Being that it is National Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to share my story. I believe there is power when we share our stories. Reach out if you need help, you are not the only one who struggles………….
Depression. Am I The Only One?
A dark black hole that you can’t get out of. That is what depression feels like for me.
I grew up knowing nothing about depression. It was never something that was on my radar. Even if I had known about it when I was younger, I’m not even sure I would have realized I struggled with it. If I think back on my early childhood, a lot of things seem like a blur. I don’t ever remember being extremely sad, but I know that I didn’t deal with my emotions very much. A lot of my feelings would typically get shoved back down in my soul to sit and stir. High school was a lot of the same thing, but with a lot more emotions to suppress.
Fast forward to college—between classes, hanging out with friends, and everyday life, there would be some quiet moments. I remember sitting in my dorm room on my bright red futon by myself, as I listened to other college students in the lobby of our floor hanging out. I felt like I had no purpose. I was good at making this feeling go away. I would do what I had done in the past: any emotion that came up would get shoved down, and I would try to find my purpose in things other than Jesus. Whether that was through getting attention from guys, shopping, eating junk food, or trying to look good, I was usually looking for something in the moment that I could find my worth in.
I did start following Jesus in college, but I struggled to see that my complete purpose and worth should come from him. Anxiety and worry were a normal part of my life, to the extent that I would give myself heartburn. My life was not completely miserable, but it was hard for me to be still and alone with my thoughts. That is when the feelings of not having a purpose and anxiety would creep in. I would then resort to clinging to one of the things I thought would make me feel better. This was not how I wanted to live my life, but I didn’t really know how to change it. I was not aware of what was really going on inside of me because I was not willing to look inside and see what was there. It was easier to just ignore it, and cover the pain with temporary fixes.
After college, Adam and I were newly married and heading off to start our life together in Kentucky. It was so exciting, and we had so much to look forward to. He was starting seminary, and I was going to be looking for a job to support the two of us. Everything seemed to be going so smoothly.
A couple of months into our time in Kentucky, I still hadn’t found a job. I would apply and get interviews, but then the answer was always no. The first year of being married was wonderful, but it was also a year of figuring out how this whole marriage thing worked and learning to depend on each other since there was no family close by. We were able to make some friends, but for me friendships were hard because I was not very good at opening up freely with others. There were people around me, but at the same time I felt so alone.
I’m not sure exactly when it started, but after a couple months to a year of our new life down south, I began to notice that I would feel sad a lot. There would really be no reason for the sadness, it was just there. There was one specific moment I remember driving somewhere when the song “Numb” by Linkin Park came on the radio. I listened to the lyrics:
“I’ve become so numb
I can’t feel you there
Become so tired
So much more aware”
That was what my life felt like—I felt like I was numb. This was the first time that I actually realized something might be wrong. I felt lifeless, I didn’t like to feel. Numbing out was my way of protecting myself from getting hurt because I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. I would typically try to ignore feeling like this, so I shoved my feelings back down like I usually did and chose not to deal with my thoughts.
Two summers into our new life in Kentucky, we found out that we were expecting our first child. I was thrilled! I had been working a couple jobs, and really did not like working from 8-5. The idea that I would get to be a stay-at-home mom sounded so good to me, and I was ready to finish up one phase of my life and move on to the next.
On a cold day in February, our oldest son Hudson was born. You can try and prepare for becoming a parent, but nothing can really prepare you until you actually experience it. Becoming a mom was one of the best days of my life, but it was also one of the scariest. I had no clue what I was doing. I was tired and overwhelmed learning how to care for this tiny human. My emotions were all over the place. One second I was okay, then I was sad, then I got angry because my son wouldn’t stop crying. I loved him so much, but at the same time I didn’t want anything to do with him. What was wrong with me?
I remember being in our tiny apartment kitchen one night and telling Adam I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to be this kind of mom, I wanted to enjoy taking care of my son, but I didn’t, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I called my doctor’s office, and they prescribed some medication for me. When I brought the medication home, I was too scared to take it—I had no clue what an antidepressant would do to me. I didn’t want to feel all drugged up, so I put the pills back in the cupboard. I never touched them. Things eventually did get better as I got used to being a mom, but the sad and numb feelings never really went away.
Eventually we ended up adopting our second child, Wilson. Even though I was not physically carrying him, all the emotions felt exactly the same as being pregnant. The day finally came when we were able to bring him home. We flew to Ethiopia, stayed there while all of the legal things happened, and then brought Wilson back home. As if going from one to two kids wasn’t hard enough, the same feelings that I had with my first son came back. I was sad and easily irritable—I loved this new son of mine so much, but it was a struggle to take care of him. I didn’t know why I felt like this again. Yes, bringing a new child home plus the fact that we were adopting wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with, but I couldn’t shake the feelings of sadness and my emotions being everywhere. I felt like such a horrible mom, but I didn’t know what to do about how I was feeling.
By the time I was pregnant with my third child, I knew I needed to change things for myself, and for the sake of my kids. I was sitting in a class for pregnant women one day, and a psychologist came in to talk to us about some of the challenges women can have mentally and emotionally before and after they give birth. She talked about our hormones, and about how the hormone levels drop significantly after giving birth, which can cause postpartum depression in new moms.
