My Struggle with Depression: When depression is white

I’ve already shared with you how I was to be the perfect mom with the perfect child, and we all know that turned into an epic fail. One of the catalysts to my realization that I wasn’t enough, would never be enough, and actually needed to learn to ask for help was my ongoing struggle with depression. It has been both a brutal master and an eye-opening, soul cleansing journey.

Judah was determined from birth to match my determination for perfection with his own will. I was dead set on natural child-birth. I had taken Bradley classes, learned the stages of labor, and written out my birth plan to be delivered to my doctor. The plan got thrown off but not completely derailed in my 37th week when my blood pressure skyrocketed and I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia. But I still determined to do it natural. After 16 hours of induced pitocin labor, and the encouraging comment from one of the labor nurses that they were lowering my pitocin even though I was only at 3cm because my uterus might rupture from the strength of the contractions, I relented. I took a shot that did nothing for the pain but made me extremely loopy and nauseous. Yay me! I was then  thwarted 27 hours later  by an emergency c-section.

Postpartum Depression at delivery

photo credit by koadmunkek

One of the parenting books I read in my quest for perfect mothering was Babywise. Other moms swore by it and I was determined to do it right from the get go. I started sleep training my newborn in the hospital. Realize folks that I had to have an emergency C-section at 37 weeks after 27 hours of excruciating pitocin induced labor. I was exhausted. The epidural had left me so numb that I could not sit up without assistance. I tried to breastfeed but the nurse had to prop Judah up and he refused to latch on.

I felt powerless and scared. I did what any determined, immature new mom with my control freak personality would do. I enforced order to the situation. I laid him swaddled in that sterile plastic bassinet and decided to wait until he woke to start him on his nursing schedule. That’s right folks, stay with me. I was going to put him on a nursing schedule. Brilliant.

I had read that it was healthier for them to nurse at regular intervals, never to fall asleep at the breast: lest they pick up bad habits and never learn to self soothe.

In retrospect, I think my need for approval and to be seen as a good mother, as well as my own pride severely clouded my judgement. If I could go back I’d take that Babywise book and slap myself with it before tossing it out with Judah’s poopy diapers. Then I’d settle that little newborn bundle of goodness into the hollow spot under my neck and let him nuzzle himself to sleep. But I didn’t know then what I know now.

New Parents

Thus began my first year with Judah that would include failure for my milk to come in for almost two weeks, an infection from the c-section, mastitis, jaundice, too many sleepless nights to count because I wouldn’t let him fall asleep nursing, severe postpartum depression that would blind me to the joy that new mothering could bring and left me lost and isolated. I had closed myself off to others, too fatigued and overwhelmed to muster the energy it would take to connect.

This depression was white. Often when I read about depression, it is a deep, painful, dark place. A burrowing into oneself. But this was something else entirely and it made it even harder to recognize. This depression was sterile, white, blinding. Like a cold winter of the soul. It didn’t hurt so much as make me numb. I walked around in a stupor. Life was bland, tasteless, joyless.

fluorescent light

photo credit by pellesten

 I suppose I functioned to a degree, after all, I was maniacal about sleep training, nursing on a schedule, and meeting Judah’s basic needs. I think I even hung out with friends occasionally and had play dates, so long as they didn’t interfere with our schedule. I was going through the motions as best I could.

What I lacked was connection. This depression was so white, its glare penetrated deep and washed out any feeling. I simply was. I existed but did not thrive. I lived through Judah’s first year in this zombie-state.

The pain isn’t always in the depths of the depression. In the thick of it, I didn’t even realize how numb I had become. I didn’t long to feel anything because I didn’t long to feel at all. How does a leper who has lost all feeling know that their damaged nerves are no longer sensitive? It is often when the infection sets in and is visible to everyone.  

The pain comes later, as the white dims and everything is cast in a hazy glow, and things start to come into focus. It is in that place that the pain begins. 

 Next post: My Struggle with Depression: Pain in the fog

 Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and if you don’t, I say great, but chances are that someone close to you, someone you care about will experience some form of depression in their lives. It’s often misunderstood, especially in the church, where the joy of the Lord is supposed to be our strength. Are only the weak in faith depressed? What of Charles Spurgeon , who struggled with devastating depression for most of his life? How do we react when positive thinking is supposed to lift us miraculously from any mire we stumble in? How do we live and walk in faith while addressing issues like depression?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’m linking up at

Comments

  1. Jamie (@va_grown) says

    I’ve struggled with depression too, and dark and deep are some of the agectives that people understand it with, I think (as much as an outsider can, anyway) but in my most internal places, I’ve always thought of it as grey. Completely grey. Unending grey. Just never any color to life. Just a perpetual greyness that numbs you to anything. Finding my way out felt like I was slowly seeing in color again. Noticing my children’s bright blue eyes…seeing brilliant purple irises over dark green stems…seeing the warmth of a copper-bottom pan in the kitchen…I understand your white. Thanks for sharing!

