My doctor’s words were the final blow.
“You need to see a psychiatrist. Things have gotten serious. Time for a specialist.”
I knew deep down that’s what he was going to say, but I still flinched to hear it. I nodded a reluctant ok at him, tears streaming down my face, words escaping my frazzled brain yet again.
There was a monster eating my mind. That's how it felt, day by day, losing my memory, my ability to sleep, my enjoyment of…anything. Things I loved--reading, gardening, teaching, cooking, baking--were all impossible to like. I used to devour books, and now I was lucky to read a chapter at a time before staring off into space, lost in churning thoughts and feelings that life was hopeless. I couldn't focus on much but the relentless daily conviction that everything was worthless and would never get any better. I was barely making it, going to work only to come home and go to bed, waiting for the day to pass and hoping that I would be able to survive tomorrow.
I finally by the grace of God saw my doctor and heard the words I needed to hear. I was recommended to a fantastic specialist who has guided me through some pretty intense treatment for clinical depression. The process is ongoing, recovery not an “easy fix” in the least.
I've learned a lot about severe depression and other mental illnesses like anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. I had always been prone to low self-esteem and anxious thoughts, but the last several years of my life have taught me how debilitating these can become as they grow in intensity. My mom’s declining health and subsequent death were the major events that precipitated my illness, but other events in my life at work and home definitely contributed as well.
Here are a few truths I've learned about depression and mental illness during my battle…things I wish I had known before it hit:
· It is a real illness, like diabetes or cancer. It is not a moral or spiritual weakness that requires you to “try harder” to “snap out of it.” It requires professional treatment.
· Having a mental illness does not mean you are weak, selfish, and useless. God can use your pain. This experience has made me more empathetic, less judgmental, and more sensitive to hurting people in a hurting world. I never would have seen the good that could come from this if I had not gone and gotten the care I needed.
· Family and friends suffer, too. They want to help but are often at a loss as to how they can. It isn't that they don't care; they do.
· There is no shame in getting proper care. This may include medication, talk therapy, and other methods. For me, it required three different types of treatment to lift the dark cloud of depression. Many people resist medication, thinking that it's a sign of weakness. It's not.
In conclusion, as a depressed Christian, I have learned that I am still a beloved child of God. In the midst of tremendous pain, He preserved my life and led me to healing places. If you are in a bad place like I was, you are not alone, and there is hope.