I Had Postpartum Psychosis. ‘Praying More’ Didn’t Make It Go Away.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Nicole Grodan, who speaks out about the stigmatization of therapy and medication in some church communities. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, it is not a sign of weakness to seek medical help for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In fact, it is a step of courage.  



By Nicole Grodan

“Just pray more.”

“Have more faith.”

“Cry out to God.”

These were a few of the responses I got when I tried talking to people about what I was experiencing — a spiral away from reality and into postpartum psychosis. After welcoming another baby boy into our family, I started hearing whispers in my head and could no longer determine what was real. I was falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.

I love God and know he is there by my side. This I have never doubted. Baptized in the Roman Catholic Church and raised in Christian churches of various denominations, I would always be able to sense God’s presence in the midst of chaos. I’d be able to look up at the sunrise or sunset and know that everything would be OK, even if I couldn’t imagine how.

And I believed that God was with me throughout all of this, too. The insomnia. The shame and guilt. The whispers that haunted me.

In my younger days, I learned at church that we should not talk about painful things, but instead sweep them under the rug. Talking about these sorts of things proved you were bad and God needed to punish you.

I ignored that advice.

When I was at a full tilt of my postpartum psychosis (which was misdiagnosed as bipolar), I had lunch with a “friend.” But when I shared about the depression I was experiencing, she said I was being punished for my lack of faith and trust in God. She said I had to have been bad in my previous life and that’s why I was struggling.

When I shared that I thought I should maybe see a therapist and how medication might help, I was told that if I went to church, it would get better and that medication isn’t God’s way. She thought I was dealing with this because I didn’t have my oldest son baptized and this was God’s way to punish me.

Sorry, but that is not how God rolls.

Things got worse. Though I had two amazing children, I just couldn’t anymore. I had a plan, a method, a date. I arranged for someone to pick up the boys for me. I had written my letters of goodbye.

Earlier, I had a made an appointment to see a postpartum depression support group facilitator, but I didn’t want to go. In tears, I prayed for guidance. I begged God to help me. I asked him for direction. As I picked up the phone to call and cancel my meeting, I felt a pull. In a brief moment of quiet in my head, I heard, “Don’t do it. Trust me.” I put the phone down and went to my meeting.

There, I broke down. I spent a week in the hospital for my own safety.

For my recovery, for my healing, I needed therapy. I still do. I needed medication. I still do. I needed hospitalization, and I know that if I ever need it again, it would be OK. God will be with me. He is my strength. He gives me hope. And through my battle with postpartum mood disorders, he was standing with me each step of the way.

A few years ago, we found a new church. When I started sharing tiny bits and pieces of my experience with mental illness, I wasn’t shamed. I wasn’t judged. I wasn’t condemned. I was embraced. I was loved. I was encouraged.

My youngest is now 8 years old. He is my snuggle bug. My reading buddy. My library junkie. He cooks with me. We go for walks and we talk about everything. Though he doesn’t know this (yet), all those years ago, he saved me from myself. He is my hero, my heart, my reason. I know without a doubt, God blessed me when he gave us Little Dude.

I continue to share bits and pieces of my postpartum story with members from my new church, even when I’m terrified.

Now, when I reveal my pain, I’m given hugs, love and compassion. And I hear the simple, beautiful words: “Thank you.”

Tell Us What You Think

Comments

  1. Thank you so much Nicole for sharing this! I think it still is taboo to talk about Depression and mental health in religious circles, even here in Kenya, yet this could be one of the most amazing platforms for people to learn that they are not alone!

    It takes so much courage to write and share this, sending love and light. (Thanks too Michelle Woo)

  2. This is absolutely truthful- thank you for sharing this with us. ❤

  3. graemetheppm says:

    Nicole you are such a light, and I am so proud of you every day.

  4. Ashley Riser says:

    Nicole, I am so blessed to have you as my friend. You are an incredible light and I’m so proud of you. <3

  5. Barbara Garcia says:

    This is very truthful. I went through the same things. I had postpartum psychosis. It was scary at times I felt God left me, but he hasn’t he has been helping me the whole time.

  6. Pamela Gold says:

    You have come a long way from when this story began and with sharing your story with the world. You’ve helped countless others in the process. Keep going!

  7. Thank you for sharing. Your bravery is evident in your words.

  8. I am sharing this week at our church about my own struggles with anxiety and depression. It is scary to open up like that, because mine was severe to the point of not being able to care for my children at one point. But I just want to affirm your bravery! The only way it will become less stigmatized is if we keep talking about it.

  9. Amazing grace!!! As someone who struggled for almost 2 yrs with postpartum depression, thank u 4 ur courage, & always KNOWING God is with us all-even at our darkest moments!! Keep on keeping on!!!

  10. What horrible advice from your friend. I pray you find your way back to the Catholic church. I love the rationale of Catholicism. We are mind, body AND soul. For some people, they need a combination of prayer and medication and thats OK!! I have NEVER been shamed by anyone for my medication. Most of my friends are Catholic. One huge thing that helped was reading “never give up, my life and God’s mercy” by John Jonaro. He is a Catholic theologian with lyme disease and depression. He is steeped in John Paull II wisdom and whole heartedly supports use of medication when necessary. Mind body and soul. You cant pray away faulty brain chemistry. ANyone who suggests otherwise does not understand.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been there myself. I fortunately feel I have a very supportive religious community but I have allowed my negative thoughts to convince me at times that I wasn’t doing enough to receive God’s help. But I have been able to treat my depression as what it is-a medical condition not a spiritual one. It’s still an ongoing fight though. My kids are still young so I’m still in the middle of it all.
    Just curious though…you said you found a new church where you didn’t feel shamed any longer. Wondering what church it is, if you don’t mind sharing.

  12. Jacquelynn says:

    Thank you for your openness about your experience. I went through severe post-partum and tried to commit suicide. I thankfully was not successful. I completely agree, many (most) churches do not understand how to support post-partum psychosis. God took me in my darkest moments to a beautiful program called Celebrate Recovery where I found support as I poured out my pain to safe women. I learned that it is Ok to be honest with myself and my CR sisters. I had struggled with anxiety, depression & panic attacks from the age of 10 which thrived in my post-partum state of no sleep, paranoia and lack of emotional support. Thank you again for sharing đź’“

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