    • Alia Joy says

      I think depression itself is such a personal thing and everyone experiences it a bit different. I really enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences, trials, and triumphs in these things. I am glad that you have started seeing in color again. Beautiful. Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the connection. :)

  2. Katie Orr says

    Oh, yes. We do have much in common! I didn’t experience depression until year four of mommy-hood, but I relate to the struggle, and the idealism (down to the natural childbirth, and Babywise.)

    Thankful for the one Who is so faitfhul to bring us out of our depression!

  3. Sarah says

    That was so well put! I have struggled with depression for most of my life. I have had dark times, but I would say that many periods have been exactly as you described. I also suffered even more when those who had probably never been depressed a day in their lives told me I didn’t have enough faith. I just found your blog the other day via the fat suit is stuck post. I feel like I identify with everything you have written. Keep it up!

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks so much Sarah. I am glad that there are so many like-minded people out there and we can all encourage and spur each other on in productive ways instead of judging one another for our trials. I am glad you stopped by and I hope you’ll visit again. :)

  4. Heidi Stone says

    I think we struggle with depression too much. We feel deeply. At least I believe we are created to do so. Those who refuse to allow themselves that gift are shadows of their divine purpose.

    Sometimes we feel pain, fear, loneliness, emptiness more deeply than joy, love and accomplishment. For me? That’s pretty much all the time.

    It’s not wrong to be depressed. Frankly, I think it’s more wrong to be Eternally Joyful (and annoying). The reality is that we will struggle in life far more often than we will succeed. That’s where strength comes from. The struggle.

    There is no shame in having been weak. That’s when He is strong.

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, I suppose for me it was the not feeling deeply that signified deep depression more than any feeling at all. When I’m really in the depths of it, I don’t feel at all. Nothing stirs me. When I start to come out of it, the most common place of the struggle, there’s pain and deep feeling. And yes, that is absolutely when He is strong.

      • Heidi Stone says

        I think what I failed at saying was that there are seasons for everything. I get depression. Really. Chunks of my life where there is nothing worth remembering and all that’s left is a fuzzy recollection of going through the motions.

        Walking through that. Crawling, rather, has shown me so many, many things about my own self, about God, about compassion that when I “feel” the darkness falling I know I can endure. That it is only for a season. Having a friend who actually gave me “permission” to be exactly where I was instead of the Onward & Upward cheerleaders who tormented me with their perpetual success gave me the space to BE exactly where I was.

        Argh. I’m making a mess of this… It’s all about grace. Having some for ourselves and for others and learning to trust God to keep us when we have and when we have not…

        kwim?

        • Alia Joy says

          I had to google what kwim meant. LOL I thought it might have been a typo for swim??? Yes, I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN, and you didn’t butcher your thoughts. I do think we have to be where we are and allow God to work in the midst and that our closest friends are those that surround and envelope us in it all. I also know grace is the key to all empathy and understanding. It’s what opens our hearts to all the glorious mess this world has to offer and where we find those moments of joy. So we definitely need that in dealing with anyone going through something that we’re not but I also know that when I see my closest friends, whether numb or hurting or sinking in it all, I don’t want to rah rah rah and form a pyramid or shake my pom poms ( well, maybe I still do want to shake my pom poms) but I do want to extend my hand. Cling tight to theirs and let them know that this too shall pass. That they’re not alone and that God has purposed it all for His glory. It’s hard to see in the deepest pit or the glaring light but it helps to be able to feel our way out with someone who has been there or someone who hasn’t but is still willing to hold tight. The cheerleaders who really stink aren’t those that are well intentioned people who genuinely want to encourage but the ones who stare pridefully from their pyramid while doing split jumps in your face. Thanks for sharing your heart, dear friend, such a joy to get to know you better.

  5. Shelly says

    Thanks for sharing your glaring white with me Alia.
    As an ‘older’ woman, I can add a big amen to your throwing out Babywise with the diapers! You go, wise mom! God designed moms to love and nurture their babies, not to listen to men tell us how best to raise them. :)
    I too struggle with depression. My neurotransmitters are not at their best here in Alaska, and God gives me grace to walk through each day. I also have His strength to share with others walking this path through the valley of the shadow or in the blinding whiteness.
    You have done a great service to other women by honestly sharing your struggle.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Shelly, I’m glad that you are using your struggles to connect and relate to other women who are in the same place or who think they are all alone. It’s in community that we are able to help lift each other up. God really can use anything for His glory.

  6. June Gray says

    Hi Alia: I remember meeting your parents years ago in Holland. I was wondering if you’ve read Henry Wright’s book, the Spiritual Roots of Disease. It is a very insightful book into many different diseases of man including depression. You can get it on kindle. He has a wonderful healing ministry in Georgia that God has blessed.

