My feet were dangling over the side of the doctor’s office pleather bed as I sat uncomfortably shifting from side to side. I could tell I was nervous because the noise from the piece of sanitary paper roll I was sitting on was constant. I don’t normally fidget, but my heart was racing. This was my one millionth visit to that doctor’s office in an unreasonably short amount of time. I had an inkling what was wrong, but it would be, quite literally, the hardest pill I’ve ever had to swallow.
When I was in high school, my youth group would give “awards” to every person at the end of our trips. It was a funny way to involve everyone and tell too many inside jokes. My senior year, I had to specifically ask to NOT receive an award that had to do with smiling, laughing, or being a Disney Princess. That was me; that was my identity. My whole life I have been the positive, cool as a cucumber one. If the glass wasn’t half full, was there even a glass? Everything was awesome and every idea was possible. Stress was something I heard about, but wondered if I’d ever feel it. Oddly, sometimes I would try to worry about something or force some faux anxiety, but that was entirely too much work for me. I just wanted to know what it felt like. I knew people admired my ability to let nothing phase me, but I thought I was missing out on something. In retrospect, that was a really dumb thing to wish for.
I don’t say all this to brag. I say it because those that know me, know what I’m about to say is tough. And for those of you that don’t, I need you to understand my background in order to understand where I am now.
I was a newlywed. I was buying my first home. I was working at a church I loved. Everything should’ve been hunky dory. But that day at the doctor’s office would change my life forever. That very identity I had rested in was about crumble. My doctor looked me in the eye and told me I was clinically depressed. The amount of questions that flooded into my head with that announcement was enormous. I couldn’t have imagined it. In fact, over a year later, I’m still processing it.
That wasn’t “me”. I was the happy one. With one prescription of antidepressants, he wrote off everything I knew as myself. My mind immediately skipped to how I could fix this, how I could hide this. I didn’t want people to know this new me. I liked the old one. Other people liked the old one. Who was this girl, and what had she done with me?!
As I got in the car to pick up my phone to call my husband, I burst into tears which was normal those days. My husband had married the happy girl. My husband dated the “nothing bothers me” girl for five years. Now, he was getting a frantic, drowning in tears, “panicked because of a pill” girl. I know he loves me no matter what, but I couldn’t help but feel sad for making his life harder, too. The last year had been all about me: my health, my happiness, my feelings. What was going on in my head had quickly made me the most selfish person in our little family, and he was at the brunt of it. He quickly calmed me down, and reminded me that what was happening was an illness. The doctor had told me that serotonin had somehow drained from my body. I was sick. Jordan (my husband) said, “When you got the flu, didn’t you take medicine?” Well, yeah, but this was different. Everyone got the flu. By society’s standards, you got sympathy with the flu. With depression, you get pity. I had spent my whole life proving I was strong enough to need no one’s pity.
I drove back to work, sat at my desk determined to will myself out of this mess. I wasn’t going to tell a soul. Sure, I’d share with them I had some weird, unknown illness that was draining hormones from my body. But I was avoiding the big “D” word no matter what. That wasn’t me.
After picking up the prescription that I got only because Jordan wanted me to, I stared at the box for a long time. I don’t remember what I was thinking. I just remember I felt lost. I was lost for answers, lost for happiness, lost for any inkling of an identity. I read the directions at least three times as if a loophole would jump off the page. I didn’t take a pill that night like instructed. I waited until the next day. I had to build up the courage to swallow my pride and that pill.
Depression was an abstract idea to me. Sure, I knew about it. But even if I’d been around it, I saw the good in it. That’s how hyper-positive I was before. There was so easily a lesson seen when it was in someone else’s head. But when it was my own, I felt trapped. No matter how much a scratched, clawed, or cried my way to logical thinking, the ceiling of my happiness seemed to crumble with just a simple poke.
