Joy Comes in the Mourning

Joy Comes in the Mourning

This is a topic that I have visited in brief in previous posts. However, I was, again, burdened by the truths held in God’s word about God’s grace in times of suffering. The Bible talks about joy in suffering in James 1. These words held so much pain for me, when I was in the early stages of grief and postpartum psychosis. People did not know what to say to me or how to engage. Most stood at a distance, others attempted to comfort with words and scripture, but sometimes that hurt as well. I began to notice a pattern in the responses I was getting from individuals regarding suffering for the Christian. People wanted me to pray for healing, for deliverance from my current circumstances. I was told by so many individuals that they were praying for healing me. The longer I was sick, the longer my brother was in the grave, the longer I watched the impact my suffering had on friends and family, the more God revealed some of the misconceptions we have about suffering. That perhaps scripture could be directed more deeply, leading to greater revelation about my present sufferings and future glory. 

James 1: 2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters. whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

I love the word consider in this verse. It is so quick to overlook as unimportant to the deeper meaning and substance to this passage. In a season of suffering, it became profound to me. 

Consider (v) – to think careful;; about something, typically before making a decision, to think about and be drawn toward a course of action.

The word consider give us a breath. It gives us time. When tragedy comes at us in what can feel like wave after wave of suffering, it is so wonderful to know the importance of considering. This word gives us the space we need to take in what is happening, to weigh it against our previous experiences with God, and to have time to align our hearts with that of God. In the considering, we are given the time and space to question, ask, cry out, lament because we are not expected to step immediately into the joy. We need to have the freedom as flesh and bone humans to feel all the pain and all of the hardship of our present suffering. The bible tells us not to rush, to consider, to lean into the prospect of joy. So we can pray for those that are in current circumstances of suffering to give space to the word consider. We can take a breath and take in the present circumstances. What grace!

Then, it continues to ask us to take joy. But I want to skip over these words for a moment and turn to what comes after. The following statement gives context to the former. Take joy BECAUSE it produces perseverance. Stop and reflect on that for a moment. It does not say take in joy in your present suffering because you accept the pain and celebrate it. The joy comes from perseverance. We can find the joy, not in the present circumstance but in the outcome. God knows that pain and sorrow of worldly grief. He knows that our hearts are attached to certain people and circumstances in this world. We do not have to pretend like the pain isn’t real. We don’t have to lean into a blind trust of just being happy. We can rejoice in a future where this tragic circumstance will lead to a deepening of our faith and renewing ability to push forward in the future. It is a joy in the redemptive power of our God to take the broken, ugly circumstances of a fallen world and use them for kingdom glory.

Joy (n) – a feeling of great pleasure, happiness

The dictionary definition of joy falls into a category that sets us up for confusion and frustration in times of trial. I prefer to look at the synonyms as well as the Greek and Hebrew for the word joy. 

synonyms – jubilation, exultation, exhilaration 

These are words that make more sense to me. I can still rejoice, even when I am hurting. I can still exalt God, even when my world wounds are terminal. I can still experience jubilation, outside of a fractured heart. The word study on the deeper translation of the word joy is chairo, to rejoice or be glad. The derivative is a cognate of cairo “leaning towards” and saris “to delight in or be conscious of God’s grace” Here is where I see the truth behind these words in James. The author wasn’t implying that we should see the present sufferings of this world, look past them, and pretend like we aren’t affected. He wasn’t suggesting that we watch our precious child be buried and stand there saying we feel happy. Joy is found in the looking not at our present circumstances, but to a future hope. I can lean into my love for my savior because I am aware of God’s grace to me, even during the pain. My future is secure, my hope is eternal, and my present suffering will not be wasted. From that place, a heart can feel the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of grief.

