I started writing this post almost 9 months ago when I felt led to share about my struggle with depression and anxiety…
I thought maybe I could help someone….to let others know that they are not alone…
and maybe even give one person a little hope…
but just writing the word “DEPRESSION” weighed so heavily on me like an elephant sitting on my chest….refusing to let me breath.
As soon as I would start letting the words flow out of me, I could also feel myself sinking back again into a place that I did so much to escape. It felt like I was feeding the monster. I was stuck and I kept hesitating to open such a big part of my heart with all of you.
This black cloud that constantly tries to consume me isn’t something that’s easy to share with anyone…even some of my closest friends.
So even as as I felt God was leading me to use my voice, I struggled with sharing this. I kept it saved on my computer, as a rough draft that I poured my heart into every few weeks….then left it unpublished, hidden, and tucked away just like I tried to do with my struggle. I wanted to take more time to edit my words, make my story more pretty and polished before I shared them with all of you…thinking that if I presented it in a more beautiful way, with a positive spin then it wouldn’t be as scary to shout to the world that I was not in control. Staring at the words on my screen left me feeling critical of myself, scared of being judged, far too vulnerable…and also helped me to realize that this struggle wasn’t something that was going to just go away….it was a process…and I wasn’t quite on the other side of it yet..
Thankfully God had a plan.
I just couldn’t find the right way to convey how I was feeling without saying “I’m a complete and utter mess!!!” I still wanted to think I was in control.
But…isn’t that what I really need to say? I was a complete mess….not in control…and I needed help. So much help. Getting to the place where you can finally admit that you cannot do it alone is where the healing can start.
In all honesty, no matter how many times I tweaked my story, it never seemed quite polished enough to share with the world….but dear friends, depression isn’t pretty. Its raw, its painful, and it’s jagged edges are messy and need to be shared so that more light can touch this darkness.
Every depression story begins in a different place. Mine started in a broken home and a genetic predisposition.
I was not a depressed child…but my home life was rocky, and a stable loving environment was simply not part of my story. Genetically I almost had no chance of escaping some kind of mood disorder…but somehow I learned to look at the sunny side of life in order to cope…even when I was dying on the inside.
I was (and still am) a very intuitive person…I can easily soak up all the energy of those around me and use it to understand how to react to my environment. That’s how I spent most of my youth….REACTING. Reacting to what was going on around me, to other people’s actions and choices, and trying to manage their feelings instead of my own. Growing up for me was not the prettiest, but I tried my best not to focus on what was wrong, and got in the awful habit of trying to fix people and help them to survive like I thought I was surviving…always cheering them on and trying to forget about my own suffering. Overall I found more and more ways to keep my head above water and tried to be strong on the outside while stuffing everything I felt deep down so I didn’t crumble. I built walls to protect my heart and I thought that I could only rely on myself, and that all others would disappoint me….
I was so desperate to escape that I lost sight of God’s plan, and I didn’t see a way out unless I created my own path, so I spent the next few decades trying to build a beautiful life on top of all of my broken pieces.
Fast forward through many more years of brokenness, living for myself with no real direction, finding what I thought love was in abusive relationships, struggles with poor self-worth, and searching for all the wrong things to fill the voids that were meant for something bigger. Somehow by the grace of God I met my husband who was exactly opposite of anyone I had ever dated, although he was broken in his own way too, he had such a big heart and I fell hard for him…and eventually I found in a much better life…
instead of being happy, the floodgates opened.
I was nearly 33, married to an amazing man with 3 wonderful children. I had accomplished my goal of getting my degree, and following my passion for photography and working in a flourishing business that I built from the ground up. My life looked great on the outside and my family was everything to me. But all at once I started to crumble. I buckled under the strains of juggling everything in my crazy beautiful life and all my broken pieces rose to the surface.
Everything that had led me to this point plus having a new baby, raising a few children with Sensory Processing Disorder and Tourette Syndrome, mourning the loss of a very dear grandmother, and suffering through the aftermath of some pretty harsh family conflicts….all of this was more than I could bear.
