Moving Forward 

I’ll admit – it hasn’t been easy for me. Moving forward has not been easy.

Whenever any one of us goes through something painful or traumatic, muddling through the aftermath can be almost just as hard as when you were going through the negative experience itself. 

I have been striving, very hard, to move forward past my traumatic experience with postpartum depression. In three months, it will be 3 years since I suffered through the horrible illness. 

They say time heals all wounds, and there is truth to this, but there are some days when the pain can hit you just as hard as if the event happened just yesterday. 

After my healing came, I was a changed person. And I strove to help others going through what I experienced. I shared my story over and over. This helped in my healing process, but it has also been very triggering at times. 

When trying to move forward, or to put the past behind you, it’s like you can take two steps forward and one step back. You make progress, and then you’re back to where you were…hurting. Remembering. And it is deeply painful. 

My journey in trying to move forward, as I said, has not been an easy one, and I’m still on the journey of putting the pain behind me. 

When we look back to the past, we can feel a multitude of emotions. Sometimes positive. Sometimes negative. 

When I look back to when I had postpartum depression, as one could imagine, there are very few happy memories. It was the darkest, most terrifying time of my life. 

I’m not a fan of the phrase or being told to “Move on.” For it’s not that easy to do so. I have also thought about the popular phrase, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” I love these words, and yet, at the same time, it irritates me. I know we do not need to dwell on the past…past mistakes, past hurts, past painful experiences; but I think we must acknowledge and give ourselves the permission to know that this experience is forever a part of us. It may get easier and WILL get easier as time goes on, but it’s a part of your story. It might have helped change the course of your history and the history of those around you. It’s natural to look back. And I think it’s important to look back sometimes…to see the positive that came from that experience. You might have to look hard to find that. There are lessons to be learned, wisdom to be earned. But I do agree that we should not wallow, or try not to wallow in misery every day of thinking about the past. 

For me, it’s been a challenge to overcome the flashbacks of the experience I went through. There are so many moments from that time that I find myself reliving from time to time as if I were literally back there again. It’s also been a huge hurdle to overcome my fear and anxiety that I get of ever having to go back to that dark place again. 

“Where’s the silver lining in this story?” You might be asking. “How are you moving forward?”

I have to move forward, first of all. We all do. We can’t stay stuck in the past. My counselor told me the other day that God doesn’t want me living this way; feeling this way. Filled with negative emotions like fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, sadness, anger, regret, jealousy and envy. God doesn’t want you living your life bound to these emotions either; imprisoned to them. 

So I must seek. I must seek and find the silver lining. I must see the beauty that came from the most painful experience of my life. 

I must look back and see, and thank God for my parents and for holding me and crying with me during those dark days. I must be thankful for the closeness and bond that was forged between the three of us because of what happened. I must see my sister, and the love and support, the empowering words she said to me.The love that I saw she had for me. For my brother-in-law and the words of comfort he gave me. I must thank God for my in-laws, who supported me and never made me feel ashamed, but who loved me as their own and who I know prayed fervently for me every day. For all of my extended family – I am so thankful for them. 

I must thank God that it CHANGED my marriage. Our marriage wasn’t sunshine and roses before I had PPD, and this experience could have made or broken the relationship between my husband, Josh, and I. He could have abandoned me or lifted up his hands in the air and said, “You’re on your own.” But I saw that man truly shine his brightest. He was an angel, a godsend, sent from above. He held up my arms when they grew weary of carrying my sword and shield. He sometimes took my sword and smote at the enemy himself. He was my hero, and I know I could not have made it through without him. We’ve both thanked God that it changed our course, I truly believe, and made our love grow indescribably closer. We have a bond. We get it. We get each other. We love and cherish one another more than ever. Our hearts have changed BECAUSE of PPD. 

I must thank God for the bird he sent my way. I must thank Him that there were crows and buzzards hanging out in the dead tree in my parent’s backyard, taunting me. I must thank Him for sending me a little wren that made a nest outside my window and sang to me every day. For the moment that bird looked in at me through the window and locked eyes with mine and I knew that it was God…his messenger sent to give me hope. I must thank God for this imagery he sent me, that he made me aware that there was a spiritual battle going on, a war between God and Satan. 

I must thank God that he saved my life. That he healed me. I must thank Him that He was near me; I felt his presence. I called in His name and clung to him. I grew closer to my Heavenly Father. 