So, how long are we allowed to feel sad, how quickly should a Christian let go of this pain and move onto to the happiness and pleasure of their future? James tells us, “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Let it finish. Pray for your family and friends to allow the pain and suffering to go on as long as is necessary to complete the grow and maturity it was designed for. As those watching someone suffer, I have heard this from family and friends, it becomes wearying to watch someone suffering for extended periods of time. The church is often good at showing up with meals, and prayer, and visiting in the first few weeks and months of someone’s trials. When, however, the end isn’t in sight, we tend to move on. We are not sure what to do with longsuffering. We become impatient. However, God doesn’t promise quick and fast solutions to receive this growth and maturity. He says, “Let it finish.” We have to be patient with God and with those walking through the valley. We need not rush them the restored happiness, getting back to work or church, or life as it was before. Honestly, their life may never go back to how it was before. They may be so changed by their experience that their life has to start over a new and be transformed. It would make sense that this would take time, and we should draw near to these people for the whole journey. If we don’t, we may short circuit God’s complete plan. We may short circuit the outcome and hinder the whole of gift. 

There is temptation to resist the experience of suffering but enduring allows us to practice a surrender to the Lord’s will, patience in his longevity of the trial, and trust instead of worry about the future.

Finally, we can take hope that our present suffering will be overturned into a future glory.

Romans 8: 18-31

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Our present trials are not the creator of faith. They are the refining fire of what has been there all along. The beauty of our heavenly father is that he allows these trials to expose the weaknesses in our faith so that they can be dealt with. He responds in patience when we are wrestling and promises that these present sufferings are for future glory. Our hope is the in the future, our joy is in the future. Pray and ask God to take the time to expose weaknesses, to redeem these weakness by creating a deep perseverance and growth in faith, trust and allow him to take as long as needed to complete the refining, and surrender to his work for your good and his future glory. Be real with him and vulnerable knowing that God sees you, he knows you, he is not afraid of your doubts, and he can make all things new. Lean into him during times of suffering, and rejoice in the midst of suffering because of the gift of God’s grace.

#BLESSED

#BLESSED

Just Google the phrase and millions of hits will appear. Anything from people getting into college, playing another season in the NFL, getting to binge watch their favorite TV shows, etc. It was so hard for me to read the tagline #BLESSED, when  I was walking through my season of grief, mental health issues, suicidality, and job loss. I was scrambling to grab onto something. People kept praying for me to be healed, for a cure for what ailed me. All of the while, it never sat right in my heart. I knew that there was a discord between what I was experiencing and what those around me told me was God’s plan for my life. I was told over and over that God wasn’t making these things happen to me, that his will was that I be delivered from them. It caused me to start searching God’s word. I was trying to make sense of what I was experiencing and compare that to what the world told me my life should look like. I knew in my heart that God was with me in my illness, that he was in control. I didn’t need to ask where God was in my suffering because his word and my experience would lead me to it.

Blessed is an adjective or a noun described in the dictionary as….

blessed – adj. made holy, consecrated

n. those that live with God in heaven

If I simply to stop there. The #BLESSED tagline would be disproven. What modern culture was telling me was blessed was indeed falling very short. It was cheapening the idea of God’s blessing. Next, I looked to the Bible. I was drawn to the Beatitudes.

Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12

He (Jesus) said

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This for sure didn’t align with what the world was telling me but it was closer to what I was experiencing. I was being told from the lips of Jesus that my season of suffering was a season of blessing. However, it still didn’t feel like that was what was happening to me. 

So, how could my ideal of blessing be so off base with what scripture was telling me? I found out that the Greek word that is translated into meaning blessed is makarioi. It means to be fully satisfied. At that moment, it was like the scales were lifted from my eyes. Blessing is anything that draws me into deeper satisfaction with my Savior. Gifting is, instead, what we are seeking. #BLESSED is a representation of a people that are in love with the gifts instead of the Giver. The Beatitudes, as well as hundreds of other scriptures that reference blessing, make sense in light of the Greek translation for blessing. It eliminates the question of “Where is God in my suffering?” I have never experienced the close drawing in of myself to God like I did in my darkest days. I never felt his presence more strongly than when I was at the end of what I knew I could handle on my own. The pain and torment brought me to a place of brokenness where I could see clearly that I could do nothing in my own strength. It was God all along. He was responsible for my waking and my lying down, for my coming and my going. He woke me up everyday and held me together. He gave me the strength to take one more breath, to survive one more day. He wasn’t punishing me. He was saving me. He was stripping away to strongholds in my heart and my mind and turning them into a surrendered life. He was leading me to place of being fully satisfied in him, because I had nothing else. That is why what the world considers the outcasts, God considers the true blessed. They are the ones that truly see. They are the ones that are drawn near to him and transformed. When we stop living our lives for the gifts, instead of the Giver, we can reach a new closeness in our relationship to him. That is where true hope is found. God has not abandoned any one of us. He is near, waiting for us to cling to him instead of what he can give us. If all of your #BLESSINGS were taken away, would you be able to hold your hands to the sky and say, “I am blessed.” Would the cry of your heart be for worldly blessing to return or for spiritual blessing to abound? He is with you in your pain. He sees your struggled. He has called you blessed.

