without fear of judgement. We spent so much time together those first few months so that we wouldn’t do anything stupid when we were alone. God helped us save each others lives.
Next was moving in with my parents when Loopy was four months old. Having my mom there was invaluable and I was rarely alone.
Next came a seemingly random encounter at church. I walked up to a complete stranger and told her I had PPD and wondered if she knew of any counselors that could help me. Of course she knew of a Christian counselor who had had PPD herself and specialized in it. This counselor helped me so much. Talking things out and getting rid of the secrecy was beneficial. She also recommended the book Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch and it described my experience to a tee and offered practical help from a biblical perspective.
Another God moment occurred when my dear friend KB “happened” to be in town one day when I was at my lowest. She has been through depression before. She gave me a very loving but stern pep talk to stop listening to lies. I’d become so complacent and it was time to battle for truth despite my emotions. Her prayer for me that day left me humbled and hopeful.
And in all of this was my mind-blowingly wonderful husband. He received the majority of the crap spewing out of my mouth. I know I broke his heart. I know I took a couple years off his life with worry. His life wasn’t going so great either, but I had completely fallen apart so he didn’t get the luxury. He remained the rock. I will never doubt your unconditional love for me, Andy.
Now of course I’ve left the most important factor in my recovery out.
While I was a child flailing about having a temper tantrum, God was doing surgery on my heart. This was no outpatient procedure.
He changed so much in me, but first I had to get over the wall I had placed between me and Him after what I thought was a failure on his part to answer my desperate prayer, which I mentioned earlier. The major breakthrough on this issue came when I was reading Psalm 18. You’re just going to have to read the whole thing. Yup, go ahead.
As I read, I felt the complete opposite of the Psalmist and I was getting ticked. He kept saying that God had been his refuge and answered him when he called, saving him from utter destruction. He came through for this guy over and over, plucking him out of all his troubles.
I kept muttering that He sure didn’t do that for me.
But by some miracle I kept reading and came to verse 39; “You equipped me with strength for the battle.”
When I had been pleading with God to make Loopy stop crying so I wouldn’t lose my temper once again, I was looking for Him to change my circumstance, not me. I never once had the audacity to believe that God could change me if the crying kept up or even got worse. I KNEW that I didn’t have what it took to respond to Loopy correctly, but I had chosen not to believe that God could transform me. This was a big turning point as God and I slowly worked through the damage I had done to our relationship.
Looking back on all this craziness, I’m thankful. I learned things by experience that I had only had a partial knowledge of before.
The most humbling of which was the raw view of my heart that I saw day in and day out as I dealt with my son.
I was horrified by myself, not just my actions but the motives behind them that were totally depraved. I found myself smacked in the face all over again of my desperate need for grace. I was finally convinced I didn’t deserve an ounce of it.
I also knew it didn’t come cheap. I didn’t want someone telling me that my sin was no big deal and all was forgiven. I knew it had to be paid for. And there I found the cross anew. God, the God I had rejected and ridiculed, died to pay for that sin. And there it was. Just offered to me so freely; grace. If I could just believe that someone as vile as me could be washed clean by a sacrifice as great as Christ’s, I would have that grace! Christ’s holiness, would become mine. Of course I knew all this before and had truly believed it. But this fresh taste of grace has rocked me. I want you all to know that it’s real.
If you’re still reading this story at this point, I’m impressed. I’d really appreciate your prayers as I continue to fight these feelings during subsequent postpartum times. It’s entirely possible that those horrible feelings are going to come flooding back. Pray that I will be able to fight with the strength God gives me.
(UPDATE: Read why I’m GLAD I got PPD twice!)
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
When Darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, his covenant, his blood supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.
When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!
Lacey McHugh says
Hi Julie… I was tempted not to read any of your blog because blogs seem to overwhelm me… condemn me, and then I compare myself with the blogger. However… I was encouraged just now, and I think this is the 3rd or 4th thing I’ve read, maybe it’s because you’re my friend and I know you’re a real person,… thanks sister.~Lacey
Lacey, thank you so much for encouraging ME! I debated for the longest time about my motivations for getting serious about blogging. I SO want this to glorify God and NOT me. I don’t want that to be just lip service. Would you call me out on it if I start using this as a way to puff myself up? I’m serious. I want my friends to graciously lead me back to the cross. Best place to get an accurate view of self and Him. Thanks for writing, I hope you continue to be edified. Love ya!
Lacey McHugh says
I really have thought about your blog since I looked at it, by God’s grace so far it’s very un-overwhelming. I’ll try to keep you posted on my honest opinion about what I read or if I’m discouraged by anything you write. I really was blessed by your transparency in your testimony and I know this is silly, but I think I have a lot of the same desires as a mom and so far your suggestions are SO practical, I think most of us want to be safer, healthier and greener but most things I read just make me feel like a horrible person for having done things the way I have in whatever realm (cleaning, cooking, budgeting, etc.). I appreciate you friend~ thankful for our time at EBC
I am due with my first in 5 weeks. I know that depression is something that all new moms probably deal with to some extent. Thanks for reminding me that if I do struggle, I need to be honest and deal with it and not just cover it up. Thanks for the encouragement!
Absolutely! And congratulations!