I must thank God for my friends. For those who called, texted me, sent me letters, who prayed for me. Their prayers helped send healing my way. 

I must thank God for my beautiful daughter, Isabella. For the love that I have for her that is insurmountable. That cannot be measured. That I loved her so much from the moment I saw her, that I fought for her. I fought to stay around. I thank God for the bond we have now, and that she calls me her best friend. I must thank God that PPD did not mess with the bond between a mother and her daughter. 

I must thank God for the wisdom he gave me and the words he has given so that I have been able to relate to and help other mamas going through what I experienced. 

And I must thank God for the mamas who did not have to go through what I went through. I must thank God that they can enjoy and love on their babies those first precious moments of their life, and not be surrounded by a dark cloud. 

I must thank God that he changed me. That he opened my eyes to this life and filled me with zeal and passion. That he softened my heart in many ways. 

And I must thank God that I am here. That I am able to share my story with you. 

I am a survivor! 

Yes, I am moving forward. One step at a time. 

The Stillness

I used to love the quiet. Always being an introspective person, I would often sit with my thoughts and reflect on them and why I was thinking those things. And it was in the quiet that I felt myself connected and close to God. That I could feel his presence. In college, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit on one of the swings they had scattered throughout the campus. I would swing away. I’d look up at the clouds and talk to God. I’d see the flowers around me and hear the birds singing and knew that God was near. I felt happy. Content. Close to Him. I’d journal my thoughts instead of studying for my next exam. But this was something I loved to do. 

Life and circumstances have changed since those college days, back when life was more simple and carefree. 

There came a time when I was sick after the birth of my daughter. I had postpartum depression and anxiety and oh, how things changed! I did not want to sit with my thoughts anymore. I didn’t want to hear my thoughts or have the thoughts I had. They scared me. I did not want to be alone. 

But things have a way of coming full circle sometimes. Despite not wanting to be alone for a second while I was sick, there were times when I would take the courageous step outside of my parent’s house (who were taking care of me and my baby at that time) and I would walk out into their backyard. It was beautiful out there. It overlooked a quiet, peaceful, still lake. And, there was a wooden swing. Waiting for me; calling out to me to come sit on its bench and do what I’d done long before. Talk to God. 

And I would swing away. In desperation, this time, I pleaded with the Lord to please take this away from me; to please, please heal me. Heal me for myself, but more importantly, to heal me for my family. They needed me and I was so sick I could barely take care of myself. I remember crying out to the Lord with tears in my eyes, “My God, My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” 

God heard me. He even saw me hit a tree with a very large stick…with great force, I might add. I was so angry. Why was this happening to me? 

But it was in the stillness, out on that wooden swing, that I knew in my heart of hearts that God was listening to me. I could feel his presence, not strongly, but I knew or hoped that He would have pity on me. 
And he did pity me. My Father loved me. He sent birds my way that made a nest outside my window and they would sing to me loudly every morning. 

And one day, healing finally found me. 
Now, after surviving such a battle, I have been on the mend. But I still struggle. 
As a stay at home mom with a two and a half year old daughter, I now find the silence to be like a double edged sword. Perhaps other moms can relate. Some moments, after being constantly needed and followed around all day (let’s admit – having your space invaded all day!) and then when it’s nap time, I welcome the stillness and quiet with open arms. I turn off the tv, and even leave the music off. I’ll just sit there, and revel in the peace where I can finally breathe again. 

But, on the other hand, there are times when the silence is truly deafening. Even frightening again at times. Our thoughts can consume us…thoughts of worry and “what if’s”, contemplating our purpose and all the deep questions you can think of can arise in just a few moments time of sitting there alone with your thoughts. Isn’t this why we are so busy all the time? Why we’re always on the go, leaving no idle time? That’s why we’re on our phones, scrolling pointlessly through our Facebook feed, wasting time, but it keeps us, or maybe even “saves” us from thinking. 

But God, he is beckoning us to come to the stillness. To find that wooden swing to sit on and just talk and pray to Him. For that is where we will truly find our peace. We find our peace in the stillness. We talk to Him and lay our burdens at his feet. 

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. To know that we have a Father who cares for us should bring great comfort to our souls. 