The World kept on Turning

June 27, 2016

“I have been in Pennsylvania with  my family for four days. I did not bring any of the kids but Judah. It has been so hard. My family both here and away has been so supportive. I just continue to feel like a failure. Taking care of Judah twenty four hours a day has been so hard. I have not taken care of any of my children for a full twenty four hours since Judah was born. I went to see my best friend from high school on my second day here. Their new house was amazing. My friend was adorable and pregnant with her first baby. Life looked good for them. When I left, I began to cry and called her to apologize for not acting like myself. She was so wonderfully understanding. I cried the entire way home. I hate being sick and I hate being reminded that I am.

Yesterday we went to my aunt and uncle’s pool. It was lovely, my aunt didn’t know I had tried to commit suicide until I was there. Afterwards, she told me she heard a pastor say that suicide was the most selfish thing you could ever do. It hurt me to the core. I just never thought anyone could ever think that about what I did. Her friend was there. She was such a blessing. She lost a sister, had depression , and had contemplated suicide. She defended me. What a praise! 

Today, I woke up feeling depressed and like a failure.”

The road to recovery is rocky. You never know what each day will bring. Some are easy and smooth, others harder. Even when the meds are working, there will be bad days. Bad days were so hard for me. They scared me. I was constantly worried about a replace. Never knowing what the next five minutes would hold or where triggers would come from was paralyzing. 

Seeing my friends and family moving forward with their lives was crippling. It wasn’t their fault. They were just living their lives, but when you experience trauma, your world stops.  You go into survival mode and the world keeps turning. People get married, have babies, buy houses, graduate college, get raises, go on vacations. It feels like punch to the gut to see others blossoming when you are falling into the pit. Those two years, are almost completely lost in my mind. If it wasn’t for my journal, I wouldn’t even remember them. I even lost the first two years of my baby’s life. Someone just asked me yesterday whether he was a good baby, an easy baby. I can’t remember. It was as if time froze for two years, and when I opened my eyes, everything had changed. It was almost as if I was living someone else’s life, when I got back into the real world. My friends babies were now two, jobs had changed, people got married, people moved, people were pregnant. 

It was so hard to know how to plug back in. People didn’t understand what I was feeling. They didn’t know how to react. They some kind things and some cruel things. It was hard. I felt outcast, like I didn’t fit in anymore. Though, I couldn’t remember if I ever really had. My life had changed, I had changed, but the world had kept on moving without me.

Martha

June 6, 2016

“We just returned from a weekend together at Dollywood Dreammore Resort. We spent three nights and it was great. We went to Splash Country twice and Dollywood once. The kids had a blast! We had sitters come along to help. It was much needed. With all four, Brian and I got little to no sleep at all. That is par for the course. Having these little ones so close together can be a little chaotic. Extra hands are always welcome. 

I used to enjoy that people said, “I don’t know how she does it, or, You’re supermom.” I have learned that while it takes great stamina and a “go getter” personality to achieve being able to do things alone, what’s the payout? I had accumulated physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion. Being placed in a mental health facility. It takes courage and humility to admit you need help. I am learning there is nothing wrong with it. I know God designed us for community and raising our families should be in community.”

This was one of the bigger lessons I learned from being sick. I am grateful that the Lord let me hit rock bottom, so I would no squander the rest of my life. I had bought into the lie that so many women do. “You have to do it all, do it alone, and look good doing it.” Almost all of the women in the facility with me had the same problem, we were overachievers. This is not biblical, it is from the enemy. Without margin in our lives, Satan traps us. He isolates us, takes our time away from focusing on the Lord, and leaves us utterly exhausted. Unfortunately, with social media, it is easier than ever before to believe that this is what normal should look like, believing we are not fulfilling our duty as a woman unless we are maxed out.

