When Silence Can’t Be Heard


“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” -Tori Amos

I am naked. There is a boy with some sort of facial hair watching me. I am not sure what they gave me, but I know I don’t have a bra on. (Apparently that is a hazard.) I remember a woman my age in scrubs covered with Disney and crocs with socks.

The boy and woman are asking me all the questions:

“Are you safe?”


“Is someone hurting you?”


“Have you taken any drugs?”


“Are you going to harm yourself or someone else?”

“I don’t know.”

These three words—I don’t know—have me here in the hospital on a Sunday morning in December. I am strapped to a table, naked, with a blue paper gown covering all I have left of my dignity. According to Postpartum Support International, women who have experienced a previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse, are at higher risk for experiencing postpartum PTSD.

My dear friend is with me. She is looking up names of medication and doing all the adult things I cannot function enough to do. She has always been like that. We all need a Kim in our lives. She is a superwoman. She can adult better than anyone I know. She knows all the things all the time. And right now she is just trying to keep it together for both of us.

Do you remember when you were younger and they asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? I never answered “mom.” One girl in my class answered the Virgin Mary, but I think she was just staking her claim in the Christmas play for next year. She was the only one with long dark hair and apparently that is what Mary looked like. I have no idea.

I only knew that I wanted to be a flight attendant or a singer on Broadway. Annie specifically. I wanted to be little orphan Annie so much that I asked my mom in third grade to cut my hair short and give me a perm. (I will let you imagine how that turned out.) Oh, and did I mention I also wore baby blue rimmed glasses? I was a beauty.

Many girls in my class said they couldn’t wait to be mom. But for me I never desired it. I was the oldest of five and had felt like I was a mom for a long time. My sweet mom never put that on me, but I think when you are the oldest you sometimes take on that role without thought.

I look back now and wonder if my hesitation to become a mom was God’s whisper to me that what I was taking on would take all of me. It would become my beginning and end. Motherhood would not only birth me but also make me taste death. It would be an unfolding of my flesh and soul. It would expose the naked nothingness of myself and the everything of Jesus. It would unclothe me time and time again. Exposing it all.

Naked and wearing nothing but a blue gown and years of shame, silence would not come. I begged the voices to stop. I pleaded with God that I would do anything God asked me to, but just make the voices stop. I wrote letters to my children telling them this was not how I always was. Something in me was broken and I needed help fixing it.

When your body and mind undergo trauma of any kind, your body keeps score. I know there are still people who argue you need to just power through, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and move on. Don’t listen to those people. Those are not your people. There are people who will say that you have unconfessed sin in your life and that is why you are struggling. Don’t listen to those people either. (Actually I would say that if you want to punch those people, go for it.) These legalistic people grew up hearing and believing the lie that taking care of ourselves was selfish and that anyone who talked to a therapist wasn’t right.

It took many years for me to discover that those messages I was hearing from others were not healthy and healing. Deep inside the tissues of our beings, our experiences tell a story. The stories are buried deep, waiting for us to move or release them. My body was telling me it was safe to feel what it needed to feel.

Silence was my body’s only way to be heard. I needed to quiet my mind so my body could exhale. It was aching for space to heal. Sometimes silence comes easily. Sometimes you call upon medical professionals to assist.

Sweet one, wherever you are, you are not alone. You are not the only one.


You can listen to a recent interview with Sheli for our Sisters in Mental Illness vlog series. Shaley Hoogendoorn has real conversations with brave SheLovelys who are willing to share their experience living with a mental illness.