Sunday, 8 January 2017

It Was Really Bad

Today we went to visit a church in Toronto that is doing fantastic things for the city. It is thriving, has an incredible culture and points people toward Jesus. It was a pleasure to be there. 

As we waited to go for lunch after the service with some new friends, I snuck off to a quiet hallway and sat on a few steps attempting to keep a busy eight month old entertained. Everyone who walked by gave a smile to Kenzie, but one girl in particular stopped. 

She commented on how cute the baby was and inquired about her age. She squatted down next to me on the steps, holding Kenzie’s hand and cooing to get her to smile. She told me about her new niece, just a few months younger than Kenzie, and brought up photos, swiping through as a proud aunt should. She talked about how she wished she could see her out-of-province family more often, chatting about her sister and niece. 

“She had postpartum depression,” she said, swiping through the next photo. 

I mentioned how I had experienced baby blues and practically could not stop crying for a week while acknowledging the spectrum of difficulty that many women go through from blues to full fledged depression. 

“Yeah, it was really bad,” she replied, moving on to another comment, another conversation. 

And that was it. It was really bad

We may have moved on in conversation, but this interaction kept coming back to mind as I went throughout my day. Those four simple words cannot possibly do justice to the pain that this girl’s sister went through. The sleepless nights, the constant tears, the feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness. The worry that she will never be able to care for this child, the fog that she feels will never lift, the feeling of failure as other people come alongside to change a diaper and rock her babe to sleep. The day in and day out loneliness even when surrounded by other people. Not only does her body feel foreign, her baby seem too helpless and her hormones seem to betray her, but she also feels that she needs to have it all together when friends and family ask how things are going and if she is loving motherhood. 

Now, of course this girl I spoke to didn’t tell me any of this but as a new mother who has felt all of these things a time or two over the past eight months, I can only imagine the pain of someone who ventures into this season with a crushing depression hanging over them. 

And the ugly feelings don’t limit themselves to new mothers freshly out of the labour and delivery ward. Depression sinks into businessmen trying to provide for their families. It creeps into university dorm rooms, planting thoughts of death to people just beginning life. It washes over the teacher as she tries to stand in front of a room of kids. It sits at the bedside of the cancer patient, desperate for answers. 

And it’s close friend anxiety often joins the party. It causes hearts to race and stops the potential of people right in their tracks. It steals joy and replaces it with fear. It worries the faithful, and powerfully crushes the dreams of the dreamer. 

But the most powerful thing these feelings hold over people? 


Because in the silence, in the brushing over, in the avoidance, that is where it can make you feel that you are alone. That you are different, incapable, weird. When you keep silent, you begin to believe the lie that no one else could possibly understand the grasp that depression and anxiety has on you. It breeds fear, it chokes out community. 

Brushing off the feelings are not going to help you. Tell someone. I hope that this new mom did. I hope that she had people around her that she could be real with. I hope that she didn’t remain silent, suffering alone. 

And for those of us who don’t struggle with depression and anxiety? Look for the signs in people around you. Hear what people are not saying. Listen for the brushing off, the avoidance, the discomfort. Try to normalize, to walk alongside, to be present. You don’t have to fix anything, you simply need to offer a hand. 

Too often depression and anxiety win, crippling the potential in so many. Let’s continue to fight, to pray, to heal. Let’s continue to come alongside one another, in the midst of the pain, to break the silence. 

And to this new mom with a sister who loves her deeply? I can only imagine how bad it really was. 

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