Today’s Voices of Motherhood guest post is by Maryann – an incredible mother of many dedicated to mental health awareness for all… though she’s particularly passionate about her Filipino family. Maryann writes about her experience of faith, family, and postpartum depression. I pray that hearing her story blesses you immensely.
He Never Fails
Written by Maryann Clark of The Filipino Mom
My life would not be the same without Christ. He has been the cornerstone of my existence – even when I didn’t believe He cared about me. My life hasn’t been ideal to say the least as I am a survivor of childhood trauma, codependent to a recovering drug addict, experienced miscarriages, and became my own mental health advocate. All of the events in my life could have truly brought me to the end of myself but with Christ’s grace and mercy, I am here today sharing my story…
I grew up as a devout Roman Catholic. I did the whole deal – baptism, first Holy Communion, and confirmation. I never understood why I had to put time and effort into all of these traditions. All I knew is that it was important to my parents; it was absolutely required that I complete each step. We were taught never to question our religion and if I did, I would be called disobedient.
I became disobedient.
Being noncompliant was my M.O. (modus operandi) from childhood to young adulthood. You see, my parents are immigrants to this country and their values didn’t make sense to me growing up. So I rebelled. I rebelled so hard that I’m not even sure how my parents loved me through it all. I did everything in my power to be defiant at all costs. Looking back, I was just trying to find my voice and where I fit in the world and forge my own path with acceptance.
Along with my rebellion, I was dealing with a huge secret that ultimately caused a large part of our extended family to disown me and my immediate family. I have experienced childhood trauma at the hands of a relative. And I did not share my horrific experiences with anyone until I was in 6th grade. By then, I had experienced multiple episodes of assault that no child should ever experience.
To this day, I can’t compute the amount of time these encounters would go on. I just knew they were horribly wrong. Once I shared my truth, our family became divided. I felt responsible for this major rift. Fortunately, my Dad (who is not emotional at all) stood by me through it all. This is one memory I will hold close to my heart because when the world was crumbling around us, he stood firm and believed me. I went to counseling and worked through my feelings. I can now talk about my experiences without crying.
This trauma had directly affected my relationships with the opposite gender. I was looking for acknowledgement and acceptance in all the wrong places. I was “that girl” in high school. I allowed teenage boys to use me at their leisure. It was demeaning and I didn’t know how to pull myself out of it. So much so that I had a few pregnancy scares. By the end of my high school career, I vowed to be single through my first year of college. I wanted to meet new people, reinvent myself, and be a better version on me…
Well that vow didn’t last very long.
I met a guy through a friend on AOL Instant Messenger (am I dating myself – absolutely!). He said he had a friend who didn’t know the area and wanted to see if I could show him around. The “new” me decided that would be a great idea! I asked this guy what he wanted to do and he said go to all the mall in the area. So we did and I haven’t let his side ever since.
Yup, we got married!
Four years into our relationship I got pregnant. I took a test around my 21st birthday, it was positive. I went to Planned Parenthood and took another test, positive. We were both young college kids who knew nothing about the real world even if we swore we did. This pregnancy didn’t last as I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks. I was devastated and relieved but we had not learned our lesson. A few months later, I was pregnant again. With this pregnancy, I was urged to get an abortion. I made the appointment. Thankfully, I did not go through with the procedure. We got married a year and a half after my daughter was born because I didn’t want to get married just because I had a baby. I wanted to know this guy was committed because I didn’t want to be a divorced single mom.
Life continued on – and then four years into our marriage, I learned that my husband was hiding an addiction to drugs. I was floored and felt betrayed. I mean I was consumed by three toddlers under the age of 5, of course I never saw that coming!
We unofficially separated for a short time and decided that we would have to go to counseling – Christian counseling. Prior to us getting married, I decided to convert from Catholicism to a Christ follower. No special or fancy conversion process, just praying with my whole heart that I believe Christ is my savior. So this relationship with Christ was very fresh and important to me when I discovered my husband’s addiction. I can honestly say, the recovery process through our then home church, saved our marriage and our lives. I credit our marriage to them. I was taught how to say NO and have healthy boundaries. I learned so much about myself and it was up to me to change my own behavior. While the road to recovery isn’t an easy straight one, it has definitely been rewarding to see the transformation in myself, my husband, and our marriage.
I Have No Joy
God had a sense of humor when he blessed us with our final (and I do mean final) child, nine years after our last child was born.
That’s right guys, we had to start all over. Unfortunately, this pregnancy was a very difficult one for me. Since I had girls prior to this pregnancy, I believe that my body didn’t know how to grow a boy inside of my womb without torturing me. I experienced so many things in this final pregnancy that I didn’t know how to deal with from major acid reflux to major food aversions to car sickness the entire pregnancy. I was also commuting to work everyday until I began to have preterm labor and I went on maternity leave early. He was delivered via c-section after I would not progress past 7.5 centimeters and his oxygen levels began to drop.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was experiencing antepartum depression, depression during pregnancy.
Looking back, the symptoms were there but I didn’t want to see it. On top of a difficult pregnancy, my Dad went through multiple serious hospital stays and a genetic disorder diagnosis. It was a rough year, so much so that once my son was born, I began to experience depression even more. I finally came to the realization that I had depression after I self-diagnosed through Dr. Google (I don’t recommend this – it’ll make you a hypochondriac. The best way I could illustrate my symptoms is that I felt like Sadness from the Disney movie – Inside Out. So sad right?
So in my bathroom, while my husband was in the shower – perfect time for a serious talk right – I told my husband that I “think” I have depression. He had apprehensions at first but quickly became my biggest supporter through this mental health journey. He encouraged me to do whatever I needed to feel like myself. I believe he is the main reason why I have become a mental health advocate because he believed me and now I believe in myself.
Through It All
While it doesn’t seem very apparent, God was in all of that mess.
He took everything I went through and made it hope for others. I was tested, time and time again. I went through an enormous amount of life lessons and I have become a testimony to other survivors and codependents that there is hope. Today, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve gone through some huge life changes! But the most consistent presence in my life is Christ. He has shown me that he will not leave me or forsake me. He will carry me through when I can barely stand. He is my rock and my shield. He has a plan for me.
This plan became apparent in the middle of a major health crisis in my immediate and extended family. God told me to start a blog about mental health specifically in the Filipino community. In the Filipino culture, it is absolutely unacceptable to talk about your feelings and your struggles. You are taught to “stuff it down” and ignore it. With all that I’ve gone through and learning that sharing my story bring hope and comfort to others, I decided to start my blog. I wanted to change the narrative and be the change in our community. Too many people were suffering in silence and I wasn’t okay with it anymore. So I became obedient and put my experience in my blog to show how Christ can make a broken, girl into a woman who strives to show others they are not alone.