I come today to scratch out a post that has my hands shaking and my heart quivering. It doesn’t help that I’ve hardly written much in the last year or two, so I feel especially vulnerable just on account of that, and even more so with what I feel I’m supposed to write today.
The last year and a half have been a particularly stressful time for me for reasons I won’t go into. Suffice it to say that I do not handle stress well, although at one time in my life stress is what I thrived on and what drove me. The rushes of adrenaline were addicting and helped me get done what I needed to get done, usually under deadlines. Unfortunately, that is also what precipitated an episode of burnout that I don’t care to ever repeat, so I try to be very careful not to bite off more than I can chew. Sometimes life comes at us in bigger bites than we care to take and there’s not much to do about it. This is where I run into trouble. It’s hard for me to go with the flow and not get worked up about things beyond my control or try to do it all even though it takes a terrible toll on me.
Last year, 2015, was a very tough year for me. I couldn’t understand what was going on, I just knew I was very confused and disoriented. I knew that some things had happened that were hard, but I didn’t realize the extent to which they were affecting me until someone pointed out the obvious in December.
Basically, I was being triggered all year and my body and my brain were shouting at me that I was in an unsafe situation and I needed to do something about it. That’s all that really registered. Since then I’ve learned that when we’re triggered, something literally happens in our brain and it causes us to not be able to think straight or process information the way we usually do. I spiraled into a vicious cycle of not being able to sort things out, which made me feel more disoriented and lost, which led to more confusion, and on and on. And eventually, the depression I wanted to believe I had kicked finally overtook me once again.
And this is where it’s hard to get vulnerable. I’ve not wanted to talk about my battle with depression, but it has paralyzed my writing and my living for too long. For many years of my battle, I did not know that what I was fighting was depression. See, for me, depression did not look like what I thought it was. I even went to the doctor one time because I was feeling very sick physically and his cursory answer was, “Well, we’ll do these blood tests and if nothing comes back I’ll treat you for depression.” What??? This was the first time anyone had even mentioned depression to me and it was such an offhand remark without so much as trying to help me understand why he was thinking depression that I never went back. It was about a year and a half later that I sat across from a very wise person who asked me, “So, how long have you been depressed?” that I finally acknowledged that this was a thing in my life.”
For the next five years, I said no to a lot of things people wanted me to do, to things I would have loved to do, and tried to learn what it means to know and experience Jesus and to take care of myself. But last year I came face to face with how vulnerable I really am, and how little it takes to upend everything. At this point I did decide that I probably needed something to help me get back on track, so I did see a doctor (a different one who was very kind and caring, thank God!) and he prescribed the medicine that I can say has helped. I can’t say that I can tell a huge difference in how I feel except that nagging, grinding sense of sadness in the center of my heart has eased. At my last checkup I told my doctor that I don’t feel that as much anymore, and he said I had probably built up my serotonin levels sufficiently to ease that feeling, thanks to the tiny pill I take every night.
I am not here to tie a pretty little bow on top of a neat and tidy package with all the answers. The more I learn about depression and anxiety, the more questions I have. This looks different for every single person who battles depression and I only give you part of my experience here. This is not even close to the whole story, but for now this is what I am free to share.
Counseling has helped me some, meds have helped me some, Jesus has helped me a lot, and rest and down-time has been an important part of my emotional well-being, but all this hasn’t made it go away. Just know that although I may fight this battle for the rest of my life, it does not and will not define me. It is not who I am. If depression and anxiety is part of your story, it does not define you. It is not who you are. You are more than the depression. You are an image-bearer of the God of the universe, and He is the One who defines who you are. He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He loves you with an everlasting love. Do not be afraid to seek help. People will tell you Jesus should be enough, so just know that sometimes Jesus sends help in the form of medicine and counselors. And tell someone about your struggle. It loses some of its power when you speak your truth to a trusted friend who will listen and not give you a whole bunch of “shoulds”. Erase the word “should” from your vocabulary. It’s not a helpful word. We do what we can with the help we can get and let the rest go. And sometimes we need someone to help us figure out what is not helpful and how to let it go. Just know that if depression is part of your story, you are not alone, and asking for help is not admitting weakness. It means you’re strong and courageous and willing to do the hard work of facing off against your giants.
All this to say, this is why I haven’t been writing much. My brain has been on overload and I haven’t been able to sort out my thoughts, much less write something to publish here. Hopefully, I’m on a track where I will be able to write more frequently, so thank you for grace as I navigate this space. God is faithful in the midst of everything, always and forever faithful!
All the best!