Luke 10: 38-42 is a beautiful picture of this. It is the biblical history of Jesus meeting with Mary and Martha. Martha was busy preparing the house, cleaning, cooking, etc. She was doing it all on her own. She even believed that what she was doing was the best choice. Performance was the stick with which she measured her success. She, however, was tired. She needed help. She was so consumed with what she was doing she didn’t stop to rest with Jesus, she wanted to push through and for Mary to join her. At the feet of Jesus she found her truth. 

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Don’t we often do what Martha did? We are overwhelmed and weary. We are consuming ourselves with doing. When we need help, we don’t ask for help so we can take a step back, we ask for help to bring someone else into our overwhelming circumstances. 

The Lord showed me what he revealed to Martha. What Mary already knew. If we consume ourselves with the doing, and the island mentality, we will miss out on the Savior of the universe. We will push through our days. We will not stop and cling to him in every moment of our lives, we will not be surrendering to him. We will begin to believe that we need him less than we do. We will begin to slide ourselves onto the throne of our lives and push Christ aside. Martha was in Jesus’s presence and all she could think of was duty. The next thing. She was more concerned with impressing the Savior of the world than learning from him, than resting in him. 

I wonder what happened next. The Bible doesn’t tell us. Did Martha fall at Jesus’s feet? Did she change her ways? Did she repent? We don’t know. But the question is not as much about Martha as it is about us. What will you do? Will you hear the call of your Savior to created margin in your life? Will you say “no” to more and “yes” to less? Will you sit and snuggle with your kids, turn off the TV, listen to the silence, enjoy your child’s birthday rather than trying to impress the guests, play more games, throw away the “to-do” list, observe the beauty God created? When people ask what you are doing, will you be content to say, “nothing?” Will you stop today and rest at the feet of your Savior. Not just for ten minutes during your quiet time, but as a discipline? There is a more full, better life waiting at the feet of Jesus, waiting in the margin, the quiet still moments. It is filled with rest, peace, and joy. When did you last feel these things? If you don’t know, maybe you are being like Martha. Pray and ask God to reveal to you what resting at his feet looks like. Don’t miss it.

The Canaanite Woman

May 8, 2016

“Today was Mother’s Day! My gift was some friends of ours coming over and giving our back deck a makeover. They put pads on our chairs and bench, added flowers and planters, and an outdoor rug. It is gorgeous! This morning we went to church and dedicated Judah. It was wonderful. Church was on the Cannanite woman. She begged Jesus to just give her the tinniest amount of attention, though she did not deserve it. I have been her. I have begged God for help and desired just the scraps of his healing love. I felt the pull on my heart, as I approached the altar to weep and pray. I felt God say, “That is why the journey had to be so long and so painful. I needed the pain and severity to be so great that event the greatest doubter wouldn’t be able to explain the restoration of your life. It is complete and now begins the healing.” I believe. I believe that now restoration will come.”

It was such a blessing to have friends draw around me and give me something I couldn’t give myself. Having this gift of a nice outdoor space to go and get away was wonderful. So many people, during this season, just abandon us. They didn’t call and check in. They weren’t in the messy days. They simply went back to their own lives, when our lives became messy. It really broke my heart and made me angry with The Church as a whole. Christians were supposed to emulate Christ and get down in the trenches with the broken and hurting. However, we so often want to stay in the comfortable. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by other people’s struggles. We want to stay in our ivory towers where things look easier and prettier. Those, however, weren’t the people that brought healing to my life. They weren’t the people who showed me the love of Christ. The people who saw my pain and responded with authentic love. Those were the hands and feet of Christ that reached into the dark places of my heart and shined light. They were the ones that gave me hope that I wasn’t broken beyond repair. They were the ones who helped bring me out of the pit. To them, I am grateful.

