Friday, November 7, 2014

Adventures in Depression

I'm not exactly sure when it happened. For years I'd managed to keep everything under control, and not just on the outside. Sure, I got good at hiding it for awhile, but at some point I wasn't "faking it until I was making it", I was actually doing all right. And it lasted for quite a few years. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it hit me. It was this sudden weight tied to my ankles and heaviness in my chest. I knew what it was but I was afraid that if I gave it a name I would be admitting it had returned. I was sad. I was tired. I was lonely.

I was depressed.

For safety sake, I'll say here that this is a trigger warning for what you will find between the stars. And some of what you read may be unsettling. Especially if you only know me as the happy, smiling girl you see at church every week, or the producer who is always giggling and cheerful in cast meetings. You have been warned.

Admitting I was depressed was such a hard thing to do. Harder than anyone knows. *In fact, many don't know that in my early twenties my depression was so bad that I had suicidal thoughts on more than one occasion. I remember nights I happened to be alone in my apartment, sitting on the floor and having vivid imaginations about how to go about doing it. Obviously I never went through with it, but I did find other very unhealthy ways to cope.* I suppose cope isn't the best word to use. Distract would be more accurate I suppose. But back then I had nothing going on. I had precious few friends, health issues no one understood, anxiety beyond description, no job, and no real picture of my future. I saw no way out and I had plenty of reasons to be depressed. Now? Now....everything is so different.

Post Secret

I've never had so many truly awesome things going on at once in my life. Let me tell you, when you ask God to use you and mean it with your whole heart...hang on. Because He'll take you for a ride. Don't ask to be used if you don't really want to be used. I'm just saying.
For awhile last year my relationship with God was a little strained. Not because of Him but because of me. I was questioning everything I thought He was telling me to do, all the while asking to be led in the direction He wanted me to go. I knew I was doing it but I couldn't stop myself. I couldn't trust enough to really, well, trust. It's like I was asking a cartographer for the right road to take, then asking a barber, a shoe salesman, and a blind man what they thought the cartographer's very straightforward directions meant. Texas didn't happen. Ben and I didn't work out. My car... So I kind of kept my distance from God without moving too far away, if that make sense.

I knew, at least I felt, I had disappointed Him. So I kept Him at arm's length until fairly recently, actually. Through a group I was part of at church I had things stripped away and it was like a new beginning for my spirituality. That was when I asked God to use me. It was the true cry of my heart. And He began using me. Sometimes in ways I wouldn't have even expected. But then things He was doing with me and through me were amazing. So when did the bad stuff come back, and why couldn't I get rid of it?

For a few weeks I was having random anxiety attacks over silly things. Sometimes over nothing at all. Then I started having them in the middle of the night. They weren't things that woke me up, but happened in very vivid dreams I couldn't escape. So I'd wake up the next morning exhausted because my body had reacted as though I were having these massive attacks. A very dear friend of mine began praying for me (as I know others were) and the panic attacks subsided. But sleep was still elusive for awhile. I was so afraid of sleep that I did what I could to stay awake. And when I did fall asleep I could constantly wake up in fear of falling too deep asleep. 

Then there is the depression. I'll have you know I have never been happier in my life before than I am at this moment. But I've also never felt more broken. Wounded. Exposed. Raw. Insanely lonely. I hurt, and most days I hurt deeply. And for no reason. I praise God through it all because I know it's what I'm supposed to do (SO thankful for Alanna Story's newest album!)...but it won't go away.

Some Christians believe with everything in them that medication for depression and anxiety is a cop out. They'll tell you that you need to pray harder, or that there is some sin nature that is separating you from God and allowing these oppressive feelings to control you. I say that's crap. I say, unless you've ever struggled with these issues and have been on medication for it, you can't understand. It's not a crutch, it's not something to hide behind, and depression/anxiety not something anyone can willingly turn on or off.

For those who have the time (and can overlook a bit of language) I suggest you read this entry in "Hyperboloe and a Half" as well as part two because they are so accurate. I was there before for all of it from beginning to end. For a long time. I'm not going to allow myself to get there again.

So next week I'll opt to pick up the phone and call someone, a professional who will let me cry in her office while I try and will and pray away this chemical imbalance in my brain that makes me more prone to anxiety and depression than some than cry over a bowl of milk and soggy Wheaties. And instead of worrying about how people are going to judge me as I use to, I'll remind myself of the truth; that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking this type of help. Science has proven depression and anxiety are not simply "mood disorders" but real medical issues. If someone judges me for looking to correct that chemical imbalance they also judge the person who takes vitamins to make up for deficiencies, who takes cold medicine for a nasty cough...anyone who seeks medical treatment for any medical ailment.

This long-winded post is mostly my confession, but also an offer of encouragement to anyone else out there that may be struggling. Don't ever feel ashamed for asking for help and actively seeking it out. Ever.


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