*This was originally posted on a different blog of mine, and gives a glimpse into what has taken place in me during my postpartum journey.*
“What happened to the girl I married?”
My husband’s words cut me deeply, and shook something inside me that had been forgotten. How could I have forgotten so much of myself in such a short period of time?
He fell in love with a bright, confident, excited girl who stood up for what she believed in, thrived on adventure, worked hard, and smiled a lot. Now all that was left was a sullen, anxious, exhausted person who stressed out over literally every single thing and had to give herself pep talks for days before leaving the house.
I don’t know exactly where it started. Postpartum was the biggest culprit, but if I look back I can see the fade starting to happen well before that. Having my baby, while the single most amazing event of my entire life, shoved me into a very dark spiral. Everyone talks about postpartum depression and I was prepared for that. But no one talks about postpartum anxiety, and I had no idea how to handle the intense fear, worry, and stress that gripped my heart when I found myself with a newborn baby in my arms.
It hit me hard when Kyle went on a weekend trip with some church friends to a Bible conference in Chicago, and I was home alone for three days with my two month old. I had encouraged him to go, even when he was hesitant to, but as soon as he walked out the door, i felt immobilized and more scared then ever in my life. I could not get my mind to shut off and had worked myself into such a state that by the end of the weekend, I came down with my fourth case of mastitis since Titus’s birth. I realized at that point that I had a big problem.
Since then, much of my mental and emotional energy has been focused on figuring out what I needed to do to get better, setting boundaries, simplifying my life and expectations, and really just taking care of myself, which is hard to do as a new mom. But I found that once I really recognized what was wrong with me and put a name on it, that’s when the healing began.
Above all, I wanted to become that energetic, confident, bright girl that my husband fell in love with. Not just for him, but also because I had lost sight of so much of myself.
I wanted to feel shiny again.
So one step at at time, I started taking myself back.
I made an effort to quit feeling sorry for myself. Oh, most days there’s just no hope where that’s concerned. But in little strides, I focused on acknowledging that this is my life now, and it is, amidst all the frustrations and exhaustion, a most beautiful life. I am living my dream, and even if it means less sleep and fewer showers, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life.
I took a huge step in my relationship with my husband. I realized I had to stop trying to mold him into something other people wanted and just let him be himself. I started putting more faith in him to defend me during difficult circumstances. I realized that I didn’t need to keep explaining him or trying to justify him. If people couldn’t or chose not to see the beautiful, Godly, loving person that he is, then that was their loss and I needed to stop trying to change that.
I gave myself the freedom to say the words “I have anxiety.” I began acknowledging and digging into a very big aspect of my personality that I had never seen before, and that was my strong, lifelong battle with anxiety. I had no idea how deeply I dealt with it until postpartum shoved me farther into it. But as I began to allow myself that label, I began seeing how it touched every area of my life. I began remembering things in my past, how I reacted to things and dealt with things, and all of a sudden, I made sense. I could point to my life and realize that I was anxious, but never allowed myself to see it that way. Acknowledging my anxiety began to set my heart free from it.
Most importantly of all, I began remembering and reconnecting the things I valued.As a teenager and in my early twenties, I drew so many lines in the sand and knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, and what I stood for. Somewhere during the last few years, I forgot about a lot of things.
I’m not sure what I was trying to become, or why I forgot so many things about myself. Perhaps it was just the result of trying to find my place in my new role as a wife.
Whatever the reasons, it wasn’t until this past year that I realized how much of myself I had lost. Its true that we all grow and change through life, but if we change with every wind that blows, we are kind of missing the point. I’m done trying to become something I’m not. I’m done trying to be ok with things I’m not ok with. I’m done not standing up for myself and trying to make everyone happy by changing who I really am. I’m done not taking care of my heart. The only person I have to answer to on this earth is my husband, and guess what…he’s ok with me.
I am complete and free in Christ.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I can do this.
I am seen and I am loved.
I don’t have it all together, but it’s going to be ok.