You are not good enough. You failed. You are the worst mother ever. What a horrible wife. Why do you even try. No one even cares. No one understands. It’s never going to get better. The darkness will always consume me. I can’t do this. You need to do more. It’s your fault. Your not trying hard enough. You deserve this pain. You never do anything right. You are only a burden. You have nothing to offer anyone.
Lies. Lies. Lies. They are always circling around my head. It’s messy trying to sort out the lies. My mind is battling itself. A lot of the time I don’t know what I actually feel and think. The truth and lies are intertwined. Untangling is a rigorous task.
Late last year I made a promise to myself to be completely honest. That is what drove me to start writing this blog and sharing it. I want to first be honest with myself. And then be able to share this honesty with my loved ones and others.
Truth: being honest is scary
Truth: being honest has positive and negative consequences
Truth: being honest is beyond hard
Truth: being honest becomes a habit and grows into your character
Truth: being honest heals
My truth: My name is Lela Belus. I am a wife. I am a mother of two. I struggle with mental illness. I suffer from clinical depression.
She was only a few weeks old. It was a snowy winter. My body was past exhaustion. Sleep was always on my mind. I knew having a second child would be hard. I had experienced the “baby blues” in the few weeks after birth before. But what happened one winter day was so terribly horrifying that I knew it was not categorized as baby blues.
It took all my energy to bundle up the kids that day and get out the door. I thought some fresh air might ease my feelings. Maybe a walk would be enough to give me a little lift is what I thought. We walked down the block- my son trodding along in his boots. I had my daughter wrapped in a blanket pulled close to my chest.
We walked a block from our house to the river. The sound of the water has always been so soothing. I stood on the bridge and gazed at the water below. Then it happened. The most terrifying thought came into my mind. “Drop her”. My mind then played out the entire scene in my mind. I can still see the images that flashed across my mind. After this brief moment I took my kids back to the house shaking in remorse. I was horrified that my mind had those thoughts. I felt betrayed by myself and so guilty. How could I ever think that? What kind of mother was I? Didn’t I love my baby so much? How could something so dark be inside me?
It was a few days after this happened that I got up the courage to ask my husband to call the doctor for me. It was about 6 weeks after giving birth. I went into the doctor and it was confirmed that I had postpartum depression. I was prescribed medication and sent on my way.
I kept my bridge experience to myself- I tried to burry it deep inside myself. A few times it almost surfaced but I couldn’t let it out.
After my 5 day stay at the access center I went home to stay with my parents for a few weeks. While there I reached out to a friend that was a therapist. I truly believe that he was inspired to say specific words to me. As we talked he asked me what kind of things surfaced for me during my dark times. I believe he was prompted to ask if I had ever had thought of harming my children. The way he phased it allowed me the courage to let it out. What came next was so healing.
He let me know that people have these thoughts. And just because they enter my mind does not mean it is something I desire. It is not who I am. It does not make me a bad person or a bad mother. Those words brought me so much peace. Being a good mother for my children is one of the things I care most about. Failing at that would crush me.
That day, that small moment in time does not define me. It is not who I am. It is not what I desire. And now I can let it go. Say goodbye. Accept that the images came and went. I can free myself from them.
My brother has scars along both of his arms. I think most people can easily guess the cause. At some time he cut himself. I remember when the scars appeared but I only could see a small piece of the picture.
A few years ago, while on a walk with me mom, the topic of self harm surfaced. My mom questioned why anyone would ever want to do that. I shrugged off the question; the world went on. Inside though I knew. I knew because I had done it-and not just once. Of course I was sure to make mine not as obvious as my brother’s scars. But I knew where they were hidden.
I’ve never been able to admit to myself why I do it before. It wasn’t until the last few times that I looked at the truth. I did it because it felt good. It released the tightening in my chest. It brought calm. It put a pause on the storm. I never started doing it because I wanted to feel better. Anger. I was filled with anger- mostly towards myself. I deserved it. These are the lies that fill my head when I am in the depths of depression. It can have a thick grasp on my mind. Of course there was only relief for a short time. Guilt would follow. Guilt is easier to deal with than a sadness that penetrates your soul. After the guilt comes a tiny self forgiveness and will to get better. It also comes with a heavier burden knowing that there is a true problem to solve. A real demon to kill. It is a vicious cycle. At times I have been able to pause the cycle but I’ve learned that is always comes back. And it always will unless I am able to stare my demons in the face and allow them to leave. Putting this down on paper is how I am choosing to stare my demons in the face. I have to do more than just tell them to leave. Hope that it will happen. Plead with God to take it away. I have to let my demons leave. Goodbye.
Our stories have no beginning or end but here is my beginning
Today I was reminded of the first time. The first time I wanted to kill myself. It was on a slide- a metal one that was part of a homemade tree fort. I said it out loud to my two friends out of anger. “Fine I’ll just go kill myself.” I really felt it and was not just using it as an expression. This was when I was in 4th or 5th grade.
A few years later I said it again. This time to a friend while I was at a camp. We had been crying about everything there is to cry about, and I let it out.
The other times are a little blurry. Except for the first time I sort of acted on those dark thoughts. It should not have happened. Life was going fairly great. Living in Honduras was like a dream! Teaching others about Jesus filled my life with happiness. How was it possible to be happy and be filled with such utter despair. I wanted to do it but I knew better. I still had some reason left. I only took two extra pills. I knew it would only make me sleep long. Hopefully I would wake up and the thick darkness would be lifted. I woke up on the bathroom floor. Of course I covered up what was really going on when my friends found me lying there.
Covering it up can be the easy part. Making up a reason to it all. Putting on more than a happy face. Having a happy life. Its not that hard to do when life really is going well. Everyone has their struggles but I don’t feel like I’ve had anything happen to me that would cause such debilitating sadness. It’s easy for people to believe that all is well when the part of the iceberg they see looks so ordinary. Plus its not like the black is always present.
Sometimes I trick myself into believing that its gone. The darkness is at bay and never will return. I know its a lie. As soon as I allow myself to truly feel the warmth of joy the reality of what is soon to come enters into my mind. The darkness will return, it always does. Never knowing when it will come or what it will bring, I try to hold onto the joy as long it will allow.
Within the last few years some of the truth started to come out. There is only person that I can’t completely mask the dark abyss that I’m trying to walk through. My husband. The first time some of the dark leaked out was in the car. We were driving that night-a dark car driving through towns is the best time to be vulnerable anyone. The person driving can’t see your face enough to see all the truth in your eyes. He was devastated to hear it. Knowing that I caused him any pain stung. Those were the first tears I had seen him shed. Along with the sting of seeing his pain was relief. I didn’t have to hide as much. Of course I would still hide but having a little more truth out felt soothing. It was a beginning. A beginning to letting the darkness out. Today, now, writing this. It’s another beginning. People don’t know my darkness. I don’t want them to know, yet I do. Letting the darkness escape is….Well, I don’t know yet. Maybe it will help me. Maybe it will help someone else. I do believe that the challenges we are given have a divine purpose. I left wondering many times whats the purpose to mine?
Maybe you are reading this as a family member, a friend, a stranger. Maybe you have struggled with this darkness. Or perhaps someone you know has confided in you. There is most likely someone in your life that is afflicted with this ugly darkness known as depression. As I open up my closet of secrets and let you peer into the deepest parts of me, I hope you are able to gain some understanding for yourself or for someone else. Its terrifying to relinquish control of this part of my life to anyone who happens to read this. But- I feel like I need to and for some reason that it will be worth it.