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A lot of the information I'm about to dump on you does not fall neatly into the category of postpartum depression. And a lot of it is going to sound really weird if you're not familiar with the modern non-denominational church of 'Murica. Bear with me. I believe these circumstances played a part in my first skirmish with the PPD monster.
Don't misunderstand. Depression is a disease, not a character flaw or a specific set of circumstances. It fights dirty, though, and it will use every weakness you have to tear you down. Part of the fight against it is becoming self aware.
It's not a fun part. I'd rather dig a ditch with a plastic spoon. It hurts to analyze yourself and drag your flaws under a microscope, but it's worth it.
I don't know what my story would be if all of this hadn't occurred simultaneously. But it did. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Caitlin, the ticking time bomb.
The year was 2011. I was a mostly stay-at-home mommy/wife with a cute little house and a cute little life. My only commitments were a part-time job at the local newspaper, being a full time food source for baby Talen, and leading the praise and worship team at my parent's church.
Everything was wonderful.
Except it wasn't. The first component of the disaster was my deep-rooted self esteem problem. I'm pretty sure there are cows who think better of themselves than I did at that point in time. It was bad.
Then I became a mother, and we all know how good that makes you feel about yourself. All the times you can't get a tiny human to JUST. STOP. CRYING really let you know how hilariously little you know. Being a first time parent is HARD.
It's possible I would have been able to float along in my self-hating bubble if everything in my life had stayed exactly the same. Unfortunately, that's not how life works.
In June 2011, my father resigned as pastor of the church we had planted in 1998. It was very, very brave and the right thing to do. What I didn't realize was how much of my identity had formed during the 14 years I was defined as a “Pastor's Kid”and later, my place of "importance" as the praise and worship leader.
I should have resigned, too. But I couldn't bear the thought of losing so much of my life. I started having daily panic attacks from the self-inflicted stress of trying to fit into a place that was no longer mine. After a VERY awkward few months of passive aggressive stand-offs with the new leadership, I gave up. The annual Christmas Eve service would be my last hurrah.
I wanted to serve God, sure, but I was also drawing almost all of my self worth from my place in the (stupid, unnecessary, unbiblical) church hierarchy. It could have come from all those years of getting a little laminated “RESERVED” card on my seat or being invited to exclusive tete a tetes with the small-time celebrities of Christendom. Or it could have come from my stubborn adherence to the idea this thing we had poured our lives into HAD to matter, that we were making a difference and would be richly rewarded at some undetermined time … probably in heaven, because, you know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. We were the saviors of the world, dang it! … or at least the 20 people who ventured into church on Sunday morning.
I believe with all my heart we did do good things and we did make a difference. I also believe I turned my church performance into my god, and that was a big mistake.
I had honestly never considered a life without The Church as the central point. My world had revolved around it since I was three years old. I mean, what did “normal” people even DO on Sunday mornings (and Wednesday nights, and Friday afternoons, and Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Saturday of the month)? Who was I? What was I? Stripped of my title and position, I found my “faith” was rather weak and my identity nonexistent.
Right around this time, I was hit with mild postpartum depression. I don't know if it was simple coincidence. I do know it was really, really, REALLY bad timing. The realization that I was not, in fact, a bad ass for Jesus was crushing, but on top of that I lost all gumption to do simple life stuff. I stopped caring about things. I quit cleaning my house. I went on a shower strike. I cried and whined and wept. My panic attacks became debilitating.
After approximately a month of doing nothing (seriously, the only reason I didn't drown in my own filth was my mom), I swung to the opposite extreme. I started manically cleaning my house, spending hours and hours obsessing over dirty floors and spots in the sink. I dyed my hair crazy colors. I cried. I washed the walls of my bathroom. I cried some more. I started crafting. I continued to have panic attacks. I cried. I learned to crochet. I started this blog. When it didn't magically gain thousands of followers, I added it to the list of things I was a failure at. I lamented to anyone with ears (yes, even the dog) about being a faaaaaaiiiilllluuuurrrreee. Everything I did was pointless.
I was trying desperately to redefine myself with external labels, but it wasn't working.
Looking back now, what I thought was an “escape” from the grip of PPD was more of a lull. I was keeping myself busy instead of acknowledging and dealing with the problem.
After my last “performance” on Christmas Eve, I cracked.
It was a terrible time to have an identity crisis.
Nine days later, on January 2, 2012, I found out I was pregnant again.