Have you ever lost your breath before? Maybe during a sporting event you were kicked in the gut with a ball and for a few split seconds you could not catch your breath.
It was December when I had my first panic attack. Finals were just rolling around. I was watching a movie with my boyfriend and thinking about the long list of tests I had to study for. The task seemed daunting. All of a sudden I could not catch my breath. This continued for quite a while until I could calm myself down. But those moments were filled with panic as I gasped for breath. It happened again the very next day.
The first week of spring semester came at the end of January and my breathing problems and chest pain were back with a vengeance. It was time to take action.
But even more than breathing problems, I was experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair in the past three months. I have always undergone feelings of anxiety and sadness. It’s like it is part of my DNA since I am a perfectionist. Loneliness would creep up on me from time to time. Senior year I had been experiencing suicidal thoughts and sought help through counseling, which helped me deal with the feelings that I had been experiencing. Many of my feelings of hopelessness came in the wintertime when there is less sunlight and fun activities to take part in. But usually the sadness would be crowded out by my excitement for lacrosse season, which would then take up all of my time. I would not have time to focus on the sad thoughts.
However, these sad feelings crept into my mind and heart and would not leave. It started in November. I was lonely, commuting, and feeling stuck in a rut, in a place I did not want to be, but God had called me to. I started feeling increasingly tired. My bubbly personality was replaced by someone that wanted to lay in bed and not make plans with other people. Interacting with others, which once gave me energy, now took extra effort.
I have always been a crier, but now I was crying excessively. If my boyfriend and I got into a disagreement or he said one thing that I took the wrong way, I could not control my feelings of sadness. I felt out of control of my emotions.
And for a time, the suicidal thoughts crept back into my mind every time I would get into my car. Suicide is a scary subject, details that part of me wants to hold back. But if we are not honest about these thoughts, how can we expose them to the light? For me, suicide was not about hurting myself and I never thought of actually going through with it. However, it stemmed from feelings of loneliness, wondering if anyone would even miss me if I were gone.
All of these factors brought me to the doctor’s office two weeks ago. After a few tests and reiteration from a counselor, I faced the reality that I have depression. The news shattered my world and my loved ones hearts. How does one react to that sort of news?
Questions flooded my mind. How could this happen?
It took days to process. Many tears were shed. I started on medication, which has helped my breathing and uncontrollable emotions. I could not have made it without the unending support from my loved ones during that time, especially my mom, who knew exactly what I needed to hear.
But a ray of sunshine, guided me through those first days of shock: Jesus. One of the questions that the doctor had asked me before my diagnosis was how often I feel hopeless. In my mind I knew that I felt it often and the feelings overwhelmed me on bad days, but a still, quiet voice would remind me that I am not alone. I have hope in Christ. It has been unshaken during this season. It has been my anchor.
Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” I can feel the truth these words hold in the core of my being today.
I do not know if I will have depression for the rest of my life. I do not know if I will always need medication. Tomorrow might be a great day or a terrible day for all I know. The one thing I know for certain is that my Savior is faithful through this valley in my life. He comforts me. He holds me while I cry. He gives me strength when I am weary. He holds my hand as I walk in a fog of depression. He wraps his loving arms around me through the comfort of good friends. He brings life to my bones as I read His Word. And if this season is here to teach me and grow me in a new aspect of my walk with Him, it will be how desperately I need my Savior.
So pray with me for the people that have mental illnesses. Instead of judgment or skepticism or doubt, I encourage you to wrap your arms around them. Send them an encouraging text. Because there are an increasing number of cases of mental illness in our country and it is serious. It affects every aspect of your life-emotional, physical, spiritual, and social. It is not pretty and can sometimes go unnoticed to those around them. But it is possible to be a Christian and experience depression. I hope you will join me in becoming educated and aware and fighting this sickness.
I admit, I don’t feel qualified to speak about these struggles, but I feel my Savior beckoning me to write. Others are stuck in this darkness with me. Writing and exposing truth on depression is one way that God can use me to start shedding light in this darkness. Helping me pass a flashlight to someone next to me, so they can see the way. And so I can start clawing my way out of this pit filled with the lies and sadness the Enemy has sprung upon me. The hope of Christ penetrates this darkness with light.
Join me in this journey.