Guest commentary by Tara Bulger
Recently, an old picture of my daughter and me came across my social media feed. My daughter, who is now 12, is only two months old in the picture and she has the most glorious chubby cheeks you have ever seen. I look impossibly young. I am smiling at the camera and somehow, despite having a newborn, I look radiant and happy. My loving family and friends noted as much in their comments on the photograph.
But I remember vividly the day that picture was taken and that time in my life. Despite those precious cheeks of my baby girl and my deep and abiding faith in God, every day during that time I thought about killing myself. I would sit, on the second floor of our home, nursing the baby and tell myself how much better off my family would be without me. It all culminated one night when my husband found me walking circles in our kitchen and I asked him if he would tell me where he kept his gun.
Instead, he demanded that I either figure out who I could call to help me or he was taking me directly to the hospital. I scared him so badly. You know what? I scared myself too.
And despite being on staff at a large and loving church, I didn’t think I could tell anyone there. I did not trust that the doctor who had delivered my daughter would help me either. But I did trust my general practitioner, so that is who I went to see the next day.
As I sat in his office in tears and told him everything I was experiencing, I will never forget what he said. He listened to me so kindly and then he said: “Tara, this is not your fault. This is not happening because you aren’t praying enough or because you don’t believe in God enough. It is not happening because you aren’t exercising enough or for any other reason other than that you have postpartum depression. And I can help you.”
I think it is a special kind of grace when someone can say the exact words you need to hear — especially when you have not told them you needed those words.
I, while talking to the doctor, had not mentioned my struggles with God through all of this. I had not told the doctor that this experience with postpartum depression was making me question my faith and calling, but it was. And somehow, he was able to say to me exactly what I needed to hear and to get me the medicine that would soon turn everything around.
I am a pastor. And just like my physician offered me spiritual care when I went to see him for a physical problem, I know that there are people who will come to see me for their spiritual problems that are sometimes rooted in physical issues. I pray, daily, that when I am ministering to people that God will give me that special grace that I experienced — the ability to offer words of healing even when they are not obvious. I pray too, that I will not let the stigma associated with difficult issues — like depression — prevent me from seeing the child of God before me who longs to be restored.
And when I see those pictures — of my babies, so cute and new — I thank God for healing, no matter how it comes.
Tara W. Bulger is the pastor of Friendship Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia. She is wife to Brian and mother to Hannon and Ryann. Tara will read, literally, anything – but has a soft spot for a sappy, happy ending.