Saturday, November 6, 2010

Paula's story with depression

I spent most of my life searching for God in all the wrong places and I spent most of my 20’s working hard and partying even harder, binge drinking, partying all night, trying to numb the emptiness inside. I dabbled in astrology, new age philosophies, clairvoyance, crystal healing, guardian angels, meditation, and self help books – tying to find the answers. I investigated Buddhism and Judaism – never finding what I was truly looking for and hoping for.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was identified at the maternity hospital as being at high risk for Post Natal Depression. Despite following recommended strategies, after I stoped breastfeeding my baby at 5 months I went down hill very quickly. Breastfeeding kept my hormones in line and as soon as I stopped I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown.

I started smoking excessively and drinking heavily to cope with the high levels of anxiety. I didn’t know I was depressed because I didn’t feel sad. I felt extremely anxious, I couldn’t sleep and I was having panic attacks. I couldn’t leave the house. I found driving almost impossible and I struggled just to feed my baby, change the nappy, doing the most basic tasks became a huge challenge. I felt like I couldn’t cope with life and wanted to end my life – I felt I had no hope.

I had tried everything – self help books, meditation, positive thinking, and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which is extremely effective in the early stages but I was way beyond that. My thoughts of ending my life became so excessive and constant that I was hospitalised for 6 weeks at St John of God Private Psychiatric Hospital at Burwood. That was the lowest point of my life. I was completely broken. I felt like such a failure being there. I was someone who prior to being diagnosed was considered a high achiever, ambitious, successful - a perfectionist.

Fortunately I received fantastic care in hospital by the team of medical staff and particularly by a hospital chaplain, Barry. When I was “checking in” to hospital and filling out all the admin forms one of the questions asked if I wanted chaplaincy care? So I ticked “yes” to that box only because I was so desperate to get well and frankly I was prepared to receive any care they were offering!

Barry met with me daily and prayed with me and read the Bible to me. He invited me to the hospital chapel weekly service. He gave me comforting Psalms to read about “God being my Shepherd” and “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” and Barry went on to explain God’s love for me through his son Jesus.

There was a statue in the hospital garden of Jesus with his hands outstretched almost beckoning me to come to him. As a sat under the statue chain smoking, feeling such emptiness and despair, I read some life changing words I had been given by Barry. These words were:-

Jesus said “Come to me all who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”

As I read those words I looked up at the statue and just wanted to hug it! Now keep in mind I’m in a psychiatric hospital – so they already think I’m nuts! What did I have to lose? So I hugged the statue….but it was cold and hard I didn’t want the statue of Jesus I wanted the real Jesus! I wanted this statue of Jesus to come to life wrap His arms around me and say “It’s ok Paula, I’ve got you now”. Suddenly I wanted that “rest” Jesus was offering. At the time I would have been happy for a good night sleep “rest” but Jesus didn’t give me what I wanted He gave me what I needed and that is enteral rest - eternal life - eternal peace.

That was 8 years ago. My whole life has been completely turned around. I have been transformed in everyway. Believing in Jesus doesn’t take away depression. I still have it and I take medication every day. Having suffered depression prior to believing in Jesus I had no hope and now as a Christian with depression - Jesus gives me great hope and strength to keep going and most importantly to keep living. Faith in Jesus gave me the courage to have another child – even though statistically the chances of postnatal depression were extremely high.

My husband, Gary saw significant changes in me and a year after my conversion, he started coming to church with me. Initially just once a month and 12 months later he also put his trust in Jesus! We are now together raising our beautiful children, Joshua and Olivia to follow Jesus too!

Although I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone, having postnatal depression is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. It completely broke me, brought me to my knees and into the loving arms of Jesus! What a joy it is to be saved – to have that beautiful rest that Jesus offers. Praise God!


Kath said...

Your story is encouraging. Praise God for how he worked in your struggles. Interesting how perfectionism can actually be part of how depression develops - because we aren't perfect, and discovering it can be so deeply disappointing.

Aimee said...

Thank you for sharing your story Paula. It is so refreshing to hear a Christian talk about their struggle with mental illness, and how God has used it to bring them to/closer to Him. Thank you for your honesty and openness.