Something was wrong. No giant red flags, only subtle changes.
Like not wanting to plant summer begonias. A ritual dating back 9 years. Or letting chinese maple leaves wilt from lack of water. Or not returning a friend’s call. Ignoring the phone all together. Emails remained unopened in my inbox.
What used to bring joy brought fear. I used to leave the house 2-3 times a day because “I’m just not a homebody.” But now, now, I hold tight to home. I traded my party girl status for hermit-dom. Being with friends felt risky and undesirable.
Prayer and Scripture should have been enough to pull me through, right? I should breathe the Breath of Life. But why couldn’t I catch my breath? In one moment the assumed demands caused my heart to race. While my husband ordered fried chicken at the drive thru, I tried to open the car door and run away.
What would cause a woman who sought God and wanted to glorify Him lose hope? Feel helpless? Feel life so heavy she crumbled under it?
It didn’t matter if I called it an “anxiety attack” or “break down”. What mattered is after “the event” I could no longer continue without community. I could no longer carry my thoughts, fears, and worries alone.
So, at my husband’s urging, I texted a friend. A friend familiar with the status of my thoughts. This time I simply asked her for a phone number. The “I mean business” text. The “time to stop complaining and wallowing and do something” text.
For the next month I held on to the number she gave me, because “I was feeling better already”. And maybe I didn’t need to see a counselor after all.
During that month of “feeling better” I started sharing my story with friends. Letting them know things weren’t right. Most were relieved to hear me say the words out loud. Because they saw the difference in my manner and mood…and it worried them.
Surprisingly the more people I told, the easier it became to tell. To say, “You know after each of my babies I feel overwhelmed, anxious, and sad. Perhaps I’ve had some form of undiagnosed postpartum depression each time?”
I was amazed how many responded, “Yes, I know those feelings.” And “Yes, you should speak with someone.” And “Talking is healing. Keep talking.”
After I exchanged stories with one friend, the word “depression” didn’t seem to fit me. I know I’m not supposed to compare stories. But she had suffered deep, deep pain. My current “functioning” state, feeling like “not planting flowers”, seemed far from where she had been.
She comforted me, “Heather, I don’t think what you are experiencing needs a label. You just don’t feel like yourself. That’s enough.”
Because the Heather I know threw fun New Year’s Eve parties in her house with a live band while kids slept soundly upstairs. The Heather I know laughs loud and dances freely. The Heather I know gives of herself without holding back. The Heather I know answers the phone on the first ring anxious to encourage the woman on the other end. The Heather I know creates and enjoys beauty. The Heather I know doesn’t want to miss a thing. I missed her.
So I made the phone call. I boldly scheduled my first session. Because I want to love the Lord my God with ALL my mind. And my mind has been otherwise occupied. I really wanted to feel like the Heather I know.
When I entered Sally’s* office I discover the cliché is true. I commented on the couch and I loved her already when she replied, “don’t worry I won’t make you lie down on it.”
She loves God. She studied at seminary. She doesn’t want to blame parents. But she said life words, like, “You have come a long way, but you have some baggage to set down. I’ll help you do that.”
The verse, “prepare your mind for action” (1 Peter 1:13) encouraged me to get better. The greek for “prepare” means to “gather up what entangles you”. So by taking care of what trips me up in my mind, I can be ready for action. Putting down baggage so I’m ready to serve Him.
My purpose in sharing what has been going on in my life the past few months is not to glorify it or me. My hope is you will tell a friend if you “don’t feel like yourself”. Tell a friend, even if it doesn’t seem bad enough to be diagnosed. Because we don’t need labels to feel out-of-sorts.
If your mind is so occupied with baggage and toxic “shoulds”, I hope you find a godly, Christian counselor (one recommended by friends). Sometimes getting a phone number is the hardest step. The second hardest step is making the phone call. I will tell you once you are sitting on the couch there is nothing easier than talking.
For me part of my journey to humility is writing this post. Because the words, “crazy” and “insane” are slang for “wild” and “good”. Admitting weakness feels weak. But it’s not about how I feel. Like Ann told me, “this laptop is my altar”. So I will lay down my pride. Because if you are healed and your mind is free to serve, then you win and God is glorified. But if I only write my story in a journal then it remains in my journal and you continue to feel “not yourself”.
I pray for those who read these words. I pray you will stir a desire to love you with ALL their minds. I pray you will give me a deep understanding of your grace. I pray you will continue to work in my thoughts and my “shoulds.” I pray boldness for those who are suffering alone. I pray for friends who can share openly about feelings of anxiety, fear & worry. Friends who can encourage one another to go to You, Lord, so You can take “brokenness aside and make it beautiful.”
*To maintain privacy, actual name was altered.
