I didn’t touch a single shopping cart and then wipe my nose and inhale it.
I didn’t eat off of a nasty spoon and contract it.
I didn’t get sneezed on or coughed on, or to my knowledge, barfed on in order to wake up not able to feel my fingers.
One day, depression just happened.
I’m sure it wasn’t that fast. Now that I look back at it, I can see the markers and flags that were trying to give me the heads up that something wasn’t right and that I was about to implode. But the truth is, the day the final straw hit this camel, I crumbled and it was a long road back to standing up again.
The truth is, I’ve always known I have so much to be utterly joyful about. And after having our first miracle baby, I never felt more favored by God. She was perfect head to toe, and I survived a mild bout of postpartum Baby Blues and danced through our first year together with jubilant feet. Our second year was even better, as she finally slept all night and weaned herself off her bottle and said complete sentences and walked, simplifying and complicating my life all in one glorious tangle of pink ribbon.
Somewhere in year three, I started losing it. I had gained a lot of weight since her birth, I had a lot on my plate of balancing wifehood and motherhood with ministry, and I’m quite sure my hormones were completely out of whack from a terrible choice in birth control it took me years to recuperate from. I felt tired, a little more emotional than normal, and sure I was either pregnant or premenstrual every moment for months. Then, one night, we took our toddler to the mall to play and I had a sudden and never-experienced-before panic attack. I felt like I was losing my mind. Tingling limbs, shortness of breath, chest pain, tunnel vision… My husband wanted to take me to the hospital and I begged him not to, certain a good night’s sleep was all I needed.
The next morning, I awoke with the feeling that I just didn’t want to be here anymore. It wasn’t that I was suicidal, but more like a complete disconnect had happened in my mind and heart. For days, I cooked dinner and felt like I wasn’t in the room. I sat by my two loves as they played with peach colored sidewalk chalk in our driveway and wanted to scream at them for being so relaxed in the cool afternoon air. I slept next to my husband but deeply wanted to sleep in the guest room. I rocked my daughter to sleep but desperately wanted the precious lullaby minutes to pass as seconds so I could be free of her and in my bed, untouched and sleeping–even though every night, I dreaded sleep because it would bring another day to face the unnamed monster inside of me.
The breaking point came when it was one chilly Florida morning and I drove my two year old daughter to work at our church office, where I entered the building with her in only a wet diaper. I brought no clothes for her, no food, no sippy cup, no diaper bag. I was done. My husband came in and asked where all her stuff was. My answer still chills me after all these years.
I don’t care.
That afternoon found me in our family doctor’s office, sitting on an examination table in tears, answering very difficult questions with short answers and with so much more unspoken than spoken.
Is your marriage in trouble? No. (But I don’t care.)
Have you had something major happen in your family? No. (But I don’t care.)
Have you been drinking a lot of alcohol or using any new prescription drugs? No. (But I don’t care.)
Are you under a lot of stress? Probably. (But I don’t care.)
Have you recently been through a big change? No. (But I don’t care.)
He is a Christian, and kindly and sweetly spoke words I don’t remember and prayed with me and then urged me to get some counseling to get to the root of why I was, and then he said the word, depressed. I left his office with a piece of paper that had words so ugly written on it, I would had rather him shouted obscenities at me- words I avoided looking at until I handed them to the pharmacist to have the prescription filled for medication I never imagined I would take.
I spent the next three years on antidepressants.
I have to tell you, this cup of coffee we are drinking together today isn’t one I am enjoying. Simply regurgitating these feelings makes me want to cry. Those were the darkest days of my life. I hated how I felt when I looked at my husband and saw sadness in his eyes when he would open the bedroom blinds only to come back and find that I had shut them. I hated how I would hear him tell our daughter, “Let’s not bother Mommy right now and let her sleep” from my bed. I loathed how I felt when I would be listening to our two year old cherub faced baby girl tell me a story about Dora or what she did at her grandparents’ house or sing me a song she had made up and all I wanted to do was scream at her to be quiet and to stop touching me. I still can’t think of how I felt when they would leave me alone and I felt like I was going to lose my mind in the house by myself. Or the fears I faced that maybe I had a neurological disease or maybe I would never get better. I hated that I couldn’t let the TV be turned off in our bedroom when I was sleeping during the day because I would rather hear someone on QVC selling shoe insoles than the thoughts inside my mind.
I came out of it. I saw the sun again.
It was a long journey. The meds worked, but I was acutely aware they were a Band-Aid on issues my soul just couldn’t carry anymore. I chose to take them as such, and used the better days they provided to do some serious work inside my heart.
Why was the joy stolen from my heart?
Why did I pile all this stuff on top of me and carry it for so long without realizing it?
Why did I feel like I wasn’t enough?
Where did I start letting myself believe it was never going to be better than this?
How did I lose my identity in the rat race of marriage and motherhood and ministry?
How long did I ignore the pain before my body and mind shut me down and forced me to look at it in the face?
Momma, if you’re facing depression today, I see you.
The short answer is that you indeed do have so much to be thankful for. You’ve lost your sight. You’ve had your perspective stolen. And when you’re lying in the swamps of sorrow, all you see is the muck.
But the long answer is much more intricate and beautiful.
You don’t have to find the words.
He knows them. Every syllable you cannot speak. Every groaning you cannot utter. Every sob muffled by a pillow in your bed.
God sees you.
He hasn’t forgotten you.
Every tear you’ve cried, He’s collected in His bottle. (Psalm 56:8)
I could write an entire book on the process of coming out of the muck. And maybe I will. I can promise you I will write about climbing out of the swamp later on in this book.
But today, will you just let it be enough for me to tell you that you are NOT alone?
That you are NOT losing your mind?
That being depressed doesn’t mean you aren’t thankful, but rather that you just can’t see the forest for the trees?
That even Jesus was sorrowful and burdened with grief?
Can I remind you that others are also going through this? That others have overcome this?
Our cup was bittersweet today. In fact, sometimes, it’s just downright bitter.
I see you. I am you.
The swamp is not your home.