Originally published Tuesday, 14 January 2014.
"I wonder if you might have postpartum depression" she said.
I looked at my midwife and said, "No. I'm just exhausted and stressed from being so sick since he was born."
Turning from her piercing gaze, I looked over at my newborn resting quietly in his carrier. It had been a month since he was born in the midst of the chaos of a broken down hospital following a category 3 hurricane.
"It's something to consider" she said gently, in the calm voice that all midwives seem to have by nature.
Shaking my head, I smiled and assured her everything would be all right. In my mind, I wanted to say, "I know depression and this isn't it. I lived with it my entire adolescence. Besides, I diagnosed and treated people for depression for a living."
In truth, my pride wanted to say that I knew better than she.
The Reel of Life
There are some scenes in my life that come back to me from time to time. Like a movie reel, it replays in my mind, screen by screen, making me relive past moments as if they had just happened the day before. Sometimes, when I watch this particular film, I wonder what would have happened if I had said, "Maybe you are right" instead of insisting she was wrong.
Maybe then the next scene wouldn't also be on constant replay in my mind.
It's a few years later. This time my oldest is three and I have a second child in that same car carrier. As it turned out, my midwife was right and it took me many months later to realize it. With my second son, I thought I'd be prepared and even started taking antidepressants the moment he was born. But the depression still came and came on with the fierceness of the hurricane that brought me my first child.
The image in my mind goes like this: we were on our way home from running errands. My mind was consumed with dark thoughts, overwhelming sadness, and relentless fatigue. The baby was crying. My oldest was yelling at me about something. They wouldn't stop. I felt myself becoming more and more desperate for it all to stop. The thoughts, the sounds, the intense despair.
Then the strongest urge came over me. It was as though I wasn't in charge anymore. I wanted to drive right into a tree. Maybe then it would all stop. I saw one up ahead. It felt like there was a magnetic pull slowly drawing me toward it. Filled with fear and in hysterics, I called my husband on the phone.
Had he not answered, I do not know what might have happened.
This scene is one that lingers and sometimes haunts me. And for a long time it brought panic and fear. Whenever I felt the least bit sad, I tensed in fear, certain I would fall into the same pit all over again.
Sometimes the stories from our life can define us and rule over us. Images of things we’ve done replay over and over in our mind. Perhaps it is one of the ways the Devil keeps us from looking to the grace of Christ. Guilt and shame shroud us like a thick fog. We can't see anything else but what we have done.
But there is one more scene that now replays in my mind. It's me sitting in my pastor's office, two years ago this month. My life was headed down a similar path and I couldn't get the film to stop playing in my mind. I was fearful and on edge, waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop. With the last shred of hope, I reached out to him.
And there in that office as I sobbed and asked him what I should do, he said to me something that I'll never forget. He said that he heard me tell him about all the things I had tried to do to make the despair go away. He heard my list of coping skills, of trying to change my life's circumstances, of relying on external solutions. "But I haven't heard you tell me how you are trusting in what Christ already did for you." When he said those words I thought, "Well of course I know what Christ did for me, but what does that have to do with my depression? How is that going to help shut the off this valve of tears?"
We went on to talk about what it means that Christ lived a perfect life for me, died for me, and rose from the grave for me. While I didn't leave the office that day completely transformed with a heart as light and carefree as Pollyanna, I did leave with a new seed of hope. As the months went on, that hope grew and grew. Its roots dug deep in my heart and over time started to bear fruit. I began to grasp how the gospel of grace really does apply to all of my life. There is not an area of my heart and soul that Christ does not care about. There is not a circumstance or hardship in my life that he did not die for. There is not one tear I have shed that he will not use to transform me into his likeness. While this memory does not seem earth shattering, the conversation with my pastor reminded me of something I had forgotten. It helped me direct my eyes away from the water beneath my feet and up to Christ; away from my circumstances and to the One who controls the wind, rain, and all life's circumstances.
Redemption for Memories
All of us have stories. We all have chapters of our lives that we wish we could just rip out and erase for good. There are scenes we'd like to skip over and forget they ever happened. But if there is one thing I have learned, without those years in the darkness, I would not appreciate the light. Our stories, while hard and painful, bring us to Christ. Each page, each frame on the screen of our heart, is used in our story of redemption. Every scene plays an important role in the plotline of our rescue story where Jesus brought us from death to life.
I still see those hard scenes play in my mind from time to time. Especially when I visit my doctor's office or drive past that tree in my neighborhood. But those scenes have been washed and redeemed by the blood of Christ and they don't have power over me anymore. Rather than mock me or accuse me, they instead remind me of what God has done. When those memories now appear in my mind, I see the way God has worked to draw me to himself. I see the depth of his grace and mercy. I see the wonder of his love.
Will depression and despair find me again? Perhaps. Maybe. But if they do, I know that no matter how deep the pit I may fall into, God's grace can reach even farther. There is no pit deep enough that He cannot find me. Because if the power of the gospel can raise Jesus from the grave, it will not fail to resurrect hope in my heart. This is the truth that I cling to--until that Final Day when tears and sorrow are no more and just a faint memory of the past.
Do you have scenes from the story of your life that replay over and over in your mind?
Christina Fox, @toshowthemjesus, is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, writer, and coffee drinker, not necessarily in that order. She lives in sunny S. Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ToShowThemJesus.