Mother’s Day was, also, a hard day. I felt like such a failure. I was sick and making life harder for my own mother and my children. I felt unbelievable guilt. But I tried to push it aside, to go to church and truly hear the message that day. I could relate to the Canaanite woman. She believed in Jesus’s power. She didn’t come front and center demanding it. She was humble, begging for even the crumbs. She knew that anything Jesus could give would heal her demon possessed daughter. I have been there. In the hopeless state of illness, believing there would never be healing. However, the crumbs gave me hope. I knew it wouldn’t take a lot to heal me, even Jesus crumbs would be enough. I would sit and wait for the crumbs of his light and love to fall down upon me. He gave them to me that day. Hope. I would forget about this day, overtime. As he didn’t tell me he had healed me that day. That day was later. Much later. There would be more struggle to come before being released from my pain. It would be almost two years to the day before the healing came. But that day, I was given hope that this might now last forever. I held onto my crumbs, grateful for every one.

When For Better Becomes For Worse

April 30, 2016

“ I am back at home and times are hard. Brian treats me a lot like a child. He questions most things I do. He is always filtering what I say because I could be manic. I had a date planned and had a babysitter. Brian wanted me to cancel, so I did. He wants me in bed early. That fanned the anxiety flame and put me in the process of shutting down. I worry people will treat me like this broken person forever. It is devastating. Sometimes I just want to give up and be the person everyone thinks I am. It is hard to be making progress and to have people treating me this way.”

Dealing with mental illness is hard enough on its own, but dealing with a marriage in the midst of mental illness is extremely trying.  My husband and I were in a really good place before my brother passed away. We were tired but excited to welcome our fourth child. My health, however, immediately began to fail after Hunter died.  It was scared for Brian. He would tell me that I had lost my brother but he had lost his wife. When my mental illness started, I went to a very dark place very quickly. I became incompetent. I couldn’t take care of my children or myself. I needed someone with me at all times, to keep me from hurting myself. I essentially became a fifth child for my husband. He was alone. 

When I first became sick, he didn’t want to see it. It was too painful. He didn’t want to believe I needed help. I persisted, however, in asking for treatment. I knew something was wrong. Once I went into the hospital, I felt like I lost all dignity. I was no longer a wife but felt viewed as a child. The respect we once had was lost. My decisions and things I said were no longer trusted. When I returned home,  he didn’t trust me to watch the kids or be alone. He required that I complete all of my self-care activities or he feared I would fall apart. He kept inventory of what I did and how I did it. Always watching for signs of another spiral. I had to have eight hours of sleep, three meals a day, read my Bible, exercise, color my mandalas, and use my Emwave. 

I no longer felt like a wife, it was so painful. The pinnacle of this was when I scheduled a date night for us and he made me cancel so I could be in bed on time. I felt like a shadow of my former self. It was so trying. It actually made my sickness worse, in some ways. I further diminished my hope and gave me a reason to live. It made me fearful life would never be the same. I longed to be the Nurse Practitioner, wife, mother, and sister I had been. From where I sat, then, it looked like it may never happen again. I said  goodbye to a future self and became completely engrossed in my current circumstances. Only time would begin to heal these broken places.

Goodbye Hospital

Leaving the psychiatric facility was relatively uneventful. After I started Risperdal, I started progressing towards stability more rapidly. In the first forty eight hours, I started to see glimpses of myself again. The side effects from Risperdal were overwhelming initially. The tremors, instability, and muscle weakness were terrifying. I, also, had cogwheeling. This is where your muscles grind and bounce like gears moving, rather than a smooth motion. I knew that these side effects had potential to be permanent. However, I started Benztropine and my symptoms improved within five days. As well, the physical tremors and muscle weakness began to dissipate within a few weeks. Initially, walking down stairs was difficult, but it improved as time passed. As soon as my symptoms were stable, I was able to leave the unit and return home. We stopped locally to make sure we had all of my prescriptions and, then, came home. 

April 27, 2016

“Transition to home has been smooth until now. Today was hard. I was experiencing fatigue, overwhelmed by little kids all talking at once, not feeling hungry. There are so many things to think about and do. The end of school is a very busy time. The yoga has really helped with my ability to relax. I am glad to be doing things with Brian. I became overwhelmed, which normally leads to anxiety but I transitioned to depression. I took a three hour nap and was refreshed. I think that how I was feeling before could have been hypomania. I was wanting to stop thinking about going to Disney world, but I couldn’t. As the depressive symptoms came in, I had no more energy. I didn’t think suicide felt as crazy. I wanted to curl up and sleep.”

