A Pastor’s Wife shares her story of Clinical Depression. Many Christian Women live with depression, feeling alone and unseen. Let’s learn to walk together.
I stumbled across this piece I wrote 7 years ago, when my children were 8, 10, and 12. With one now in college, this narrative seems very removed from who I am today. At the same time, it seems strangely present.
This post contains NO How-To-Secrets or Steps-to-Overcome Depression. While I plan to share future posts with more concrete steps toward healing, this post offers only one thing:
Assurance that you are not alone.
Many Christian Women Struggle With Depression
Years ago, I searched for stories of Christian women tangled in depression. I read enough clinical explanations of serotonin levels, pros and cons of medication, and the benefits of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I didn’t need another list of whys, how-tos, or what-nexts.
I NEEDED TO KNOW SOMEONE UNDERSTOOD. That I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t crazy. (Or if I was crazy, that there were others like me.)
I don’t know why that helped me. But it did.
Perhaps reading snippets of others’ journeys keeps us hanging on a bit tighter in this tough world. So I’m sharing a piece of my journey with you.
A WORD ABOUT TODAY:
HERE IN 2019, I AM CONSISTENTLY IN A MORE POSITIVE PLACE THAN YOU ARE ABOUT TO HEAR FROM MY 2012-SELF.
I still sometimes slip into gloomier days, and I remind myself the sun is shining beyond the clouds. I don’t remain in shadows too long now. I revisit my counselor as needed. And a few faithful friends are watchful.
I have my plants, my journal, and a better grip on self-care. I’m not all shiny and happy as in the naivete of my youth. But I’m wearing pretty well as I push into my second half-century on this planet!
MY ENCOUNTER WITH DEPRESSION … AND HOPE
The following was written in 2012. It expresses my heart’s place 7 years ago. While I have experienced some healing and much growth, this story is still my story.
For Me, The Darkness Was Sudden
I didn’t see it coming. It didn’t happen gradually. One day I woke up and everything was dark. It was black. It was heavy. Hard to breathe. Both metaphorically and physically, hard to breathe.
I remember just wanting to run … and I did. I left the house in the dark of night and took off up the street. Running. Hard.
I couldn’t think right. I knew something was wrong. Very, very wrong.
And it didn’t go away the next day. It didn’t disappear. I waited for the darkness to lift. But it didn’t. I spent years in this place.
The Me BEFORE Depression
If you knew me “before,” you would describe me as Driven. A Goal-Setter. A Leader. A Visionary.
I could do anything. I set goals and achieved them. I stayed busy.
Always successful. Always learning. Fun. Happy. Ready for the next challenge. Changing the world around me.
The Me AFTER Depression
The me “after” is a bit different. There are occasional days when I feel like “before” … but they seem really foreign, because I haven’t lived there in awhile.
How has my life changed?
To an outsider, my life probably looks the same. Nice house, old cars that run fine, three great kids. On the outside, the only thing really different is the potted plants that fill my back porch.
It’s the inside that is different.
More subdued. More tentative. Less trusting. Less bold. Insecurity reigning instead of the brash & the bold.
More empathy, probably. So it’s not all bad. It just doesn’t feel like me.
As I write, I’m in a reflective down-mood. A few days ago I was a bit more “up”, even yesterday.
This is the new me. I don’t know who I expect to meet in the mirror from day to day. But it’s far better than sure doom of that initial blackness.
A DIAGNOSIS OF CLINICAL DEPRESSION
I was diagnosed with clinical depression.
Seemingly brought on by loads of stress that had been building. A struggling marriage, a move across the country, a new place, a new season, the end of a business. Possible low levels of anxiety building throughout my life.
But I still don’t really get the “crash”. There was nothing earth-shattering that brought it on. I still wonder if it was spiritual (if you believe in that sort of thing).
You see, one day I was fine. The next, there was a “crash.”
A Healing Turn
And then after 5 years of depression, I woke up one April morning, and I “felt” a little better. I felt like I was returning.
Again, no warning, nothing gradual.
One day, I just felt different. Not all better, please understand. But much better.
I felt some optimism, for the first time in years. And there was no clear reason. I hadn’t suddenly done anything different, no major revelation. Nothing outside had changed.
So, as abruptly as the crash had come, the blackness gave way to some breathing room.
MY STRUGGLE WITH COMMUNITY AND FAITH
Struggle with Community
As a pastor’s wife, a high achiever, and a people-person, my personality change over that season was seen by many. I am still astounded by how much I was ignored. [my 2019 word choice here would be UNSEEN, not IGNORED. But for the integrity of my 2012-Self, I can’t bare to edit that.]
No one really came to my rescue, or even attempted to walk with me. I disappeared from normal church life, and, honestly, no one called.
I shared with a few, who ignored me. One who was angry that I wasn’t living up to my position as Pastor’s Wife.
And then there was one friend up the street who called often, and occasionally just made me get in her car and go to Walmart. But she had been there too, she knew. She had her own crash of sorts and was familiar with gloom.
Struggle with Faith
I still have a hard time really believing. In God, I mean.
For a sold-out, born-again, Bible-believing, devotion-teaching, service-driven Christian (since I was 12 years old!), this is a devastating thing.
I want to believe, and I hold on to hope.
Simply for the reason that if there is no loving God, no eternity, then I really don’t see the point in living this life. Just the thought of not loving my children forever and ever, that it could simply fade into a wisp of nothingness, is enough to drive me to deep dark unspeakable thoughts.
The fact that God cannot be proven, that there is mystery, far beyond human comprehension … that leaves room for hope. And it also leaves room for despair.
THE CHOICE TO BELIEVE
My friend Ann Miller wrote a fiction book. One thing stood out to me that I imagined most readers skimmed past.
One of the main characters in the book was questioned about her faith. And she simply said that her faith in God is a choice. Yes, it is a choice.
And I choose it.
I can consciously choose it, even when I don’t feel it.
Not because I know for sure, but because I see no other reason to hope. The hope of things unseen.
Sometimes when I worship, my prayer is, “God, I hope you really do exist. I want this to be real. I want You to be real.”
You may consider this heretical, but, for me, for now, it is my faith.
As much as I am able, I believe.
As much as my mind and my heart can hang onto, I believe.
I will continue to seek, and hope, and pray. Because without it, this world means absolutely nothing to me.
PSALM 38: MY PRAYER IN THE DARKNESS
For Christian Women
All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away …
Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.
Psalm 38:9-11, 21-22