Postpartum Anxiety – It’s real. I’m not crazy.

“This is it,” I thought, “I’m finally going crazy.”

I know the word crazy has a terrible connotation and can be quite disrespectful for those in the midst of a mental health struggle, but those are the honest words I said to myself, folding my laundry, in the quiet of my home, on a very normal Tuesday.

I had a gorgeous seven month old, a pretty decent routine. I felt like I was conquering momhood, finally sleeping, and able to give my husband some attention. I had friends, good friends, I could call for anything. We had recently moved, were both really still students, so impoverished, but happy.

So why, oh why, did I feel so overwhelmed by the simple task of folding a washcloth?

I had a problem and I knew it. I felt fine three-quarters of the time and then the rush of panic would come on, intense, out of nowhere. It never had anything to do with my beautiful baby, my marriage, or anything meaningful. It just was.

The anxiety and panic had its own realm, its own hold on my soul, and I felt like I would never escape it…it felt like an eternal vacuum, but in reality was really about two minutes, and then it would pass.

Every woman’s experience with postpartum anxiety is different, just like every person’s experience with any health issue is different. Just like diabetes and strokes have various symptoms and manifestations in our bodies, so it is with mental health. There is a list of symptoms – someone may experience three of them, or eight of them; they may be intense, or pretty vague; they may be there all the time, every day, or they may be more transient, and come and go.

Being a person interested in health and mental health, I read lots of articles and google searched everything I could, but I couldn’t find anything to match up with what I was experiencing. I found lots of questionnaires asking me if I was feeling blue or having trouble with motivation, but nothing that used words like

“anxious”

“foreboding”

“panic”

“on edge.”

However, on that day, folding laundry, I knew I needed help. I asked our family doctor at my baby’s next well visit…

“So is it normal to feel super anxious after having a baby?”

She looked up from checking my baby, and gently laughed, “Well, I think just about anything is ‘normal’ after having a baby! But let’s talk about what you’re experiencing.”

She sat down and asked me lots of questions, she shared a little of her own experiences with postpartum ups and downs, she told me about postpartum blues, postpartum depression, and a gamut of postpartum fireworks, from hormones, to body changes, to life transitions.

For the next half hour she sat with me and figured out some ways to try and relieve my symptoms and put our ideas in order of try now, try if it doesn’t work, and what to do in an emergency. We made a followup appointment for two weeks.

In that office, in a tiny town in Nebraska, my doctor gave me a gift:

I felt hopeful.

14 years later, we know a whole lot more about postpartum anxiety than we did then. It’s a thing. It has a name, and there are people working to have it recognized. When we shine light on a hard topic and give it a name and a realness, we help someone else to walk out of darkness, to feel less alone. We end misconceptions like “crazy,” so people can find truth and solutions instead.

My postpartum anxiety subsided slowly, with the help of three things:

Rest

I made a pact with my Dr. that I would do nothing or read a book for pleasure for one hour an afternoon, every afternoon. Sometimes I read a novel, sometimes I read the Bible. This was the first time in my life I ever sat down and read the Bible for reading sake, enjoying the words and soaking in the peace of it. It was a learned skill, cultivating rest, and I’m not sure I would have ever learned it without my doctor’s encouragement and help.

Support

She encouraged me to be more open about my struggle. She asked me to pick three people I could talk to about it that week, and who I could call on at any time if I needed help. As a new wife and mom, I was so afraid that I wasn’t doing life “right” that I was a closed book. I had no idea people were so important in this mom gig. Because of this struggle, and this wisdom, I have since learned that without people, everything is infinitely harder, less enjoyable, and life is laden with guilt and shame. People matter more than most anything – for my own good, as well as theirs.

Medication/Supplements

Doctors and other professionals are absolutely the best people to explain this. Let my encouragement be this: there is a time and a place for medications. There is no shame in utilizing medication as a part of treatment for any physical or mental health issue. It may take time and energy to find the right one, the right dose, and the right timing. My doctor prescribed me an as-needed medication and those as-needed moments came. I was grateful she had foresight to see past my flippant “I’ll be fine” to push a little harder, explaining and reassuring me with kindness and grace.

There is no crazy.

Life is hard.

Life is good.

Christ gives us the gift of one another, the wisdom of people He places in our lives, just for this purpose – to share His Hope in the struggle and His joy in the victory.

For more information on postpartum anxiety diagnosis and treatment, please see the following links, or ask your doctor or local mental health provider. I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to message me from the “About Me” page of this blog or share in the comments below:

Postpartum Support International

lots of resources for individuals and professionals also, symptoms, online support, and more

The Other Postpartum Problem: Anxiety

a really helpful, normalizing article from parents.com

2020 Mom Project

advocacy, awareness, and resources for maternal mental health

 

Love the Sojourner

First of all, this is not a political post.

Second of all, this is a Jesus post.

Neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, immigrants, refugees….

