Overseas life, postpartum crazy train, anxiety.
Life can be such a mixed bag of circumstances and heart issues, can’t it? All I knew was that I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t ok, a bleak and hopeless mess within the walls of my mind and clinging to Jesus.
Externally, I was living my dream. Married to my man, life and ministry among a people group we just adored, and a dreamboat of a new baby. I was head over heels bonded with my tiny human, wild with love hormones for my tiny three person family. But there was the cloud of anxiety.
Daymares played on repeat like vivid movie scenes across my brain. My baby’s accidental mortality played out in a dozen perverted ways in vivid detail. Taking a casual walk down the busy street in front of our house to get an iced latte (my vice when the loneliness was so palpable), played pictures in my mind of our stroller losing a wheel and veering off into oncoming traffic, baby flying to her death. A lofted hallway in our house was the scene of me tripping while I was holding her and toppling her to the first floor. Wide awake nightmares.
The reality is that she was always safe, always protected, yet my filter to dismiss illegitimate fears was swallowed up in zombie-like sleeplessness and disorienting hormones. It all felt entirely real. Irritability, uncontrolled anger toward my husband, tears daily at a minimum, incessant overwhelm, paralysis to make the most basic decisions, and shame enshrouded me. “Is this really who I have become? How did I get here?”
I hated myself and feared this wasn’t temporary, but a permanent change.
Weird thoughts assailed my mind a thousand times on a good day. That wicked one, he’s relentless, isn’t he? But there is a helmet of salvation and the grace of adult common sense that knows the line between appropriate vigilance and unruly fear. The volume on my thoughts was deafening, there was no drowning it out.
Oh, I tried to make myself ok. I memorized scripture while speed-walking around the park across the street. Psalm 43 to be exact. I read my Bible and repented for “not trusting God” enough. But the darkness of mind that comes with postpartum anxiety doesn’t self-diagnose well, and it was flat out wrong theology that trusting in God and a struggle with mental health aren’t at all compatible. While I felt my anxiety separated me from God, I would tell myself now what David spoke thousands of years ago, and Paul after that.
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Psalm 139:11-12
He not only sees through my darkest valley, He is very present with me. He proves His present love in the incarnation of Emmanuel, God with us. The God named in the Old Testament “Jehovah Shammah” God is there. He was near, always close and loving, seeing the time and the way out He would provide, and loving. Always loving.
Its hard to say what the absence of anxiety actually looks like. I’m pretty sure it is the stillness of soul. What the psalmist calls his soul to: stillness (Psalm 46:10) + rest in coming to Jesus (Matthew 11:28-29) + ultimately waiting with truth, hanging on until my heart catches up, that God is for me (Romans 8:31).
The battle has been won on the cross, but His grace to me in the moment is waiting and stillness and trusting that He is the deliverer.
“Be still, my soul. The Lord is on thy side.”