Experiencing antenatal depression for the fifth time with our precious #6 left me more vulnerable than ever to postpartum depression. Add suddenly losing our supporting church and with it a great deal of financial support, building our own house in a village, and finally moving to the village to begin an entire new way of life...
Well ... you get the picture.
This journey of healing has been a leap of faith, and I want it to be a testimony of the Lord's goodness, of His grace that grows and blossoms over time. The full beauty of His healing, the flower if you will, sometimes grows softly and slowly, gracing the garden of your life suddenly one morning, anticipated yet glorious.
Following Melissa's birth, I waited for the relief that usually comes, the lifting of the weight and fog of depression. As I cuddled my precious daughter in my arms, I breathed out, "It's over." But it wasn't. For the first time, my sanity did not immediately return. The following weeks were filled with many tears and late night discussions with my husband.
What in the world were we going to do?
We first decided to step out on faith and follow the Lord to our village. I have never struggled with a decision more. I wanted a respite. I wanted to just let go and give up. I was tired of fighting for one smile, one moment of hope. I wanted a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, a kitchen I knew how to use, and climate control. Oh, just to be able to speak English all day long!
Maybe we should have left. Maybe that would have been the healthiest thing to do. Truthfully, I was so scared. I was scared to stay and scared to leave. I couldn't face change, yet I couldn't stand the present. My husband felt led by the Lord to make the move to the village. However, he was so willing to lay it all down and go back to the States. For him, I came before ministry. I will always be grateful for his love and desire to put my needs before his desires. I could decide freely.
I prayed and prayed. Maybe it is my own stubbornness, but I could not feel peace from the Lord about leaving Cambodia. We eventually made the move but made it earlier than we should have because we ran out of money to pay for rent and electricity. It was a change, and change was oh-so-difficult for me not being well. There were fits and lots of crying. I finally told Chris I was done. I couldn't live in the village, but I couldn't go back to the States either. I told him to figure it out, poor guy.
He took us to Thailand, to our place of rest and healing. We went to a qualified doctor who gave us not very good news: Postpartum and most likely chronic depression. He told me that I had been depressed for so long that overcoming the depression was going to be a lifelong journey. He gave me tools to deal with depression and combat it later on in life then offered me medication. He was so wise, so gentle, so understanding. He said he was on call for us indefinitely.
We then went to counseling. When we told our two counselors our story, they looked at us in disbelief.
"How have you survived?"one of them whispered.
That's when I cried. It had been bad, really bad. I didn't just imagine the horror of it. We went through several counseling sessions both looking back and looking to the future. They gave us more tools for the fight and helped us work through how we would fight together. We stayed in Thailand indefinitely, the staff at the missionary guesthouse helping us with finances. When we were finally ready to leave, we knew the Lord had indeed intended us to stay in Cambodia and serve in our village. We also knew what lay ahead of us on the journey of healing:
Work. Lots of work.
*I want to be clear that I in no way am advocating medication for mental illness vs. no medication for mental illness, staying or leaving the mission field in dire circumstances, spiritual strength being the reason we stayed in Cambodia, or the like. Each person, each family is so different. Every circumstance is so unique.
We DO advocate following the Holy Spirit while searching our hearts and the Word. We advocate unity in decision between husband and wife. We advocate acceptance of decisions by friends, family, and supporters. The missionary and the family are more important than any program or ministry. God can handle the Great Commission. Our job is to love.