I have always loved the image that we are all “beautiful messes” …that there is beauty in our imperfections and in our faults. Yet, I don’t think this displays the full picture. We’re not supposed to be messes. Yes, we are sinful people that sure make a big mess of things and have messy stuff in our lives, but this was never the intention. This is not the end of the story. The real beauty is in something else.
I was listening to a song the other day and the main chorus says “your mess is mine”. It’s not a Christian song, but this phrase hit me so hard as something Jesus wanted me to know. You see, I pretend I’m not a mess, just like you do too at times. But the truth is very different. And this is my messy story…
As a health junkie, you probably think that I don’t have any health issues. And I don’t, really. God gave me this body and I’m doing my absolute best to take care of it and steward it well. Apart from the occasional cold (thank you Calvin and Peter!), I am pretty healthy. Nothing hurts, and I am strong, fast and flexible. It feels good, and I know this body will last a long time, God willing.
But there is something lurking under the surface. It’s easy to hide underneath a “strong” veneer. Sometimes, I foolishly boast about being strong when the truth is that things were weakly crumbling apart inside for a long time.
My mess was that I suffered from depression, specifically postpartum depression.
When I became a mom, my brain chemistry naturally drifted toward depressive tendencies. In hindsight, I can see that this was probably brewing for a while…my emotions have always been a little fragile. Not too long ago I wrote about my Body Image Battle and the insecurities I have always had swirling around my body. I wish I had known about my own chemistry long ago when I experimented with starving myself, making myself throw up, running for hours, and the occasional cutting (wow, that was a really hard sentence to write). These are not normal teen/college angst behaviors. I am sure there was depression going on then, too.
Everything came to a head with the birth of my oldest, Calvin. The nastiness of these emotions grew into the biggest ball of postpartum depression, which wasn’t diagnosed until he was 10 months old. Up to that point, I hated being a mom. I didn’t like him (granted, he was a very challenging baby with about every little health and fuss issue under the sun), and I wanted to quit. I felt trapped in a new life that I deeply hated. Several times, I seriously considered driving away and never coming back. (Or worse.)
Everyone else loved their babies and fully embraced mom life. They actually liked being a mom. I didn’t understand them. I hated every part of it, and then my interest in everything else waned. I didn’t want to go anywhere, participate in anything or even have a conversation with my husband. I didn’t care about life.
“Just workout…you need some endorphins, a little serotonin and some fresh air. And you just need a little help with the baby. This isn’t that serious, you’ll be fine.” I was in denial. I was always a firm believer that fitness and healthy eating could fix a lot of psychological issues, and for many it does, but for me it did not even come close.
No, I needed help. These “baby blues” weren’t going anywhere. This was really bad.
I felt like such a helpless mess. I wanted to enjoy motherhood and have fun with my baby and our new family. I didn’t want to walk around in a haze of apathy and irritability. Was this how being a mom would always feel? I didn’t sign up for this!
Somewhere in the middle of all this mess, I surrendered to God. And let me tell you, the process of surrendering was not pretty. I had to admit I had a problem that I wasn’t able to fix…that I didn’t have it all together, was organized and on-the-ball. I eventually woke up to the fact that God wanted to heal my body, brain and emotions and give me His joy. So I finally reached out and asked for help.
I understand that mental illnesses like depression come in many forms and in varying degrees. Many studies have shown that diet changes, physical activity and other more natural interventions can be quite effective in reducing the feelings of depression and hopelessness. As a fitness trainer and nutrition coach, I was obviously already doing these things, yet still felt ugly inside.
For me, medication worked instantly, and I still take it every day. I’m not ashamed now of needing medicine (I know that God heals me on a daily basis through the medicine), and I’m no longer ashamed of my psychological mess. This is simply my story, and I can praise Him for how He has set me free from this mess.
No matter what, mom-life is a messy life. It just is. But, we must realize that we can stop trying to hold it all together. God can see through the veneer of strength anyway. He can see when we’re falling apart inside and when we really need help.
The real beauty is in Him taking our messes from us.
“Yes, you were a mess, but that is mine now. I have taken your ugliness, your imperfections, your problems and your faults, and replaced them with ME. You’re a new creation, no longer with a heart of depression-filled, ugly stone. I have given you a new heart full of joy, love and hope. Your mess is mine now.”
Megan Dahlman is a wife and joyful mother of two young boys, Calvin and Peter. Her family has attended Grace Chapel for nearly 5 years. She is a strength and conditioning specialist, a nutrition coach, and the founder of www.strong-mommas.com, an online resource and blog for women interested in becoming truly strong and healthy while maintaining a beautiful heavenly perspective.