Lately my two-year-old, Emily has developed a paralyzing fear of monsters. We’ve prayed about it, we’ve talked about it and we’ve watched this awesome video about it at least 700 times (thanks Alison). But you know what’s helped her the most? Every night before Emily goes to bed, she looks up at me and says, “Mom, in OUR house there are NO monsters.” Stating the truth out loud helps her to believe it.
Sometimes as a Christian mom, I feel this weird pressure to “be okay;” to thank God in every moment and to somehow prove that I am walking in the Spirit and drawing from His strength. I’m not making fun of these statements. Every morning, I cast myself, my kids and my cares on Jesus. I live in the truth that my relationship with Him is the well from which I draw meaning in motherhood and in life. In the Bible, Paul (whose words encourage me in motherhood despite the fact that he wasn’t that gung ho about the whole marriage deal) knew that people instinctively want to appear fine. He made this bold statement: But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.
In Emily’s words, “In our house, there are no monsters.” Speaking truth is an essential step for growth in Christ and in life and it’s exactly what I want to model for my kids.
So here’s mine. I am a person who is deeply affected by everything outside of myself. This can be annoying. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which means that when winter is too long (oh hi, Canada), I find it hard to do normal things like getting out of bed or completing tasks. Then spring arrives and suddenly I am a fully functioning human again. I combat the heavy oppressive blanket of BLAH by getting enough sleep, talking about it, getting outside, choosing my winter, eating as healthily as I can and exercising but it doesn’t make it go away.
Every year in spring, something unclenches inside me and all of the energy I’ve been expending to exist normally just eases and I can channel it into life again. I can just BE me without having to work at it. If you’ve struggled with depression or anxiety, you know exactly what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, then none of this makes any sense. Take a minute, look at these cartoons, then come back. Because I have these tendencies, when I got pregnant I read everything I could on postpartum depression. My hormones or chemicals already fail me on a yearly basis so I felt like this was something I would be highly susceptible to experiencing. I was prepared. And it didn’t happen.
Fast-forward a year through the hormonal whirlwind that is being pregnant, becoming a mom, weaning, and getting pregnant again. After having Emily, I sort of relaxed and thought, “Hey, my body’s got this! I miscarried in the fall of 2014 and along with the grief of loss came fear. I had just gone back to work after maternity leave and I had a timeline of when we would have another child firmly in my mind. I was full-steam-ahead controlling my life… in my mind. After our miscarriage, we got pregnant again almost immediately so in October of 2014, I was expecting Gabrielle and afraid.
This pregnancy was so different than my experience with Emily. I was sick, I was tired and my husband was away a lot for work while I was exhausted and miserable at home, working and looking after a non-stop exuberant toddler. None of these things were harder than what anyone else does but they were still true and I was afraid. I was anxious all the time and after Gabrielle was born in July, I felt a flood of relief. She was okay. She was more than okay, she was healthy and loud and perfect. I was okay. The physical recovery after delivery was so much better than the first round, it was summer outside and I could finally stop holding my breath and exhale.
But the fear and anxiety that crept up during pregnancy never really let go. I didn’t feel sad but everything started to seem overwhelming. I became angry and anxious and if you asked the people closest to me, there might be another “a” word that isn’t so flattering. I prayed about it. I claimed every truth I know and believe about it. I exercised about it. I ate better and tried to sleep more about it but the anxiety is still here.
I have everything I need BUT…
- I feel like I am constantly in coping mode and everything is an overwhelming crisis. Laundry. Those dishes on the table that need to be moved to the sink. Appointments. Missed toddler naptimes.
All the great things I’ve been doing aren’t fixing it and I’ve struggled to come to terms with the fact that something is going on in me that I can’t control. Naming and facing my own postpartum anxiety feels terrifying. In fact, I don’t even want you to know about it because in three months when sun is back to stay and I’m done breastfeeding and I’m loving life, why would I share this season with you in a permanent and “non-takesy-backsies” internet-flashing way? Especially when next week I’m going to be writing about hilarity and the ridiculousness of mom life and it will also and simultaneously be TRUE?
Because in our house, there are no monsters.
Because speaking truth out loud is the first step to being okay.
Because maybe because you’re there too.
Because we can refuse to buy into the lie of pretending to be okay and step forward in freedom into His love which is big and perfect and enough for us to not be.
If anything I’ve shared resonates with you, here are some honest and incredible ladies sharing about not being okay and saying it about a million times better.
Glennon Doyle Melton: The Erasing
Sarah Bessey: In which depression is not your fault
Emily Fisk: It Gets Easier
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: Jesus or Zoloft?