The darkness got bigger. Wider. Blacker. I didn’t know darkness could get even darker.
“You’re fine. You’re fine. You can work your way out of this.”
“They’ll think you’re crazy. Don’t let anyone know how bad it really is.”
“Just sleep some more. Maybe tomorrow won’t even come.”
Depression is darkness, an abyss, closing in, swallowing you whole.
Depression is despair, a crying out, and no one is hearing your voice – not even you.
Depression is isolation, a corner, with walls all around, and walls even over head.
My three kids and I were eating the warm cookies (slice and baked comfort food), and the phone rang.
“Jenny. John died last night.” It was my mom telling me about my dad’s best friend, dying, literally 6 months later, to the day, of my dad’s death, of the same vicious colon cancer. Best friends. Both dead. Gone. Because of cancer’s cruel attack.
I don’t remember if I even tried to console my Mom. I could barely console myself. And for some reason, this call – this news – was my breaking point. I don’t know how I’d held it in so long. Saying goodbye to my Dad after his long battle with cancer: losing my sister all over again to her addiction, and this time, not even hearing from her for months; and several deaths at church, including two suicides, and a teenager losing her mother – this all in less than 6 months. How I hadn’t ‘cracked’ yet was evidence of my defense mode – shut-down.
I finally gave myself permission to cry. To fall. To crack open, and let the heaviness pour out.
And cry I did. In front of my kids, as they ate their warm, cozy cookies, I cried my hot, broken tears.
Wil, age 5, says to me, with the sweetest, most tender eyes. “Mom, are you gonna eat that cookie?”
“No, you can have it.”
You can have my cookies, my happiness, my anything. All I have left – I give it to you. I had three kids. 5, 4, and 2. They kept me alive. They got me out of bed. They kept me in mommy mode, to the point, that at least I had to “function” for them. Truly, they and my husband, were my saving grace. And my Jesus. Even though he felt so far away. He was there. Holding me – in the pain, in the dark, in the isolated corner where I ‘hid’. He saved me from myself.
Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
After the 5th or 6th sleepless night, I finally told Matt. “Honey, I’m not sleeping. I try so hard. I lay there and I am perfectly still. And my eyes are shut, but my heart is so awake, and heavy, and the thoughts are so much.”
“I feel crazy. I am so sad. So alone. I don’t know what to do.”
He didn’t know either. This was unchartered territory for us. But, we both knew, I needed help. And that a doctor was our next step.
Walking in to a psychiatrist’s office, wanting desperately to be anywhere else, and to find the answer to my depression in my faith, my prayers, my family – anywhere but the ‘crazy bin’ – I walked anyways.
The man who barely looked at me assessed my wounds. Seriously, I could have had a gun to my head, and I am not sure if he would have noticed. Regardless, this was a step I needed to take, and my chemicals were clearly out of sorts. If meds were one solution, I would at least try.
He handed me two scripts. One for sleep help. The other to ease the pain, to lessen the blows. I began the routine of being one of ‘those people’ on meds, knowing it would be weeks until I may even feel any better. And I remember, it actually getting even worse – even darker, the walls closing even tighter.
Death whispers. Darkness screams. Depression swallows. Days were long. And nights were even longer.
“Just take 8 or 9 of those sleepy pills. Maybe you will REALLY sleep. Maybe tomorrow won’t come.” This is what I heard. I told myself – “These aren’t suicidal thoughts. This is just ‘rest’, peace from the pain.” I felt so weak for thinking these thoughts. And as hard as I begged God, the pain would not leave. Not yet.
Not only was I pretending to be mommy and wife, but also pastor’s wife. Hiding in bathrooms, getting in my car as fast as possible, avoiding face to face contact, because THEY might see me as I really was. They might announce my depression to the whole world.
Today, looking back. That might have been THE very best thing. For me to just announce it. And let others in. And let people bring the casseroles. And the flowers. But mental illness – it doesn’t breed casserole deliveries. People don’t know what to say, or do. They don’t want to ‘catch it’. They think and sometimes even say, “Can’t you just give it to God? Let Him handle it?” Today, I know, that the church has as many, or more, people struggling in depressive disorders. Now I know that grief, that alone-ness, that darkness. I tell my story so others will tell theirs.
One day, it just happened. I felt a little bit “normal”. I felt the sadness not as whole around me. I felt pieces of Jenny – returning. That one day took a long time. But it did come
And what I learned in my battle with depression, today, I can absolutely say, I am grateful. I learned:
I will lose every single person in my life. In one way or another. Death, disappointment, heartbreak. But I will never lose my Jesus. He is the only ONE who will never disappoint me.
There are times that I cannot tell how bad it really is, or how awful I really feel – and I don’t even have to tell God. He already knows.
God carries us, even when we don’t feel we are being carried. The miracles don’t always come, but when we belong to Him, he carries us, even unto death – I am safe in His arms.
Have you or someone you loved battled a mental illness? How did you seek support in this time?
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