Depression is Not a Choice

Shining Light in the Darkness

What follows is part of my story of my battle with depression.  My heart hurts for those who have and still struggle with this disease. For those precious souls who have ever been made to feel less because of this struggle.  For those who were told, like myself, to just snap out of it, to simply choose to be happy, that if you’d pray more, fast more, believe more, basically be a better Christian this wouldn’t be an issue.  This is for you, for each of you, for those of you still in the battle and for those of you who have been set free.

My battle with depression and anxiety started after my first engagement was broken off when I was 19. I didn’t even know what it was at the time but thanks to my mom I was able to overcome it by setting goals and looking toward the future.  Fast forward three years and I meet my amazing husband, Jason, we get married and move to a different state.  He has to work long hours with a woman who likes him and I am very much alone, a lot. I started to feel like I was having mini heart attacks, but I find out they are really panic attacks.

Three years later our first child was born, I was so in love with this beautiful little being, but I was also totally freaked out. I felt so unqualified to be responsible for her.  I had an anxiety attack before leaving the hospital because I didn’t know how to bathe her, at the time no one thought anything about it, not even me.  When the time came closer for me to have to go back to work after her birth depression set in with a vengeance. I did not want to leave this beautiful child and my days were spent holding her and crying.  I hit such a deep postpartum depression that it was scary, very scary. At that point I was quickly put on medication to help me, and it did praise God. I was able to stop medication when she was just one. At that time I believed being on medication showed how unqualified I was to control my depression.  I felt very condemned to have to take anything.

When I got pregnant for my first son they where concerned about postpartum depression since I had it so bad after my first, so my doctor hqdefaultstarted me on an antidepressant when I was 7 months pregnant. I didn’t really want to at the time, but due to the severity of it after my first birth I gave in.  (This in and of itself could be another story I share later because that son has several disabilities, and for many years I blamed it on myself for taking this antidepressant medication while I was pregnant.) Thankfully, I experienced no depression after his birth, it was a joyous time and I was able to stop the medication before he was one.

With the pregnancy of my third daughter I wanted a more natural approach and made sure I was able to take more time off to spend with her at home before going back to work. I was able to not use any medication and with the help of friends and family I did not suffer any postpartum depression.  There were small bouts in the 4 years after my daughter was born that I had to take medication on and off, mostly brought about due to stress with my younger sons disabilities and him being in school. During that time, I was put not only on an anti-depressant, but I also entered counseling, and sought help from my church. I tried to be happy, I tried to cite aloud scriptures each day. I had post its to encourage me everywhere, music on to “cheer me up,” I tried it all, everything I could, to work myself out of this. I did not want to be like this, I hated that I was like this, I hated that my children had to see me this way. I felt like a horrible mom and person.

The truth is, you can not make yourself happy, no matter how badly you want it. People who struggle with depression do not want to be depressed. My failure to get myself better only lead to more self-condemnation and feelings of worthlessness. I heard the enemy whisper, “If you were really a good Christian you wouldn’t still be struggling with this. See you are so worthless, you can’t even get yourself happy.” He loved to come in the middle of the night and remind me of how I was failing, of how worthless I was. Lies, Lies, Lies.

When I got pregnant with our fourth son I was no longer on any medication at that time, my depression was under control because I had quite my job to stay at home and homeschool my son and two daughters.  This decision was due to my sons disabilities and the schools inability to meet them. This alleviated so much stress in our home. This pregnancy was very difficult however, and I had several complications. I was on bedrest for the majority of the pregnancy due to bleeding and I was trying my hardest to follow all the doctors advice to keep this little man inside me, safe and healthy.  This was no easy task while trying to homeschool 3 kiddos, and run a homeschool co-op at our church.   My church family, at the time, and my immediate family were my saving grace. Since I was now a stay at home mom I didn’t have to go back to work after his birth, and I experienced no depression.

Time passed and life happened.  We had two major life events occurring at the same time (leaving our church family of 10 years, and working through some past hurts in our marriage). Depression hit again with a vengeance. I’m sure hormones at my age aren’t helping either.  It was the worst it had ever been in my life.  I entered a different type of counseling this time, Personal Ministry Appointments, and for the first time ever I felt like I was actually getting somewhere in counseling.  However it still wasn’t enough, the depression was still there.  I didn’t want to tell anyone of my struggle with depression at our new church home because of the condemnation I experienced before when sharing it with others, so for many months I kept silent.  It got so bad however, that I started to have thoughts of killing myself.  I knew in my heart that I would never act on that because my family, my children are way to important to me, but to even have those thoughts scared me.  I felt such condemnation again that I couldn’t control this, that I couldn’t make myself better.  I felt like an awful mom because my kids where seeing me like this so I’d try to go and hide in my closet when it hit and I was crying, tryi
ng to keep it from them.  I finally reached out to a friend, and this time I was met with such love, acceptance, and understanding.

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I started medication again, even thought I felt like a failure for having to go back on it at the time. The medication helped, a lot.  I was able to function again, to care for myself and my family.  I no longer wanted to die and I had a glimmer of hope. I began to be more honest with my children about my struggle and I didn’t try hide it from the

m any longer.

What happened out of that was that my oldest son who also struggles with anxiety opened up more to me. My openness created a new connection between him and I.  He knew now that I understood his struggle on a personal level, that I got it.

I’m not healed yet, but I know Jesus died for my healing and I know it is coming.  I still have a lot of healing that needs to occur inside of me and I’m OK with that because I know when the time is right Daddy will bring it forth.

I felt compelled to write this today to bring my own struggle into the light.  I feel that there are so many others suffering in silence due to how they have been treated when reaching out for help before.  I feel that like my son you may just need to see that their are others who understand, who are walking this journey with you.  As the church (the body of believers) we need to come alongside our brothers and sisters and stop condemning them and offer encouragement and hope, we need to shine our lights on them when they are stuck in the darkness. We need to lift up their heads and remind them of their worth and beauty and stop condemning them for something they can not fix.

Blessings!

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