Depression came very slowly and all at once. All of the emotions inside of me escalated rapidly into anxiety; at first it came with events, or with moods, or with lack of sleep. Then it was a few times a week. Then it was daily. Then, at some point, my body didn’t want to try anymore. It appeared that even anxiety was too much of an effort. I was exhausted.
The core of my life was shifting. My parents were divorced, my dad was dating, and my mother was verbally and emotionally attacking my siblings – my sister, in particular – every chance she got. I was also falling in love with the most wonderful man I had ever met – as he battled severe chronic illness. It seemed as though everything that had been familiar was being pulled out from under my feet, and I didn’t have any solid ground to stand on.
It didn’t help that my dad, who was my number one spiritual leader – who I looked up to, who I mimicked, who I listened to, who I trusted – was making decisions I didn’t agree with. It was the first time ever, in my entire life, that he and I had not seen eye-to-eye so blatantly. In contrast with my freshman year of college, I never went home. I avoided home (homes?) like the plague. My dad was moving forward with his girlfriend, and my mother was slowly spinning out of control.
I need to make something about my walk with Jesus plain, here. God revealed himself to me when I was in 9th grade. Following a difficult breakup, I had the very clear, very real epiphany that God was breaking my heart for what broke His. You shall have no other gods before me. I am the bread of life. I am wholly satisfying. And though I faltered in the years to come, many times, my beliefs were strengthened with truth over the years. There was a time in college when I gave away the majority of the belongings I owned; I spent hours a day in prayer; I read Piper and Spurgeon and Edwards and John Owen. I had entire chapters of the Bible memorized and gave to and attended church faithfully. I took notes at each year’s Secret Church like my life depended on it.
I don’t say all of that to say: look what a pretty Christian I was. I just need you to know that I knew theology. I read about suffering. I read about dying to self and living for Christ. I read about being more than conquerers, and could recite to you exactly how and why we are more than conquerers. I could spout out any verse on almost any topic that you brought up. I could even tell you where I was in my Bible-in-a-year reading and what I was learning. I ate, breathed, and slept marinated in the truth of the gospel and of God. I was foundationally joyful, and rooted in the all-satisfying goodness of my God.
And yet depression came.
So all of the common “Christian” retorts of, have you read your Bible? God provides joy; there’s no reason to be sad! Christina, your hope should be in Jesus, not in your circumstances! washed over me like telling a diabetic, You know, you probably wouldn’t be here if you would just eat less sugar and product more insulin!
Because despite my wholehearted devotion to Jesus, my deep love for understanding the word and desiring God, my knowledge, and my prayers, I spiraled further and further down.
I want to make something abundantly clear: telling a Christian that they shouldn’t be depressed is like telling a Christian they shouldn’t have cancer.
Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
You will have trouble. You will. Did my fundamental belief that Jesus died for me, loved me wholly, and had overcome the world ever disappear in my depression? I don’t think so. It was the trouble of the world, and it fell like a fog so thick that I felt like I was suffocating. I know Jesus has overcome this, I would think, But I feel like I can’t breathe.
If you haven’t been there, it sounds awfully dramatic. But if you’ve been there, you know. Yes, it sounds crazy to jump off of the top of a building. But if you feel like the entire building is engulfed in flames, and the smoke is clouding your lungs and the flames and licking at your heels, it seems like the only sensible move is to jump. Because who can live like this?
I stopped wanting to get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. My stomach was in constant knots. I lost probably 15 pounds in the span of a few weeks. My stomach was in knots so badly that, when I started feeling like I was going to pass out every day, I had my best friend take me to the emergency room. They pumped me full of fluids and gave me anti-nausea and didn’t notice the gashes I had made along my ribcage.
You’re probably having bad side effects to the anti-depressant your doctor gave you. They said. Go see him tomorrow, and have him take you off the medicine.
A week or two later, I was sitting in my statistics lab class, staring out the window, and I thought, if I was home right now in my room, I would take every pill in the Ibuprofen bottle I have. I just want out. I am so tired of living like this. I am so tired of feeling like everything around me is crumbling and having no control at all. I just want rest. I don’t want to hurt anyone, or cause any trouble, or disobey God. I just want to rest. Breathing is exhausting.
There is no other experience like it in the world, and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. Through my processing of the pits of despair in which I found myself, my heart broke for others who had fought this battle for so much longer than I had; in different eras, in different centuries, in different parts of the world. I grieved for those who did end up taking their life, and for the families affected; I grieved for the grip satan seemed to have so strongly on the depressed. I grieved for those who had an empty hopelessness that sometimes didn’t get better with medicine, or therapy, or both. I grieved for the broken world around me that sought after so many things – drugs, relationships, success, careers, religion – when what our hearts were made for was God.
Thankfully, I made it out of the hospital. I was there for 6 long days – including Easter. I met some beautiful, incredible women. I was prevented from carrying out any harmful actions towards myself. I realized that there are some things comparable to death – like, staying in a mental institution. I felt a little bit more sane after leaving.
Whew, I thought. I’m finally on the road to recovery. I can make it through this.