In my prayer/writing room, I have this sign hanging above my desk; “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. It is a reminder that I need to see daily. It may be intimidating and overwhelming to think of being still, for you, like me, may be afraid of your thoughts and where all they can lead you. But God is powerful. 

Satan is powerful, too, yes, and he wants your mind to dwell in the dark places. That is why we must remember the verse: “…we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Give your thoughts to God…tell Him. He already knows your every thought, but we grow close to Him in releasing that to Him. Our thoughts might be scary and overwhelming, but surrendering those to Him can leave us with a sense of freedom. Peace. He has the power to calm the anxiety within us; we just have to hand it over. 

Be still, and you might just find the God your heart has been searching for. 

The Bird

[Backstory. I wrote this poem about a dark time in my life, when I suffered through postpartum depression. This is very personal to share, and a word of warning that it can be triggering and intense, but the ending of the poem offers Hope. I have felt the need to share this in hopes that it might help someone know that healing will come. Do not give up!]
 

 

I still hear the crows.

I still hear the buzzards.

I still see them.

They circle the skies above me,

Still,

From time to time.

 

And they remind.

They taunt . . . “Remember? Remember?

Remember your pain. Remember your fear.

I will always be here to remind you,”

Their screeching, ugly voices tell me.

 

I often wonder how they found me.

I’d seen them using their evil powers

In those I loved

From the time I was a little girl.

I always deeply feared them.

That one day they would search me out

And find me.

That their midnight black darkness

Would encircle me and choke out the world.

That those birds would steal my joy,

My happiness,

And replace it with tears.

 

I never knew Fear until they found where I was hiding.

I’d seen it and felt it before

But I never truly knew Fear until the birds came.

 

I brought Life into this world.

She was Beauty.

Heaven came down and Love

Came flowing from my eyes,

When I saw her for the first time

And she breathed her first breath;

When her first cries were heard

by her Mother and Father.

Yes, Heaven came down in those moments.

 

My eyes beheld Beauty

And my arms held her.

 

And then, in a moment,

Suddenly,

I thought I was losing my Beauty,

The life I’d just brought into this world.

Something went wrong with my child,

And for tortuously long moments

That will forever be immeasurable,

She was taken away from me.

 

And I was left alone.

Alone.

Alone I cried,

Alone I wondered if I’d see

The Beauty again.

I wondered if I had seen her for the last time.

I wondered if I would hear her beautiful cry,

If I’d ever hold her again.

 

My beloved husband

Returned to me,

As I lay there waiting.

There was hope in my heart again

When he whispered, “She is okay.”

That our little Beauty we’d created

Had held onto his finger tightly.

We then knew,

Our Beauty was a Fighter.

 

When I saw her again

She was under a glass container;

The artificial oxygen filling the air

To help her breathe.

But I saw a little baby,

My baby,

Struggling, crying, fighting.

Fighting for her life.

Frantically and Fearfully

I watched the numbers

And felt helpless,

As they were not where they were supposed to be.

 

I was scared.

Scared I was still going to lose her.

“Don’t grow attached,

Don’t grow attached,”

Something told me.

 

When she was finally returned to us,

Relief filled our hearts.

But something held me back —

I couldn’t believe that she was back in my arms.

Hyper vigilance set in.

Anxiety took over my entire being.

I was so thankful,

But I was stunned.

I was traumatized by thinking

That my Beauty was dying in my arms,

In those seconds when something went wrong with her.

I was traumatized —

Believing she was still going to be taken away from me.

 

“Hold on . . .

But don’t on too close.

Love her . . .

But don’t love her too much.”

Were words that echoed in my mind.

Nightmares haunted me of losing her.

 

A month after the Beauty debuted her appearance,

All was well with her.

But not so with her Mother.

For that was when they came.

 

The crows.

The buzzards.

The birds.

The darkness.

The thing I’d always feared . . .

Finally found me.

 

I watched the leaves fall from the trees,

And I watched my world turn grey.

In an instant the darkness

Surrounded me.

I watched the sky cry tears

And the sun hid its face from me,

In my darkest and loneliest hours.

 

I wanted to die.

The buzzards hovered overhead

And flew in circles above me.

Waiting for me.

“We want you,”

Their beady eyes looked down and I knew their deadly thoughts.

 

A dead tree overshadowed

And towered above our home —

And the tree became the crows and buzzards’ battle position

Sent forth from the enemy.

