Today is World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day.
Inspired by Dr. Christina Hibbert, I want to tell you about the good that severe postpartum anxiety has wrought in my life.
I had a day five years ago when I thought the only way out was OUT.
That was my lowest point. But was also my saving grace.
Because of my postpartum breakdown, I reached out to Postpartum Support International and found an awesome counselor who encouraged me on my first visit to use prayer for healing. She’s not a Christian counselor, just a very wise and spiritual woman who met me right where I was and suggested that the Holy Mother may be a place I could turn for help. My relationship with Mary was ambivalent for lots of silly reasons in hindsight, but now I have a nurturing and peaceful devotion to her that feeds me as a mother and wife.
Because of my postpartum breakdown and my awesome counselor, I finally realized that fear was an emotion that ruled too much of my life. It manifested in my OCD and anxiety, an intense desire to anticipate and control outcomes. I was spending so much of my life trying to get in front of the next big (mostly imaginary) disaster and missing the little way of St. Therese of Lisieux, who believed “that the people of her time lived in too great a fear of God’s judgement. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God”.
That was me. Bigly. And when I decided not to be that scared woman anymore, it left a HUGE hole in my spiritual life. I had to admit that I believed more in fear than in God’s love.
I have since fixed that little problem right there.
Because of my postpartum breakdown, my awesome counselor, my new commitment to the Little Way and my own God-given big mouth gifts, I decided that the whole shame-filled not talking about it thing was bull-hunky. I ended up on this path at the right time thanks to bloggers like Glennon Doyle Melton and Jen Hatmaker, who were telling everyone that we had to tell the truth or it would kill us. Also Richard Rohr, who knocked me out of bed one night with this line: “If we don’t transform our pain, we transmit it.” I thought about my extensive family history of anxiety and my girls and the hereditariness of it all. I knew I had to shine a light, and that if I brought my mental health out of the dark, I would transform it.
So I told it, to everyone who asked (and some very tired looking mamas slumped in the corner of the playground at the mall who didn’t, but this whole Shine the light thing is not an exact science and better safe than sorry).
Because of my postpartum breakdown, my awesome counselor, my new commitment to the Little Way, my own God-given big mouth gifts and my light-shining, I found myself sitting on a hill at a park during a 4th of July celebration exactly one year from my own breakdown talking to another broken mama on the phone—from 150 miles away. I found myself pulled aside at church for a conversation about a new mama who was hallucinating and no one knew who to call. I have given the phone number of my awesome counselor to at least five women in her service area. I supported a new grandma through getting her daughter admitted for psychosis. And just three days ago, I watched a new mama’s tired eyes fill with tears because nursing is kicking her ass. Then she was embarrassed because it was brunch for God’s sake and we don’t talk about these things at brunch, right?
And I said WHY YES WE DO! We talk about these things right the heck now because that’s what you need! So let’s get dessert and maybe another drink and you can tell me everything. (I stole this idea from the second Sex and the City movie where Miranda makes Charlotte do shots over how hard it is to be a mom, which was a way more brilliant scene than anyone probably realized.)
I wasn’t that woman before. Now I am. Better.
And for that, I am grateful.
“If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious.”
Forgiveness, Warsan Shire