It’s a joy to welcome Kyleigh Dunn to the blog today as she shares her story of postpartum depression.
Guest blog by Kyleigh Dunn:
I wasn’t caught off guard by postpartum depression (PPD). I’d had it before, and done all I could to prepare for it happening again. But when it came the second time, it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
The first weeks postpartum weren’t perfect, but I felt stable. My body was healing, and I had to keep myself from doing too much. Even so, something felt off, and I felt like PPD was right around the corner. That feeling went away at about a month postpartum, only to have it come crashing down at the six-week mark. I cried out to God, and at first, I knew without a doubt that God was listening, helping, and caring. But somewhere along the way, I felt alone, and instead of sensing the comfort, hope, and reassurance of my Heavenly Father, there was only silence.
Some of it was the whispering of the Devil: Does God really not crush a bruised reed? Why is He piling on more difficulty and stress instead of relieving your trials?
Some of it was my desperation: C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observed, “Was it my own frantic need that slammed [the door] in my face? …you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”
Some of it was a feeling of betrayal – I said “though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” – but He sent trouble and then left me alone.
Some of it echoed Job’s friends. This is all because of your sin; it’s all discipline from God.
Some of it was my own idolatry, trying to make God do what I wanted Him to do, judging His love by His gifts. If you aren’t helping me in the way I want to be helped, You must not be there and must not love me.
And so in the midst of raging hormones there was also a spiritual battle being waged to reconcile what I had read and been told of God with what I was experiencing.
I sang to our two-year-old to keep her occupied, and often I sang with tears running down my cheeks because I couldn’t believe it, and there were days when I couldn’t sing at all. I couldn’t pray at all. I didn’t want heaven; I didn’t want God; I doubted He really heard or cared or could do anything to help.
I knew I needed God, but I couldn’t trust Him when it felt like He didn’t hear my cries for relief or bring His presence. Yet the more the waves came, the more I knew relief would be great but all I wanted was for Him to be there again. I wanted Him more than I wanted deliverance.
One of the songs I often sang was “Before the Throne of God Above.” And one day as I sat there rocking the baby in the dark, singing more to the toddler than anyone else, wondering where God was, there was a glimmer of hope in Jesus in Gethsemane.
Jesus knows the silence of God. He knows what it’s like to be told “no,” by God – He who the Father loves the most, to have all the “feelings” of His love taken away and have to trust in truth when life does not line up. He intercedes for me even when it seems God isn’t right there for me. He knows what it’s like to look at the future and not want to go through it. That became my lifeline over the next months as PPD continued to cycle in and out, some days very good, others very bad. No matter how I felt about God, Jesus understood. It was terrible theology and I knew it, but it was a step forward.
Yet the depression still deepened. Then one night as I rocked the baby, the song “Lord, I Need You,” crept in. I sang it through tears. God still felt far away, but something changed.
It was like my favorite passage about Elijah in 1 Kings 19, when Elijah is depressed and complaining to God, but instead of God fixing all of Elijah’s problems, He just comes.
There were still two long months ahead of us when I was wading through the darkness, a physically-caused depression with a spiritual manifestation. But now, in some odd way, even though I was often angry at God, I clung to Jesus. I was no longer alone: I found voice and comfort in the Psalms, Job, and Lamentations, seeing a mix of “innocent” suffering (with hormones being “enemies”) and sanctification. I started being able to identify the lies and find truth to replace them with instead of just sinking deeper into them.
In the end, I really don’t know what changed. Life settled down, I got bloodwork done and changed a few things, and I could think more clearly, but there were other turning points, too. There’s a turning point in every lament in Scripture, the “but.” This terrible thing has happened, BUT God is or has done this. As it is in lots of Psalms, I guess it just kind of happens. Not an immediate change, but slowly starting to see more clearly who He is and His hand at work. I started seeing ways He was merciful and gracious and there with me even when I was angry with Him – He just wasn’t working in the ways I wanted Him to.
Once I came out on the other side of postpartum depression, I often thought of Jacob, limping but clinging to God, saying “I will not let you go until you bless me!” I was so aware of my need of Him and the sense of His presence was so sweet to me – something that is not true of all day every day but I still crave it more than I ever did before.
Kyleigh Dunn is wife to Ezra and mother to three young girls. She reads obsessively, enjoys playing oboe and piano, and seeks to spread awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in the church and apply theology and biblical encouragement to moms experiencing them. Kyleigh blogs at thesojurningdunns and you can connect with her on Instagram or Facebook.