In the last six years, I have been given a handful of diagnoses from medical professionals regarding various aspects of my health. It’s never fun to be given a ‘label.’
A diagnosis can make you feel different, weak, and weird because you are being told that something is wrong with you.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
When my husband and I started trying to have kids, it just wasn’t happening for us like it seemed to be for everyone else. Two years went by. Finally, I went in to see a fertility specialist . After one ultrasound, the doctor immediately knew what was wrong. I had what is called PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
I had no idea what that meant. But I started crying. The doctors and nurses quickly rushed in to comfort me, promising me that what I had was very common and quite treatable. But it was frightening and simultaneously bothersome that something was wrong. I couldn’t help but ask the question:
By God’s grace, I was able to get pregnant quite quickly, with the help of a couple of rounds of fertility shots and medication. We were blessed to give birth to two babies within less than two years (a boy and girl 17 months apart!). But it was a time I will not forget. I was filled with anger, fear, and envy, wanting what I saw as ‘normal’ for everyone else.
A few years passed and my hands were full as a stay-at-home mom of two littles. As a natural extrovert, I couldn’t help but want to get to know all the mommies in the neighborhood and start organizing parties, playdates, friend camps and preschool activities for the kids. I found my job as a mom to be rather lonely, purposeless and mundane at times.
Looking back, I think my party-planning-social-mode was my way of coping with those feelings – an attempt to connect with others so that I would not feel so alone.
I wanted to avoid the hard. The reality that raising two strong-willed, physically active children was hard. The reality that I no longer worked at a job that got recognition and pats on the bat. The reality that I had to deal with a lot of screaming, flailing, very physical tantrums on a daily basis because my kids were, well, stubborn and independent like their parents. 🙂
I didn’t recognize the symptoms of depression immediately. My husband and friends had to point it out. I was crying at everything. I started sleeping 10-12 hours a day. I started to get angry and irritable at every little thing the kids or my husband did. I started to withdraw from social activities, cancelling one thing after another on my calendar.
My husband and friends began to express their concern. Everyone around me began to gently suggest, I think you need to get help. From a professional.
And ohhhh…that just pissed me off.
I am just tired. I don’t need to see someone, I just need more time alone! Kids who aren’t so strong-willed! A husband who helps more!
But deep inside, I began to ask myself: are they right? Am I depressed?
But then I would berate myself with thoughts like:
Depressed? Really? You are a freaking stay at home mom who should be grateful she has the resources to stay at home all day! You have tons of friends, a wonderful husband, a beautiful house. You have no reason to be depressed! Get over yourself! Stop over-thinking things!
But that’s exactly what it was. Severe depression, my counselor would later observe, when I finally had the humility to seek help. Little did I know it was not something I could get out of on my own, nor would I…for the next two years.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
So here I was, in a severe depression, trying to just survive while being told ‘you need to take care of yourself.’ Whatever that looks like. I know that what happened next was meant to be. It was something I have a hard time not re-living, something that still fills me with shame and embarrassment and deep regret, but I believe that it was an event that God used in my life to draw me closer to Him, by bringing me to the end of myself. It was my rock bottom experience. It was the place where I had to cry out to Him because there was nowhere else to go.
Basically, without sharing the details, something happened that shattered my confidence as a mom. And as a person. I apologize for not saying more, but I feel that it is unwise, at least at this time, to share this event publicly. Maybe one day.
My counselor would later explain this was a ‘traumatic event’ that set off a lot of weird physical symptoms that frightened me.
I began hiding in the closet. I hid under my covers. Anything but soft textures were unbearable to wear. My arms felt like they were on fire. Sudden noises sounded to me like a bomb went off and I had to tuck into a ball. I was experiencing, what I learned later was known as panic.
When I was given the diagnosis of PTSD, once again, I was harsh with myself:
PTSD? Seriously? That is for people who have gone through something seriously traumatic. Like war. You had one little minor incident. Get over yourself! Stop making this such a big deal out of this!
I didn’t realize how unhelpful that voice was, nor how to turn it off, for a long time. I am still haunted by that voice at times…
What is my point in sharing all of this?
I want you to know that whatever you are going through (or if know someone going through something), whatever label you have been given, please know that it doesn’t have to define you. Yes, it is a part of you, and yes, that information can help inform you and provide insight into things that are confusing or seem ‘different’ or ‘strange’. But I encourage you to view your ‘weakness’ as a strength. You have insight into something that most people do not have. Therefore, you are able to love, understand, and empathize with others in a way that most cannot.
In my case, more than anything, I learned to depend on God in a way I had never done before. I learned how to cry out to Him, to lean on Him in utter desperation in a way that changed me on the inside, deep inside. Throughout all of that time, I found him to be Trustworthy, Loving and Good. So Good.
So now, I walk with a limp. But it is a limp I do not wish away…at least not now, not in this life. But one day, I will rejoice in heaven, when total healing will come. 🙂