Heather, I am so glad you made that phone call. In march of 2010 I made the same call and life has never been the same. Those anxiety and panic attacks no longer pursue me. Instead, I am pursuing Him and leaving all those things that try to trip me up at His feet. He’s been faithful to me, He’s been merciful to us and I pray that through your words women who are hesitating will pick up the phone and make that call and while they’re working it out in the flesh I pray they would allow Him to work it out in their inner man. Learning to be still and KNOW Him changes everything. Thank you for sharing and encouraging those who may secretly be struggling. So blessed by this post today!
You were my gift today Diana. When the post published I waited with my breath held for the first comment, the first response. God gave me you. You immediately helped me feel not so “odd” and alone in my struggle. The best news is I get to thank you with a hug next week! (having just heard of you today and wanting to hug you…that’s a connection only the Spirit can provide).
Amen and Amen! I don’t even know what to say. I am so humbled when He chooses to use me. A few years ago I would have looked at me and thought there was nothing worth saving. Yet, He looked at me and saw His reflection. He saw what He could do with my life and through my life if I would only let Him. Here’s what baffles me…imagine that He knew you’d need some encouragement today so He rescued me when He did so that I could read this post today and encourage you? I believe that’s how much He loves you. Yes my friend, our God is just THAT BIG and that loving!
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for reading and for leading women to rise early to meet with God.
*hugs* I’m so glad you made that call too. It takes a lot of courage to do that. I’ve also been in that place for a little bit a few years ago. I know what you mean about ‘it’ having a label. It’s hard to give it a name, but there were definitely moments of wanting to just hide away from everything. Thank you for sharing this. I hope and pray that anyone going through anything similar would be able to find this post and be courageous enough to talk to someone.
Thank you Joyce for sharing your story. And, yes, my prayer is the Lord would draw women to share their stories more and be willing to say, “I just don’t feel okay.” hugging you back from across the country. (you are a gem!).
I’m so glad you decided to share! You are a willing vessel filled by the Lord to overflowing, and through obedience you are an encouragement. Love you my friend!
wouldn’t even be close to the healing place I am today if I didn’t have your listening ear. Thank you for being a dear, prayerful friend through the past year.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have been feeling that way too and you have encouraged me to talk about it more.
Thank you for sharing Meaghan. If sharing my story was meant just to encourage you to talk more about your own situation to a friend, it was worth the fears associated with being vulnerable. And, yes, talk more…there is a miracle that happens when we exchange words.
Wonderful Heather–I love the “set the baggage down”–Bless you for your vulnerability to us all–Nancy F.
Thank you Nancy for your constant voice of encouragement to young moms and to me. Continue to pour into new mommies! We need your wisdom and perspective! (hugs)
Thank you for sharing your experience Heather, the more we talk about these things the less of a stigma they have and the quicker we all get help when we need it. Thank you for letting us know, that takes courage 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Heather. I am glad you are talking to someone. Love you and miss you! Call me anytime you want to talk!
Thanks for sharing, Heather. My story isn’t exactly the same but the “not feeling yourself” is a story I have as well after my fourth child! Glad you are letting the Lord heal you especially through your blog….I agree, getting the words out there is a healing process in itself. Love to you!
Linking up near you at Ann’s…thanks for being so honest and real…and I am so glad you were brave enough to find someone to help you through these waters. and those shoulds…I heard someone say…we should not should on ourselves…or should on others. blessings to you and grace as you find healing and freedom in Christ~
God’s really good. Miss you guys lots!
Heather, from someone who has not felt herself at various times along the path, I understand and I am praying for you. Thanks for your vulnerability. God is beautiful in you. As I’ve been told on the couch before, give yourself grace in the healing…because He does. In His way, and His timing will he heal. So we need not feel discouraged, or condemned if we have not “changed,” but trust Him for the here and now.
Such a good post.. You are amazing!!! 🙂
I don’t know how I missed this Heather. I am with you. I am SO with you. You will be yourself again. A stronger you. I’ll walk with you. You are a brave woman to make the call. To walk into a place where you lay your soul bare. I KNOW the courage it takes. Praying with you, oh one with a baby only a few weeks older than my own…love to you friend. And I have 4 girls for your 4 boys, but we are in Canada…xoxo
Heather, thank you so much for being so open and sharing this. I have been experiencing the same thing this year. And about two months ago, I just got fet up and started to share with friends and our small group about the struggles going on in my thoughts. I also have been meeting with a wonderful Christian counselor. It has been so good just to get it out and talk about with someone. When you keep it all inside you feel like you are the only one who deals with this but once you start to share you find you are not alone.
What a beautifully honest post. Wow. I am so thankful to know you, and girlfriend, I cannot wait to hug you at Allume. This was a most excellent post, Heather. I know God will restore you, and you will come out on the otherside of the baggage–free!
Amazing post and transparent honesty. Just reading the comments made me smile, that so many had already been blessed by your voice. I pray many more will down the line-a long line of healing. I love you so much and can’t wait to hug you (for a long time!!) at Allume. So proud of you!!