“Anxiety” seemed like a good label for what I was dealing with.
I felt on edge, like something was just a little off; I was easily overwhelmed and was just not quite able to keep up. But when those feelings bubbled over into a panic attack, I realized I needed to take a better look at it.
I had been trying to just pull myself up by my bootstraps and ignore the unease and sadness. I tried to deal with it on my own, but that was only making things worse. Still, I didn’t want to tell anyone, to admit that I was having a hard time. I felt shame and guilt. I heard the prideful whispers of, “You can take care of this by yourself,” “Just get yourself together and stop feeling this way,” and “You’re an adult. Shouldn’t you have your emotions under control by now?”
To me, my anxiety looked like productivity. I thought it was me trying to do “all the things.” I thought if I got everything done, the anxiety would go away. But it was really just a frantic attempt to control the things around me while the feeling of helplessness and unrest inside grew. In my anxious state, all I knew to do was, well, “do.” I needed to keep going, keep things from spinning out of control, do my part, don’t let anything slide, do it all myself. But all that “doing” only fed my anxiety. It kept me constantly running in a frenzy.
Until night came, that is. In bed, when my body and (sometimes) my mind had to slow down, the sadness would come. I couldn’t shake the aching loneliness (that didn’t make any sense as my dear husband was right next to me).
And as that weight followed me into the next morning, the depression mingled with the anxiety. My emotions felt out of my ability to control. I would get into “funks” where I just felt totally sad and helpless. I felt like I wanted to do things; I just couldn’t actually do them. My mind was at odds with itself. Some days I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like I was trying to do everything right but was constantly falling short. It felt like I just couldn’t pull myself together.
There were days (and weeks) when I felt the sadness like a weight. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t pep talk or positive think my way out of it. It was just there and not going anywhere.
I can’t tell you the number of times during this season that Little Man asked me, “Mommy sad?” It broke my heart to think that these were the memories he was making of his mom. But even the desire to do things for my babies wasn’t enough to make the sadness leave. There were days when all I really could do was make sure we were all fed, safe, and alive. I would sometimes just cry and admit to my son, “Yes, mommy’s sad.”
During this time, there wasn’t anything externally that was going “wrong.” I loved my children and my husband. I knew that we had moved where we were supposed to be. There wasn’t a specific “thing” I could point at and say, “Oh yeah, that’s what’s got me down.” But despite how good things were on the outside, I could not shake the aching sadness within.
Talking to others about what I was dealing with allowed light to shine into my dark season.
My dear husband listened as I tried to explain the jumble of emotions and thoughts going on in my head. He walked through the darkness with me, holding my hand, as we tried to figure out what to do about the anxiety, first, then the depression. He prayed with and for me, pointed me to the Word of God, and reminded me of the hope we have in Christ.
Although it goes against my prideful, self-sufficient nature, I shared my struggle with others. I opened up to family and friends that I trusted, talking about my anxiety. I shared with them when I suspected it was postpartum depression. I let myself be vulnerable and imperfect in front of them. And the world didn’t end. In fact, those ladies supported me. They prayed for me, checked on me, and encouraged me. They were a picture of Christ, being near and comforting me in my brokenness.
My husband and I prayed through seeking outside help. When folding laundry one evening led to me crying next to the bed, unable to breathe, we felt like it was time for me to talk to a biblical counselor. The unexplained and unfounded anxiety was only growing worse.
As I started working through my anxiety, I had to learn how to rest in the Lord. I had to take the time daily to rest in His presence, to find my peace in Him, and to stop all my “doing” so I could rest in His sufficiency and peace. Per my counselor’s recommendation, I started going through 40 Days to a Closer Talk with God. It’s a book with guided times for centering prayer (which is really just prayer that is focused on who God is and resting in His presence). Those times of intentional quietness before the Lord were transformational. They made me understand that I hadn’t been finding peace in God before, that I’d been trying to muster it up on my own and asking God to put His stamp of approval on it. Taking the time from my busyness to be still and quiet and focus on who God is, that’s what gave me true peace. And once I learned that, my anxiety faded.
My depression didn’t fade though. In fact, it seemed to grow more apparent. It hung around like a cloud, following me through days and weeks when I, for all appearances, should be “happy”. But depression doesn’t always submit to outside circumstances.
I’ve battled depression before, and each time it’s been a little different. This was no exception.
This was the first time I’d gone through it being transparent with my close friends and family about what I was feeling. And that definitely changed things. I didn’t feel like I had to hide my emotions and struggles when my family asked how I was doing. They checked on me out of their love for me. For the most part, being honest about my struggle only strengthened my friendships.
Sharing with others also taught me something important. My joy isn’t found in my relationships, in those around me knowing “the real Grace.” I am someone who deeply wants to be known and understood by others. But being that didn’t bring me true joy.
As a believer who has dealt with depression before, I know the fact that my joy is only found in Jesus. But I think that sometimes there is a disconnect between what I know in my head and what I know down deep in my heart. Dealing with this postpartum depression, God worked on my heart to teach me how to find joy in Him, even in the midst of battling depression.
As I learned, it’s possible to have a deep rooted joy for what Christ has done and still deal with the weight of depression. It’s a strange tension to walk through. But joy in the Lord grounded me. It gave me hope that no matter how bad this gets, God will redeem it. He will use this time for good even if I don’t understand it.
After a tough season of intentional seeking out the Lord, studying the Word, counseling, talking to my doctor, and honest conversations with friends and family, I’m currently free from the symptoms of postpartum depression. It honestly feels like a fog has lifted and I can think clearly again. The difference that I feel is huge, and that is wonderful.
But what’s even more amazing than being out of the season of postpartum depression is what I can see that God did during that season.
During that season, God grew my dependence on Him. I had to cling to Him to sustain me in ways that I didn’t think I had to when my mental health was good. I had to find satisfaction, joy, and peace in Him to survive, and it was a fight to do that. But now that I’m not struggling under the weight of anxiety and depression, I find so much more peace and joy in Christ than I did before the struggle began.
It’s like when you exercise. If you work out in tough conditions, you increase your capacity to perform when conditions are good.
That’s what God did in me. He exercised my ability to rest in Him, to seek Him for my peace and joy, when conditions were hard, when it was the most difficult to do that. And now that I am in a “good” season, I see how He has grown my dependence on Him, in the good and the bad.
Things are by no means perfect now. That tendency to be anxious is still there, but I know how to battle it now. I still get sad, but I can deal with those emotions and remind myself that my hope for the future is in a good God who loves me and wants to make my character more like Christ’s.
That’s really where the hope is.
As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (ESV). He’s working things for my good, my ultimate good, which is to look more like Christ.
And I know that He is faithful to fulfill His promises. Not only do we have the Bible to look to for accounts of God doing what He says He will, but I can look back at my life and see so many times when God has been faithful to me. My hope in the darkness is that God will always use it—He will redeem it for good.
A note to those who are struggling with anxiety or depression:
Please, talk to someone. Share your struggles with a trusted family member or friend. Having an outside perspective is so valuable. Talking to a biblical counselor can be helpful, as can talking to your doctor (I’d recommend looking at ccef.org or biblicalcounseling.com to find a solid biblical counselor in your area). As with anything else, please weigh any advice others give you against the Word of God.
Don’t try to suffer through this by yourself, because you’re not alone.
If you have any questions or need someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to share more of my story and hear about yours.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Statements on this blog are not to be viewed as personal medical care, but for the purpose of general knowledge. This is a testimonial of my own experiences. It is not intended to guarantee that anyone will have the same results, simply to represent my personal journey.