Has Postnatal Depression Destroyed My Faith?
“Even when it feels like there is no-one holding me –
be still, my soul, He is.”
Mark Schultz, He Is.
Those words perfectly describe the last two and a half years, while I have been struggling and battling with severe Postnatal Depression. It’s a war, on a few occasions, I have almost lost.
PND has ripped to the heart of who I am and to my very soul. I have paid the price, in every area of my life – emotionally, mentally, physically and very powerfully spiritually. Before giving birth to our son, Reuben, I had spent the last 10+ years working in full-time ministry with Children, Young People and Families. My faith has been the centre of my world, since I was 22. It’s been the reason I do what I do and has sustained me through some very dark hours. In truth, PND has changed all that. Only now, am I beginning to realise all that it has done to my faith.
I have spent months and months questioning where God is, believing Him still to be God, but wondering if He has abandoned me to my ‘sin’. I have falsely believed I’m suffering because of God’s punishment and tried routinely confessing every sin I could ever remember committing. I ‘forgot’ that I don’t believe this to be true. I do believe that Jesus death, once and for all, took the punishment for sin. I don’t believe that depression is God’s punishment, I do believe it’s an illness, like any other.
But PND had me forget all of that. It’s also meant, that my once very active faith has been hard to find. I used to love reading the Bible, listening to Podcasts, journalling. I’d spend a lot of my spare time in pursuit of spiritual things and felt very fulfilled in life, living close to God.
Now, any new mum will tell you, that lots of things take a back seat, as they get used to the new demands of parenthood. ‘Free time’ and ‘spare time’ can become a thing of the past! But for me it was more than that. I had no desire for anything and found pleasure in nothing. I could not concentrate to read or listen and my processing powers, for journalling and exploring, were long gone. Church makes me feel overly emotional, from the moment I go through the door – it’s all I can do, every week, to hold back the tears. All that I know of God, to be true, has seemed a distant memory and something I could not connect myself to anymore.
Late last year I cried out to God, not for the first time, simply saying – “I have no idea what is ‘wrong’ with me, I’m frightened but I choose to trust you. Please show me that way forward.”
He reminded me, and imprinted in my mind and on my heart, these two verses, which have been crucial to my healing –
“I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the LORD.”
These are God’s words, through his prophet Jeremiah, to the nation of Israel. But they ministered deeply to my broken heart. I love the image of God, my Father, as a healer – the divine healer – the only one who can truly do heart surgery on the unseen. At the start I didn’t know where all my wounds were, or even what they were. I didn’t know that I have PND, so I could not have named how I needed to be healed. I did know, I was physically ill and needed my health returned.
I believe helping me to be diagnosed, and then understand and accepting PND as my problem, was the crucial first step of God’s healing. Since then, He has been at work in my life, gently restoring me back to life and health. He has used medication, the love, care and support of others, therapy and my little son to bring about His promise.
In the moments, when those words invaded my heart, God also gave me an image/picture for my mind to hold onto. It was very simply of Him, tenderly, carefully and expertly cleaning the wound that surrounded my heart and beginning to stitch it back up. On the worst of days, I have had that as a reminder of His part in my healing and His promise to take care of me.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
PND has been traumatic and very painful, the road has been long and dark. It is not a path I would have willing followed and I am glad I did not know it was ahead. But I believe God did. I don’t know why this journey has been mine. I don’t know why some mums experience PND and others do not.
I am often so very sad when I think of how much the illness has robbed me off, especially where my son and husband are concerned. Yet, in the midst of that I have chosen to trust and believe that God can work this mess for good and for His glory. I get glimpses of that, via this website and my work with others where PND is concerned. I can begin to see how He is using me and allowing me to minster into other people’s lives. That’s how amazing the God I follow is! He can take the mess, dirt, mistakes, hurts and disappointments in our lives and turn them into something very special – I am counting on that promise.
I’m not sure where this journey of recovering from PND will take me, but I am sure of one thing. I will keep my eyes and heart fixed firmly on God. He’s the only one who can heal me, restore me and rescue good out of the black hole, I found myself in.
As I write, I am so thankful that these words are true – “He’s able. He’s able. I know my God is able. I know my God is able to carry me through.” I believe, they can also be true for you too, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.
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A slightly different version of this was printed in the Presbyterian Church In Ireland, Women’s Ministry Magazine – Wider Word (June 2016).
There are also plans for other faith-based publications to reproduce something very similar. I am very happy for this to be used in any context – please get in touch if I can help you do that.
Email me to email@example.com