    • Alia Joy says

      June, Thanks for visiting my blog. I have read Henry Wright’s book and unfortunately I feel many of the things he writes about to be unbiblical. I absolutely believe that sickness can be caused by spiritual roots and we are to examine our hearts in light of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit’s convictions. I also believe that there are those who are in the body of Christ who are sick because of unrepentant hearts and unconfessed sin. However, I believe Wright takes things too far and I found a large majority of his scriptural references to be taken out of context and applied haphazardly based on incorrect interpretation. Health is an issue where we want to have control.
      Health and wealth gospels are attractive because they give us a sense of control. I think that Wright’s message is popular because he offers definite solutions to sickness. Wright claims the source for most diseases is sin alone. If you repent of sin then you will not get sick and if you are sick, you will be healed. As Christians, we don’t want sin in our lives so it seems like an ideal solution. But I would argue that God often uses sickness to glorify himself. God does promise his people abundant life, but according to many popular health and wealth preachers, all of the righteous should have perfect health and wealth. That disqualifies all of the apostles including Paul, who had a thorn in the flesh that God chose not to remove so that His strength would be demonstrated. Health and wealth are a means of contrived control over our circumstances, if we do A, B, and C, then we will have abundant life but the biblical perspective shows that true abundant life is God’s outpouring of joy in the midst of trials, even sickness. The biblical abundant life has little to do with circumstances. It is found in relationship with Christ. Sickness is not always the result of sin. As seen in John 9:2-3 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. Wright says in his book that Paul’s affliction was due to sin and Job’s affliction was due to fear, where the Bible absolutely contradicts both of those assumptions with direct statements. I don’t know Henry Wright’s personal character and thus would assume he is genuine in wanting to help people but I worry that this kind of misguided theology can cause people to question something that God is doing and associate guilt if indeed they are not healed. If they read in Wright’s book that their ailment is associated with anxiety but they are not anxious, they will search for areas or over analyze their thoughts to try to pinpoint something. This causes one to be overly focused on self an not Christ focused where all abundant life flows from. I know many people believe that depression is something that is spiritual only and true Christians shouldn’t suffer from it but I haven’t found scripture to support that and I feel it does a disservice to those who genuinely suffer in spite of a close relationship with Christ. I do appreciate your taking the time to comment even if I have to respectfully disagree. Blessings to you and yours.

  7. Shelly Smith says

    Just found your blog, and already love it! I relate so very much to your experience with post-partum depression. Like you, I felt a “maniacal” need for control after the birth of my first son, and also felt that a “schedule” (aka Babywise) was the only way to get it! I felt very anxious during those first few (foggy) months. I often tell other new moms that PPD is very different for different women. It is not only “blues” or sadness! I think your description of the whiteness is case in point.
    I am thankful for a great husband, a loving church family and supportive friends who helped pull me through that rough time! Having a loving and compassionate Father was also key to my recovery!! I look forward to reading more as I have a look around…

    • Alia Joy says

      Shelly, I am so glad to have you here. I think it’s such an important topic to discuss because depression can look so different for each person and most suffer silently. New moms tend to be isolated anyway just because of sheer exhaustion so it’s such a blessing that you had so much support and love around you to help you through that time. Good for you, sharing with other moms. Our stories matter and can do so much to help each other not feel alone in the midst of it all. Hope to have you as a reader here and thanks for leaving a comment.

  8. Kristi says

    I love you even more, Alia, after reading this! Thank you so much for vulnerably sharing your precious journey through this. This post is inspiring me to once again attempt to put words to my own similar story. Every time I try to make sense of it in word-form everything gets muddled and I feel like I’m slipping down a slope into incoherence. Argh. Thank you for sharing. I’ll try to get mine down, too, and hope it brings healing to myself and maybe even someone else who can identify…

    • Alia Joy says

      Oh Kristi, I love you too and miss you bunches. Yeah, it’s been an ongoing struggle for me and there have been many different ways that this has showed up through the years but I have found a lot of support and connection through sharing here, even when all I have to say is “today is hard.” I’d love to chat more and I pray you find healing and comfort and know that you are not alone. Love you cousin.

  9. Trinity says

    You have no idea how much this post blessed me today. You GET it! You understand and eloquently put into words, what I can’t seem to. I too have suffered with depression for years, and have berated myself, on so many occasions, for lacking the faith to “get over it.” PPD was horrible during both of my pregnancies, and I clearly remember that same, stumbling around feeling. Thank you for sharing….through your writing, you’re helping and blessing others, and I’m anxious to read more.

    • Alia Joy says

      Trinity,
      I don’t know how your comment slipped by but I was reviewing old posts and here it is. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I am so glad that you know you are not alone. It is so hard sometimes isn’t it? To NOT feel like a failure that should just move on and snap out of it. I am so blessed that you are also willing to talk about it. I know that since I started sharing, it really helps to have people who get it.

  10. Tam says

    I like your comparison of depression being white. I’ve experienced depression since the age of 12 on and off. I am 40 now. It appears to run in my family. Thankfully I haven’t had an episode in a while.

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