They wanted me to die.

They were a constant reminder

of Death.

 

I battled the thoughts —

The war that waged within

Of wanting to take my own life

And yet . . .

Fighting,

Fighting desperately for my life.

 

This battle lasted for months.

Months that should have been beautiful.

That should have been blissful.

That should have been Heaven,

Not Hell.

That should have been what they were not.

 

I was robbed.

We were all robbed.

The thief had come in the night

Stealing my joy,

And, thus, stealing all of our joy.

I suffered,

And those who loved me suffered immensely.

 

I remember the day.

The day I stood outside

Staring up at that dead tree,

Feeling defeated and completely hopeless.

I remember seeing the parting of the clouds

And seeing and feeling the ray of the sun

Finally break through the clouds

And show its face to me again.

I heard the crows and saw them.

They were so loud.

 

But then,

I saw the jay clothed in blue.

I saw the sparrow,

The robin,

And I saw the red cardinal.

I saw them flying from bush to bush,

From tree to tree,

Right in front of my very eyes,

And I heard their melodic singing.

 

And I faintly heard the song

Of a bird in the forest.

Just a tiny sound at first,

That slowly crescendoed into a loud chorus.

That would not be the last time

I’d hear that little bird in the forest.

That day, his song was too powerful

And I watched in wonder as the crows flew away

And I could no longer hear their lies.

It was a moment my heart had hungered for.

 

That tiny bird had flown from far, far away,

And had found me at last.

 

He found me one day sitting by the window

Feeling in despair again.

He sat on a red chair and looked in at me.

His eyes looked into mine

And he didn’t look away.

“Get better! Get better!” He told me.

I felt the very presence of God

And that He was sitting in the red rocking chair,

Whispering,

“I am here. You are not alone.”

 

That tiny bird had the loudest song

Of any bird I’d ever heard.

And the most beautiful.

He stayed around our house from that day on —

The days that I was still sick.

He was a Carolina Wren,

A bird known for being shy —

And yet, he stayed so close,

In the moments when I needed to hear

His song the most.

 

The mornings were my darkest, scariest hours,

When the panic would set in,

And when I’d usually been awakened by crows.

But now, that same wren had found his home.

He made a nest right outside my window,

And he sang for me.

I’d look out my window

And he’d be there looking at me,

Watching over me.

 

Time had taken its time,

But with it,

Came my healing.

The sickness, the darkness finally left me.

The crows, the buzzards, those preying birds

Finally flew away.

They had learned that I wouldn’t

Be taken by them.

I would not be their victim.

They saw that I was a Fighter.

That I had a Beauty and a Beloved

To live for.

 

To this day,

I still hear the crows.

I still hear the buzzards.

I still see them.

They circle the skies above me,

Still,

From time to time.

 

But, I still see my wren,

I hear my wren,

Still,

From time to time.

And he says, “Remember? Remember?

Remember your healing. Remember Hope.

I will always be here to remind you.”

 

He is a constant reminder

of Life.

 

 

 

 

Am I Enough? 

I felt it. I felt it strongly today. 

Walking across the parking lot after dropping my daughter off at pre-school, I saw another mom walking my direction. Her hair and makeup were perfect. She looked cool, calm, and collected. She held the hands of her two children, who looked just as fashionable as their mother. She walked with confidence. She was gorgeous. 

I became suddenly aware of myself. Aware of my hair, that was just thrown up in a messy bun that I tried to make look somewhat pretty this morning. Aware of my outfit. Aware of my own daughter’s clothes; aware that she was not wearing Uggs or whatever the latest, most popular fashion is at the moment. 

I wanted to run and hide. 

You see, before I had walked out the door of my house that morning, I thought I had looked pretty; that even though I hadn’t washed my hair that morning and it wasn’t styled, that at least my face looked good. My face covered in makeup. 
But, now, standing there in the parking lot, I felt something entirely different than I had a few minutes before. I felt it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. 

I felt like I wasn’t pretty enough. 

I was comparing myself to this other woman; this complete stranger, and debasing my own value and outward beauty based on what I saw looking at her. 

Call it insecurity, call it low self-confidence, call it shallowness…whatever it was in that moment, I did not like it. I did not like that feeling at all. 

