Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On the Disappearance of Joy & the Weight of Guilt

This usually full of opinions, loudmouth on screen has been unusually quiet as of late. It's been almost a month since my last post in fact. My apologies. While it is not unusual for the blog to go silent occasionally, this time around it has not been due to my terrible abilities to keep a journal going that dates as far back as the sixth grade. Dear Diary and I did not have a steady relationship, but we have overcome our differences. 

For those who have been following along on Facebook or Instagram, I have had a very rough first trimester. Beyond the physical toll of nausea and fatigue, this pregnancy has led me into a battle with some deeper emotional and spiritual demons. I haven't been able to pray - really pray - and while I'm not sure we could classify it as clinical depression, there have definitely been some very dark emotions clouding my senses. 

It is sadly not the tortured artist kind of battling of demons. There is nothing creative that has come out of those moments. I am so thankful for the prayers of those who have been holding me up through this time. There is no doubt that that God has been working through them to lift me up and out for air - whether a card or a text sent at just the right time, an encouraging word about my writing or art, or just a hello from an old friend. 

The only thing I can liken these last few weeks to is what it must have felt like to be tortured by dementors (of Harry Potter fame). It is as though any joy, any ability to feel, has been sucked out of me. While I am keenly aware of postpartum depression and its destructive forces, I've never experienced the effects on the antepartum side of things. I say the following with this caveat - we are happy to be having another child, even if we weren't quite expecting it. And yet...I cannot rejoice. It simply hasn't been in me. Instead, the voice of the enemy keeps screaming in the darkest places.

I am fairly certain that I am failing at all things motherhood and wifely. 
The house is a disaster.
I rarely cook homemade meals anymore.
I'm barely functional during the day and pretty much out of commission after dinner.
There is no desire for writing or creating - it seems pointless.
I have no desire to hold a conversation with most people. 
In fact, I'd rather just hole up somewhere and crawl under a blanket and thank you to leave me alone.
In the darkest moments, I am fairly certain that I am a waste of space.

As I spiral downward into these dark places, I am so thankful that over the last several years I have internalized the voice of the One who tells me the Truth about who I am. While the joy doesn't return, there is the knowledge that the above are all lies. All of it. Well, most of it. The house is a disaster and I rarely cook. I am barely functional. Ok, I know that last part about being a waste of space - I know that isn't true. In fact, I have a feeling this child will be another very important piece of my salvation story. Darkness doesn't fight when it's not threatened, right?

And still, when I remember that all of those feelings are lies, the guilt creeps in.
Guilt for not rejoicing over this new little life with all my heart when there are so many whose hearts continue to break under the weight of loss and infertility. 
Guilt for having thought we were done having children and being okay with that - good Catholics don't do that, right? 
Guilt for closing myself off to others so I can lick my own wounds (not literally, of course). 
Guilt over not being present enough when I am at home.
Guilt over not giving completely of myself when I am at work.
Guilt over having to work, but also over wanting to be home more.
Guilt for dreaming about future endeavors that aren't centered around my children.
Guilt for all the extra things the husband has had to do because I'm not functioning.
So much the weight of guilt.

The darkness of disappearing joy. The crushing weight of guilt. This is not the picture painted when you hear about motherhood and pregnancy. These are supposed to be months of joyous anticipation. What happens when those expectations don't materialize? More guilt. More darkness. More self-imposed isolation. Then there is the pressure of the public face. When people know you, and you are a live-out-loud Catholic, there is no room for doubt and darkness. Being open to life must be all joy all the time. It is exhausting.

I finally researched antepartum depression because I know what I am feeling isn't the same as my last two pregnancies, no matter how much the Hubs thinks it is. While the fatigue and nausea are a constant, the emotional turmoil is very different. In reading different articles and trying to assess whether this is just hormonal or something more serious, I realized that part of what I needed to do was to stop putting on a public face. Yes, I am a live-out-loud Catholic. Yes, I will happily accept the little lives God grants me. But. . . yes, there are struggles along the road to that acceptance.

I realized that I never admitted to myself that I really thought we were done having children. I've talked about my mixed emotions at finding out about our newest little one, but there was a great release when I finally today admitted that there was a large part of me that did not want to be pregnant again. Yet, I cannot wait to meet this little bundle of love. 

I've realized that I need to be more open about what I am feeling with my husband, my friends, and my doctor. So far, no one seems to think this is anything more than hormonal, and that is a little frustrating. I want to be sure we are watching for something deeper since this feels so much different. 

I am coming to realize that I also have to let go of the guilt and just muddle through this time as best as I can. No, I won't get it all right. Yes, I'm going to drop the ball on more than a few things most likely. I'll have to rely on the grace and forgiveness of friends and family. My hope is that we will all survive despite the failures. 

Finally, but most importantly, I have to keep my eye on Christ. One of my favorite things about Catholicism is that we have a whole army of warriors to help me through this, and a treasury of prayers that I can turn to when the prayer of my heart doesn't want to flow. The Sacraments feed my spirit when I feel distant from anything else. I am not alone in this battle, even when I forget to, or cannot, pray. I know I have a community lifting me up to the One who will pray through me and for me. 

Please don't think I write this post for sympathy or pity. Partially, it is an apology for not having kept up with the writing, and for dropping the ball if I had promised you a post on something. Partially, it is an invitation to a conversation about dropping the facade of perfection and being open about our struggles to live out our faith, even in moments that are supposed to be easy and happy. It is so hard as a faithful Catholic to admit the failures of our hearts and spirits as we do the work of accepting the will of God in our lives. 

Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that there is no shame in admitting the struggle. The battle is real, and we cannot fight it alone. When my joy disappears, when my guilt begins to crush me, it is you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, whose prayers and love bring light back into my life. There is no shame, only love. 

