Something happened to me over Christmas this year, that I didn’t share with y’all. In the midst of it, I didn’t really know what was happening. It just felt like I’d changed and sunk into a pattern of fogginess followed by sadness followed by stress followed by breakdown followed by happiness…REPEAT. It was bizarre and dark some of the time, and the worst part was the fixation I had on all my similarities with Jenny.
Jenny Bankston was a fifth year orthopedic resident’s wife, who’d recently had her first baby, and was making it through the hectic holiday season three and a half years ago. Her husband Chip was working on a busy service–early mornings and late nights. Leaving for work while it’s dark and coming home when it’s dark. I knew Jenny only in passing, and Jeremiah and Chip were pretty good friends. I was carrying Mary Aplin while Jenny carried Graham. I can remember a couple of hormonal pregnancy fights between Jeremiah and me over what a sweet and attentive husband Chip seemed to be to his pregnant wife. I remember saying, “I can’t even imagine what I’d have to say to get you to leave the OR to come home and check on ME, like Chip does for Jenny.”…I didn’t know that Jenny was struggling in a different way than me…I wish I’d known.
I went to Dothan that winter three and a half years ago and on the same day that my Mom died, so did Jenny and Graham. I don’t know for sure if it was postpartum or PMD or a change in medication to treat one of the above, but in her pain Jenny took her own life and Graham’s. As I watched Mary Aplin pass her milestones that long winter, I cried for Graham so. many. times, and the fact that he and Jenny were missing these small joys.
And then this winter, that sadness came back. Jeremiah was on the same rotation that Chip had been on that Christmas season. Working with the same attending, with the same long hours, and there was one night when I’d gotten a babysitter to go to a Christmas party (that it seemed Jeremiah would never show up for) when I drove around by myself and cried and felt alone and scared at the idea that what Jenny must have been feeling was very similar to what I was feeling. Did she know how far gone she was? Would I know if it were happening to me right now? Was there a snapping point or was it a slow progression? Was I safe? Were my children?
I told Jeremiah I was struggling with these thoughts. Consumed by them, honestly, but I was scared to say, “I need help,” because I didn’t know if I did. Was I being dramatic? Was I making something about ME, that wasn’t about me at all? Was I manifesting the stress of something as silly as making Christmas presents and cards into something bigger so that I didn’t feel stupid about my stress?
I don’t know. But what I do know is that I was depressed, and I can tell you now from a clear state of mind that hormones and depression are real things. They are scary things, and it isn’t something that everybody is comfortable admitting. Thankfully, I did talk about it to Kendall, my sweet sister who came from Auburn and spent a week taking care of my children and addressing our Christmas cards, and doing a long list of mundane tasks–one of which was helping me to laugh at myself and the things I was feeling.
I shared all that to say that we, each of us, are capable of falling into depression, and when we do, we need. help. Jenny’s Light was started in honor of Jenny and Graham, to fund research- new medicines, proper screening, etc., sponsor support groups for expectant and new mothers and families, organize and execute fundraising events, build networks of toll-free hotlines around the world and sponsor local and national PMD (perinatal mood disorder) conferences.
The UAB orthopedic department is sponsoring a golf tournament to raise money for Jenny’s Light. You could get up a foursome to play golf, sponsor a hole, give a gift certificate from your business (or weekend at your vacation home :)) to be raffled away for money, or just email me if you have a personal connection to a local business I could contact about doing one of the above. THIS is a link to our Golf Tournament web page. It has links to tell all the different sponsorship and volunteer opportunities. Or, you could just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can tell you more about it.
I hope you’ve recognized that I don’t ask for support for any and every good cause out there. I share a lot of my own personal struggles, and you’ve all loved and supported me so much. I’m telling you about Jenny’s Light now, because it is very close to my heart, and I believe it’s important.
Abby, I think it is wonderful that you posted about this. I wrote a post about it too, last summer, after I appeared on a news segment with my OB/GYN about PPD. I had a really hard time with post partum depression/anxiety, and I didn't even realize how bad it was until I talked to my doctor and got some help. I think Jenny's Light is a wonderful organization and I am going to forward this info about the golf tournament to as many people as I can. Thanks for posting this.
this is such a touching story. It's my fear that this would happen to me if I became a mother… what if I couldn't handle it? What would I do? it terrifies me. Kuddos to you for recognizing that you were feeling depressed too. I wish I lived in your area for the tournament, but alas I'm very far away… great post. Hopefully you helped people recognize their sadness as well.
