Here is how God is asking me to live out the Gospel lately: every day, after I wake up, I get a glass of water and I take a little white pill.
I remember the first time I realized something was off, but really it was someone else who noticed it. Before a volleyball game at West Carter High School, my volleyball coach came over and said, “You’ve not really been yourself lately. Is anything wrong?”
The answer was yes and no. No, nothing really was wrong, besides the normal high school drama, but yes, because she hit the nail on the head: I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I wasn’t even sure what that meant. All I knew is my thoughts sometimes (a lot of the time) were out of control and I was second guessing everything.
It got worse during my senior year of high school; I was happy, really happy, but almost every day I would still have these…moods…for lack of a better word, and I had no idea why I was feeling what I was feeling so I came up with a reason. It brought a lot of codependency and drama, but at least with the drama I had a reason for why I was feeling down. A new start in college would make it better, I was sure.
So I headed off to college, and things were new and fresh and better, until they weren’t, and so I found a safe place to crawl back into myself little by little. I beat myself up so badly after I said something stupid, running through every word I said for hours and hours. At one point shortly after I got married I just learned it was easier not to let people in at all.
I started a job that I loved in KY, but building high walls makes it pretty hard to be successful in ministry. I remember one day someone asked me to add a name to the roll on their class list, and I went to the bathroom and cried because I just couldn’t do One. More. Thing.
Chris knew for a long time, but he was gracious and loving and so he let me say it first. One day, I couldn’t sleep (again) because I was spiraling through everything I had done and not done and said and felt like I failed about. And I turned to him and said, “Maybe…I’m depressed.”
I tried counseling then, maybe twice, but it wasn’t a good fit and ministering in the community kept me from trying to reach out much further. Which is stupid now; no one else put these expectations on me, but I held them firmly on my own shoulders.
For three more years, a total of nine years on this path, I kept struggling, and beating myself up. I asked a doctor for help and she said she would prescribe me something, but she hadn’t even asked my symptoms so I decided I could try on my own. I had by Big Three of things that if I could just do them, I would be fixed. I had my works I had to do to get through. They were my health, my work, and my faith. If I could get my weight to a certain spot, or be fulfilled enough in my work, or read my Bible and pray enough, I could, I should be able to fix it myself.
After all, good Christians shouldn’t need medicine to have joy and peace. Those were fruits of the Spirit, right?
I was tired, so tired. I felt like I had to guard my time and my words and my heart so fiercely.
At the beginning of this year, I sat down to do my goals. That was a big way I tried to cope, goals and lists and lists and more lists. But as I sat down to do my goals, I started praying something bolder than I had ever prayed before: God, I believe that at the end of this year, anxiety and depression can be words I would NEVER use to describe myself.
I had prayed before that God would help, usually in the dark on the worst nights of anxiety, and in the morning I would go back to making my lists. But the next morning instead of picking up a list, I kept praying. And praying. And praying. Every day.
Then I started seeing a counselor. Actually, I tried one, and she was terrible, so I tried another, and she was amazing. After a few months of talking through things, she referred me to a psychiatrist, and that word was terrible and embarrassing but I walked out of her office with a diagnosis (major depressive disorder and anxiety).
It’s hard to put this into words, because I can’t really describe the 180 degree turn it’s been since I started taking medicine. I thought taking medicine would be defeat, saying, No, God, You’re actually not enough for me.
But it was more like surrender…
God, I cannot possibly fix this. I can’t even try anymore, and I need help. Every day, when I swallow that pill, that’s what I’m saying. I need Your help.
I have felt the cloud of depression rise up and all of the sudden I can hear God speaking to me and directing me, and He is bearing fruit of joy and peace and love that I tried so hard to produce in myself.
I jokingly say credit it to the medicine, but I know the truth: it was surrender to Christ that is making me better. Every morning when I swallow that pill I get a reminder that I can’t do it, I can’t work hard enough, I can’t bridge this chasm from who I am to who I want to be. But Jesus did. He did the work, and He’s still doing it. He’s choosing to do it right now through medicine, and He may always help me through that.
I feel like a whole new person, because six months ago all I could see was just a few steps ahead of me: what can I do to make myself feel better, what can I do to move forward. But Jesus took my to do list and handed me back freedom and hope and joy and peace. What a gracious, gracious Savior.