Reluctantly, I raised my hand to ask a question. I asked about taking an antidepressant. I knew I didn’t want to struggle with the same feelings of sadness and numbness that had plagued me before, but I was still a little scared to try it. The psychologist said something to me that I will never forget: she told me to think of antidepressants like someone would think of taking medication for their heart or high blood pressure. I would be doing the same thing, only taking a pill to make my brain work properly again. Her explanation eased my heart, and soon after I started taking something that helped me feel like I could function properly again. It was one of the best decisions that I ever made. Other than walking with Jesus, taking medication for depression has been one of the biggest actions I’ve taken to change my life. It has made me feel like my emotions are on level ground so I have been able to walk with Jesus in a deeper way. I am not numb, but it gives me the ability to have healthy emotions.
I wish I could say that my antidepressant has completely fixed my depression, but it hasn’t. Most days those thoughts and feelings are still there, but I have the ability to handle them better when I am on my antidepressant. I have asked Jesus many, many times if he would heal me from my depression, but he hasn’t yet. I know that he has been with me each step of the way though, especially during the most difficult times. It has taken me some time to get to a place of relying on him to give me strength for each day.
When you have small kids, being a mom can be a little isolating. There is a lot of time at home, especially in the earlier years when nap time is still part of the schedule.
I remember times of wanting to be out and about, but I knew that my kids needed to sleep. Even when we were out, it was hard to focus completely on anything else when my kids were with me. I would have play-dates with other moms and their kids, and we would try to have a normal conversation while still needing to change diapers, give snacks, and make sure the kids were playing nice. It takes a lot of extra energy to be in community while being a mom of young kids, energy that I usually didn’t have left.
As I got to know other moms, depression was definitely not one of the first things we talked about. I never remember it coming up in conversations. My friend and I would catch up, talk about how things were going with kids and compare notes, but I didn’t know if anyone else was struggling with the same things I was. I felt like the odd one out among all the normal people. Was there really no one else dealing with the same problems that I had?
Some days I felt paralyzed and had a hard time functioning doing daily tasks. I felt like I was on auto-pilot—things got done, but I wasn’t actually living. Yes, the antidepressant was helping, but I felt like I was stuck. I didn’t know what else I could do, so I started doing the one thing I knew I could do: I started talking to Jesus. If it was hard to get out of bed in the morning, I would tell him how I was feeling—not vague descriptions, but the real and raw feelings.
Lord, I don’t want to get out of bed today, I’m not sure if I really even want to be here.
Jesus, you are going to need to help me, because I am not sure that I can do it on my own.
I would get up and start the day by bringing Jesus with me. Every couple minutes or every hour I would say, Jesus, I need you.
If there were any situations that I needed wisdom for, or if I didn’t know what to do, I would ask him.
When there have been things that I am anxious or fearful about, I would tell Jesus about them.
If I had been hurt by someone, or if I was frustrated with somebody, I would talk to him about that too.
Jesus has been there for me this whole time, waiting for me to include him in my life.
As I have learned to walk with Jesus while dealing with depression, he has brought it to my attention that I am not very good at feeling my feelings. My feelings have always been scary for me, and I am not even sure why. Maybe it is because when you allow yourself to feel, you are open to the risk of being hurt. Most of my life I haven’t known what to do with my pain and hurt, I definitely did not want to process my feelings. Jesus would not let me stay stuck though. He has taken my heart and placed it in his loving hands, and he has been teaching me what it looks like to deal with my feelings.
It has started small, each day becoming a little more aware of what I am feeling at the moment. If I am frustrated, I tell him about it. If I am sad, I tell him about it. If I am thankful, I tell him. I talk to him out loud, or I silently share with him how I am feeling. This develops intimacy with Jesus, and as I process my feelings with him, he begins to help me live and heal from the things that I have been stuffing down inside my soul.
When I am honest with Jesus and bring him into it, my depression doesn’t hurt as much. Yes there still are days that are better than others, but I know that Jesus is with me, and I am not alone. I have hope, I have a purpose, and it is to walk with him each day despite the hard things that come my way in this lifetime.
As I have been sharing life with Jesus, I have begun to realize that depression is something that needs to be talked about. My former tendencies to not deal with my feelings never helped me at all, this kind of pattern only made things worse. I have seen what Jesus can do when I am honest about my struggles and he is able to help me heal from them. If we know about something that can help change other people’s lives as well, how can we not share it? I have started being open about my struggle with depression so others can hopefully know the hope and life they can find in Jesus. It was not easy to share about my depression, especially with all the stigma that is around any type of mental illness. The more I share though, I find that there are others who are struggling with the same thing. They need to hear that Jesus is there to walk with them through their daily lives, so they don’t have to do it alone. The truth is, no one really has it all figured out, I am not the only one, and that is why it is so important to share with others that they need Jesus. He is the hope that a hurting world desperately needs.
I never used to think Jesus wanted to hear about everything that was going on with me, but I now know that he does. Even in my depression, he is with me when I feel like I am at the bottom of the darkest pit. He has been my light and purpose, holding me, and giving me strength for the days that I don’t want to get out of bed. It has been a journey to get to the place where I am now. I want others who struggle with depression as well to know that there is hope, despite the darkest of days. Allow Jesus in, even in those dark places. I promise that he will change you, and you don’t have to do it alone.❤️❤️