By Vanessa Marie Caron
“I therefore, a prisoner for the LORD, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There in one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one LORD, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).
I have been shattered, drowning, pierced with a lance and crippled by the heaviness of other-worldly darkness. I have felt alone and irrational, angry with and disappointed in myself. In pieces, I’ve been treading the water of overwhelming undercurrents, gasping for air while nursing the gaping wound in my heart, all with chains clasped around my ankles, pulling me under.
This is the inexplicable but very real abyss of postpartum depression and anxiety that has been plaguing me these past three months. After several emotional breakdowns, with yesterday being the worst, I feel somehow different this morning. I am still treading the depths of darkness but I finally see that I am NOT alone. That Christ is standing above the terrible waves with a steady hand outstretched before me.
I had been taking all the right steps; I have been seeing the doctor regularly, been verifying my hormone levels, increasing leisurely time, seeking psychotherapy, I have been journaling, listening to podcasts and reading uplifting literature. But despite my best intentions, my self-pity and victimization have fed my disbelief, keeping me from reaching out for and relying on Christ with complete trust. I have prayed and read scripture but I sought to find healing by my own means, fighting the rushing waters by my own strength because I wanted to be strong enough on my own. Somehow, I felt I needed to prove something and that seeking help outside myself and the ability of humanity, would make me weak and unworthy.
This morning I have felt a call in my heart to become vulnerable in Christ’s presence and to embrace the discomfort of my sufferings in the hope of God’s truth:
Deep in contemplation, I was reading about St. Zélie’s sufferings in the face of child loss and how her faith remained unwavering and true while her own heart was being lanced and her dreams shattered. She didn’t see it then, but God’s plan for her and her family was greater than the dreams she had envisioned for herself. By remaining firm in her faith and with complete and joyful abandonment amidst great suffering, God was free to bless her.
So much despair can accompany postpartum depression and anxiety. Feelings of being overwhelmed, inexplicably sad, alone, misunderstood, afraid, ashamed, guilty, angry, empty and so much more; these feelings can hold such power but they are not God’s truth! You have an identity that surpasses all of these, an identity rooted in Christ. Your worthiness, your goodness, your success and happiness are not defined by your present situation. The way God sees you, your value and your purpose, are unique and greatly blessed. God has called you for His purpose and He can use you in every situation, even in the duress of mental illness.
“I […] beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
I have not stopped trying to mend my brokenness but I am confident that there can be joy and gratitude in the darkness of the storm.
“[…] just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call […]” (Ephesians 4:4).
Cling to His truth and find strength in hope. I do not know if the depression and anxiety of my current situation will ever dissipate but I can walk on the waters of this raging sea if I can hold firm to my faith in Christ who walks beside me.