I was 19 years old, and I thought I was losing my mind. It was right before my 20th birthday and I figured by the time I was 21, I’d legitimately be crazy. It’s a terrifying feeling. To be scared, not know what’s wrong, how to fix it, or why it’s happening in the first place. You wouldn’t have known anything was wrong by looking at my life from the outside. I was living at home and attending college full time. I worked a part-time job that I enjoyed. I had friends, a loving family, and I was dating the man who is now my husband. Life was good; so I had no idea why I felt the way I did. I was confused, hurting, and scared.
It started small. For lack of a better explanation, it felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me; following me. I could shake it for short periods of time, but it would come back. I still remember walking around my college library and I could feel it- the cloud. It was surreal, and yet somehow palpable. Things started getting worse and I began having panic attacks. If you haven’t experienced one, they are horrible. It’s a gut-wrenching, all-consuming feeling of panic and terror. It’s overwhelming and feels as if it will never end like there is no escape. Picture the most terrifying and extreme mental torment imaginable…and you’re on the right track.
I told my parents what was going on (as best as I could since I really didn’t know what or why this was happening). My mom cried and held me. From there, things are a bit of a blur. The panic attacks continued. I couldn’t be alone. My mom slept in my room with me. I didn’t go to school. I didn’t go to work. I remember that on a good day, I made it from my bed to the couch. Fear, despair, and hopelessness pervaded my life. It’s a painful and miserable way to live. In fact, it’s barely living. I couldn’t do the things I usually did. Nothing brought me joy. The only relief came from not being alone and the escape of sleep. I realize that if you haven’t experienced something like this my story may sound dramatic, but I promise, the agony is all-encompassing and crippling.
Thankfully, somewhere in this, I saw a doctor. I will never forget the feeling I had when I finally learned what was wrong with me- depression. As soon as I heard what was wrong, I was relieved. I wasn’t losing my mind at 19! There was a REASON I felt this way. Relief washing over you is one of the best feelings! Relief and knowledge opened the door for hope. Now that I knew what was wrong, and this terrifying monster had a name, it was time to fight.
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That’s how my depression and the path to getting better began. What I haven’t talked about yet is my relationship with God. I was a relatively new Christian when this happened. I had been a believer for just over a year. I’m sorry to say that at some points during my battle with depression my relationship with God suffered. Sometimes in my deepest, darkest depression and anxiety, I couldn’t bring myself to pray. It was almost like it hurt too much to even think about God. I guess you could say I avoided Him. I never abandoned Him or my faith, but I didn’t pursue Him like I should have. But here’s the beautiful thing, even though I may have drifted away, He never left me. When I was weak, He was strong. When I wandered, He was steadfast. Despite my weaknesses, despite my wandering heart and mind, God’s love is unchanging and unending. He’s a good Father whose love knows no bounds. He never loved me less and He saw me through the darkest days of my life. Praise Him.
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
One of the most gracious gifts God gave me was loving family and friends to support me on the journey. Family and friends have rallied around me when I was hurting beyond belief. They prayed when all I could do was bawl in a heap on the floor. They fought for me when I was too weak to do it myself. When you are at the end of yourself, having people come alongside you is priceless.
Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
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As for where I am now; I have continued to deal with depression off and on since that first time at 19; including a bout with postpartum depression after the birth of my first child. (To any mom who has experienced postpartum depression, or is currently, my heart hurts for you. I know the pain and I stand with you.) The thing about depression and anxiety is that they tell you lies. They tell you that this is how life will be from now on. They tell you it will never get better. Those are powerful lies because they oppress hope. Hopelessness is an awful feeling. Thankfully, now that I know these are lies- I can call them out. I recognize them for what they are- lies from the enemy. Knowledge is power and feeling empowered against depression and anxiety is a crucial weapon. Going through all of this has made me stronger. Depression doesn’t have the same power over me that it used to. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know it will pass, I know God is with me, and I know I will get through it.
…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Depression may be a part of my story, but it doesn’t define me, and it will never conquer me. I am an overcomer. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, rather it’s a sign of strength. Depression can be painful, lonely, and crippling, but thankfully we have a great God and He is a source of strength, peace, healing, and hope. For the woman who suffers from depression and anxiety, you are not alone. There is hope, there is help, and you are so very loved.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30: 11-12
Jessica and her family live in Northern California. She and her husband Brad have been married for 15 years and have two children ages 10 and 7. Brad is a worship pastor and Jessica is an instructor at a local university. She has a heart to encourage women to live in freedom through Christ!