The truth is, we are all sojourners. We are strangers in a strange land.

Our land never quite feels right. We don’t quite fit in. We don’t know where to put things like loss, heartbreak, hate, anger, fear, doubt, pain, grief, war, shame.

Just like the children of Israel slugging it through slavery in the land of Egypt, we look around, we see sin and its consequences, and we know the truth – we are sojourners traveling through a land briefly. Our home is eternal. Our home is comfort in the arms of our Savior. Our home is the feast to come, the victory of heaven, not the blackening landscape of a home that passes away.

We get glimpses of this land through His Word, His sacraments, and through one another.

For this reason, Deuteronomy 10:19 speaks His Word of direction to us:

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

God gently reminds Israel and us of all we’ve been given, of the freedom that has been won, of where we have been, of where we are headed, so that when we look in the eyes of our neighbor, we’ll see our own experience as the sojourner far off…the sojourner who was once a stranger to God, welcomed with open arms, by a neighbor named Jesus.

We GET to be part of all of that. We get to be welcomers into the Body of Christ and the kingdom, because we ourselves have been welcomed, not because we have lived in Haiti, or Germany, or Africa but because we have eternity. We have a home with no shame, a new home of grace that will one day be full and complete.

We have been brought out, so that others may be brought in.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

Who are these others? Look around you. Who is on the outskirts looking in? Who are those that do not know what we know of grace? We can reach across our lawns and we can reach across our oceans and love, love, and love some more.

God does not limit Himself to what is visible in providing for our needs. There is always more room, more trust, more mercy, more comfort, and more provision in the economy of Christ. Where do we doubt His ability to keep us safe, to provide resources for us, and to give us strength when we look at the sojourner in need?

Just as God answers the fears of the people of Israel proactively, He answers ours in the same Word.

Deuteronomy 10:20-22:

20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

He is your praise. Look what He has done! Can He who raises the dead provide what we need to love? Why yes, I think He can.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

A tiny little command, tucked inside a whole lot of promise.

We raise our hands in Praise to Him who can, and simply ask Him to point us in the direction of where to send all the love.

 

Free Love the Sojourner iPhone Wallpaper

Look for the Love the Sojourner line coming out in May 2017, on our Products with a Message page. #surroundme #starttheconversation #productswithamessage

 

Ministry Moment: Good Gifts Prayer Walk

“One day we went to Guatemala and my prayer life was transformed.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much a work in progress. But once upon a time, 11 years ago we were invited to partner in mission work with those working in and around the Guatemala City garbage dump. I went to teach VBS. Who doesn’t love a good VBS? That’s my gig. I can easily organize a chaotic group of kids to sing and play and discover the promise of Hope in the Word of Christ Jesus. No problem. I was shocked when one day the missionary walked us through a shanty village and abruptly stated, “Now we will pray.”

Before I knew it we were knocking on doors and entering homes by the invitation of warm, but weary, residents. We introduced ourselves and said who we were with. We asked one question – “Is there a way we can pray for you today?”

I expected resistance. Heck, I was surprised anyone even opened their door. I expected small things, practical prayers, based on physical needs – the need for food, clean water, a better home than their current cardboard and corrugated metal shanty, or more money…any money…

What we got were prayers for healing after the loss of a stillborn child named Emilio, prayers for strength and others to walk alongside in the battle of alcohol addiction, prayers for a teenage son to know the Lord among the voices of friends who would only share with him darkness, and prayers for hope after a child had been kidnapped from them while they slept in their beds.

No where on this earth do we have less struggle, less concerns.

No where are we more desperate for the love and hope of Jesus. We all NEED it. We needed it yesterday, we’ll need it today, and by golly, you better believe that whatever tomorrow brings we are going to need it.

I realized that praying is a simple kindness with deep roots. Praying together is the sharing of the burden with one another so that together you can place it on the shoulders of Christ Jesus, the only one who can really hold it anyway.

I literally groaned with one mother, selfishly thinking of my 18-month-old, praying together for our children by the Spirit grace of a Spirit who intercedes when there are no words, no words (Romans 8:26-27). The beautiful thing is that groans of a fellow mother overcome the language barrier like few other things can.

Praying with others on this trip wasn’t about me and what I would learn and do, but isn’t it always like God to refine and teach in every moment? When we returned back to the States my conscience poked and prodded me. Why don’t I do this more? What is holding me back? So I made a concerted effort to pray with people like mad. And I mean like mad. I had to rip a Band-aid of distrust and embarrassment off like you would not believe! I still do, every day. I just have to do it…or I won’t. Every day it’s a battle of the Spirit in me against the Prince of Darkness –

“Pray with them…pray for them…just ask…I am with you…”

“What can your little prayers do?! Don’t humiliate yourself! They don’t want your prayers anyway!”

Thank goodness there is confession and forgiveness, and He doesn’t really need me to do His work, He just invites me to be a part of it all. Praise God that even prayer holds the same grace as every other piece of life lived with a Savior and Redeemer.

