I had heard of postpartum depression before I ever got pregnant. Many times. But to be honest, I never thought too much about it. That may happen to others but it won’t happen to me, I would think in unfounded arrogance. I’m not the depressed type.
And then…I had my first baby and the biggest reality check ever. On the day we got home from the hospital, I began to experience feelings and thoughts that I’d never experienced in my entire life. I was bombarded by fear and anxiety and it really scared me. And I truly began to understand why there is medication for this stuff.
Postpartum depression is said to be experienced by 1 in every 7 women who give birth. That may not seem like a lot, but the woman going through it would definitely wish she was one of the other six.
I always assumed that I would be one of the other six. That’s because I had no knowledge or understanding of the hows and whys of postpartum depression. It was definitely not what I thought it would be. In hindsight, however, even though that was an extremely challenging time of my life, I wouldn’t change it because it gave me strategies that I’ve used to help many other women.
So here’s my story. I’ll share what happened to me, how I overcame, and encouragement for your journey.
My first pregnancy was awesome. I was still in super shape from just having finished my senior year of college volleyball a little less than a year prior, so it felt like my body carried my baby pretty effortlessly. My assumption at the time was that I was going to breeze through birth and adore my life as a new stay at home mom. In my mind, it was going to be an easy life.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, as I mentioned previously, I was almost overtaken by feelings I’d never felt before as soon as we got home from the hospital. Intense and irrational feelings of fear. This continued for weeks. I’d all of a sudden get concerned about something happening to the baby, and I could literally physically feel fear and anxiety in my soul. Oh yeah, and I’d randomly cry about these things.
Thankfully, this episode didn’t last very long; I would say a few months max. After that I was pretty much back to normal. Whew! Glad that’s over! I thought.
Which it was. Until my next postpartum.
What I experienced after the birth of my second daughter can only be described as downright demonic. I’m talking about fear to a level that would put many people on serious meds or in mental places for sure. I don’t know if having a c-section had anything to do with it or not, but I’m sure it probably didn’t help.
Everything seemed to be fine after she was born. After all, the Lord had done a miracle in my body after her birth and restored my blood count levels supernaturally (I will post all my birth stories soon!). So everything was good for a couple months.
After that, it started. I began to sense the presence of fear. No, I take that back..I began to literally feel the presence of fear. Daily it would be present, and daily I would spend time trying go figure out what in the world was going on.
Let me describe to you what my mental world looked like at this time: I would wake up in the morning without thinking about fear. I’d open my eyes and start thinking about my day when *swoosh*…like a lingering black cloud, fear would move in and I would remember all the thoughts I battled with the previous day. It was terrible.
I would get awful, and I mean awful, images in my mind over and over. My mind would be bombarded with intrusive thoughts from out of nowhere. And after several weeks of battling this, I was looking for some relief!! I would constantly think, God, what is going on? What is this?
I tried talking to people about it. Some told me it was normal and they prayed for me. Others gave me encouraging words. But still, I felt that no one really understood what I was experiencing on the inside, and while I’m thankful for these people, nothing really gave me the help that I needed at the time.
Weeks turned into months. I sought the Lord like crazy. I repented. I spent extra time in worship. I searched my heart and forgave anybody and everybody I could possibly be holding a grievance against.
But still…nothing changed.
The crazy thing was, I could feel the Presence of God very strong during this whole time. I could feel His nearness in a way that I’d never experienced before. But my mind remained under attack with tormenting thoughts and images. And it had progressed to the point that I could literally physically feel something going on in my brain.
One night I decided that enough was enough. I was going to put myself before the Lord until He gave me an answer about this madness I was facing. I could tell that I needed understanding, but I didn’t have it at the time. So into worship I went. I put on Kim Walker’s Still Believe album and worshipped for a little over an hour.
And then the Lord spoke clearly to my heart.
Here’s what He said:
You never have to go through anything on your own. You never have to face anything on your own. You never have to handle anything on your own.
This shook me and amazed me all at once. It also came like a wave of healing to my fear-stricken soul.
It was then that I really understood that the devil had been planting fearful thoughts of being alone in my mind. Irrational thoughts of being in an emotional place where no one could help me.
And that was all a big, fat lie.
You see, the enemy really loves to try to bully us. He uses his weapon of lying to try to ruin our lives. But it will only work if we choose to believe him.
I was then reminded of something I read in a book called The Believer’s Authority. The author relays a story where the Lord taught him that it was his responsibility to use his God-given authority to rule over these kinds of things.
James 4:7 says for us to “submit therefore to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I began to understand that I don’t have to let unwanted thoughts into my mind! In fact, not only that, but I’m actually supposed to rule over these unwanted thoughts by resisting them when they come!
From that point, I began to resist all intrusive thoughts and refused to agree with the crazy things I saw in my mind’s eye. I can remember telling God, “Your Word says to resist the devil and he will flee. I’m putting everything I have on this Word…I really hope it works!”. When I would sense fear and fearful thoughts, I would immediately begin to praise and worship God and say, “I refuse to agree with these thoughts! I will not obey them!” The first time I did this, they left almost immediately. I was ecstatic!!
However, because the devil doesn’t actually believe you really mean what you say, the intrusive thoughts came like a wave two more times during the next week when I was busy doing normal house chores. And both times I did exactly what I did the first time: I resisted them by refusing to allow them in mind or agree with them. And they never came back again.
I’ve had two children since then. When I was in my third pregnancy, I vowed that I would never again go through postpartum depression and I never have. While I’m thankful for that, I also want to help you avoid this crazy trap of mental and emotional suffering. So here’s some hard earned wisdom from my journey with postpartum depression. I hope it gives you courage to succeed in your own journey!
Recognize the source of intrusive, unwanted thoughts
I struggled for months wondering why I was having the thoughts I was having. I kept looking internally, wondering if there was seriously something wrong with me!
My fault in this was to assume that these thoughts came from myself. I mean, the thoughts were scaring the mess out of me. I thought, what kind of person am I to think stuff like this? It’s so awful!!
Through prayer and studying the Word, I realized that the devil is the Great Suggester. In other words, he attempts to plant lies into our minds in order to destroy our lives. He banks on us agreeing with these things and acting on them, and when we do that, it gives him permission to wreak havoc in our lives.
On the other hand, truth causes us to think clearly. Truth is what we’re wired for. So if you are experiencing unwanted or intrusive thoughts, don’t self-condemn. Just understand that this is the work of the enemy.
Refuse to agree with all that is not truth
We empower lies by agreeing with them, so don’t ever agree or act on an intrusive thought, especially if they involve hurting other people or yourself.
This being said, I do urge you not to try to go through something like this yourself. Reach out for help where you can. Above all, you need to know that it’s absolutely possible to manage what you allow into your mind. Not only possible, I should say, but mandatory!
“For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7.
Understand the authority that you have
Finally, all believers have authority that is given by God. Along with meditating on Scripture, it would greatly benefit you to get a copy of The Believer’s Authority. I can’t emphasize enough how this helped light my path out of what could have been a very bad ending. God wants us to operate in the authority He’s given us, so we need to grow in understanding of this to do it well!
While I would never desire to experience this again, this experience has given me understanding that I’ve used to help many new moms (and even others who aren’t moms). Even if you aren’t pregnant or postpartum, I hope this helps you to win the battle of the mind that every one of us faces.