You Are Not Alone

Here’s the truth. I have been avoiding the blog. I really feel like the Lord wants me to share this journey, so after much screaming and kicking on my end I decided to finally give in and trust that He has plans for this very personal post. This post is about my journey of my battle with mental illness, and what a great time to share, as May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

mental health awareness

I have struggled with depression for years, as I briefly shared in a previous post. Not just I’m-feeling-sad-so-let’s-eat-ice-cream-and-cry depression, but a very dark and lonely depression where thoughts of suicide and whispers of lies were in my head all day long. Day in and day out. How long has this been going on? Since I was 11 years old.

I fell madly in love with Jesus Christ when I was 21 years old and sadly I got the idea that once I became a Christian it would all go away (Newsflash: trials do not disappear, many times throughout the Bible there are references of trials and the spiritual growth that can come through them.  If anyone needs clarity on this, go read the book of James). Honestly, I felt like the depression was suppressed for a while, but then it would creep back in. After each of my pregnancies I found myself awake in the middle of the night sobbing because I couldn’t imagine persevering through this or seeing any way out of the pit I was stuck in yet again.

This last episode of post-partum depression has been the worst, hands down. Less than 2 weeks after beautiful Isaac was born I was in that bathroom at 2:00AM and staring at all the prescription medication in the medicine cabinet debating taking all the pills to end this indescribable pain. This happened every day for two months, and it would have gone on longer if my husband didn’t step in.

Those two months were filled with joy and darkness. I know, it’s a hard concept to grasp, but honestly I had moments of joy in the midst of the fog. When Noah and Timothy would shower their new brother in kisses, or when Nathan would have a tickling war with the boys, or just sitting back and realizing how blessed I am… Yet still feeling depressed… Which just made everything worse because that’s what I always said in my head, You have a wonderful life, you have no reason to feel this way!

Seriously, even when my depression began it wasn’t because of this tragic event or anything bad in my life happening… the depression just began and has been like a bad high school relationship ever since; on again and off again too many times to count. That’s the thing that is hard for many people to understand… I have heard well-meaning people just say (not to me personally, but about people who struggle with depression) “Get over it,” or “Just pray more,” but sometimes a mental illness is just that: an illness. Please hear me out, because I absolutely believe in the miraculous healing power of God, but I also know He works and moves in many different ways. Just because someone struggles with a mental illness it doesn’t mean their faith is lacking. It wasn’t until my amazing husband lovingly suggested trying medication to see if it would help, and the results have been amazing.

I started taking Zoloft and going to Christian counseling, and I feel like a new person. I am learning and discovering so much through counseling and working on forming a new belief system; a true belief system based on Scripture. Is my depression gone completely? No, I still have my moments, but y’all, I want to live now! I don’t contemplate suicide every day. I’m not up crying every night. I’m not begging the Lord to take me Home. I’m working through this struggle and have come to peace with the reality that I may have to battle this for the rest of my life, but you know what? If this is what it takes to help others battling with depression know they are not alone, if this is what it takes to break the shame and stigma attached to mental illness, if this is what it takes to bring God even greater glory… then I will fight this battle. I will fight and pray not just for my own battle with mental illness, but for so many others that struggle with mental illness too. You are not alone, and you are loved.

She is Mine

It’s the Friday before Spring Break. I’m sure to most 28 year old moms of toddlers that would mean nothing because our kids aren’t in school yet and we sure aren’t out partying like we were ten years ago. Yet, the Friday before Spring Break always brings me great joy, because that is the day the Lord took hold of my heart, broke down those walls and filled me up with His perfect love. Here is my testimony in a nutshell:

I grew up in Texas. I grew up in church. I grew up hearing how Jesus loves me, and I never questioned it. I always believed in God and believed Jesus loved me. Again, I will say, I grew up in Texas: AKA Bible Belt. Do you know what that means? That usually means the same kids that were getting wasted on Saturday nights went to church on Sunday mornings. And that was normal, acceptable even to some, because again, most of us believed in God and His love for us… but it hit me about my senior year of high school that something wasn’t right about that. Sure, we all believed in God, so that meant we were all safe, right? That we were all Christians? And “most importantly” we would all go to heaven, right? But doesn’t the Bible state somewhere (James 2:19-20) that even the demons believe? … These were questions I couldn’t seem to get past the next couple of years and would think about for a whole two minutes before deciding to just put this God thing on the back burner until I got all my partying out of my system.

To make a long story short, my first three years of college were a mess. I was a mess. I had struggled with depression since I was 11 years old (and not because of some horrible trauma, my childhood rocked) and adding drugs and alcohol to the mix was not a good idea. There were nights I don’t remember and nights I wish I could forget. During those years I tried to find my identity through my GPA, through shallow relationships, and my body weight. My junior year of college was when I got bored with drinking and shallow relationships so I focused on an unhealthy goal of weighing less than 90 pounds. I became addicted to exercise and literally ate just enough to not pass out during my classes. Why am I telling you this? Geez, this is kind of personal! I’m telling you this so you can know exactly where I was that Friday night 8 years ago.

I went to a young adult’s ministry called The Net that I had been attending regularly for a couple of months. The majority of my friends were Christians truly living for the Lord, so I would hang out there on Fridays when I didn’t feel like going to a party. I can’t even tell you what the message was about, but I can tell you that my friends and family had been praying for years for this moment.

As Pastor Glenn Holland was wrapping up his message I felt this burning inside that I couldn’t ignore any longer. I was sobbing and didn’t even know why. My friend, Amanda, came over and wrapped me in her arms while I prayed silently to the Lord and thanked Him for picking me up right where I was in life… A mess… I was a 21 year old, 92 pound, borderline-alcoholic depressed mess… And yet, in that moment God declared, “That one! She is Mine!”

Here’s the beautiful thing about it. I’m still a mess… My struggles may not be the same as my 21 year old self, but I still struggle. Many people fall into the trap of believing that Christianity is a promise of an easy, happy go lucky kind of life, when that is just not true. In fact, many times in the Bible God guides us on how to work through our trials (just go read the entire book of James!). I have to remind myself daily that Romans 8:1 states, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” The difference is now my heart has changed, and overtime I began to love what God loves and hates what God hates. I try to live for God and not my own selfish desires. I’m not perfect, and will never claim to be perfect. It’s a constant process of laying down my sins before God and asking for His grace, because I will never be able to do this on my own on this side of heaven, but He still loves me despite my flaws. And guess what? He loves you too, and you don’t have to be prefect when you come to Christ. You can be a mess, just like me, because He is the only One who can wash you of your sins. What a glorious day that will be.