Monday, April 29, 2013

The Pendulum: Depression and Anxiety

Since being officially diagnosed with postnatal depression I've done a fair bit of pondering over the past few weeks.  The main questions I keep rehashing in my mind are:

Am I sick?
Or am I sinning?
Or is it a bit of both?

If depression is an 'illness', am I responsible for my actions?
Or is it like cancer in that it solely needs to be treated by medication alone?
Do I have a part to play?

I've found the Christian and the secular approaches to depression and anxiety to be both helpful and unhelpful as I've been in recovery.  While many Christians do see depression as a mental illness, and I've had many Christian friends from church and elsewhere who've offered AMAZING support, Christians with depression are always going to encounter the, Anxiety is a sin, and, You need to have joy in the Lord responses.  These responses are truly shattering if you have depression.  Yes, there is truth that we are all guilty of not trusting God and giving way to fear and anxiety, but to say such blunt things to a fellow Christian who is suffering is cruel to say the least.  I do not want to be depressed and I do not want to be anxious.  I want to have joy in the Lord.  But I am also sick and need medication to help me think clearly.  I know some Christians are sceptical about mental illness, thinking that doctors hand out anti-depressants like they're lollies, but I can honestly say medication has been a real blessing for me.  I'm gradually starting to feel like myself for the first time in a long time.  I can see why it is tempting to be treated entirely by the secular approach.  Non-Christians tend to offer a lot more sympathy.

There are inevitably many secular approaches that I find unhelpful or limited in their helpfulness.  As great as psychologists can be, I find it hard to have conversations when we have such differing worldviews.  I need to be reminded that God is sovereign, not to 'believe in myself'.  I am not strong; I am weak, but I have a great God who wants to shoulder my burdens.  For this reason I'm hoping to see a Christian counsellor when I get discharged.  I need someone who sees depression as an illness, but reminds me that God is there and that He has paid the penalty for all my sin.

Having said all that, I do really appreciate the holistic approach that this place is offering me.  Obviously it is lacking in the spiritual sense, but I have found the practical nature of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to be beneficial.  The staff here acknowledge that I am unwell and need medication to help me get well, but I also need to do some of the work.  I have to confront my anxiety about going out in public with Rory.  The medication helps stabilise my mood so I can then start examining and correcting negative thought patterns that have built up over time (and there are a lot of them).

Am I sick?  Yes.
Am I accountable?  Yes.

Satan knows that if he attacks the mind, then it is often more harmful than if he were to attack the body alone.  A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14.

I found this article, Double Dangers: Maximizing and Minimizing Mental Illness (via In All Honesty) to be very useful in pondering this subject.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Bubba: 6-13 Weeks

Rory is getting fatter...and fatter.  He is so cute and did his first ever giggle the other day.

6 weeks

Rory and Roary. 6 weeks
 With his friends Roary and Fishy. 8 weeks
Daddy's boy. 9 weeks
All ready to go to a 30th birthday party. 9 weeks
Country boy. 9 weeks
Big smiles. 9 weeks
This photo was taken in hospital.  I sent it to Duncan
because he misses us so much.  11 weeks
Full. 11 weeks
Fun on the playmat.  11 weeks
So colourful and exciting.  13 weeks
13 weeks

Tummy time. 13 weeks
13 weeks
The vest Duncan's auntie knitted for him. 13 weeks
Handsome smiley fella.  13 weeks

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bible Verse of the Day

What I'm clinging to at the moment:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unwell by Matchbox 20

This song has been stuck in my head a lot over the past few weeks.

All day,
Staring at the ceiling,
Making friends with shadows on my wall.
All night,
Hearing voices telling me that I should get some sleep,
Because tomorrow might be good for something.
Hold on,
I'm feeling like I'm heading for a breakdown.
I don't know why.

I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.
I know right now you can't tell,
But stay a while and maybe then you'll see,
A different side of me.
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired,
I know, right now you don't care,
But soon enough you're gonna think of me,
And how I used to be.

Lyrics from here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

His Ways Are Not My Ways

This year isn't panning out how I thought it would.  That is an understatement to say the least.

Looking back to my 5 Hopes For 2013 I can hardly believe how naive I was.  I was so unprepared to have a baby it's not funny.  While it's fair to say that no-one can ever be fully prepared for parenthood, I glance backwards over my shoulder and wonder how I thought I would ever be happy with 'surviving'.  I knew life would change, but I could never fully comprehend or adapt to it.

It's now April and I'm not where I thought I'd be.  I thought I'd have found a new rhythm by now.  I thought I'd be able to go out and about with Rory without being fraught with anxiety.  I never imagined I'd be suffering from depression and in hospital.  This was not my plan.

I have to keep reminding myself that although it was not my plan, it is from God's hand.  I can't see behind the scenes.  I just have to put one foot after the other in faith, even though I cannot see more than a few steps ahead into the fog.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bible Verse of the Day

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where I Am and Where I've Been

I haven't updated this blog for a while.

It hasn't been my intention.

I finally crashed on the Easter weekend.  In hindsight I can see that I was a timebomb just waiting to go off.  Counselling and time were never going to be enough to help me recover from postnatal depression and anxiety.  While Duncan, Rory and I were in Dunsborough visiting his parents, I sunk to a new low.  I didn't want to be a mother anymore.  I wanted Rory to go away.  I didn't want to feed him.  I couldn't get out of bed.  I wanted to die in my sleep and go to be with Jesus.  It was the darkest place I have been in my life. 

On Easter Saturday night, Duncan and a friend of ours took me to Bunbury Hospital (an hour away from Dunsborough).  I spent six days there recovering from sleep deprivation.  The nurses and occupational therapists took me for walks to help me get back on my feet.  I did programs such as relaxation and cognitive behaviour therapy. Duncan did a two hour round trip to visit me every day and bring Rory in to see me.  All the while I was waiting for a transfer to this place as soon as a bed became available.

I've now been in this special place for mothers and babies for 10 days.  I'm on medication and participating in programs to help me get well.  I have nurses on hand around the clock to help me care for Rory and grow in my mothering skills.  I feel like I've come a long way, but there is still such a long way to go.  I'm determined not to rush my recovery.  Going home still seems a fair while away at this stage which is fine with me.  My anxiety is still bad and I have trouble sleeping without medication. 

Postnatal depression is real, serious and crippling.  I've met women who have been so traumatised from the birth and lost blood, their hormones went haywire and they suffered from psychosis.  There is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness and that needs to be broken.  Women suffering this way cannot simply get well by 'thinking positive' or 'toughening up'.

Over the past fortnight I've met so many wonderful nursing staff at two hospitals who I will never forget.  I don't know what God is doing and why He's allowing me to suffer this way.  I just have to trust that it's part of His plan which I can't see, and that as I look back to the cross, He loves me and has not abandoned me.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady

My Easter reflection.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin, the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labours of my hands,
Can fulfil thy law's commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

When I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to world's unknown,
See thee on thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for thee,
Let me hide myself in thee.

Lyrics sourced from here.