Celebrating Me: The Beginning and the Ending of Depression
by Frances Diaz
The “me” I was when I said “I do” at my wedding was not the “me” new friends got to know or experience. And my old friends never saw what I became after my husband and I moved to Florida. I’m glad, because that was not the “me” I wanted them to remember. They knew me when I served the community with verve and energy, but those days were replaced with dark moments of despair and sadness. It was the beginning of depression.
It all started when I became pregnant with my son. Already going through early menopausal changes, being pregnant with my first pregnancy at a later age presented new challenges with hormones out of whack and emotional instability. During my pregnancy, I became suicidal—not that I wanted to harm myself, but I just wanted to sleep and not wake up. Because we were in a new church, we did not have the support we needed, and our finances were tight. These changes, plus my uncontrollable mood swings, were enough to drive any pregnant woman crazy!
Depression crept up on me like a thief. I don’t know how (and cannot remember exactly when) it happened, except that the change was gradual. I couldn’t sleep, hated to go outside, and was always angry. My husband didn’t understand, and I hated him for that. Despite many nights spent praying, reading the Bible, and rebuking the devil, I sank into a dark place of despair. Even so, every time we had to go out to functions, I put on a fake smile and lied about how happy I was.
Though sadness enveloped me, I was happy about having a baby. Feeling his kicks in my belly kept me from completely going off the cliff. I would promise him, “I will be strong for you, my love. Mommy will do whatever it takes.” But after Caleb was born, my condition worsened. I felt the delivery had somehow injured my body. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. My hand was crippled for nine months, my back was in constant pain, and I could not lose the weight I had gained. For years I hid my emotional pain. At two years of age, when Caleb needed his mommy more than ever, my marriage was at a critical breaking point, and I no longer knew who I was. I didn’t know that I was going through postpartum depression (PPD) from my pregnancy.
Having ballooned to 180 pounds, I had no energy to pray, read, cook, clean, or play with my beautiful boy. I tried reaching out to friends, but to no avail. No one saw the signs. Some interpreted what they saw as rebellion, suggesting that I “stay in the Word and pray more.” But no one came to ask if I had eaten that day or if I needed to rest. My husband was working to support us as well as carrying the load of much of what was needed at home.
Then came another pregnancy—and some of my friends and family dying! The pregnancy allowed for some weight loss, which controlled some of my hormonal craziness. But at 41, it wasn’t easy to balance myself with a three-year-old and a newborn, while trying not to slip back into PPD. But I could not overcome it. While I was at home with my baby, Karina, I hated her screams, wanting to hide in the bathroom rather than deal with her. I asked myself, “What has happened to you, Frances? How did you get here?” I had questions but no answers.
However, my loving Heavenly Father was patient with me through this incredibly dark season which lasted for five long years! He sent some amazing women to check on me and offered me not just prayers but time! They watched my kids while I showered and slept for a bit, offered to bring me food because I just did not want to eat, texted me to check on my progress, and offered powerful prayers and words of encouragement. Because of this, I made it through! How I wish I had had this support the first time around! How grateful I am for God’s people! One friend in particular never gave up on me. She took me out of the house, shared her dreams with me, and made me dream again. She was transparent about her struggles and reminded me that I was not alone. When she passed away, I felt so lost! I felt that dark place inviting me back, but I knew she would slap some sense into me. She was sent by the Lord and was then taken back by Him.
For a year, I had suffered severe pain from gallstones. Because I was getting older and dealing with other changes (hot flashes), I decided to have surgery to remove my gallbladder. Two weeks after the surgery, I could not believe how great I felt! Upon researching gallbladder disease, I learned that gallstones cause weight gain and messes with your hormones! While some may have thought that I was being pessimistic or weak in my walk with God, I was going through a quiet hell in my body. Soon after the gallbladder surgery, I began feeling like the old “me” was returning. The swelling in my abdomen was gone, and my hormones became calm. I started sleeping again!
Throughout the five years I suffered depression, my body was attacked by chemicals, hormonal imbalance, pain, weight gain, and swelling, and it was frustrating to not be able to control the mood swings and outbursts. But I’m so thankful God never gave up on me, and I never gave up on Him. With God’s help, I kept swimming for the sake of my kids, my marriage, and my sanity. I often think of King David, a man who loved God and was “a man after God’s heart.” Yet he was at times depressed. He lamented in the book of Psalms, “Why are you so downcast, my soul?” Many people may not (or even cannot) understand how depression begins—or that it CAN have an ending.
I share my private story with other women who may be struggling with menopause or PPD because I truly understand! I was there and am still dealing with new changes. I tell them: You are NOT alone. I know how it feels when nothing you hear from friends or family helps—when you can’t pray, or read, or breathe! But I can say this: God has never left my side. He sent the right people to help me. I pray that He will also send people to your aid! I pray that He keeps your mind from slipping. I pray that your season of suffering ends soon. I pray protection over you as the enemy will try to take advantage of your physical weakness. I pray you see the sun rise with hope and purpose. And when you DO come out of this, grab the hand of the next person and walk with her through it! There is hope!
…Weeping may last
through the night,
but joy comes with the morning”
(Psalm 30:5b NLT).