A former student just left a post on my Facebook page thanking me for walking him through school as his English teacher as he walked with depression. I may not have known how to call it for myself, when I experienced it at age 35, but walking closely with my students in junior high school and high school was God's way of equipping me for what I'm still doing on a larger scale. Let's talk about...depression. This is my story...
"How many hours a night do you sleep?", the first doctor asked. "Four or five", I replied. "Have you gained or lost any significant weight this year?" "Yes, I gained 30 pounds." "How often are you in pain?" "Every day." "Every day?", they asked in chorus. "Yes, every day", came my stoic reply.
Then, the second doctor chimed in with a pinched brow- "Rate the pain for me on a scale of one to ten." "Twelve", I answered without hesitation. "At least...every day..." My voice trailed off. I could see that they were drawing my attention to patterns of behavior that spoke to what I must have known intellectually. With each passing question my eyes welled up with tears. Someone was finally going to help me. Finally they're taking me seriously. I wept openly for about five minutes and as the first doctor handed me some tissues he said, "I think we can help you."
It was a week before my oldest daughter's seventh birthday and I was rushed to the hospital because of an infection that started in my foot and quickly traveled up my leg. I had a fever, chills and excruciating pain within an hour from coming in from gardening. Gardening was my peaceful place in a world of conflict in myself and my marriage. I had never experienced this kind of debilitation, so before sheer panic could take over, I called my mother. She scooped up the girls while I went to the hospital. As the waves of tears washed my face in the ER, I was reminded of the first whitewater rafting trip I took in college. The instructor told us that if we got turned out of the raft to relax, point our feet downstream and go with the river. He said when you see a branch strong enough to hold onto, grab it and wait. "Someone will come for you." That rang in my ears among the clamor. I had been feeling emotional overwhelm for some time but in the few days before the hospitalization, I could feel the crescendo coming. I was trying to ease the turmoil with some gardening time but I picked up a bacteria from the soil in a wound that I was unaware of. It caused havoc in my foot and ravaged my leg.
I was in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage after growing up in an emotionally and physically abusive household. I was never abused as a child at the hands of my parents but I watched my father brutally abuse my mother and in turn, she was abusive to some of her own children. Everything came to a head on the inside and I felt broken. I didn't know how else to explain it once I was admitted to the hospital. I was receiving IV antibiotics and resting but I told my care team that I needed to see someone about what was happening to me. At first they sent me some 'twelve-year-old'. I was like, "No, I don't need an empathetic shoulder to cry on...I need real help". I insisted. Next they sent in a social worker. Again, I exclaimed, "This is bigger...I need a psychologist or a psychiatrist! ". So they sent me both. "Now, we're talking!", I exclaimed as they introduced themselves. Despite what I was taught culturally about seeking mental health support, I knew that what I was dealing with was bigger than me.
Having an intimate relationship with God does not preclude you from suffering from depression. If you read the Word, you'll see that so many servants of the Lord God dealt with anxiety and depression. We are walking around in 'flesh suits' folks so it stands to reason that we are susceptible to depression and other illness that affect mind and body. 1 Kings 18 and 19 are sharply contrasted as we hear about the prophet Elijah's struggle. In Chapter 18 we see Elijah standing bold and courageous. He faced extraordinary odds and was still victorious. The Scripture says, "the hand of the Lord was on Elijah and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel." Elijah received God's supernatural power to outrun a chariot! But, in Chapter 19, we find Elijah fearful, running scared, exhausted, deeply saddened and wanting to die.
Yes, I was in a relationship with God, yet found myself in this circumstance. How did I walk through depression to victory? It took five years of co-laboring with God. The gift of faith reminded me of specific truths about God- that was crucial. I know that God is not a man and therefore cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). His Word says: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2). I was walking in Judaism and believed God. With that as my foundation I swam upstream toward my healing. Counselling and medication played a role in my healing. I was prescribed sleep medication for a week of restorative sleep. I was prescribed medication for pain and for depression and directed to a psychologist who specialized in trauma. As I faithfully embraced each session, my doctor encouraged me and gave me strategies for each rung of the pit I was climbing out of.
My discharge date came on the same day as Gabby's scheduled birthday party. My seven-year old, was so excited! I was too! My husband assured me all week that everything would be handled but that was not the case. The balloons had to be picked up, there was no food in the house - and that's what I was faced with on the first day of recovery. I finally left him for good when Gabby was twelve and Asa was 8. This was part of the road to healing for me. I tried to leave two years earlier but my ex told our ten-year-old Gabby, "If mom leaves me, I'm going to kill myself". I knew what that would do to my girls and I wasn't willing to risk it. I continued to cling to God, take my medications, see my doctor and take care of my physical body which led to a 125 pound weight loss. I broke free from the bondage of depression. The Scripture says in Acts 10:34 ..."I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism..." If He did it for me, He can do it for you. Be encouraged. Seek God and seek to co-labor with hands and feet on the ground. Help is available and you are not alone.