Coming home was more difficult than I expected. I had improvement in the hospital, but there were no outside factors to impact my health. Now, I was back in the role of mother and wife. I had daytime babysitters, so that I could focus on my coping skills. It involved me sleeping all night, eating three meals a day, journaling, coloring the mandalas, having a quiet time with the Lord, and exercising. I had to stop exercising so intensely, as this often lead to increasing my mental intensity. I had to try as hard as possible to maintain a clam environment that was low stress. I would often do yoga, do ballet, or go swim laps. 

I found a local yoga studio and my husband and I began to go together. It was such a quiet and peaceful form of yoga. Power yoga and hot yoga were not in the realm of yoga types that helped with my anxiety. So, I devoted myself to a new form of exercise. Swimming was also helpful. Getting in the water and swimming without hearing anything else was so soothing. I would use the time to process my life and pray. It started to become a really sweet time. 

I started noticing myself becoming obsessed with activities or future goals. For me, Disney became a big focus. My family’s trip to Disney World had been one of the happiest weeks of my life. I found myself longing to feel those emotions again. Unfortunately, I became unable to let the idea go. It was neither financially feasible or physically possible at the time.  However, I had laser like focus and would speak of it all of the time. It felt as if the trip was vital to my survival. I couldn’t bear to hear from any detractors and this became a sour of pain and stress for myself and my family.

My marriage would also be affected by my illness. My relationship with my husband would change. It would be hard.

A New Arrival

April 14, 2016

“Positive ways to cope with stress! I am so thrilled by the coping skills I have learned. I want to continue to read, journal, color mandalas, paint, do yoga, take hot baths, be mindful, do meditation. I have got to find a balance between doing things independently and asking for help. I need to continue to use yoga to help me cope. The transition home won’t be easy while I use these skills, but it should get better.”

April 15, 2016

“Today was a much better day. My symptoms of blurry vision, muscle weakness, and tremors are nearly gone. We got to go outside, go to Starbucks, cook, and do art. It was a fun Friday! At dinner time, Brian surprised me by bringing Judah. I went bananas! I was so excited. What a truly blessed day.”

Yoga was such a vital part of my healing in the hospital. This was a new way of working out for me. It was not a fitness yoga but a meditative one. It was slow and focused. Meditation was a key component. It was nice to take time to focus on my core self without distraction. It was a pleasant feeling combined with releasing of hormones related to exercise. Those endorphins feel so good. As well, Shavasna was incredibly healing. It was such a peaceful and reflective time. Our instructor would position us and we would go into a deep meditative state. I would go into a state of prayer usually ending with crying. She would also walk around and massage us during this time. It was so healing. After I was finished, it was always like a burden had lifted. I highly recommend it as a coping skill and process toward healing.

The medication side effects were debilitating. It was unexpected. I found myself falling over into the wall. During yoga, I could not balance well at all. Even kneeling was a chore. The tremors added to the difficulty. I found it hard to eat my breakfast or write in my journal. My hands were unsteady and weak. The weakness prevented me from doing many of my daily exercises and participating in scheduled activities. It was not only challenging. It was scary. I was afraid, as they could be, they would be permanent. I remember leaving the hospital and being scared we would have to move because my thigh weakness wouldn’t let me go down stairs without falling. These symptoms, however, were only temporary. The cogentin kicked in and the symptoms faded. Eventually, I was able to wean off cogentin. They symptoms were only temporary.

Judah arriving was the lift I needed to make it through the end of treatment. My husband was with me everyday. It was hard, however, to watch so many of the patients with their babies. I wanted mine so badly. I loved him, and the separation was hard. I had even taken down pictures of my family. The pain of missing them exacerbated my symptoms. It was such a blessing to see my happy baby come through those doors. His snuggles were the best. It was a joy to even be able to nurse him. As the staff had an expert in psychiatric medications and breastfeeding. They tailored my treatment to support this. It wasn’t until later that I would have to stop breastfeeding all together.

Happy Birthday!

