Every day I wished it were my last. I was only 20, had been married for one year, and had just given birth to our first child, a boy. My doctors told me I was experiencing postpartum depression and that it would go away, but instead it got worse. I didn't want to take care of my baby. All I could think about was death, blood, and pain. I feared the light of the sun, nighttime, even rain. I was aggressive and critical and emotionally unstable. My relationships with others became strained. I cut myself off from all love.
This had actually started years earlier when I was a shy, fearful girl who worried that she wouldn't be liked. Now I had everything that most young women want--a loving husband, a beautiful baby, a house, a car, a comfortable life--but I was miserable. The habits and mindsets we form early in life can lead us into some very dangerous places.
Little by little, things started to get better, at least on the surface. Almost three years passed, and I gave birth to our second son. This time it was easier. Five more years passed, during which one thing was always clear: My children were a light in the midst of my darkness.
Then symptoms of my depression intensified and I began showing signs of schizophrenia: fear, claustrophobia, seeing visions of Hell, and hearing evil voices in my mind. My depression made me feel so condemned that I was easy prey for any negative thought. From my point of view at the time, the more negative the thought the better. I was like a sponge, just waiting to absorb darkness. I suffered extreme weight loss and was constantly in a dangerous state of mind. I couldn't hide anymore; I had to do something.
I sought help from psychologists and psychiatrists who prescribed strong medication, but the more I sought medical help, the worse I got. I also tried self-help groups, hypnotism, and everything else that money could buy. Nothing brought me peace.
God bless my husband, who stood by me through all of this and never stopped loving me. All of our relatives told my husband he should put me in a mental institution, but he refused. Instead, he prayed every day for me to get better. He knew that if I went into an institution I would never return.
Besides having to support our household, my husband had to take care of our two small children and help me keep the house reasonably clean. I couldn't drive in the mental and emotional state I was in, so I couldn't shop. He had to do that too. I couldn't cook without burning everything. It's a wonder that I never burned the house down!
I also suffered side effects from all the medicines I was taking: dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, migraine headaches, muscle spasms, and intestinal cramps. Eventually I even lost my motor skills. I walked through the house leaning on the walls for support and would sit staring at the dirty laundry or the sink full of dishes, unable to move or do anything about it.
Only Jesus could save me--and He did! I met some members of the Family International. They were actually our neighbors, but I hadn't paid much attention to them. Their faces were too bright and positive. It was more light than I could stand. They bothered me, but at the same time they fascinated me. I see now that what kept me away was a fear of being noticed, for fear of being loved.
Then one day a couple from the Family International met my husband at his office. "What you are telling me is good," my husband said, "but my wife is the one who really needs to hear this." So he brought them to our house.
I doubted that they were truly there to help me or could help me, but I was in such a bad state that I had to either take it or leave it. I took it, thank God! I took Jesus because He first took me (1 John 4:19). That was a turning point, but I wasn't instantly over my problems. I was like a dying baby that had to be nursed back to health, little by little. My new friends from The Family International did that for me.
Day after day they encouraged me to read the Bible and other faith-building publications, like the Activated magazine. It was humbling at first, but I learned to ask for prayer when I was having problems. I became especially good friends with one woman. She was patient and loving, but didn't beat around the bush. We read the Word together or talked on the phone every day. I talked about everything that had been bothering me for years. Eventually I found what I had been looking for all along, even though I hadn't known what that was. Jesus put a new song in my heart and on my lips.
Of course the spiritual battle was strong and still is sometimes, because the Devil was furious at losing me. He kept tormenting me with nightmares, bad mental pictures, and sordid thoughts. One night I became so confused and desperate that I got on my knees and prayed, "Jesus, I need to know the truth! I can't take these attacks anymore. If You aren't the answer to my problems, if You aren't going to deliver me from all this darkness, I would rather end my life. Either transform me or take me!"
Then I opened my Bible and my eyes fell on Psalm 116. Those words seemed to have come straight from my own heart! From that moment on, I didn't believe the Devil's lies! I expected the Lord to act on the promises of His Word. I began calling the Family daily to ask where in the Bible I could find a certain verse in order to fight the Devil with the Word--and it worked! For years I had submitted to the Devil's lies, but the Word exposed and confounded him.
The Devil had never given me any answers, of course; he had only condemned me and left me in the pit of depression. But as I claimed Bible promises each day and asked the Lord to give me grace and strength for the things I needed to do, things got easier and the Devil had less and less to accuse me of. Each time he would tempt me with a depressing thought, I would quote verses that proved he was lying, like Jesus did when the Devil tempted Him.
It took me almost two years to climb out of that black pit of depression, but with Jesus' help I am now a different person! There is no principle in His Word that doesn't work, no promise that He doesn't keep. I can't tell you how much I love Him! I can think of nothing else but Him and how wonderful and powerful He is! The Lord answered my husband's desperate prayers, just like He answers all of our prayers.
(Giovana is now an integral part of the Family International's work in Blumenau, Brazil.)
- 1. I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications.
- 2. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.
- 3. The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol [Hell] laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow.
- 4. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: "O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!"
- 5. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful.
- 6. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
- 7. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
- 8. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
- 9. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.