Today begins like any other, the type that has become common for me. I cheerfully get out of bed at a decent time, feed my children a healthy breakfast, tidy up and then do a boring 20 minutes on the elliptical machine while they begin their chores. It may not sound revolutionary, but I marvel at the grace contained in these everyday happenings.
Until almost three years ago, my life did not contain any calm or cheerfulness. Most days began with dread, a deadening wait for bedtime and the numbness of sleep if the nightmares stayed away.
I have lived most of my life in a battle with depression, although I was not officially diagnosed until I was 31. My journey with depression began sometime in late childhood or early puberty.
Guilt, according to depressionhurts.ca, is a common aspect of life with depression: “People with depression often get . . . ideas [that depression is inevitable or is a character flaw] because of the feeling of guilt caused by the illness. Depression is a real health problem for which help is available. But you must be aware of it and know how to ask for help.”
I felt guilty for the way my feelings affected my family, and I unconsciously tried to atone for my glaring imperfections by pursuing perfection in my studies, my walk with Christ and my extracurricular activities.
I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was an illness. I thought I was lazy, that I should try harder to overcome the negative thoughts, self-hatred, guilt, selfishness, anger and sadness that characterized most of my waking moments. My life continued because of the love of my family, even though I couldn’t love myself and struggled to truly love anyone else.
As I reached adulthood, normal developments, such as leaving home, attending college, forming new friendships, dating and marriage, were abnormally stressful. Kerby, now my husband, supported me through very black times, but I was unable to form lasting friendships with others because of the guilt I carried. I was convinced that I was a terrible person and couldn’t expect others to like me. I didn’t want to drag others into the doldrums of negativity I lived in.
One August morning in 2013 I realized that I needed help. I had participated in 18 months of counselling, tried a regimen of exercise and dietary supplements, prayed constantly for years, had the support of family and friends, and read many self-help books. In a moment of clarity, I knew I could not fix myself.
My marriage was slowly disintegrating, my children were constantly stressed and on edge, and I had ceased to be able to care about anything. I viewed life through a haze of complete numbness or anger.
God had not healed me through my own efforts. Relief swept over me as I decided to make a doctor’s appointment for myself. Even though I was pessimistic about a pill’s ability to change my life, a burden lifted as I acknowledged that my life was fully and truly in God’s hands, since all my best efforts only partly fulfilled my needs.
I filled the anti-depressant prescription. Each morning for three days I took the miniscule white pill. On the third day I found myself smiling spontaneously with my children. I laughed, genuinely, at a joke. I was grateful to my husband without feeling obligated. The novelty of the everyday joy of living, of being happy, did not wear off. It still hasn’t.
Every morning as I take my pill I thank God for the grace and mercy contained in a tiny batch of chemicals. I rejoice in the knowledge that I can trust God to love and provide for me. I have been raised with Christ on the third day to new life.
See more in the Focus on Mental Health series:
Guard your heart and mind
A living death
One way your church can stop hiding mental illness
Mental health awareness incorporates art and poetry
‘We all need counsellors’
Helping to prevent suicide
Leaders being equipped to build up the church
‘There is love in this room’
‘I am still holding out hope that I will be free of this one day’
Six steps for better self-care