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Motherhood & Mental Illness: Ways To Get Through

April 11, 2015

This is part two of a small series I am doing on Motherhood & Mental Illness. To read part one, click here.
I am by no means an expert in mental health. And I haven’t experienced full-blown depression, whether clinical or experiential. I do however, have a cyclical anxiety disorder. This basically means that something within my brain changes – hormones, chemical balance, cortisol {etc} – and I become highly emotional and anxious.
It isn’t something I can make go away. It passes naturally within a few months. In one day it can “come over” me and as easily in one day can “lift off” me. It’s unexplainable. But, I promise you, dear friends who experience the same, it can be managed. Here are some thoughts to help you if you are struggling in a similar place:

1. Seek medical help.

I cannot emphasise this enough. In many Christian circles, the medical world is often derided or rebelled against or only to be sought as a last resort. In my own personal opinion, seeking the advice of one or two wise, kind and experienced doctors should be at the top of our list.
The reason I believe this is because it is essential to determine what exactly is going on in our brains. Depression/anxiety is not merely a spiritual {though it is part of it, I believe}. Just as our brain {and body, for that matter} fails in other ways – epilepsy, cancer, retardation – so it does when it comes to how our moods are effected.
When I finally sought my doctor after Josiah was born, he recommended medication. He said to me, “You have been through this before and I know that you can get through it. But because you are so tired and so new to being a mother, let us try some anti-depressents to help give you the kick start you need”. And he was so right. The moment they started working, it was like someone physically pulled me out of a dark pit in my mind and set my thinking-feet on solid ground. I felt me again.
Just beware that sometimes you may not get along well with the initial medication you are put on. Because I was breast-feeding, I was first put on Citalopram {considered the safest} but I reacted terribly to it. My skin felt like it was crawling and I had one of the rarest reactions to it – it made my brain more anxious and propelled it into a hyper-state {it was seriously one of the worst weeks of my life}. But, thank goodness, I trusted my instincts and went back to my doctor who put me on Fluoxetine {a form of Prozac} and my “little happy pills” became my best friend.

2. Be open and get support.

For me, during that dark post-partum time, my husband, parents, in-law’s and brother were the people who got me through. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law had suffered through post-partum depression and knew that I couldn’t just “pull my socks up” and get better. My mother-in-law let me ring her {from out of town} any time of day or night so that I could cry and ask questions about how to care for Josiah. She helped me feel normal. My sister-in-law gave me words at times that I just needed it, like, “Things will get better”. My mother prayed amazing prayers over me and let me visit her at her work even when a snow storm was on it’s way and Josiah was grumpy, all so I could see someone and have company and get some prayer. And my father and brother came round to keep me company, even if it was in silence, so I wasn’t alone.
It is so essential, dear friend, to know you have people who love you and care for you. They may not always understand, but they will try. Allow them to make mistakes too, even if you feel you can’t bear mistakes at this present time. They’re trying their best and if they have never experienced mental illness in some form, they can’t understand why you can’t make yourself better.

3. Understand the importance of your thoughts.

God made our brains to have incredible power over our bodies. We don’t realise how much control our own thoughts have over our minds, our moods, our heart condition, our physical well-being. It is vital to start claiming autonomy over your thoughts rather than allowing those arrow-thoughts to break you down and send you spiraling into a deeper pit.
I am not saying that this is all in your head. It isn’t. And until medication is used, there is very little one can do to break the cycle of anxiety/lowness that you are in. I remember my husband saying to me, in loving frustration {because he couldn’t understand}, “Just think about something else.” But I couldn’t. But once my pills began to work, I could actually think – for myself! And this is when you need to start focusing on what you are listening to in yourself.
“Don’t you know what most of your unhappiness in life is because you are listening to yourself instead of speaking to yourself?” Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression.


4. Seek God’s Word for hope and for help.

There is nothing like the comfort of a scripture that speaks to your soul when you are at your very worst.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Get the eyes of your mind and heart on God, not on yourself, He is your helper.
“He lifted me up out of the pit of despair, out of the miry clay, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
He will rescue you and place you on firm ground, you will be stable again.
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions they fail not; they are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
You won’t be consumed by this, God is keeping you and is faithful.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become in despair within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 41:11
 Recognise your state and feelings, speak to them and turn them towards God.

5. Pray.

Let whatever is on your heart and mind fall from your lips like tears to your Father in heaven who is right there. Jesus is praying for you, right where you are, do you know that? “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” {Hebrews 7:25}.
If you doubt that God cares or that He is listening or that He can possibly understand where you are, read about Jesus in the Garden and see his agony, his pain, his mental state so that he wept blood. Jesus knows what it was like, and he still chose it, and he died for your condition. Speak out your heart in every moment, even if it is a mental cry of “Help me!” He will hear you and help you. There were countless times where I just got through dinner time, a night feeding, a church service only because of the grace of God and my continual conversation of need to him.
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There are many other things that I could suggest to help you get through, but these are the essential forms of grace that God gave me to get through. I am currently going through a mild episode of anxiety and these five ways are solid stepping stones for my recovery.
Let me finish here with a small prayer, for you and I, as we press into God for help and recovery:
 
Father God, thank you that you made me. Thank you that you know me and nothing that is going on in me right now is hidden from you. Thank you that my inner darkness and turmoil right now is like an open book before you and that I need not speak a word about it because you already know. But help me speak it to you, Lord, to help direct my heart and thoughts towards you – the Rock that is higher than I. Lift me up, rescue me from this desolate pit. Put my feet on solid ground, level my emotions and help me be able to think clearly. Help me speak your truth to myself and fight doubts and lies and believe in hope for myself. Keep me close to you Lord, safe because of Jesus, and love me. Amen.

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