Hi friends! I am so excited to be doing a summer series of guest bloggers. I am so excited to have other women in the field pour into you based on their experiences, passions and expertise so enjoy the next couple months as we highlight our guests.
This week our guest is Martha Harder from Blue Haven Soapery!
Hi there folks!
Jocelyn asked if I would guest-post on her blog and I am absolutely thrilled to meet up with you here in Internet-land. Ready to share with you *hopefully* something you will find encouraging.
It’s always weird meeting someone new. Are they relatable or stuffy?
Do you *click* or does their weirdness resonate on a different wavelength than yours?
“We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” -Dr. Suess.
I think the above quote also relates to friends. Because weirdness is often necessary for good connections to be made. The realness factor.
I’m the kinda gal who likes to get all up in your business and ask questions like, “When was your last good bowel movement?” to someone who says they are feeling ‘off’.
I’m the one who looks at topics like abuse, betrayal and trauma and says, “We are looking this dead in the eye. We’re not messin around or skirting around this.”
I’m the kinda gal who sees things like pornography as needing to be addressed. If it’s such an issue and yet “Nobody struggles.” It’s awfully suspicious. And dead silent. I’m all for shouting its devastation to the mountaintops.
I want the light of day to shine into the cracks. Even the painful, tear and blood-crusted ones.
John 3:21 “But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
We crave the light and fear it at the same time.
Perhaps because we feel it’s easier to struggle in silence. There is the fear of the unknown to contend with. What may happen if I speak up??
Perhaps because we’ve *tried* to open up before and have been shot down by people we love.
Perhaps we are in need of looking for some new peoples. Peoples who will not only HEAR, but LISTEN.
I am ALL FOR having awkward conversations. Because those are often the ones we recoil from initiating but CRAVE so deeply…
If you are reading this and are struggling, please know you are NOT ALONE (ever.) God promises He will NEVER leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) That’s a pretty sure promise.
All that being said, today, I’d like to talk about postpartum depression.
First of all, hi.
My name is Martha.
I am the hopelessly flawed student of life.
I am wife to a real-live, old-fashioned cowboy (at least that’s how I see him in my mind. He’s really an organic farmer)
We have four earthly children and three born into the arms of Jesus.
I am the survivor of abuse. A student of Biblical Counseling. An advocate.
I’m a writer, a cooker of food, a gardener, preserver, fermenter, and listener (in training).
I am also a soap artist and business owner. That’s a fancy term for the fact that I make old fashioned soap with a classy new twist. I really just like to play with chemicals. And if they can be pretty, even better.
Nearly two years ago. (Remember that year?) The year that has become the equivalent of a ‘bad word’ that you speak in hushed tones. “Don’t say 2020 too loud. It might come back to bite you!!”
I was pregnant with our 4th earthly child. Her life was held in the balance due to some severe complications in my body as well as hers.
I had large ‘growths’ on my thyroid causing INSANE levels of dangerous-to-pregnancy hormones to be pumped out. If my levels had altered by two points, I would’ve needed intervention. Said intervention would’ve affected the baby. At one point it was looking very much like a choice between my life and the baby’s…
Then there was the babe I was fighting for…
“We can’t find a part of the baby’s heart.” My body weighed a million ton appointment after appointment that we couldn’t figure out what all we were looking at.
“She may be born purple. She may be stillborn. She may need surgery immediately after birth. She may not stop screaming.”
Every day I woke up wondering if I’d be able to ‘keep her’. Every night I went to bed hoping I’d stay awake all night with her kicks-a sign of life.
Every. Single. Day. Was. An. Intense. Battle.
Then, 9 months passed and boom! She was here! Horray and horrah! She’s here and we’re both still kicking!!
She’s alive, not purple, not screaming (more than normal, anyway), she doesn’t need immediate surgery…
The euphoria lasted about 48 hours or so…
Then reality sunk in.
We have 4 kids. A big house. A busy life. Coming off of an insanely turbulent pregnancy where every day was a battle of will and prayer. A gut-wrenching, throat-punch to despair every waking moment of every waking day for the better part of a year.
My nerves were shot. My body felt broken (which is normal for postpartum. You just overcame impossible obstacles with your body to bring life into the world).
It crept in slowly then all at once.
“I don’t want to get out of bed.”
Then it was, “I don’t want to make food anymore.”
Then it was, “Can we keep the drapes closed? I don’t want to see the light.”
Climbing the stairs to change the wash to the dryer felt too much. Looking at the pile of clean clothes that needed folding brought me to tears.
Seeing people happy brought me to tears. I didn’t want to talk on the phone. I didn’t get back to people who reached out to me. Not because I was busy. But because I was in despair and darkness.
I was slowly insulating and isolating myself, and I didn’t even realize it until my doctor looked into my eyes and asked me how I was.
“Martha. I’ve known you for 6 years. We’ve gotten to be friends during that time.”
I lost it. I unloaded how everything felt so heavy and I didn’t have any desire for ANYTHING anymore. It wasn’t just tiredness. It wasn’t even just sadness. It had crossed into the realm of terrifying.
She was leaving the country for a medical mission shortly after that, and I was scared silly of being without her during that low spot. I had never been so low after giving birth (and I’ve given birth a time or two).
She reassured me that these things were NORMAL. She encouraged me to reach out during the hardest times. She shone a light to my darkness. The darkness I had been in denial about. She told me that intervention was nothing to be ashamed of but that it was brave and took courage.
Now, depression is not something to scoff at. It isn’t all ‘in your head’. Many times there is a legitimate physical cause. If you are struggling, I strongly recommend seeking help from a competent professional. This is not a road to walk alone.
But I also recommend assembling a crew. A courage crew, if you will. Folks who perhaps have walked this road before and are on the other side. Someone who will not belittle you or your situation. Someone who will look at the scary WITH you and say with Samwise Gamgee, “I can’t carry it for you, Mr. Frodo, but I CAN carry you!!” And storm the fires of Mount Doom WITH you.
Life is intense. The battles we face are not light or petty. Sometimes there is real spiritual warfare occurring. Satan WANTS to destroy us. He is the father of lies and he feeds said lies to us as a steady diet.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Sometimes there are real PHYSICAL battles being waged… Ones that require outside help.
There should be zero shame in seeking help. We are ALL human and there is no one who is immune to struggle and frailty. Anyone who derides someone for seeking help is in denial themselves. Denial that help is required to get through this thing called life.
Through my struggle, I realized I needed something productive to engage my mind as well as my hands.
I started binge watching soap-making videos on YouTube (shoutout to Royalty Soaps! You are the absolute best!)
I slowly began to feel different parts of my brain start to function healthily again. But it was a process of many months!! It definitely was not overnight.
Three days postpartum I wanted to give up on life.
When my baby celebrated her first birthday, I had learned how to make cold process soap competently, had started a business, and had learned to come out of my shell on so many levels.
All this to say, if you are struggling, your TODAY does not determine your ultimate destiny. You are WILDLY capable, my friend.
In fact, Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.“
Christ does the strengthening. We do the physical doing through His empowerment.
Some practical tips to try if you are in a rut or feel yourself slinking to unhealthy places of discouragement or depression:
*Remember. Remember who you are. Remember how God has led in the past. Remember He is the same God today as when those awesome things happened before. Remember you are loved. Remember you are wanted. Remember you are a human with limitations. Remember it’s ok (and healthy!!) to ask for help.
*Take a walk. Fresh air and exercise are proven winners to boost mood and overall health! You don’t need to go fast. Just go.
*Take inventory. When was the last time you had a shower? Are you drinking enough water? When was the last *GOOD* meal you had? How has your sleep been? Pinpointing a physical deficit can sometimes be super helpful! Sometimes we feel like giving up when really what we need most are food and rest.
*Check in!! Call a trusted friend. Text a counselor or ministry leader. Reaching outside of the confines of our own bubble can prove enormously beneficial!
*Take some time for triage. Like they do at the emergency room. Everyone’s needs seem pressing, but a severed limb is different than a slight cough. Some things need to be addressed NOW. Some can wait. Some can be completely thrown out the window! Constantly taking inventory on what is an actual NEED and what can be done away with.
This could also involve simplifying life for a time. I am a budget NERD. I am all for doing things yourself to save money. But your time and sanity are worth way more than the money devoted to some ease at a time of struggle, transition, or downright crisis.
Budget for things like:
-premade meals. You can purchase healthy ones from Costco. Pre-made salads with everything chopped and ready to go. Organic chicken nuggets or chicken strips for the kids. Frozen spring rolls that are easy to thaw and heat. Frozen hash browns for breakfast or even the premade breakfast sandwiches. Remember, this is for a time. Remind yourself (especially if you are one who does everything ‘from scratch’) that this is for a TIME. To help you while you adjust. Things WILL settle down.
-multiple laundry hampers (one for each bedroom so there is never one CRAZY overflowed basket but many smaller ones. It’s a mental thing. It works. At least for me )
-if any appliances are not working (particularly dishwasher or washer/dryer) PAY TO GET THEM FIXED. You don’t need to be doing everything by hand right now.
*Take people up on their offers to help. And don’t feel bad about it. Shame on anyone who offers who doesn’t mean it. If they ask, tell them what your biggest needs are. And LET THEM HELP. You know you would drop everything in a heartbeat to help them. Let them bless you.
*Grow something. Even if you think you have a ‘brown thumb’. Research something that is easy to grow, and go for it.
Walk slowly through a local greenhouse or garden store.
Take in the different sensory experiences.
What do you feel? Heat? Damp?
What do you smell? Soil?
What do you see? Color?
Is there a plant that is edible? Imagine it’s flavor…
Grounding yourself in and through nature is a helpful practice when you are struggling mentally/physically.
*Invest a few bucks into something like an essential oil diffuser and diffuse bright, cheerful things. Lime, peppermint, orange, or grapefruit are awesome options. It’s amazing how we connect scent to mood…
*Open the shades. Let the sunlight in. Vitamin D is so helpful in so many levels. Also-are you taking vitamins? *Should* you be taking them and have forgotten?? Maybe set an alarm on your phone to help you remember.
*Organize something small. You may not be able to conquer a whole room. So conquer a corner of it. Do you have a ‘chairdrobe’ (a chair that doubles as a dumping place for your clothing?) Pick it up! It is amazing what a boost it is having one sore spot tidied.
*Pray. Seek God.
*Listen to music. Uplifting music. Not Debbie Downer music. You don’t need to be brought lower. Gentle, classical music or hymns. They aren’t my only stream of audio, but I am always in awe how those two genres will instantly lower my blood pressure.
*Do something artistic. Don’t feel creative? Order a kit with instructions! There are amazing kits nowadays on painting, candle-making, wood-crafting, soap-making, you name it! They’ve got it. Having a creative outlet is a beautiful way to process struggle.
Thank you so much for joining me today for this lengthy heart-to-heart chat. You are not alone, my friend. Ever.
You can find me at Blue Haven Soapery on Facebook, sharing uplifting encouragement daily. Because my business was born out of discouragement and depression, my daily mission is to ENCOURAGE. Bring hope. Shine a light in the dark places of life.
“Courage, dear heart.” C.S. Lewis
Written by Martha Harder
FB: Blue Haven Soapery
Jocelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor and course creator who desires to help clients heal and grow into who God created them to be.