It reminded me back to high school. There was a courtyard area at my school that was known as “The Bricks.” The bricks is where all the “preps”, as they were called, congregated after lunch, and where they waited and hung out before the school bell would ring. There were hundreds of them. I wasn’t in this group in high school. I didn’t hang with the popular crowd. Some days, I hated that I wasn’t in that group, but I had my own group of friends whom I loved and cared about deeply. I always found myself searching out the “outcasts”…,the “loners” and befriending them. The quote “weird” ones. Not all of my friends were this way, but I did have quite a few of the ones who were a little different. I found that the “outcasts” shouldn’t have been cast out. They were amazing people. Friendly. Genuine. Funny. Unique. Creative. Deep, caring souls. 

But I remembered today what it felt like to hold your breath as you have to walk through the group of people who you see, and who probably themselves believe and see themselves as better than you. To just want to get past them, so you don’t have to feel that feeling of not belonging. Of not being good enough. 

It made me think about myself and where I’m at now. Life is a journey, and so is the journey of loving ourselves. There have been the days and years where my confidence and love for myself was as high as Mount Kilimanjaro. I loved myself – inside and out. I was proud of who I was. I think those times, I had a place of belonging. My senior year in high school, because of the amazing friends I had in my church youth group. Because I was a leader that year, and my friends and peers looked up to me. In college, because I found another place and group of people where I felt I belonged. Who told me and showed me that there was every reason in the world to see myself as awesome. Also, my parents and sister have always shown me so much love and given me words of affirmation to know how truly special I am. And then, I met a boy in 2009, a boy named Josh, (who later became my husband) who sent my self-confidence all the way up to the moon! 

I think during those times, too, my walk with God was close. We were “tight.” I talked to Him often. I felt my worth from others, but most importantly, from Him. I knew He loved me and was proud of me. I had my days of doubt, yes, but overall, I was secure. 

Where am I at now? It’s a journey, as I said, and there are events and things that take place in our lives that forever change us. 

Over two years ago, I went through an event like this. Going through postpartum depression forever changed me. 

In many ways, as one can imagine or if one has gone through something such as this, you can see the ways it has impacted you negatively. I could make a list of how it did so for me, but that’s not the point or what I want to focus on with these words I am writing. 

In my deepest and darkest time of my life, I turned to God. I clung to Him. I talked to Him and prayed to Him more than I ever had. Almost every minute of every day. Pleading with him to heal me. 

And He did. 

And from that day onward, after winning the battle, I have changed. I have changed for the better in so many ways. 
I have risen. I have blossomed and flourished. When you go through something like that, your heart opens up to life more than it ever has. For me, I was so thankful. I decided to help others. I had a confidence in myself, because I had beat something that had tried to take my life. And I had, with God’s help, beaten Satan. 

And I wanted to LIVE. To truly live. To take advantage of this healing that had come to me. To take advantage of this body of mine that God created and breathed life into. I didn’t want to sit on my rear and be a stagnant waste of space. I have stepped out of my comfort zone in so many ways that I would have never dreamed of. 

For the past two years since getting better, I would say and others around me too, I think would say, they have seen the positive changes in myself. 

My self-confidence, however, has taken its ups and downs during this time period. One of those things I blame that on is PPD. When I have been in my low of lows, it’s then that I know or start to realize that Satan has gotten in the way between me and God. I haven’t been talking to God as much as I should. I haven’t been in his Word. 

Instead, I’ve been in the world. 

I’ve been seeking my worth from the world. From people. From their words. From my friendships. From my relationship with my husband. From family. 

I’ve been seeking what only God can give me. My beauty is not found on the label on my clothes. It is not found in how perfect I can try and make my hair look. It is not found in the bright pink lipstick that I sometimes wear. 

Yes, God did make me beautiful on the outside, which I need to strive constantly to see and believe this. But, my beauty should be ultimately found from within. That my heart and soul and spirit be beautiful. That my thoughts be pure and glorifying to God. 

And my worth should come not from others, but from Him, the Lord God above;  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

In God’s eyes, I belong. I belong to Him. I am his daughter. The daughter of a King. And in his eyes, I am enough. I am MORE than enough. And I am loved. I am loved and cherished by Him. 

I should live my life every day with a grateful heart and where I can say, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

And my hope is that the next time I see that woman or someone who in my eyes looks perfect to me – that I can say to myself, “She is beautiful . . . 
And so am I.”