April 9, 2016 – Journal Entry 7

“Happy birthday to me! ‘I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.’ Psalm 34:4”

April 10, 2016 – Journal Entry 7

“My birthday was wonderful! I am blessed. Brian, mom, and dad were there. We had strawberry shortcake from Nantucket Bar + Grill in Chapel Hill, NC. 4 family members sent flowers. We had Ben +Jerry’s assorted ice cream. Some friends sent some strawberries dipped in chocolate from Fannie Mae Berries. My aunt sent a journal with scripture inside and a stuffed giraffe. We celebrated in the day room with the girls on my floor and nursing staff. Then, I pumped and got an hour off the unit pass to walk with my family. We went to the gift shop and bought gifts for my floor mates. A coloring therapy book, a body butter, and a baby blanket. I am so glad to give back to these women. Their needs are so much greater than my own. I love giving back to others. My mom and Brian got into a disagreement about my care. Anxiety swept over me and I started down the spiral. I colored in my therapy book, read a book, did the Emwave, and used my beads to calm myself. I was really withdrawn for about four hours after that. I watched a show and ate Ben + Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice-cream. Finally, I did yoga and went to bed. I slept pretty well last night. I am tired and a little withdrawn today. Overall, a wonderful birthday in the psych ward.”

My thirtieth birthday was spent in the psychiatric hospital. It was a super depressing moment in my life. I felt ashamed and low. 30 is supposed to be a great celebration and I wasn’t even in control of my own choices at the time. However, we made the best of it. We celebrated as much as you could in a psychiatric hospital. The time off the ward with my family was the most special.

The other women on the ward had such needs, that I didn’t want to be the only person getting something that day. We went to the gift shop and picked out presents. My family and doctors were not thrilled. They thought this was a symptom of my illness. I, however, felt otherwise. I was so upset that something as simply as wanting to bless others was seen as a sickness. It increased my shame. After the festivities, we were all in my room together. My mom got upset because she had bought me a boombox for my birthday day. I wasn’t allowed to have it because there was a cord. Her stress and upset started to upset me and to upset my husband. So, my mom and Brian went into the hallway. They got into a fight about my symptoms and my care. It was so upsetting that I had to emotionally detach from their problems. That, I don’t believe, is uncommon for loved ones. The stress of watching the person you love in such circumstances is overwhelming. It would have been better, had I had a plan to deal with such a stressor but hindsight is 20/20. The Emwave helped tremendously. It is a hand held device that helps with breathing and tracks your heart rate. When a certain biorhythm is detected, it turns green and you have calmed down. It is a great tool to help with self-care.

That was the last time I would see my parents until I got out of the hospital. It was so hard to watch them leave so upset. There was nothing I could do, however. The stress caused me to have a relapse of symptoms that affected me for the next twenty four hours. A minor setback, but every one increases your stay.

The Unit

The Perinatal Unit was unlike anything I had seen yet. The hall had five rooms on it. Four were private rooms with an attached bathroom. The fifth room was one that was shared by two roommates. Two of the girls had already decided to room together, so that I wouldn’t have to share my first day on the unit. It is so nice to know we have some choices. There is a nursing straight through the first set of locked doors. It seats two nurses and is filled with computers. This is where we go with questions and to get our medication. There is a phone and a computer in the hallway. We can actually have internet access when our sessions are occurring. There is, also, a portable computer that can be used in your room.

Here, clothes still can not have any strings. That is to keep us from using them to hang ourselves. We are allowed to use our hairdryer, straightener, curling iron, and makeup but it stays at the nurses station until we need it. If we need to shave, a nurse will come and watch us perform  the task and dispose of the razor after. The meeting room has a dining table, a TV, some chairs, a couch, and a coffee table. This is where we have out sessions and where we can go during free time. At the end of the hallway, there is another set of locking doors.

Our schedule is set. We have scheduled breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is the complete hospital menu, unlike the restricted menu on the other units. We place our orders in the morning and evening. The meals are delivered to the unit, so leaving doesn’t become an issue. Our therapies include physical therapy/exercise, occupational therapy, counseling, spiritual counseling, yoga (optional). Family can visit for approximately four hours a day, in the evenings. They encourage families to bring the babies, during this time. Mother and baby bonding is so vital as this can be strained due to post partum depression. If we were cleared by our psychiatrist, we would walk off the unit once a day. We would go to Starbucks and then often sit outside and talk. It was so nice to see the sunshine. It was a welcome privilege to be sure.