I don’t think I’ve written a post on this blog for over a year.
Which, I probably shouldn’t resurrect my blog by saying that I abandoned it for a year, but at this point I’m not sure I care. I had some really good reasons not to write and some really bad ones.
One of those reasons is that I have changed so much over the past year or so I no longer recognize the girl who began this blog with lofty goals of becoming some sort of brilliant blogger. This past year has held some of my darkest moments alongside some of the best things to happen to me. And I found myself deleting old blog posts and trying to start again.
I didn’t really start again. I just deleted.
Which, in a way is kind of a perfect metaphor for what I’ve been going through. This past year I’ve been in the process of unmaking and remaking. This includes everything from my personal relationships to my faith. It’s honestly been a cathartic process of sorting through my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. It’s been vital for some really important self discovery and growth.
It’s like cleaning house. Unfortunately, when you do a deep clean of the house, sometimes you can find problems. That picture on the wall is actually hiding a giant hole. Water is leaking through the ceiling in different places. Even amid all the mess being sorted through, the house itself is falling apart.
That’s what happened to me when I started sorting through things. Suddenly the cracks in the wall I had been so eager to hide started getting bigger, more noticeable, until I had to come face to face with the fact that there is a problem.
Their names are depression and anxiety.
For years I’ve kind of known that my mental health wasn’t the best, but I always chalked it up to school stress. I just had to work harder. Better. Smarter. Pray more. Go to church more. Be more involved in activities. If I worked harder and loved God more I would be fine. I just needed to get through the week.
I honestly probably should have visited the doctor or counselor the moment I realized that self harm wasn’t just a temptation for me, it was a genuine struggle. And I did go to counseling for a while when I was in college, and it did help, but I never really admitted to myself that there was a deeper problem. No, I just needed to be more faithful and work harder, set more goals and healthier boundaries. If I just got more sleep and exercised more I’d be fine. It’s the water leaking that’s the problem, not the cracks all over the house.
So when I graduated from college, I thought I was in the clear. I graduated cum laude with plans to work with a mission organization in town. Things were going well and I was hopeful. It had just been school stress. I was fine.
I wasn’t fine. Because even as I tried to control everything around me, tried to be better and yelled at myself demanding that I be better, it did nothing but send me spiraling further into anxiety and depression. And it wasn’t until October that I realized I wasn’t getting out of bed in the mornings. I was doing things because I had to, and I was doing the absolute bare minimum I could to survive and be a functional member of society. I would feel so anxious that I would want to stay in bed and then feel so sad and hopeless because “look at you, you can’t even get out of bad. You’re pathetic.”
It wasn’t until I had barely gotten out of bed for three days and then cried when my parents made me get out of bed that I realized that I couldn’t fix the cracks in my wall all on my own. I wasn’t under a ton of stress. This shouldn’t have been happening to me. But there I was, a crying mess all because I had to get out of bed.
No amount of hard work and sheer stubbornness would bring me out of this. Dedicated piety and good theology wouldn’t save me. And trust me, I tried all of those things. I had friends pray over me to help the anxiety that runs in my family stop with me. I prayed and studied and repented. If I just spoke the truth to myself I’d be healed. If I loved God enough He would have mercy on me and heal me. But I wasn’t a good enough Christian and I must have been so incredibly sinful, otherwise I wouldn’t feel this way, right? God must be so disappointed in me.
In case you couldn’t tell, this is what depression does. It lies. What’s worse is that sometimes you know it’s lying. You know that everybody doesn’t hate you and people aren’t waiting for you to fail so they can laugh at you. God isn’t silent because I’m not being good enough. And in a way, that makes you feel worse. You know it’s not true but it’s how you’re living and it’s how you feel, no matter what you tell yourself.
I went to the doctor that week and told her a little bit about what was going on. It was probably just hormones or thyroid. So I resumed birth control to manage the hormones and they took my blood to check for any other problems. I denied any antidepressants at that point because I was certain it was a thyroid issue or something that I could overcome on my own.
But the blood tests all came back normal.
And I surrendered. I couldn’t do it all on my own. I couldn’t rely on myself or my friends or even my faith to fix me. I called the doctor and asked if I could still have the prescription for antibiotics and within the day I had my antidepressants.
I cried in joy that first night I took them. It felt like coming up for air after floating underwater for so long.
And sure enough, my doctor gave me a depression inventory and diagnosed me with low to moderate depression.
It’s strange, in a way, having an official diagnosis. It’s something that I’ve known I’ve struggled with for years now (in retrospect I can see clear warning signs in college) but I always told myself that it wasn’t bad enough to do anything about it. It wasn’t as bad as so and so’s mental health problems. I could survive this. I’ve survived worse. In a way it’s freeing. There’s a name for what I experience, and there’s help out there. I don’t need to feel so anxious and full of self loathing and general emptiness all the time.
And it’s time for me to begin again. Both on the blog and with my mental health. Because this time I have a diagnosis; this time I have medication and counseling. This time I am taking control of my own recovery.
There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness and medication, especially in the Christian community. In a way, that stigma is part of what prevented me from getting the help I needed before now. That stigma is what makes me want to talk about it more. Because I’m not ashamed to admit the fact that I’m taking antidepressants and going to counseling in order to operate as a healthy and functional human being. That’s part of why I wrote this post in the first place. Not only do I want to start blogging again, but I want to be open about my struggles, my anxiety and depression.
I’m still sorting through my life and faith and worldview and all the belongings of my soul. I’ve found a pretty good carpenter to help me fix up the cracks in my walls. And it’s a painful process, no doubt, but a worthwhile one, one that I hope makes me kinder and stronger in the end.
Sort with me, dear reader. This life isn’t a journey any of us can take alone, and recovery certainly isn’t one I can take on my own.