Until next time, let's lift one another up out of darkness and into the light of Christ's love.

Blessings,
Rakhi



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13 comments:

  1. Rakhi-
    Thank you for sharing this. It is very important to share and to talk about. Though I didn't fully share on social media- this particular pregnancy was unlike any I have ever experienced both in terms of how sick I was, but also on the toll it took emotionally. So much of what you are saying I can relate to. I remember laying in my bed unable to move because for me, I was frozen in a terrible grief of losing my friend, so sick, and like you said feeling really really stripped of joy. I text my sisters and told them rawly (is that a word?) and honestly. "I hate my life" and crying to my husband that I would do anything to not be pregnant. I feel like I lived january-april in an absolute fog. About half-way into the second trimester something lifted. I was still sick physically, but the other stuff, the unbearable stuff, started to break. Easter for me was a turn-around point. I guess I am just saying, if you need someone to talk to, although I don't understand the full struggle, I get a lot of it. Also, of course, I will be praying for you.

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  2. Oh Rakhi. So hard. Even if it's "hormonal" that doesn't mean it's not real. If you think you need help - therapy, medication, whatever - keep asking until they hear you. I have a lot of joy for this baby you're carrying. Let me and your family and friends take care of the rejoicing. You get/stay healthy - both body and mind. Sometime your joyful spirit will return as well. Love and prayers friend. Wish we lived closer, so I could clean for you and make up some soup :)

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  3. Rakhi, so much of what you wrote I've been feeling. Thank you for sharing! Prayers!

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  4. I'm so sorry that you are going through this. But I'm so happy that you were able to write about it and share it. I often feel like I am failing at motherhood and at being a good and faithful Catholic. My third son was "unexpected" and I was forty when he was born. I had mixed emotions and a rough first trimester. He is four now and just the love of our lives. I can certainly understand and empathize with you. When I feel like am failing (which is often), I try to remind myself of St. Therese and her struggle with a particular nun. St. Therese did not like her and she felt guilty about it so she went out of her way to smile at that nun, and be extra nice to her. That nun finally asked her why Therese was so attracted to her friendship...it makes me chuckle every time and I can't help but think of the phrase, "fake it till you make it". Praying for you!

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  5. Being authentically where you are is a gift for those around you to see and experience the full breadth and depth of our faith.

    Darkness is fighting for a reason. My first thoughts when reading you were struggling were that this baby is bringing something to this world that evil hates.

    May Mary protect you and guard your heart as you bring this precious little one into the world.

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  6. I have a feeling you're going to hear a lot of "you too?" On this. Including my daughter. Rock Salt, as soon as I get back to work, I'll get your back and no one has to know. xo

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  7. Praying for you. Pregnancy is hard work. You are not at all bad, nor are you not a good Catholic for thinking maybe you were done and being okay with it. God gives what He gives in His timing, and sometimes it really does look like there won't be any more babies, and that can be His will, too. And then sometimes He surprises you with a beautiful but hard blessing. Sometimes you reach the point of being truly fine with whatever being open to life means for you at that moment, and it's a good place to be.

    I'm glad you're talking to your doctor about the depression. So much can be hormonally off with pregnancy! It's such hard work, and while I know some women thrive and do so well with it, I don't think painting a pretty face on the real hardships of making human beings does anyone any favors. I hate pregnancy-and that's not something I'm supposed to say. I'm subfertile and prone to miscarriage. Therefore, I ought to be over the moon excited about even the thought of being pregnant. In reality, I hope for new babies (but maybe not while I feel like I'm still recovering from my last loss), but dread the idea of pregnancy. Talk about giving mixed signals to the world. I hope you fee better soon. :)

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  8. Thanks for being so open--what an insanely hard time!!! Prayers and love, sister!!!

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  9. Rakhi, for you, your baby, and your family, I pray. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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  10. No one knows you better than you do; if you say it is different, then it is. Don't be afraid to let your husband and Doctor know just how bad it really is. Their support will help you weather this.
    Fwiw, my mood was greatly lifted after my daughter was born in August. May you find peace.

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  11. Oh Rakhi, this is beautiful and so raw. Thank you so much for sharing. I've felt like that a number of times too...just the weight of guilt almost impossible to bear...never thinking what you do is good enough. I've struggled with it during pregnancy (and moreso after). I think at times, our expectations are so high, and you're so right, the Devil knows...and he cuts deep! I'm praying for you!

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  12. Catching up... You have been going through the ringer, my friend. Living in a fog of Dementors -- I can picture it so clearly with that description, such a weighty reality. But I so appreciate you sharing the real. I can relate to wuire a bit of this. It's so good that you know intuitively which lies the enemy is trying to feed you... I pray that through the guilt that accompanies this dark night, you are also able to give yourself some grace. Even in the best of times, the house cannot always be perfect, the lean underwear will run out, and the sink will be full. So how can we expect to maintain a closeness to normal "perfection" when things are so much more difficult? I think that's the message God is trying to teach me lately. Am I giving myself the same grace in certain areas that He gives? Am I prioritizing the other things He wants me to prioritize in my current season? It's hard in any season I think, but especially your current circumstances. Anyway, enough rambling but I'll leave with one more thing-- I think one of the best things I've done is quit holding myself to a schedule or expectation when blogging, and I pray that when inspiration or a need to share hits you can embrace it, and otherwise release yourself from the guilt of all these self-imposed standards we rend to construct. Love and hugs.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts! Rest assured I do read each and every word, but please forgive me if I don't get back to you right away. The toddler tugging on my leg and the one year old pulling my hair may have seized control of my typing abilities. Blessings on your day!