Please note that the following discusses PPD and PPA and was written in part at the height of my PPD.
I will never forget the words that pierced my heart in December 2020. I was barely two months postpartum, in chronic pain, struggling to even care for myself, when from the mouth of my husband came the words, who did not know I was struggling and in crisis, “You need to step it up.”
Words meant as encouragement and a call to action became a drumbeat in my mind, “must step it up, must do more, must try harder. Must step it up, must do more, must try harder. Must step it up, must do more, must try harder.” On and on went the anxious song in my heart.
I became obsessive about cleaning, unable to relax or take a break, unwilling to care for myself. I slipped further and further into depression, losing touch with myself, unable to recognize the person I was in the mirror. While not suicidal, I felt that my husband and my girls would be better with anyone but me.
The full story of my postpartum anxiety and depression is one that is still being written, but as I worked through it and sought help, I came to the heart of my PPD and PPA: all the things that had grounded me, all the strings that I identified as myself—were gone.
I was no longer teaching. I didn’t (and still don’t) fit into any of my clothes. I found myself thrown into stay-at-home parenting during a pandemic. I found myself questioning why, with all my flaws and failures, my husband would wish to remain with me.
I had the distinct sensation of floating midair with nothing to ground me, nothing that I might hold. The winds were strong and picking up, ready to carry me with them, floating me away to a land I did not know. And upon coming to that land, I stared into a mirror. Seeing nothing, I was forced to ask myself, “Who am I? How can I even begin to know myself again?”
And so began the journey.
It is a harsh and cold journey, one for which I was not prepared and one which I did not expect. I have entered into an unknown wilderness, the skies shaded deep blue as purple streaks dance through the sky, the path of possibilities open before me.
The way forward is a journey into my own heart and the heart of Christ, a rediscovering of myself, a radical transformation. In choosing the journey, I choose to die to my old self and allow myself to be made new in Christ. I must expose all my wounds to the abyss of Christ’s Mercy, allow myself to drown, like in baptism, in order to be healed.
I feel I am standing at the edge of a precipice, the wind wailing and moaning around me, staring down into the dark abyss below as waves crash against razor rocks. Behind me, there is a well-beaten path, the only one I have known. There is no alternative path, and so I am left with two options: return to the old path, or step out over the precipice.
The return to the old path means no change, but it will be familiar. It will be dull with no bright or new spots, familiar to the touch as a worn out blanket, its beauty faded with the passage of time. This path thrives on the repetition of the known. The same grayed colors, the same trees, the same plants, the same animals. The seasons here do not change; they are always the same. There is no growth here. There is no change.
Yet, the precipice exposes all of my trembling fears and suppressed emotions. Going over it means leaping with a radical trust, a trust that the fall will not kill me, a trust that the rocks will not break me, a trust that the waves will not drown me. With so many risks, the old path appears as a warm and familiar embrace, though it will be filled with the same pains that have long haunted my heart. Choosing to fall into the abyss means choosing the unknown, foraging forward on a path that is strange and unwelcoming. But what life lies ahead of the abyss? What life may I find beyond the rocks and crashing waves? What calm may be found beyond the storm?
Truthfully, I do not know and cannot know what lies beyond the precipice, beyond facing all the pains and fears that hold me back. But I do know that while there may be pain, there will be growth, that where there is the wild unknown, there will be newfound delights, that where there are crashing waves, there is the Lord’s mercy as He speaks boldly, “Put out into the deep.”
And so, in an act of radical trust, I step forward.
If this has been your journey, do not be afraid.
Christ sees us in our brokenness, and says to us, “Behold, I make all things new.” For though you may be in darkness now, there will soon be light. The journey to Calvary is arduous and painful. Death and dying to self in PPD and PPA is painful.
But you will see the resurrection, and you will be all the stronger for it.
Do not be afraid to step over the precipice. I have been to the bottom of the abyss, and I have opened my wounds to the sea of Christ’s Mercy. And I can tell you that Christ is waiting to embrace you with open arms, to lead you to become the saint He has created you to be, to help You carry this Cross, and to make your heart become more like His.