Hello, all! I hope you are well and enjoying the changing of the colors in the trees and the weather (in some locales). Today, I wanted to broach the subject of depression in this “Overcomer” series.
I am a three time postpartum depression (PPD) survivor. That’s a pretty significant thing for me. My children are pretty close in age. And, as some of you already know, the recovery from depression can take a long time. So, from about mid-2009 until I would say 2015, I was either in the throes of depression or in recovery. And I would not say that I am completely recovered. I still have bad days here and there, days where I feel as if I’m on the edge of that darkness, where I have to fight to keep myself from drifting back in.
But I wanted to talk a little about my writing. I don’t know any author whose struggles, life, and hurt places don’t at least leak into their work. This is true of me.
The Lady Bornekova
My debut novel was The Lady Bornekova. And, when penning it, I had already had some experience with depression. Maybe I couldn’t help it, maybe it just seemed to fit what was happening to my character, perhaps a little of both…but some of what I went through seeped onto the page.
First, you should know that I am passionate about sharing my story. Why? Are you not a little embarrassed to share? Yes and no. I am not proud of that time in the darkness, of the intrusive thoughts, of my weakness…sharing certainly makes me vulnerable.
But, more important than that, is the fact that many suffer in silence. Many fear they are alone. I want to be the voice that says “you are not”. There is help. And I so badly want to fight the stigma that exists around mental illness in general, PPD specifically.
Back to “The Lady Bornekova”…the main character, Karin, goes through a devastating experience. This throws her into a state of depression. However, depression wasn’t known by that name (this is in the 1400s – think Medieval Period). In fact, little was known about mood disorders. But I wanted it to be clear that this is what she was experiencing. So, I did my best to be true to history while not sacrificing reader awareness.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Karin woke each day with no desire to remove herself from the bed. Not even the dawn streaming through the window could brighten her mood. Her heart ached, yes, but it was more. The world no longer held promise; it was a dark place. Everything was bleak, as if the darkness were something physical that could smother her. Many days she wished it would so she would not have to feel the way she did.
She could not find the motivation or the strength to pray. This may have been the worst of it—to have no one to turn to. In the weeks prior, when she had been in such a hopeless situation, she always had prayer. When all else had seemed grim, she found solace in prayer. But there was no light to be found there now–nothing, it seemed, could penetrate this dreariness. And so it continued to envelop her, day after day.
~ Turnquist, Sara R. “The Lady Bornekova” (Clean Reads, 2015)
Could I have written this scene and those that followed without the personal experience of that darkness? I don’t know. Not everything I have written have I personally experienced. Nor has every author who has written about depression experienced it.
But I remember these things well: the lack of motivation/energy, the intense feeling that the outside world was not safe, that there was no point to getting out of bed, and, among other things, that my prayers returned void.
The worst of it…
As is true for Karin, the worst of it may very well have been: Where was my help from above? Had He not promised to be there for me without fail? And here I was in the darkest, most desperate moment, and I could not sense Him, could not find Him…
It wasn’t until I was in the Behavioral Hospital (you know, after rock bottom), and I had NOTHING but the clothes on my back and furniture, bolted to the floor. That night, I had nothing left but to cry for the pitiful state I found myself in. Then He whispered to me:
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with My victorious right hand
It was not that He wasn’t there. It was that my eyes were so blinded by my circumstance, by my own pain, that I couldn’t see Him. He never left me. It wasn’t that I found Him when I was “ready”…He broke through at the point of my greatest need.
I am not here to tell you that this meant I didn’t have a lot of work in front of me. I did. And Karin had a process too. Unfortunately there are no overnight cures. But there is help. There is hope.