Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear God, it's foggy!

Did you know that Zelie Martin yelled at her daughter, Marie, at least once? The mother of St. Therese of Lisieux tells the story in a letter to her sister, a Visitation nun. Zelie was in great pain from her breast cancer and Marie told her, "Mama! Don't make that face, it's worrying auntie!" Zelie snapped back, "Well, I'm doing the best I can!"

She regretted it.

In that same letter, she writes of how irritable she has become in her final illness, of her anxiety for her children who will soon be orphaned, and of their financial woes.

Her life had become for her a fog and darkness.

Sounds familiar. When I was in the throes of postpartum depression and anxiety last year, everything was a fog. I still, when the stressors of life pile up too quickly, fall back into that fog and dim twilight. Sometimes it's my own fault--I haven't slept enough or I've scheduled too many evenings out. Sometimes it can't be helped--the kids are sick, the Scientist Dad has a good 60 hours of work for a week, and the babysitter cancels. The past few weeks have been a whirl of activities--all joyful and good--and a fog of exhaustion.

And in that fog, the ugliest parts of me emerge. I snip at the Scientist Dad or my in-laws. I lose my temper and yell at the 4-year-old. I simply cannot fold another piece of laundry, even though the living room has been covered in wrinkled t-shirts for three days.

Then, it lifts.

The rain comes, Divine Mercy flooding my soul. In three days, I can get out, go to Confession, talk with a close friend, spend time with my husband, and the kids all nap at the same time. The fog clears, I look back, and what seemed like weeks of anger and frustration are transformed.

The hardest times are the most beautiful, when they're over. We can see, if we can't articulate, the presence of God.

I look back at the depression now and recognize that Todd and I came through it by no strength of our own: we were so totally brought low that we had no power. And when we had no power, all power was Christ. He came to us in our families, our friends, perfect strangers, and the sacraments. The extraordinary graces of our vows somehow carried us. And here we are. More humble. Older. Quieter. Happier.

This little bit of foggy weather in my heart was a little reminder of what men live by. And we do not live by bread alone.



Melanie B said...

Thank you. I've been having some foggy dark days recently and, frankly, I'm a little scared that if this is how I am when all is well, how will I possibly get through when the inevitable nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester hit. I've been living in a state of dread and trying to cling to the hope of that mercy pulling me through. Every word of encouragement helps. One of these days we are going to make some progress on that handbook for pregnant moms. One of these days. Till then, this is getting clipped for my file.

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Erika. Very encouraging! And I love the pic from The African Queen. :)

Cara said...

Wow, interesting piece about Zelie. Good grief, she had every reason to be irritable- her struggle is inspiring. Yours is too- it IS amazing how when the fog clears there's a joy and peace one would never have experienced had there not been the dark times. You and all mothers fighting the good fight are in my prayers!