I’ve seen this hashtag more than a few times of late. It’s usually tagged onto the end of something really happy like a pregnancy/birth announcement. I’ve seen it on engagement posts and wedding posts as well as alongside exam results…provided they’re good that is! And surely this is a positive thing. It is necessary to remind ourselves when the going is good that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above’. We want to credit the giver when we recognise the gift.
But what about the bad times and the difficult times? The sad times and the lonely times? When someone dies, or is seriously ill. When cancer finds a new family or when you’re going through depression.
Just over nine years ago, almost to the day, I started to unwind. Not in a good, feeling chilled, relaxed to the max way. But in a mental unraveling, emotional threads fraying, coming apart at the seams kind of way.
We had moved house, and country – albeit only across the Irish Sea. To add to that I’d had my first baby, my husband had started a new and very busy job, I had no close friends to speak of at the time, I missed my mum beyond anything I’d experienced before, and to top it all off, I discovered to the horror of my task oriented self, that my new baby didn’t fit into a box (metaphorically speaking of course!).
Any mums out there will know that you can’t make a list of all the things a baby needs and complete it by day’s end. You need to be flexible and go with what happens at any moment. Some new mums embrace this prospect with ease and an almost enviable abandon of life’s normal routines. My older sister being one of them. She took to motherhood like it was as natural as breathing. She embraced the chaos of parenthood with apparent ease. She’s always been like that…taking change and upheaval in her long limbed stride.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different. My experience of motherhood was as natural as breathing underwater. It felt like drowning!
Instead of being consumed by new baby joy, there was a crippling fear and doubt that moved in like a shadow, before finally taking up permanent residence in my mind. I began to overthink every decision, weighing up the infinite consequences of even the smallest of actions. It was exhausting!
The new baby, new house, new job, new life combo was the beginning of my unmaking. The Sarah who existed before my depression was about to be re-made. And this was no simple renovation. This was project demolition and rebuild.
Revisiting that time in my mind stirs up a mix of emotions. Firstly, I feel saddened by how low I became. I recall frequently yearning for God to take me to heaven, and away from the torture of my mind. Not the thoughts you’d expect from a new mum. But the idea of peace in heaven away from the mental torment I was experiencing seemed so desirable.
In those months I learnt there is a vast difference between wanting to kill yourself and wanting to die. The former never crossed my mind but the latter was a frequent prayer. One to which I am glad God continually said no!
Secondly, I feel kind of embarrassed. I’m reluctant to admit this because I know there is no reason for me to feel embarrassed. But I’m sure this is a common thread amongst those who’ve suffered with depression or anxiety that there is a sense of failure that comes with it. I am convinced however, this notion of embarrassment will only be dealt with through honest and open communication. No longer should such issues be taboo – and never more so in the church and amongst Christians.
I feel nervous. The thought that one day I may return to that dark place does cause me to shudder. However, I pray regularly that God won’t allow this and I am so aware of triggers now that I avoid anxiety when I possibly can. I know that when God tells us to cast all our cares on Him, He truly means it. When those anxious thoughts start to cloud my mind, I take time to pray each one through, knowing that the best place to leave them is with a God who truly knows us better than we know ourselves. This has been such a salvation for me in recent weeks following the end of our adoption process. To be able to hand it over to the one who sees the entire tapestry and not just the tiny threads of each moment.
And then, there is something else which I feel. Something rather remarkable hides in the gloom of my experience…Thankfulness.
During those first six months and the subsequent year and a half of recovery I never would have expected to say these words…I am thankful for my unmaking. I am grateful to God for my depression. I praise Him for rebuilding me and giving me an understanding into a world I previously would have sneered at. Yes, I was one of those people who didn’t think much of those who ‘lost their minds’ or who called themselves depressed. I imagined all they needed to do was pull themselves together and get on with things. I imagined that they had somehow brought it upon themselves by allowing their relationship with God to grow cold. Nothing that a good kick in the pants wouldn’t cure. And for thinking this way I feel ashamed. I’m truly sorry that I was once of that opinion.
But now, on this somewhat anniversary of my downfall, I am thankful. No longer is mental illness a misconception for me. God broke my mind only to remake it again. I know who I am now in the light of Him. No longer do I consider myself invincible or untouchable. I am fragile, I am weak, I am dependant, I am limited, and I am thankful. I am someone who has had a nervous breakdown. And I am someone who knows that in it all and through is all #Godisgood