(Today’s topic based on today’s post, “Just a Pothole” by Amber Koter-Puline at Beyond Postpartum. Thanks, Amber!)
Sue McRoberts, author of Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression, recently blogged about her recent revisit with depression. I asked Sue for permission to share her words here and she graciously granted it. So here are her words, her story about coping with depression after surviving Postpartum Depression. To keep up with how Sue is doing or to offer words of encouragement, you can visit her blog by clicking here.
I have taken quite some time to reflect on 2008 and contemplate what 2009 might hold. This past year has been a mixed bag of good and bad. I am thrilled for my husband and his wonderful new job that has brought us to Indiana. But this move has been pretty hard on me. Ten days after we left Minneapolis for Indianapolis my dear Aunt Carolyn died. I felt like I’d lost my mother and immediate support system all in one swoop that month. How do you make new friends in a new place when you are hurting twenty four hours a day? How do you even talk to someone when you have nothing but tears and grief? For six months I suffered because I had no idea what to do with all my grief. To make matters worse, once again, I felt like I’d never even existed in Minnesota. I found myself missing my friends way more than they missed me. It was deja vu and painful. I had no idea what to do with all my pain. So I spiraled downward and found myself in a familiar place. With no church home and no friends to speak of I found myself desperately depressed. I did a weird thing with God that I don’t recall doing before. I ran and hid. I didn’t want his comfort or peace. I wanted to hurt and hurt. I avoided any scriptures that would offer comfort. I read stories and parables and things Paul wrote; I avoided anything David wrote. It was completely different that when I had PPD. Each and every day I wanted to feel better, to feel human. This time around I did not want to feel better. I wanted my friends and church back. I wanted my aunt back. I reasoned that if I felt better then I didn’t really miss these people. I wondered if somehow it would mean I was okay with Carolyn being gone if I didn’t cry every single day. I cried each day for six months when I finally decided to address what was happening. I admitted publicly that I was struggling with depression…again…and it cost me some huge opportunities professionally in ministry. I was devastated as I never predicted such an outcome of my honesty. It took me six weeks of reeling in pain to reach the point where I called my doctor for help. My world felt like a bottomless, foggy pit and the medicine and medical support gave me a floor to stand on. I am now reading the Psalms again and clinging to God for strength and hope. I’ve decided to quit being a stubborn mule and ask Him for his loving comfort. For some reason I felt like I needed to prove to God that I could do this by myself, boy that was dumb. So here I am feeling pretty darn healthy. I’m running and training for my first half marathon. I’m sleeping well and I’ve stopped crying. I’m reading a book about grief that is helping me sort out my world post Carolyn. I’m determined to figure out how to live in my new world in Indiana. I will continue to encourage people to see their doctor if they are depressed for months on end. I take a pill and I’m okay with that. Not everyone in ministry is. I’m in a good place now and I’m able to pray for them, pray that they will never experience the depths of depression that I have. I pray they will never understand the pain I’ve felt. And I’m grateful to God for new opportunities that he’s already brought me. I am hopeful that I will find my place in this world and that God will grow me up some more in the process. So here’s to a new year, a new year for a better me, and for a better you.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
I first saw Michael Lurie on a Fox Morning program and immediately thought how wonderful it was for him to be sharing his story as it is very rare indeed to get a glimpse into the postpartum experience from a father’s perspective. In his book, My Journey to Her World: How I Coped with My Wife’s Postnatal Depression, Michael is transparently open and honest with the events as they unfolded. Familiar with his wife’s previous depressive episodes, her postnatal experience and his subsequent depression went well beyond anything either of them could have ever fathomed. I am honored to share his words with you here and sincerely hope that you will share them with the men in your lives. Michael has been extremely gracious and kind (we’ve had technical difficulties in pulling this together – our emails weren’t the greatest of playmates!) in completing this and I thank him for his patience. I also thank him for his bravery in forging such a valuable addition to resources available for fathers with partners suffering from postpartum depression.
Click here to purchase your own copy of My Journey to Her World
How hard was it for you to witness your wife’s struggle with Postpartum Depression? What were some of the emotions you went through?
Very difficult to heartbreaking. Some emotions I went through were:
Helplessness- not being able to make things better quickly
Disbelief- I couldn’t believe things hag gotten so bad
Anger- Angry with G-d for Kate’s illness. Anger at family and friends who I felt did not fully understand the severity of the situation
Fear- that Kate may harm herself and the baby
At what point did you decide to write your book, My Journey to Her World?
Following several months of watching Kate deteriorate, I started brainstorming my thoughts on a piece of paper t try and get some cathartic release. A I wrote down my thoughts, I realized that this was a story that needed to be told to others in order to help others and avoid the frustration I felt at not having a resource spec ifically aimed for men.
Has becoming a Father changed you?
It has given me a sense of unconditional responsibility and love to my children which will last the rest of my life.
What aspect of being a Father is the most challenging? The Least?
Most challenging- the constant feeling of responsibility for another human being who is totally dependent on you.
Least challenging- the ability to unconditionally love your child.
How difficult was it to accept your own experience with depression during this time? Do you feel it brought you closer to your wife and allowed you to better understand her?
It was very difficult to accept my position and I need it confirmed by a third party (doctor) before acknowledging it. It did bring me closer to my wife as I got a small ‘taste’ of what a sufferer of depression goes through.
What are some things you did to actively support your wife during her episode of Postpartum Depression?
I ensured that she was functional even at her worst point and asked her to do even the smallest of chores- e.g. help m e fold the laundry.
I acknowledged her feelings and let her release emotions without questioning whether they were rational or not.
I ensured that on a practical level, there was nothing to worry about
I respected her need at times to be alone
I made her feel 100% comfortable to tell me how she was feeling at any time of day or night
Just as women with PPD learn that taking care of themselves is important, this is a lesson that Fathers should heed as well. What do you do on a regular basis to feed your soul and ensure that you stay in a good place?
Nurture and develop your hobbies and interests. Remember that you are first and foremost an individual who needs to look after them self in order to look after others.
Did PPD strengthen or weaken your marriage? Do you feel that you both are in a better place now than prior to PPD?
It strengthened it as it made us more committed to one another.
It made me appreciate my wife more for overcoming it and being such a fantastic mother
I would not say we are in a better place now as we were in a good place beforehand. I would say we are in a different place now as we have the realization and experience of PPD and its devastating effects.
What do you find to be the best part of being a Father?
The privilege of providing love and care for a child and seeing them develop into fulfilled and content people
If there was one piece of advice you could give to an expectant father (new or experienced), what would it be and why would this be important for him to hear?
Talk to people and if there is a problem – seek help. Don’t suffer alone.