My depression and anxiety came with no warning.
I had just given birth to my second baby and I was over the moon. I had two beautiful kids, a husband who adored the three of us, awesome family and friends, and a God who had provided everything we needed. I was the typical Christian woman who was “too blessed to be stressed!” Everything looked picture perfect.In a matter of weeks I went from the person I had been for the last 22 years of life to a woman I didn’t even recognize in the mirror. It hit hard and fast.
It started off with extreme exhaustion.
My husband started taking the night shifts with the baby because I could no longer function during the day. Even then, after getting a full night’s sleep, I would still wake up fighting to keep my eyes open during the day. No amount of caffeine or supplements could keep me going.
With the extreme exhaustion came isolation.
I was too tired to see or talk to my friends. I couldn’t fathom getting together with other people and slapping a smile on my face, pretending I was fine.Then came the anxiety.
Leaving the house was almost impossible. I would get into the car with the kids to go run errands and the moment I would leave the driveway, I would get a pit in my stomach, my heart would start racing, and this feeling of impending doom would begin to take over. I would go home and sit in my garage in tears.
“What is going on God?!”
“What are these feelings?!”
“Why are you letting me feel this?! Please take it away!”
I thought I was sick. Something had to be wrong. This was not normal. I saw a doctor, ran tests, saw more doctors and ran more tests. As a result, I was told that I was suffering with anxiety and depression. I was embarrassed. I was a pastor‘s wife. How would I explain this struggle to my church friends? I was ashamed, so I isolated myself even more.At this point, life was spinning out of control.
I could no longer hold myself together. My mom would take the kids for me almost daily because I didn’t have it in me to lift myself out of bed. I would lay there reading scripture and I would weep, begging God to take this from me. I couldn’t help but wonder why the God who created the mountains and ocean, who parted the Red Sea, and who turned water into wine couldn’t take this simple thing away from me.
I finally started to speak about my struggles with some close friends. At this time anxiety and depression wasn’t a common topic in the church so I was always met with the same responses:
“You must not be reading your Bible enough.”
“You’re not praying enough.”
“You don’t have enough faith.”
“You need to get out more.”
“Just be happy!”
That’s where I hit rock bottom.
My thoughts were, “I am a bad Christian. I am a bad mom. I am a bad wife. I am a selfish person. My husband? My kids? They would be better off without me. I am a burden. I. Am. NOTHING.”
Some nights while the house was quiet, I would sit in the car with the keys in the ignition ready to drive to a secluded place that my family would never find me and end my life.As I look back at these words, I know now that they were big fat lies from the enemy. For some reason I felt God tugging on my heart telling me to hold on a little longer.
So I waited. A few months later I got a call from my mom. It was a phone call I never expected. My grandfather had died by suicide. I was wrecked. I flew out to see my grandmother and attended my grandfather’s funeral. At his service, I remember going up to read a Bible verse and out of nowhere I started to weep. I looked at my family, looked at my grandmother, and I realized this could have been my funeral. This could have been me.
My husband. My kids. My family. They needed me even if I was as broken as I was. At the end of it all, I began to fully understand the purpose in which God had called me to pursue – even in my brokenness.
I got back home to seek help and started medication, which was brutal at first, but seemed to help over time.
Looking back, I remember reading Isaiah 40:29-31 where it says, “He is strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint.”I remember reading this verse saying, “God, yes! I want all these things! Please give them to me now!” But reading the verses now, I realized I had missed the very important key word God so often whispered to me: WAIT.
So waiting is what I have learned to do best.
There is a good possibility I will live a good majority of my life working through depression and anxiety. The anxiety and depression, however, do not define me – God does.
As I sought to offer some sort of applicable encouragement to whoever might read this, I thought of a dark pool.
Depression and anxiety are like a large pool of dark black water. You don’t know what awaits inside of it. You’re not sure what’s lurking underneath.In the beginning, as we were learning what it was, this dark pool would quickly approach me. I knew I was headed in, but I would fearfully dip my toes in here and there because I was overwhelmed with what might be. As a result, the darkness often grabbed me by the ankles and forcefully pulled me in. All I could focus on was getting my head above water to catch my breath, only to be pulled under again. I fought every second of it with thrashing, kicking and clawing to get the heck out of that dark pool.
Now that I have sought the appropriate help, leaned into the community around us here at Hillside, and have an ever-expanding understanding of the God of the universe, when that pool of darkness approaches I step right in. I step in to where I can’t touch anymore and I rely on my body’s natural ability to float.
And what keeps me afloat? The reality that my God has designed me to endure.
It’s the understanding that, though I may be surrounded by darkness, my God is greater than any darkness the enemy can throw my way. It doesn’t mean the darkness will be gone entirely, but it does mean my God will always be entirely present. And when darkness and God’s presence are compared with one another…
By Melissa Knowles
**If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, please tell someone. We are here with you. We are praying with you. We are willing to walk alongside you in getting the help you need.
As Pastor Aaron shared in his message last weekend, God is already there in the middle of your pain and struggles. He enters into our pain with us and in our darkest moments, will provide hope to help us put one foot in front of the other.
Don’t journey through darkness alone. Seek help. Hillside has a referral list available of professional counselors who can provide you with outside, ongoing counseling services. Please contact the church office at 909-980-2191 or email the Care Ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We have Care Groups that meet every Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. Available in many topics, including anxiety and depression, you can receive help at these groups at any point in the session. Trained facilitators are here to provide help, encouragement and healing.Get Help Here