It started slowly—or at least I thought it did.
So many wonderful things filled my life: three beautiful children, a job I love, a nice house in a great neighborhood, a wonderful church, a group of Steel Magnolia sisters/friends . . . so many good things.
But there were hard things too.
Whether it was my growing pants size or our shrinking bank account, life can get messy. The difference in me was that, each morning, I would wake up with a sense of unease about the day. I was on the verge of tears for no reason. I was irritable and angry. I was not happy, but I was not sad either.
I felt like I was just going through the motions of life like a robot and, as long as I detached myself, I was usually able to cope. I wanted quiet and I wanted to be alone. When I engaged with my kids or my husband or anyone or anything else, I felt like I was falling apart. It was exhausting!
I kept it to myself for a long time and chalked it up to an incredibly stressful season of life for an incredibly long time.
Out of hope
One morning, I made an appointment with my doctor and explained what was going on. One of my theories was that I was having some hormone issues. She agreed and prescribed an antidepressant.
It didn’t help. In fact, it made it exponentially worse.
You know those people who say all the words super-fast at the end of a commercial like, “If you notice your depression worsening or have increased thoughts of suicide . . . .”? That was me.
I went from on the verge of tears for no reason to uncontrollable shaking and sobbing for no reason. I just could not pull myself together, and I did not understand why. I even asked my mom what someone does when they are “out of hope.”
I cried—all the time. I did not sleep—ever. I started to pray for the Lord to let me die because waking up in heaven had to be better than the life I was living on earth. This went on for more than five months.
I knew that Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that “God makes everything beautiful in his time.” I wondered how ugly things would get before that would happen. I also wondered if I would even be around to see it.
The funny thing about depression is all the things people say trying to “make you feel better”:
- Have you prayed about it? (Of course!)
- What can I do? (Honestly, go away. Open-ended questions are too hard.)
- Nothing can be that bad. (Well, I don’t even know what is wrong so . . . )
- You just need to think about the good things. (Yeah, okay.)
- Is there unconfessed sin in your life? (Is there unconfessed sin in yours?)
- You just need to take a break and pull yourself together. (Are you kidding?)
- You know God won’t give you more than you can handle. (That’s not even in the Bible!)
Honestly, much of what well-meaning believers say actually makes things worse.
But thank God for the ones he’s placed in my life who made things better.
One particularly dark morning, I actually counted out the Vicodin pills “leftover” from different surgeries and procedures. By the end of the day, my husband had completely cleaned out our medicine cabinet.
My husband became everything I needed in a helpmate, and he did not leave me alone. He was my lifeline and led me—literally, by the hand—through this season.
One particular day, we were sitting in the carpool line, and I asked him if he regretted marrying me. He said, “For better and for worse, in sickness and in health, Lisa. Right now is ‘for worse,’ but it will get better.”
I stopped talking to most everyone—except the people who would not let me shut them out. My family and small inner circle of friends (my Magnolias) would not let me go. I had somehow cut myself loose from the hope that should be the anchor for my soul. These precious people kept holding on to me and my ropes that were still attached to the Anchor. They did not allow me to drift away in despair. They loved me when I was not very lovable.
They did not give up on me—even when I had given up on myself.
What was already happening in my life did not fit with my “picture” of God. I began to wonder if he were even real. I knew in my heart of hearts that he was still with me because he continued to speak to my soul.
It was a soft and tender voice that said, “Daughter, you cannot see me. You cannot feel me. You do not hear me. You do not understand me. But I am here. I am fighting for you. I knit you together and I hem you in behind and before (Psalm 139). What I knit does not unravel.”
I could barely hear it, but I have loved the Lord for too many years not to recognize his presence in my life—even when that presence seemed so incredibly far away.
Reading my Bible seemed so overwhelming so I started writing Scripture on notecards I kept in my purse. I read and reread these cards.
Writing the verses on the cards was beneficial for two reasons. First, it was a task that occupied my mind. I did better when I had a task. Secondly, it allowed Scripture to stay with me all the time without carrying my big Bible around. I still keep these cards easily accessible and have gone back to them over and over. I have even added to them depending on what the Lord is teaching me.
His Word was my lifeline to a God I still could not see, hear, or feel. His Word was my direct link to the God I desperately wanted to believe was all that he said he was and more.
In his time
Next, I found a new doctor: one who would not offer a psychiatric hospital as my most viable option. We found a wonderfully caring doctor who did not find where I was in my life “scary” or even unexpected. She helped me find the correct medication and dosage I needed. She told me I was “normal,” which was so refreshing. She encouraged me to trust her—and I did.
Over time, I realized that I was beginning to feel more settled. I was enjoying my children. The fear and panic were not as often or as intense. The Lord was allowing me to focus on the Savior more than the situation as he provided for every need.
The tears were not as frequent. I could laugh. I began to feel hope. He did make everything beautiful in his time, even though I left him quite a task in creating the “beautiful” in me during this season. But he did it because he began a good work in me, and he is not finished (Philippians 1:6). I am not complete until I enter the gates of heaven—and this life on earth is certainly not heaven.
When you’re about to unravel
This is my story. It may be your story too.
If it is, I know that you do not know who to talk to or how to ask for help. I know it is absolutely exhausting pretending you are “just fine.” I know that you feel broken. I know that you are scared and fragile and that you would put it all to words but you just can’t.
I won’t minimize or trivialize your pain by saying, “It’s not as bad as it seems,” or, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” (which is not even scripturally accurate!).
I will not tell you to “let go and let God.” I won’t ask you if you have prayed about it. Or any other of those things that well-meaning people say when they don’t know what to say.
I will tell you that you are not alone.
You are beautiful.
You are loved.
And, you are enough.
You are worth the effort it takes to fight.
You were knit together, and you are hemmed in behind and before.
He has placed his hand upon you (Psalm 139:5).
Take heart, dear sister.
What he knits will not unravel.