“Treatment resistant depression…”These are the words I heard the intake director at Emory say to me after she told me I was accepted to the adult psychiatry program there and would be working with a brand new doctor that specializes in treatment resistant depression. “That’s what you have,” she said kindly. I smiled. I know this but in that moment when I heard someone else speaking those words, it was just different. I felt an onset of emotions flooding me—fear, hopelessness, hopefulness, sadness, relief… It is an answer of prayer to be accepted into such an amazing program, but I am scared too. The intake director went on to explain that there were several new therapies being developed, new studies I could take part in that could potentially save me thousands of dollars, and she was so calming. She treated me like a human—she saw past my illness and believed that Emory could help me. It was a surreal moment.
As I held onto my friend going down the elevator and cried all over her in the parking lot, we stopped to pray and thank God for this amazing opportunity. I know this may not be the answer—not a magic “cure” or whatever, but as Robert De Niro’s character says on Silver Linings Playbook (sorry it's one of my favorites!), “When life reaches out with a moment like this, it’s a sin if you don’t reach back.” I will try. I have an amazing support system that will help me—sometimes they drag me kicking and screaming, but they believe in me and want me to keep going. So, this is now another part of my journey. This experience will be woven into my story no matter the outcome, and I’m sharing this with you because I want you to see my struggle is current. It is real, and it is ongoing.
If I’m going to have courage and genuinely tell my story with my whole heart, I have to share an essential element of my life. I have struggled with depression for a long time—on and off intensely for the past ten years. Even when I was a young girl in elementary school, I recall having many tremendous highs and lows. I have tried numerous medications, combinations of medications, talk therapy, Christian counseling, prayer, meditation, spiritual and inspirational books, etc. I have had moments of relief, moments where the darkness has subsided, and I remember these times fondly and vividly. I thank God for these times. But truthfully for so long what I remember and what I fight every day is this gray cloud of depression looming above me.
Some of you reading this may question my faith—if I truly believe that the God I claim to serve and the Words He’s given us in the Bible are true, then why am I still sad? Where is my faith? Shouldn’t I just trust Him and pray more? Well it’s not an all or nothing type of thing. Many of you reading this do believe and trust in God , but also have struggled or suffered or are still today fighting some form of depression—whether it is chronic like mine, post-partum, manic, or situational. I want to encourage you not to give up fighting, and I want you to know that suffering with depression does not say anything about you. It does not mean you are a failure, are not good enough, or that your faith is weak. It does not have to control you, but you cannot ignore it. And I pray that while I’m attempting to write about this still sadly taboo subject, those of you that question and may sometimes judge or do not truly understand depression, may find some clarity in my words.
There are many famous people who have suffered from a type of depression. I know that may not encourage or help some of you, but it helps me tangibly put into perspective that this illness does not limit my worth. Van Gogh painted one of his most famous and one of my all-time favorite paintings—A Starry Night, after a breakdown while being treated for severe depression in a mental facility. Sir Winston Churchill was very outspoken about his depression. He even named his depression flare-ups “the black dog” and would frequently take respites from his duties when as he would say, “The black dog is upon me.” King Solomon—one of the richest and wisest kings from the Bible struggled. Also from the Bible, Naomi, Hannah, and even King David—the “man after God’s own heart,” all suffered from depression at some point in their journey. The list could go on and on of amazing, influential people that changed the world, but also had another side to them that we sadly do not hear enough about.
And you know what? These are the people though who inspire me the most! These stories touch me and ring true more than a story about someone who never struggled—who never was broken—who never experienced such unbearable, excruciating darkness and heartache. Why? Because their stories are real life!! We all have been broken in some way at some time. I don’t want you to wallow in that, but don’t run from it either. Embracing our vulnerabilities leads to true connection. Exposing our vulnerability grows compassion in us where before there was no understanding or maybe even judgment. Sharing your story, just letting someone else see a glimpse of what you’ve been through or are going through does more than just help them, it allows you to grow and heal as well. I do not mean you should just tell everyone you meet or know—you have to listen to that still, small voice inside you and use your discretion, but if you feel led to share, you should. Brene’ Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers says, “Share your story with those who deserve to hear it.”
There’s one song I have really connected to within these past few months by Tenth Avenue North entitled “Worn.” Just read the lyrics to the first verse and chorus:
I’m tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn