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YA Weekly

Light in the Wintry Landscape of Postpartum Depression

Marianne von Bracht
07/11/22 | 4 min read
In the thick of postpartum depression, I found the light of Jesus Christ through the scriptures.

One winter evening while riding home from an uplifting visit to the Salt Lake Temple, I stared out at the diminishing light beyond the mountain horizon, and an empty ache settled over me. Without the bright light of the sun, I suddenly felt like I might never be happy again.

Looking longingly at the last rays of twilight, I saw the Oquirrh Mountain Temple shining an unwavering beacon of light against the dark backdrop. My gaze rested on that light, and a pure truth distilled in my mind: just as the lights of the temple are always on, the light of the covenants I hold to will never fade. My bleak feelings dissipated, and I felt peace.

Clouds of Depression

“The sun shall be no more thy light by day” (Isaiah 60:19).

Several years later, shortly after my first daughter was born, this bleak feeling gradually returned—and this time stayed. The drastic change of pace that comes with caring for a newborn baby was a difficult adjustment for me. My husband’s new medical school schedule, a cross-country move, and extended sleep deprivation compounded the situation. Simple tasks felt barricaded by mental brick walls, draining my energy and my motivation. My usual optimism became increasingly evasive.

Blue skies turned to gray as the winter months set in. Gray clouds began to hover in my own mind as well. I fought to stay positive, but every day felt like a battle, and the clouds of depression usually won. My list of to-dos mounted. The more time that went by without me making progress on that lengthy list, the more incapable I felt to accomplish anything. Feelings of incompetence about my ability to parent also snowballed. As the darkening world froze under ice and snow outside our third-story apartment, I often froze inside under intense feelings of inadequacy.

Light and Warmth

“The word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45).

A few months earlier, I had committed to study the scriptures for 15 minutes during the first chunk of personal time I had each day. Usually this was during my daughter’s nap. As depression descended, this goal became difficult to maintain, but it also became a lifeline. Pulling out my scriptures when the time came took almost every ounce of faith I had, but it made a distinct difference in my emotional well-being. The literal sun outside could not penetrate the thick layer of clouds in the winter sky, but when I studied the scriptures, the light of the Son of God descended below my personal clouds of gloom and brightened my soul.

I recognized this same revitalizing light in the temple, at church, and when serving others. Taking care of my physical health by committing to walk with a friend also brought temporary relief. And while each of these resources provided clarity and light, the scriptures became the resource I could rely on at any hour. Reading even a verse or two could momentarily melt my despondency and give me faith to take another step.

I specifically relied on the scriptural truth that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). In overwhelming moments, this verse reminded me to take the smallest step toward accomplishing a single task. Sometimes this was as simple as washing one dish. No matter how simple the task, taking a tiny step forward always left me feeling empowered and able to accomplish a little more.

Professional and Spiritual Support

“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2).

After a difficult miscarriage, the clouds of depression loomed more ominously. I continued to study the scriptures, finding hope in the promises but not feeling any comfort. One day I read a passage of scripture and found the Spirit very logically directing me to seek professional help.

I soon began working with a trusted licensed therapist. During this process, I felt like the wounded traveler in the story of the Good Samaritan, and the Savior was my personal Samaritan. He “bound up [my] wounds, pouring in oil and wine,” “brought [me] to an inn,” and said to the host, “Take care of [her]” (Luke 10:34–35). My therapist was the innkeeper who ensured and oversaw my recovery.

Through therapy, I became equipped with a new awareness of my thought patterns and an ability to choose my focus. Newfound mindfulness of the minuscule details in my life brought deep introspection and gratitude. I also realized I could reach out to my ministering brothers and sisters, my Relief Society president, and other spiritual resources for extra comfort.

These tools allowed me to utilize the Atonement of Jesus Christ more meaningfully each day. I gradually let go of a need for perfection in many areas and relied more on His perfect sacrifice. In this light, I came to see how personal loss, parenting weaknesses, and even depression could provide growth, beauty, and joy. Slowly, bleak feelings dissipated, and I felt sustained hope.

Everlasting Light

“The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1).

The knowledge and experience that came into my life amid the gloom of depression brought a means of strength and light for me and my family. As Isaiah prophesied, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; … but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:19).

For those who face the darkness of postpartum depression, I offer the encouragement of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Don’t give up. … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.”1 Difficult days still come at times, but I now have and can hold to a deeper knowledge of the everlasting light—the light of Jesus Christ.

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1. Jeffrey R. Holland, “An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” Liahona, Jan. 2000, 45.

Marianne von Bracht
Marianne von Bracht is a grateful mother and wife. She loves small and simple things in all aspects of life—family hugs, blue skies, friendly conversations, early mornings, easy meals, and prayers while parenting. She knows the joy of daily repentance and the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change her heart and desires.