They don’t tell you how all-consuming depression is. It’s not something you can compartmentalize or escape for periods at a time. It’s like a gnat that you can constantly see and hear buzzing while still seeing the world around you. You just now see it through aggravation and annoyance. Everything becomes difficult. My social butterfly had its wings clipped with this illness. I felt like if I could avoid people, I could avoid them seeing the darkness in my eyes. I’ve always loved sleep, but my bed became not a place of rest, but my safe haven. I could cocoon myself away from people seeing the new me. Maybe I wished I was going to wake up from a bad dream.
I remember one night, I laid on the bathroom floor almost convulsing in tears, gasping for every breath all because of insecurity. My attempts to mask my new being put me in a place to pit myself against every other girl that crossed my path. I’m surrounded by some incredible women, on purpose. But that very thing I thought I was using to insulate myself from harm with these women loving me and encouraging me, became the enemy’s easiest target to pull me down. All of the sudden, the rules of the comparison game I had taught high school girls to avoid for so many years were actually meant for me.
Jordan would hug me and love me through these dark moments. He would try to talk me down from hysteria and logic me out of crazy thinking. He would often ask, “Where did this come from?” My response was always so empty. “I don’t know.” Not only had I lost the identity of “me”, but I had lost control of “me”. I didn’t even know how to pull myself up. All I felt was a freefall. I read book after book of encouragement. I sought wise counsel. I did everything I knew how, but would find myself back in bed, craving to just be left alone. I became weary of fighting. My body starting to take on other physical manifestations of sadness. I started losing my memory. I started having panic attacks that would come out of nowhere. I started passing out. The more I fought, the harder I would fall. I would constantly remind myself I had no reason to be sad. My life was “perfect”. Then, I would tumble into a snowball effect thinking that I didn’t have a reason to be sad… Why am I such a sad sap? Why can’t I just buck up?!
I would have small victories along the way, but to other people they were normalities. I would get advice such as “just start doing things again like you used to.” All along, that’s exactly what I had been trying to do. But to everyone else, that was normal. Little did they know, I was using every ounce of energy I had just to sit in a room and have coffee with someone.
I wanted, and still want, to blame something. Jordan and I just started seeing a new doctor to make sure it couldn’t be anything else. The doctors had told me their theory on the cause. But I think I have to rest not in a cause, but in a reason. Everyday I wake up hoping to have an “ah-ha” moment of why the Lord put me through this. Everyday, I learn a lesson that is washed away with high tides of insecurity, darkness, and sadness. The Lord has been faithful by keeping me safe. He’s been faithful in still opening doors for me in ministry to love on girls He’s placed around me. He’s been faithful that this season of my life happened while I have Jordan. No matter how dark I feel, I know my hand is being held even when I can’t see it, by a Hand so firm that even my doubts can’t rip Its grip.
The enemy loves that I haven’t shared this with many people. He probably has a big, nasty smirk that I bought into a lie that the stigma attached to depression should stick with it. He doesn’t get that power over me or the Lord’s faithfulness anymore. The dutch door of my life has been only half open for too long. I’ve sat in the dark with the blinds closed hoping for a miracle for too long. I want to pull the strings to let the Light in and realize that the “me” I was before wasn’t my doing, but His.
Not only did I start to avoid people, but I started to avoid and doubt the Lord. I questioned His existence, I doubted His character, and I pushed His Word as far away as I could. I don’t know why, but it just felt easier that way. I guess I thought dead branches felt better than pruning. Before this season, I had no idea how many lies of this world I believed. But it’s far more that I ever care to admit.
But despite the lies I’ve learned, I saw more promises kept. I would like to say, “That was then…” at the end of this post, but I’m still in it. I used past tense up to this point for storytelling’s sake, but I’m still here. I’m still grasping at straws for lessons. I’m still trying to keep my head above water. I’m still trying to rebuild the spiritual disciplines mental illness destroyed. I’m still praying daily, hourly for my redemption story to come now. I’m still madly, deeply in love with a Savior that continues to save me. I’m still learning that this saving is not just once; it’s daily. I’m still learning that the character, personality and identity He gave me before wasn’t because of me. But I’m still here; so I know He’s not finished with me.