I have done my best to avoid speaking about this recent journey I have been on. But I gave my gift with words to the Spirit awhile ago and therefore I know I have a responsibility to express the things He moves me to. So here goes sweet Spirit, take over.
On February 1st, 2017 I was nervous about the intake interview I had volunteered to be part of to qualify for group therapy at the HSC. Months before my baby boy was born, I knew that I must be ready for the possibility of post par-tum depression (PPD). According to the numbers, women who have had depression in the past and have experienced complications during pregnancy and childbirth were more susceptible to get PPD.
Well by the end of labour and delivery, I had checked off all three categories.
I was in a lot of physical pain.
I was angry.
I was struggling to connect with my newborn.
I was sad all the time.
I was anxious all the time, constantly afraid that something was wrong with my child.
I was constantly thinking that I didn’t deserve to be this beautiful baby’s mommy; that I wasn’t even needed in his life.
I was struggling to find purpose in my life.
And finally and most painfully, I was having constant thoughts of self-hatred, self-harm and thoughts of harming my baby, ranging in severity.
Why do I mention these things? Because these are symptoms of PPD, and I want whoever reading this post to clearly know that these are SYMPTOMS NOT MORAL OR SPIRITUAL FAILURES.
I want whoever is currently struggling with PPD to know that these are signs of a DISEASE – not something that is inherently wrong with you.
Finally, I want anyone reading this post to educate themselves about an often silenced, and hidden subject, so that there is less judgment stemming from ignorance, and more compassion and healing out there.
So when I went into my intake interview for group therapy, I had decided to be as candid as possible because I wanted help.
But I was not ready for what happened next.
Before I knew what had hit me, I was admitted to the psychiatric unit of the Seven Oaks Hospital, and warned that if I did not admit myself voluntarily, the health professional concerned would have to send in the police to get me.
Shock. Disbelief. Panic.
Brian was dazed too, but told me not to panic and react, giving people reason to take me in right then and there.
This, unfortunately, highlights the undergirding fear in most ordinary people when it comes to mental health – the fear of losing one’s autonomy, a fear, which I realised during my stay at Seven Oaks, is sometimes not understood by health care professionals and instead mistaken for resistance and non-compliance.
Holy Spirit echoed what Brian told me and from that moment, a strange peace, a peace that I had never experienced came upon me, even as I prepared to be separated from my husband, my baby, and my family.
I cannot tell you everything about my stay at Seven Oaks, but there are a few things that I want to share with you.
From the moment I was admitted, the Spirit of Jesus showed me that He, and not anyone else, was the One in control, not even the Healthcare professionals who oversaw me. I soon learnt huge life lessons about His sovereignty and the truth of what David expressed in Psalm 139:
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. . . Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
There are times in your life when you read scripture, and then there are times when you are made to live it.
After the Spirit set this word over me and showed me who was in charge, He gave me a choice:
“Shayani you can either fight this or like the flower that bows before the storm, you can bow before this and lean into Me.”
I was in a place of incredible fear, fear of losing my freedom, my family and my baby. I had heard enough horror stories that made my fears legitimate. Added to that was the debilitating fear that comes from being an alien, an immigrant who was struggling to still feel like she truly belonged to Canadian culture.
For me then, the invitation of the Spirit was my only place of safety. In a locked facility, among others who were on the extreme end of psychosis and on several medications simultaneously, His peace was the only refuge that gave me peace of mind.
I chose to bow before His sovereignty over my life and to closely follow every word that His Spirit breathed over me.
With Him I learnt how to thrive not just survive when my back was pressed against the wall, when simple freedoms such as the freedom to do what I please and go where I please were withheld from me.
He became my light in a dark place.
His wisdom, my only guidance – and His way became very clear to me.
Funny how when you are stripped of choice, when every move you make is monitored from a rehabilitation perspective – which works restrictively (though understandably sometimes) on past precedents and stereotypes of the typical mental patient, viewing every articulation and assertion by a patient as resistance, non-compliance, or non-cooperation – obedience to the Spirit becomes not an option, but the only way to take if you have any hope of getting out of that place in one piece.
In 2016, during my pregnancy, community became incredibly hard for me not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Many didn’t understand me. Heck, I didn’t get myself either. It’s only quite recently that I am able to look back and realise that my struggles were signs of the major depressive disorder I have, for the first time in my life, been diagnosed with.
But during that year, I heard something quite strange from the Spirit.
“Shayani I want you to consider mental illness like any other illness. Do you get all spiritual and moral about cancer? Do you begin to analyse cancer as a spiritual or moral failure? I want you to consider treating mental illness like cancer and take medication and move on with your life.”
I confess I was a staunch anti-medication person before I heard this.
But throughout that year, the Spirit began to show me a new perspective. Added to that, the stakes became clearer to me as I progressed in my pregnancy, gave birth and started care for my infant: whatever I do or choose not do now was not just going to affect me, but it was going to significantly and irrevocably impact this little human I was entrusted with.
As the symptoms of depression worsened, all the preparation I had from the Spirit in 2016 took effect and brought me to that life changing moment on February 1st, 2017 when I was admitted to the psyche ward.
To be continued . . .