Abs, thank you for your transparency. I would love to donate an angel painting if you are doing an auction with this. Count me in if that would be something you guys would be interested in.
I love you sweetie!
This post sums up why I value your friendship, your authenticity, and your transparency!!!!!! Thank you, Abby for being real!! You rock and I pray that this organization does amazing things for women!!
Wow! I've never left a comment on your blog before, but I felt compelled to today. First of all, I love your blog, love your writing and have even added you to my list on my blog (I hope you don't mind). After I read your post, I sobbed for probably 2 hours. I went to the Jenny's Light website and read her story and looked through her slideshow and could not stop my tears for a long time this morning. Thank you for sharing your story, and for your transparency. I had a wonderful friend, mother of 3 (ages 5, 3 and 18 months) and the sweetest, kindest soul you could ever meet take her own life in November. She had dealt with depression and had a miscarriage 3 or 4 weeks before her death and had gotten off her medication due to the pregnancy. It was so shocking and I still think about her constantly. You are SO right about what hormones can do to a mother and I too have struggled with this. It shouldn't be a shameful thing, but it makes me feel weak. I'm so thankful that you were able to recognize it and get help and share with us Jenny's story. It is just so sad. Although I have not had those feelings to that extreme, I too can relate to some of those feelings. After my friends death~ words cannot describe the complete devastation and loss it has caused her family and friends and I always think what if?? or what could anyone have done to help her? but I understand how she must have felt so overwhelmed and how hard it is to get out of that darkness and feel happiness again. The scary thing to me is that she "seemed" so happy and normal. She was always laughing and cracking a joke and "seemed" to have it all. It just goes to show that no one knows what a person is dealing with on the inside and anyone can put on some make-up and a smile when they're in public, but we never know how bad they are hurting on the inside. So sorry for the long post, but I wanted to thank you for sharing your story and for being REAL!
From a blog reader in Nashville, TN.
I'm not sure if you really know me, but I've read your blog everyday for awhile now. I cheered with Kendall in high school and shared so many great memories with her. I was introduced to your blog by the Gannons about a year ago. I love your blog, your writing, and your ability to spill your emotions that so many of us keep hidden. It is an inspiration for all of us. Thank you!
Hey Abby! I don't think I've ever left a comment, …my husband in the Navy and is gone ALL the time. In fact he's gone for a year right now. But, he was also gone right after the birth of both of my sons(they are 4 and 2)and we lived across the world from family…I praise the Lord that He protected me from any sort of hormonal or otherwise depression, but it could have SO easily happened. I certainly struggled during that time…I was so exhausted all the time and was so lonely and scared that I might easily slip out of a normal frame of mind under the stress. Anyways…just wanted to thank you for sharing this, and it's a good reminder to be a real friend to those who might really need us. Especially to Moms with young children who might have a husband with a demanding job–lots of my friends 🙂
Abby, thank you for sharing a blog about Jenny's Light. Jenny was such a dear friend to me. We shared the ups and downs of being a resident's wife together. I miss her dearly… thank you for helping with Jenny's Light. If the foundation just saves one life, that family is in a better place. Thanks again for sharing…
This is such a beautiful post. I love how God's glory and grace shines through your writing and authenticity. Thank you for sharing your heart and your gift of the written word. Blessings to you , Michelle
I don't know if I've ever left a comment, but I enjoy reading your blog (I found it through Darby's…I live in Tallahassee, but went to Samford for a year). I just wanted to thank you for sharing something so personal…I too struggled with some depression after having my 2nd daughter in September. We knew she was going to be born with a cleft lip and she had surgery to repair it in Jan – I think the stress of everything was too much on top of everything else…and I only told a few really close friends about it – you don't really hear many people talking about it. Jenny's story makes my heart hurt thinking of how she must have been feeling and what her husband must have gone through…losing the wife he loved and his new baby. What a great organization though – hopefully it will bring awareness and support for women struggling or that may struggle with PPD.
Sweet girl, sweet friend. Kind, loving words. Wisdom, my dear…YOU have such wisdom! What a gift from God! Your words are like honey to the soul! Thank you for sharing. I always seem to learn something of great value through your words of wisdom. Thank you.