All I could see was not the LOVE that I DID have in my life, but instead the LOVE that I WISHED was there…LOVE from a few precious yet broken people that had never learned how to LOVE or BE LOVED in the first place either.
I just fell apart.
Talking about it was not easy at first…and admitting it to myself was even harder.
I grew up knowing how to pretend things were okay…to put on a brave face….to smile even though I was dying inside….so that’s what I did.
I kept telling myself that I was just in a funk…it would pass soon enough.
Days turned into weeks, and then weeks turned into months….and the thought of even forcing myself to take a shower and change out of my 3 day old pajamas would exhaust me….I just didn’t care. I felt numb. Like I was walking through my life as a zombie. Then I had other days that I would find myself sobbing over absolutely nothing. Eventually The Hubs found me sitting on a mountain of dirty laundry and in a puddle of my own tears overwhelmed and unsure of how to keep going. I knew I was broken and now he knew it too….but I still couldn’t tell him how bad it really was…and I was bordering on something very dangerous. How could someone who had such a beautiful life, so different from where she came still feel so lost?
I ended up in a puddle….unable to love myself, numb to all the love that surrounded me, gripped with fear and frozen in a fog as my life kept passing me by…I was still trying to pick up my own broken pieces and heal myself, but it wasn’t working.
Mentally I was drained and overwhelmed, my mind always raced with worry, to do lists, and stress from work, deadlines, editing and emails that I wasn’t staying on top of. Eventually panic attacks started to become a normal part of my existence. I withdrew a lot from my friends and family and I lost all confidence in myself. I was even more broken than before. Physically, I started losing hair, breaking out in hives for no reason, packing on extra pounds, relying on caffeine and sugar to sustain me, and I lost all motivation to leave the house.
I was a complete and utter mess in dirty yoga pants. Not a pretty sight friends.
During all of this, my only motivation to overcome this giant dark cloud came from my desire to not completely fail motherhood (my poor kids had to deal with my mood swings far too much ) and from my sweet sweet husband who watched me fall apart and had no way to pull me out of it….he wanted so badly to fix me….and truthfully I wished so much that he could too.
No matter how much you try to love someone with depression, it just isn’t enough to pull them out of it completely…its so much deeper than that.
If you are the one on the outside of this roller-coaster, loving someone with depression, and they are not snapping out of it no matter how much LOVE you give….remember that you didn’t fail them, and you can’t DO something more to fix it…
just keep being there and encouraging them to seek help…the brokenness comes from within and has to heal internally with lots of support. Assist them in getting the help they need, advocate for them, be a voice for them and speak life into them as they face this giant.
It will mean more than you’ll ever know that you stuck by them and loved them when they couldn’t even love themselves.
Thank goodness that is what my husband and a few dear friends did for me…
Eventually I felt strong enough to start looking for help…
I finally spoke with my doctor about my symptoms…
I chatted with friends…
I did my best to come up with a plan…
I researched all kinds of ways to help myself naturally (the thought of starting medication that might make me worse terrified me), and I even tried to start an exercise routine (which resulted in about 3 days worth of half attempted physical activity)
but…overall I felt like I was on the road to a better me. The world was my oyster…and I was going to sucker punch this dark cloud hovering over me IN THE FACE!
little did I know I still had a long way to go…because as I was busy conquering it, it snuck in again and knocked me down.
Depression often comes in waves, and must be battled throughout your entire life.
The feeling that I conquered all my problems would last about 2-3 weeks and then I would start sinking back there again…each time harder than before…
like a giant storm pounding against my spirit trying to tear me apart…It was devouring who I was and I felt as if I was shoved into a hole. I never felt so alone.
This time I knew something was terribly wrong with me…I knew exactly what it was…but I just couldn’t make it stop….and worst of all I felt like a burden to all of those who loved me and annoyed with myself for even needing help.
