Friday, July 21, 2006A Mother's Dark Night of the Soul
I write as a mother. A 29 year-old mother of 6 children, 4 of which I have the honor of raising, 2 of which I have the honor of their intercession from heaven. I write as a mother who has sacrificed material comfort at times instead of sacrificing the honor of raising and growing my family. A mother who has taken on the beautiful burden of educating my children. A convert of 6 years, smitten by the intimacy of the Son of God through the Holy Eucharist. A wife of 9 years, married just at the end of my teenage years growing up together, growing in mature love. A mother who seeks the truth and strives to live it, sometimes at a great expense to my pride.
I write as a mother with a past life. Another life I led before I even knew the man I married. A life of a sad, sad childhood, growing into adolescence, the tender years of becoming a woman, living what I learned, to my destruction. Now, many years later, haunted by this other life, I would ask the Lord to heal me, begging to be pure, clothed in white, erasing the sin from my memory. The healing came. It came through a severe depression I experienced a year ago shortly after giving birth to my daughter. This dark place, where I felt helpless, sleepless, forcing myself to eat for lack of appetite, where terrifying thoughts invaded my mind, chest aching from constant anxiety attacks. This dark place where I kissed the bloody feet of the crucified Lord with The Pure and Holy Mother as my only comfort. This dark place labeled post-partum depression: this dark place is where I found the healing I've longed for all along.
I found many companions in this place, a surprising amount of mothers, suffering as well in varying degrees. Women I know and respect, suffering silently who only shared with me their depression because I was open about my own. Most encouraged medication but I decided, while open to it, I would do that only as a last resort. Along with spiritual counsel from a priest, I sought help from a nutritionist who had me take some natural supplements and make some dietary changes (that lessened much of the problem) along with doing some Chinese medicine. But the best help possible, something I've always been too proud to "stoop down" and receive, was counseling from a psycologist. While the supplements and herbs and purity in my diet gently regulated my body, the psychologist taught me the very simple way of coping with the anxiety attacks, the irrational fears which plagued me and the intruding thoughts that made me feel I was going crazy.
I learned so much from that knowledgeable woman. I learned to not be afraid of anxiety and that if I let the attack happen it would actually go away. I learned to enter in to the intrusive thoughts that attacked my mind, letting the thoughts come no matter how scary and severe. My spiritual advisor, Fr. Phillip, told me to do this while holding the hand of the Blessed Mother and in the other hand, Our Lord. If I let this happen the thoughts actually started to go away. I had developed fears of many things which, though silly sounding, I will share so my dear sisters who suffer these will know they're not alone: elevators, driving, car washes, dentists, car garages and tight, crowded spaces. I found that thinking about these and the anticipation are more scary than the actual going through. Though I've been healed of all these fears (e.g. I'll go in an elevator, no problem) they still pop up here and there but I'm not afraid anymore and I deal with them as they come.
My past is part of me that won't go away and I've accepted that. I recently wrote a song about it and here's the general idea of the song: My past is like a book on my shelf. One I don't dare open up and face and it has sat there for years. Well, I finally open it up read the tragedy. I mourn over it and see how God was there all along. I close it up and put it back on my shelf, accepting as part of me all the details~ and I turn around and walk on. Depression is very real and very scary. The Merciful God, who causes ALL things to work together for good, used this for my healing, for the good of my soul, my family and my marriage, though at the time I couldn't see this. God felt so far from me. In faith I held tight to the promise that He would never leave me nor forsake me. Though all my senses felt deprived of His compassion, He really was so near, tenderly loving me, His beloved daughter. In faith I said "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."
We women, as mothers need each other, and I firmly believe we are not meant to do it alone. My next post will be my thoughts on this. Dear mothers who suffer this darkness, I write all this so you know you're not alone even though it feels like it. I write this so all will have understanding and compassion, for in that dark place words fail to describe what the spirit groans.
-Kerensa writes from Annapolis, MD