Today I am going to touch on a subject that is honestly one of the ones that I find it the most uncomfortable to talk or write about. I actually just typed out an entire sentence about how I have no shame about it, then after reading it out loud, and digesting it with weight on my chest I rethought it and deleted it. The truth is, there is a bit of shame with it. Not that there should be, but because of what other people equate it with. Which is me being presumptuous to a point and being honest about my interaction with people I have shared it with, which is very few.
I have lived with depression almost my entire life. Let me be even more open, I have dealt with crippling depression for most of my life. The kind that sucker punches you out of nowhere and leaves you in a ball on your closet floor. The kind that doesn’t care what deadline you have, responsibility you have, friends you have, family you have, it steals minute by minute, second by second, your very life and makes you believe you have none of what you have. The kind that has you hold a fistful of pills that are slightly damp because you just had them in your mouth and spit them out, because no matter how loudly the voice in your head says “do it” you still know you want to live, they fight each other, and so far life has won. This is the kind of depression I have lived with, wrestled with, knock down drag out, emotional bruised and banged up fought at times. The kind that a simple, “cheer up” doesn’t help, but that is the majority of everyone’s’ response to me when I have (in small increments) shared my struggle. Why is that? Why is the response to those struggling with depression is so (most of the time) flippant? I have a theory. It is too uncomfortable to deal with it. It is too much of an emotional investment to come alongside a person who is struggling with a mental illness. (wow… i typed it out, and the connotation is about me…the vulnerability I feel right now if frightening)
Let me walk you through (as best as I can) how an “episode” feels. I will relate to you a particular time I was in a bad place and will leave out the actual date and year. It all began when the alarm went off. I stood up, glanced at my phone and considered for more than a full 30 seconds, chucking it against the wall. Instead, I picked it up, pressed the off button and made my way to the bathroom. It had been a long night. I struggle with sleep and the night before was particularly brutal. I tossed and turned trying to push out the “to do” lists and anxious scenarios in my head. I was going on a trip to sing at a big venue and I had been excited about it up until this moment. I was now dreading it. I could not put my finger on why. I felt and felt for the pulse of the heart of it and found nothing. The panic I felt was irrational. I could feel my chest tighten and my stomach was sick. I turned the shower on and let the hot water hit the top of my head and hoped that somehow it would wash away the anxiety. Then, like an old flame, sadness began to seep into the anxiety. The two begin to mix like a molotave cocktail and like an idiot, I entertain the two of them and the rag is lit. There is only a certain amount of time before it combust and takes me with it. This is depression for me. A panic, anxiety, sad anger. I spend most of my life trying to take the lit rag out of the bottle to keep it from killing me… quite literally. Now, before you go Baker acting me.. let me say, I in no way am going to harm myself or am suicidal, now. I have however had many instances in my life where I was at that dark place. Bottle with kerosene lit and I just sat holding it waiting for it to explode. Not really weighing the permanent consequences to a very temporary feeling. It is my “thorn in the flesh” you could say. I have, over the course of my life, been to many counselors, have covered it almost daily with prayer, and have friends I know I can call.
When I was 15 I was prescribed prozac and after being on it for a few months decided (on my own) to stop taking it and try to battle my depression on my own. I have had people both cheer and boo this “decision”. This is when I decided to not let anyone know if I ever took medication for it ever again… I was 15… and made to feel shame for something that was out of my control. Why is there no shame when we take medicine for a headache, fever, or even worse things like cancer, or as I have.. MS? Why do we make a person feel like if they admit their struggle that they are somehow “not trying hard enough”? It is a recipe for disaster. There is an epidemic of silent sufferers.
Every time I read a story of a young person ending their life I am devastated. The last one was just a week ago. It was someone talking about a 10-year-old who took their life. let that sink in… 10 years old…. a child It was then I decided that I was going to write about this. For me to stay silent about it is to be ashamed and to keep the stigma going. I have depression. I have anxiety issues. I also am on medication for both. Quite honestly I have fear of the response. “You are a pastor’s wife” is one that I struggle with keeping this from. But you know what? We crave transparency in all of our other struggles.. why should this one be any different? I have found a community of people who share this struggle and we have been able to reach out to others who need someone to talk to and empathize with actual knowledge of what they are walking through. I feel it is truly my PRIVILEGE to stand with and for those who are struggling with depression and say NO MORE SHAME! True healing comes from the recognition of a wound, and this wound is in the open y’all. I hold my head up and fix my eyes on Who it is that created me and loves me. May He use this to touch someone and give them the courage to talk about it and not allow the jailer of depression keep them inside a cell made of fear and shame. You are not alone.