I was at the end of my rope and I knew I either needed to start some medication or go commit myself for a mental breakdown….no really…it was THAT bad. I was terrified to start medication first because my family has a history of addiction, so I decided to try something my sister suggested, and I started taking a supplement called Rhodiola. Thankfully God gave me the motivation to actually follow through and take this supplement each day and I started to feel “normal” again.
After a few weeks I started finding my way out of the hole I was in, and I was ready to deal with all of things I was avoiding without getting so easily overwhelmed. I could finally breathe again. I slowly and reluctantly learned to begin letting go of things that added too much stress in my life, and I made room for the things that really mattered…and most importantly I decided to truly let God lead me.
I knew if I wasn’t intentional with how I lived my life, I would crumble again and again.
Until this point, I felt completely unlovable…I was never enough. I kept trying to fix myself by grasping at everything that surrounded me and stuffing it into the hole I was in, to fill a void that could never be filled by my own hands…I could no longer rely on myself and I had no choice but to make some serious changes. I needed to heal…I needed to bloom again….but this time I had to use who I was created to be to shine for HIM. As I started seeking God’s help in all of this, He opened my eyes to more tools to help me find what I had been searching for…and for more ways to find healing.
I started chasing JOY with everything I had.
I realized that everyday I needed to make more little choices that added up to something greater….a more meaningful life with Christ at the center. I knew that doing this didn’t mean I would be cured from my depression and anxiety, but now I no longer had to live in fear of it. I learned more and more that by being intentional and seeking God in everything, depression was not going to consume me, but instead it was something that had become part of my story, that could breathe more life into others if I let it.
I spent more and more time looking for ways to be thankful even when things went wrong,
I changed my diet and started eating clean as much as I could and also cut out gluten, dairy, and completely detoxed from sugar for 3 months straight…and most of those habits became a lifestyle change that truly helped my mental health more than I ever thought it would.
I also committed to starting my days with prayer, devotions, and journaling, and I began to ask God to help me truly heal. I was ready to BE STILL and WAIT on HIM to guide my steps. I couldn’t do this alone…and now I could see I didn’t even want to.
For a long time, I only wanted a quick fix, but HIS plans are always greater than our plans. True healing takes time.
God was not only healing me from within, but He was leading me to build a better foundation than ever before.
Letting go of the need to control everything and fix it all myself may sound easy….but let me tell you friends..it is NOT. Its a process….a struggle each and every day….but its worth so so much.
If I rely on only myself and not God, I will fill my day with to-do lists and loads of work to occupy my mind and avoid the really hard things….but God is leading me down a path that requires me to lean on Him, and not my own plan…
to live on less, to seek the truth, to be more open about my struggles, and to make sweeter memories with my kids and my wonderful husband…a path that will lead to far less stress and regret and much more joy than I ever could imagine.
God didn’t create me to be battle with depression and anxiety, He didn’t intend for me to start off life with such a struggle, or to get stuck in a place where I self destruct…but when I turn to God each day to sustain me, He will use this part of who I am to let His light shine through me….to help others who suffer in the same way know that they are not alone…to remind someone out there that its okay to NOT be perfect, to let go of control, to be broken….
Its when we lean in to these things that could destroy us, with God’s help, that we can find a way to heal.
We are never meant to try to conquer the world with our own feeble hands or to try to be strong ALL of the time. Its okay to admit that on our own we are weak and we can’t do this alone….
So that’s where I am now….I’m on a new path, seeking God each day with a bigger heart for the broken, a desire to LOVE the unloved, and a commitment to living life on purpose….and to shine even brighter for Him.
From now on I promise to share more of my story…even the most RAW and VULNERABLE parts.
I’m still not sure where this will lead me, but I do know that through all of this, my eyes have been opened to who God made me to be….and in my weakness I find strength.
****IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION….KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE. THERE IS HOPE. DON’T TRY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD BY YOURSELF….YOU NEED HELP. CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY AND BE COMPLETELY OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT YOUR SYMPTOMS SO YOU CAN GET THE HELP YOU NEED OR CALL THE DEPRESSION HOTLINE 800-826-3632****