So there i was, sitting in my doctor’s office with tears streaming down my face. I was at the end of my rope, and the conclusion that both Brian and I had come to was that i needed medical help. (or, as we began to call it, better living through chemistry)
My doctor is very easy to talk to – and once i had taken a deep breath and said that i felt like i was dealing with depression and needed help, everything else just came pouring out. We talked about how i’d been feeling, where my thoughts were going, how it was impacting my marriage, my child, my life in general. He took some bloodwork, but didn’t really need that to tell him that i was, in fact, depressed. and that i would need medical help to climb out of the hole i was in. He prescribed a mild dosage of an antidepressant. He offered me the option of finding a therapist to talk to as well, although at that time i opted not to.
During seminary, in a course on the Psalms, i remember being profoundly impacted by the Psalms of lament. Never before had i looked at scripture and seen a deep understanding of the emotional darkness that we all, at some time or another, endure for various reasons. It was to these Psalms that i began to turn at this time, although i still felt very distant from God.
Once i had been taking the meds for awhile, i started to feel different. I had so much more clarity of thought – it was like coming out of a fog, being lifted out of a dark pit. (the U2 song “40”, based on part of Psalm 40, really speaks to how i was thinking/feeling at this time – not that i had waited all that patiently for the Lord… but He inclined and heard my cry) It is hard for me to describe it more concretely than this. I started to be able to face thinking about and working through the events that i had not dealt with (having a baby, moving, selling our first home, quitting my job, the miscarriage – all significant life events in and of themselves that had occurred in about a year and a half, the first 4 happening within 3 months of each other). I had to face the fact that i was very angry at God and blamed Him for how i was feeling. I had to say goodbye to the baby we had lost, and do it in a meaningful way.
I think it’s worth saying that at this time, not very many people knew what i was going through. Aside from Brian and my doctor, i had spoken to very few people about how things were really going. This was, in part, because at the time there were people in our circle of friends who had very different beliefs concerning mental illness and medication. I didn’t really feel the need to confront them about it, so i said nothing. In hindsight, although i don’t feel like i was strong enough at the time, i really wish i had let them know that i was struggling. Later on when Brian and I were dealing with a tragedy that struck family friends, one of those people made a particularly hurtful remark to me about medication and mental illness. I let them know that i did not share their beliefs on this subject, and that was the end of the conversation. I realize that it’s a controversial subject for some people, but i want to say here that if you were having heart trouble, you would take heart medication. Although talk therapy is often very successful for depression, if the chemistry in your body is not working right, it’s worth considering medication. Ultimately, while i believe that God can and does heal people supernaturally, i believe He also uses people like doctors and things like medication to help in the healing process.
I did eventually come to a place where i stopped being angry at God and realized that my anger was misplaced and wrong, but also realized that God was not going to walk away from my angry self. Also, at Brian’s suggestion, i sat down and wrote a letter to the baby that we lost, expressing my sadness and grief. That expression helped immensely.
Am i 100% out of the woods when it comes to depression? No. I don’t think that i am completely healed – in fact, i do think that this is something i may carry with me forever. I haven’t taken medication for depression in a very long time, but this winter i almost went back on it. I do wonder if this is not my “thorn in the flesh”, something that i will always deal with on some level. Life circumstances definitely play into this as well – we’ve now been trying unsuccessfully for quite a few years to have another baby, and that struggle is significant for me. Month after month goes by, Josh often asks us about a baby brother or sister, and although i know what the physical problem is, right now there isn’t a whole lot *I* can do about it. Do i believe in an all powerful God with perfect timing? You bet I do. And i have lost count of how many well-meaning people have calmly reassured me that it will happen in God’s timing… but those words can sound awfully empty to a woman struggling with infertility. That woman has a deep seated fear inside herself that God’s timing may mean never, and it’s not a really great feeling.
In the long run, i am thankful that because of what i went through in the past, i know how to identify the beginning of the slide into that dark hole so that i never have to go to that place again. i am thankful for the child i have, i am thankful for the husband i have, and i am thankful for the God i serve – and being thankful for those things, for me, is a big key to staying out of the hole.