So, as part of our study of James, I created a prayer walk. It’s usable, whether you have studied James recently or not. Use it in your individual prayer life, in your small group Bible study, in your women’s group, at a prayer breakfast, anywhere! Here’s some ideas to get you started.

Some ideas for using the prayer walk:

Get up and walk! πŸ˜‰ It’s good for us. Walk around your neighborhood, your church, your work place, anywhere and let in a little Gospel light by silently or quietly praying as you go.

Use the prayer walk for a “walk through James” as you sit in your chair for quiet time with the Lord. Spread the prayer walk out over multiple days, and pray one segment a day. You could do it on repeat for a season as well.

Journal your prayer journey with the prayer walk in your journaling Bible, prayer journal, a notebook, or scrap pieces of paper. Post it notes and 3×5 notecards are a personal favorite. Just get it out of your brain and into open space to share with the Lord.

Host a prayer breakfast or luncheon and work through the prayer walk (sitting or walking) as part of the program, or all of the program.

Use the prayer walk as an intentional time of prayer in your marriage. Use it every night for 9 days, or spread it out for 9 weeks, or whatever works.

Got another idea? Share it with us in the comments so that we can learn and grow together. Did you do something that works? Feel free to share that in the comments as well.

Pray, praise, and give thanks. Ask. Seek. Knock. Let the Spirit dwell richly. Watch and see what He has in store. He gives generously…

Click here for the free printable prayer walk

Confess Hope

 

It’s that time of year again, the time when New Year’s resolutions begin to creep out your back door when you weren’t looking.

There’s grace for that.

I’m not a resolution keeper, but I’m not really a resolution maker either. I’m one of the breed of people who choose one word for the year. However, I egregiously fail at keeping rules of any kind, particularly when they encourage keeping words to a minimum. I’m like a window shopper who has restraint in buying but absolutely no restraint in trying things on- I’ll try this one, and this one, and this one, maybe this one, two of those…

My one word is almost always two, or three, maybe four, if any of you remember from last year’s Fearlessly Wrong post. This year I was able to keep it to two words. Clean and simple. If I were honest, though, it’s not really my doing. My words were chosen in that way the Holy Spirit has when you read or hear a text of Scripture and a few specific words reach into your body and grab ahold with an unmistakable fierceness that cannot be ignored.

As I led a retreat this fall, Hebrews 10:23 resonated in my ears, and for many days after the retreat ended:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hope is a beautiful thing. Without it we fade and we wither. I have visibly watched this happen, when life crashes in and hope drains from a face…a mother who loses a child, a friendship abandoned, a marriage left out to dry.

Most of you reading this as Christians know the Truth that our hope does not fade and it never disappoints. Our verse in Hebrews tells us that it’s stable and sturdy, because it depends on the Maker, who is ever and always faithful. But let me tell you another story. A story of people that do not know Hope as we know Hope. Sometimes life rolls in and covers us like a flood, the earth shakes beneath our feet with family drama, long held back pain rises to the surface, and people do not know where to turn. Who helps when hope seems lost? Can you even imagine, my friend? A world with no hope, with shifting hope, with forgotten or disappointing hope?

Our Savior offers us something different.

He offers us an anchor of Hope (Hebrews 6:19)

A Hope unshaken (2 Corinthians 1:7)

A Living Hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

A Hope of Joy (Proverbs 10:28)

A Hope for Trouble (Jeremiah 14:8)

A Hope that does not shame (Philippians 1:20)

But they will not know if we do not confess it. God can work any way that He wants, but He chooses to work through our words very often. He puts Hope in us undaunted and pouring out. He helps us to reach across the table at the coffee shop and say,

β€œLet me tell you my story of Hope.”

How has God worked Hope in your life? What has He brought you through? What adventures has He taken you on? What rock has He set your feet upon in troubled times and in times of victory? What path have you journeyed on and discovered more of Him and less of wantonness?

This is confessing hope. God weaves His Word into our hearts and when we tell the ways in which He has helped us find hope or see hope more clearly, we help someone else see hope in the darkness and in the light.

Confess Hope

Will you confess it with me this year? Share with us how you confess hope each day in the comments below. Spur us on to confess our Hope boldly in the Lord. You can print the Confess Hope wall art below. Tack it up somewhere to be seen and remembered. Put it in a pretty frame and give it to a friend who could use an extra dose of hope this winter. Save it as your phone wallpaper. Share it at your family table. Print small copies and hand them out like little pieces of hope candy, from your purse or your backpack. Leave them in surprising places. Whatever you do…

Confess Hope

May the words roll off our tongue in the comfortable and the uncomfortable places, to share Christ Jesus, to share Hope.

β€œMy Hope comes from the Lord…Maker of heaven and earth. Let me tell you a little bit about it…”

 

Click on the image to download the pdf file. Thank you to Jennifer Tinkey for creating this reminder for us!