I first started struggling with severe depression in high school. I started to recognize certain parts of my thinking as anxious thoughts after high school. My mental illness was buried deep and I wanted it to stay there. People around me could see I was struggling but I didn’t want to speak about why I was struggling. Each time, negative thoughts would consume me and I would lock my emotions away by plastering a smile on my face.
In 2010 I went into treatment for my eating disorder. This was the first time I realized I wasn’t abnormal. I wasn’t this weird person that had an insane way of thinking. I wasn’t the only one that struggled. This was the first time that I could feel the entrapment of my illness loosen it’s grasp on my heart and soul. I wish I could say this was the beginning to the end, this was just the start of this long and very difficult journey I have been on. If you want to know more about this particular part of my life, I wrote THIS post a couple years ago.
In 2014, Jason and I miscarried our first child. This heartache has been one that still challenges me every day. I talked about our story HERE, if you want to know more about our Angel Baby. In April, Jason and I moved back to Oregon when he finished his contract with the Marine Corps. To say life has its ups and downs, chapters in life that are easier to walk through than others, that there are seasons that are constantly challenging you is an understatement. Walking through these “normal” challenges in life is compounded by mental illness.
There are weeks, even months, where I do not feel an impact from my illness. Then there are days that last for weeks, that I am completely consumed. Overwhelmed to my core.
My description of what it feels like to battle depression and anxiety through my day.
The sudden rush of adrenaline that brings on an overflow of tears and shaking.
The weight on my shoulders that make me use all the strength I can muster to get out of bed.
The confusion of why I don’t know what I am feeling, sometimes I just know I am hurting.
The migraines that follow a panic attack, and thinking what was it even for? In the moment it is unnervingly real and frightening. Now, I am left confused and exhausted.
The massive list of triggers that have happened only once or 20 times, they never make sense.
The look in someone’s eyes when they ask why are you depressed or why are you anxious but you have no idea why, you just know that you are.
The feeling of abandonment, even though you know are not alone.
The feeling of a massive list of things you should be doing but having no energy to do them.
The unrealistic expectations to fix yourself but never succeeding completely.
The feeling of losing yourself when medication is introduced into a conversation.
The feeling of wrapping yourself in a blanket and pretending that you aren’t upset but you truly are breaking down from the inside out. Sometimes you just need to be held.
The feeling of misinterpretation when you say you can’t do something but it seems like it is the most simple task.
The feeling that everyone see’s your mental illness instead of seeing you, that you have a name tag on your shirt that says, ‘Hello, my name is depression and anxiety.’
The feeling of shame when you feel you have let everyone around you down.
During these times, I feel pain in the deepest way. I am the most lost I could be. I am in the most need. During these times, I tuck myself away. Who could love THIS? Who could care about THIS? Who could understand THIS? These thoughts don’t end. I stay away from anyone I possibly can out of fear I will be hurt or that I will hurt them with my mental illness.
More times than not, I cannot explain why I am overwhelmed with depression or anxiety. Most of the time, it takes all of me to even pin point that I am struggling. I struggle in silence because I don’t know how to explain what I am feeling. If I can’t explain what I am feeling, how can anyone help me? So I stay silent. I don’t want to stay silent anymore. If someone is explaining that they are struggling with depression or anxiety, this may be all they are able to put into words. Listen with your heart.
Being raised in the church and living in the Christian culture as an adult I have seen how mental illness has been treated. It hasn’t been treated in a Christlike way. I have not only witnessed this towards others but also I have felt it myself. Hearing the words.”Pray, the Lord will take it away. You are listening to the devil, stop listening to him and it will go away. You are sinning by being depressed and anxious. Fear comes straight from the devil”. These comments that are not rooted in truth, have made me hide away.
Being a Christian means to love and live like Christ loves and lives. When facing someone with mental illness, think about how Christ would speak and respond to them. This would be to love on them, listen to them, support them, encourage them that you are here for them. It is not to place judgment on someone’s life. Sometimes, people mistake help and encouragement with judgment and entitlement. We are to love each other and respect each other. Our battle with mental illness lies not only spiritually but also physically. Some people’s battles are rooted in the physical, this does not make them any less of a Christian or labeled as sinning because their illness is physical. If they are doing everything they can spiritually and are still struggling, this is not due to their spirituality but instead their chemical balance within their physical body. We need to respect each other’s journey, it’s not about us but the people that are struggling.
A huge dark cloud that looms over me is the fact that people assume that it can always be fixed or completely overcome. The Lord can do anything that He wants, He could come down and take all of this away. Leaning on that hope will not help me though. My reality is that this is in my chemical makeup, I have to figure out how to fight it each day. I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes, mental illness is the cross people are supposed to bare. Some people’s crosses are more accepted and understood. Some people’s crosses are physically seen, like cancer. Some people’s crosses are carried and no one knows, like mental illness.
Everyone’s journey is different. What I experience will be different than everyone I may encounter. What may help me will most likely be different than what helps the people in my life that are hurting from mental illness. The sooner we treat each other with love and grace in our differences and decide to be there for each other in the way THEY need, the sooner we will feel loved and cared for. We can’t expect people to accept our “help” if it’s not helping them. We need to respect each other and realize that our “help” may actually be hurting them. We need to take the time to ask and listen so that we can support and love each other through our battles. We need to take the time to ask and listen to what the Lord wants us to do and say.
I have seen the impact keeping my mental illness buried. I know that there is a purpose that I struggle in this way. The purpose is unknown other than the fact that the Lord will use it for something great. So, here I am, opening myself up to you, hoping that I can encourage you. I have sat anxiously praying about this, as much as I can encourage and help through this, I can also be hurt and misunderstood through this.
“I can do all things through HIM who gives me strength”. Philippians 4: 13
I am not defined by my mental illness, my mental illness is a small part of the beautiful me.