If it’s OK to not be OK, why do I feel so guilty and depressed?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a woman who wrestled with depression and went through three counselors in two years, this article is what I wish someone had told me about getting help and why I don’t need to feel guilty about it.
“Maybe you should call your doctor about some medication.”
“You think?” I said as I stared out the window.
“I do. I’ve been through this before and experienced these things. I think you should call your doctor about getting on some medication.”
That conversation was the start of my two-year battle. The depression was something that I didn’t see coming and seemed so strange to me. It was like watching one of those commercials with a person sitting in the bathrobe on the couch, staring into space. I didn’t eat or sleep; I was just a shell of a person. Chores around the house fell by the wayside as I struggled to make it through each day.
To top it all off, I felt guilty.
Why did I feel this way? Shouldn’t I have been thankful? I have a great husband and two healthy, beautiful children. Then why did I feel so numb? The guilt sat heavy. I prayed for God to take it away, or to take me.
The Ones Who Were There
I started counseling a few months after the depression hit. I talked with the counselor because I felt so alone. Who else could handle all the un-pretty things I wanted to say and the reality of how I felt?
There were people who simply didn’t understand how I was feeling or what I was going through. Then there were my heroes: the ones who, no matter what, decided they were going to tough it out. They called, texted, sent cards, prayed for me, hugged me, and let me know I was not alone.
Your Support Matters
If you’re a supporter of someone going through a wearying challenge, your time, energy, and encouragement are sheer breath to them. You might think Jesus should be the only one they depend on, but when people hear so many discouraging voices, whether in their head or in person, you are being Jesus to them in a dark time.
One Beth Moore devotional reads, “Sometimes in the contrast of the night, we can best see the glory of God” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). Show that glory to that person right now. Don’t give up on them. I know it’s hard, and they know it’s hard on you. Ask Jesus to give you the strength He possesses to never give up on people. Remind them that Jesus is with them and so are you (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Look them in the eye and tell them it's going to be OK. Wrap your arms around them and lift those same arms in prayer on their behalf. You may be the instrument God uses to show His glory (2 Corinthians 1:11). Don’t miss that opportunity. Not a tear is wasted, and neither is your time.
A Destructive View of Depression
Although the above people played such a big part in my life, there was still a past belief system I had to wrestle to the ground. I was brought up thinking if you were struggling with something, there was sin in your life that you needed to work out. I was under the impression that a fully devoted follower of Jesus didn’t struggle with depression and anxiety. How was I supposed to get closer to Jesus when the thought of going to church threw me in to such a breathing-in-a-brown-paper-bag moment? Forget about meaningful conversations — it was a miracle if I came to church dressed.
It would be a stretch to say weekly church attendance was my saving grace — it was the people I encountered.
It would be a stretch to say weekly church attendance was my saving grace — it was the people I encountered. Those little conversations gave me just enough encouragement to get through a week.
New Direction Out of a Dark Time
Between heroes and life-giving conversations at church, my life started to take a turn. A couple of therapists and more medication later, little by little, a whole new world started to appear. An old belief system died and a new one was born in its place. I discovered a new love, desire, and dreams I didn’t know were part of my makeup. I learned a lot about myself, my triggers, and how to take leaps of faith with Jesus.
Jesus birthed new dreams in me and redeemed the moments of upheaval. He opened friendships that would never have happened if it weren’t for this time. Now, not every day is perfect, and there are times I slip back into that loathsome attitude, but Jesus has taught me the sweetness of victory.
Jesus drew me closer during a season that crippled me (Psalm 23). He didn’t take all the tough parts of depression away, but He showed me (with the help of therapists) how to deal with myself. He taught me about the me He made me to be. It was a hard battle, but Jesus always wins, no matter the outcome.