This post is the first in my blog series, Broken, about my personal experience with depression.
Depression isn’t what most people think it is. “[Depression] is not a character defect, a spiritual disorder or an emotional dysfunction. And chief of all, it’s not a choice,” writes Brandon W. Peach in Relevant Magazine‘s “5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression and Anxiety.” I know this firsthand because in late March 2016, I was diagnosed with major depression.
I lived with depression for likely two years and maybe other times in my life before being diagnosed. Here’s a simplistic explanation of what it feels like: Take a look at the two scenic photos above. The majestic mountain landscape on the left is obstructed by trees. While I was in the midst of depression, I could only focus on the trees blocking my view. I wasn’t able to let go of negative thoughts and was overwhelmed. Now I am starting to be able to enjoy the stunning scenery before me, like in the photo on the right taken on our recent vacation—our first real vacation without children.
But I’m not here to tell you how to overcome depression—that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, although antidepressants and counseling do help.
I’m sharing my story because I want to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness. There is so much shame wrapped up in a mental illness diagnosis, in part because people don’t understand it and are afraid of what others might think. Personally, it took me a while to accept my diagnosis. I was in denial for so long. I can’t tell you how many times before I was diagnosed that I Googled “postpartum depression” and contemplated whether or not I fit the listed symptoms. At one point, after having a disproportionate reaction to some sort of irritant, I mentioned to my husband that something felt “off.” For a while, I thought it might be my thyroid since there was a family history of thyroid issues. Funny how I just put in the back of my mind that my maternal grandmother struggled with depression and that, in her old age, my family would joke—sometimes lovingly, sometimes not—about how she was crazy. I did not want to be labeled “crazy Kindra.”
It’s also worth mentioning that my mother-in-law lived with an undiagnosed mental illness for decades, and I wasn’t sure my husband could handle my having a mental illness too. He was going through his own challenges.
I’m sharing my story because I want to stop the silent suffering. It’s so important for all of us to talk about what’s going on in our lives in a realistic, transparent way. In an age when we’re bombarded with social media posts about the warm, fuzzy moments, it’s easy to mistakenly think that you’re the only one having a hard time, as evidenced in “How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy,” The New Yorker. As I have started testing the waters of sharing my story, many friends from all stages of my life have reached out privately to encourage me and tell me that I’m not alone. Those women also know what depression feels like, and many of them aren’t talking about it. I think it would have helped me to know more about these women’s stories before my diagnosis. I was diagnosed with depression during an involuntary hospitalization that was ordered after I had a breakdown—a real one, not the hyperbolic expression we often use to to describe a big (and normal) emotional reaction. I’ll explain more about my breakdown later in this series, but it was scary and involved the police taking me away from my own home in handcuffs.
I’m sharing my story because I want to help someone else recognize depression in herself or her loved one. I know that it isn’t up to me to diagnose myself. However, my therapist didn’t recognize that I had depression until my breakdown on the night of March 23, 2016, even though I started going to counseling regularly in mid-July 2015. Understandably, because my husband and I had gone to him for marriage counseling before, he focused on our marital issues and admittedly missed my depression diagnosis.
I’m sharing my story because I want to encourage those with depression to seek help before it’s too late. Depression can be fatal. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “90% of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death” and “over 50% of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.” I mention these staggering statistics because I’m perpetually tempted to leave out part of my diagnosis: “… with suicidal ideation.” My breakdown involved me threatening my own life and grabbing a kitchen knife.
I’m sharing my story because I want to testify to how God pulled me out of the miry clay and is molding me into someone with a deeper faith and who finds genuine joy among the everyday challenges. This stirring in my soul started with quitting my job to be a stay-at-home mom (read more about that decision in “I Can’t Do It All: Why I Became a Stay-at-Home Mom” and “God Provides”), bubbled up through passionate marital disputes and erupted in a prophetic dream. That dream convicted my husband to confess a nearly decade-old sin. As we started dealing with these truths, God gave us peace that surpassed all understanding—although my sinful humanness peeked through with a few fire-breathing fits of rage. God even gave me wisdom I couldn’t have had without Him, as I comforted my husband by reminding him that God used countless people in spite of their brokenness. For instance, Abraham got out in front of God’s promise for a child in old age by sleeping with a mistress, yet God redeemed the situation and gave him a legitimate son through his elderly wife. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, denied Jesus three times leading up to His crucifixion. Yet God still speaks through two books of the Bible that Peter wrote. King David, the beloved turned adulterer, won many battles—including his famous encounter with the giant, Goliath, when David was only a boy—because He followed God. God worked through each of them to carry out His perfect will even if there was pain in the plan. God loves each of us enough to have a grander plan for our lives, and I’m so thankful for that.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 NIV
For me, depression didn’t look like the commercials for antidepressants where a pensive person is lying on the couch in sweatpants. To best explain how trees were blocking my view of the majestic mountain landscape, I’m going to share with you raw, revealing journaling that I wrote during that time. Stay tuned.
I would like to be able to tell you that subsequent chapters will be published in a nice, predictable pattern, but this blog series is still in progress, and, well, life happens. So if you would like to be notified when the next chapter is published, please enter your email address in the appropriate field (to the right if you’re reading this on a desktop, below the comment section on a mobile device) and press “Subscribe.”
Please help me shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing this blog post on social media (sharing buttons are located at the top of this post and via a “Share” menu at the bottom of your mobile device) or directly with a friend, so it can reach others who need to hear it most. You probably know someone who has depression whether you are aware of his or her condition or not. I pray that God speak through my story and bless those who read this.
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