Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Battle

My battle began 14 years ago when I was a freshman in college. Looking back to that time, and knowing what I now know, I think the battle was fuelled by a combination of the stresses of moving away from home for the first time and starting a new chapter of my life as a college freshman, topped off with playing college basketball. That's a pretty heavy load of stress and change, and my body rebelled under that pressure.

For all I knew, that was the way life was supposed to be. I didn't know any better, having never been a college freshman or played college basketball before, not to mention never having moved away from home. But the day came that I lay sobbing on my bed, alone in my dorm room, and I realized that if someone were to walk through my door and ask me why I was crying, I would have no idea how to answer them. Yet I could not stop crying.

Thus began my battle with depression.

As always, the grace of God was present in abundance during this time. I was diagnosed with depression and began taking medication about two weeks before my best friend and roommate was tragically killed in a car accident. I shutter to think the condition I might have found myself in had I not already begun taking antidepressants.

I remember being angry about my diagnosis of depression. Internally I was kicking and screaming at the thought of being put on medication. Why did I have to take a pill to make me feel right or good or somewhat normal? It shouldn't be that way. I was embarrassed, not wanting anyone to know that I'd been diagnosed with depression for fear they would think I was crazy. And the cherry to top it all off was when my family doctor referred me to a psychologist to help me sort through this confusing time in life. Heaven forbid anyone know I was getting counseling. What would they think of me? Turned out to be one of the best moves I've ever made in life, but I certainly didn't know it at the time as an eighteen-year-old.

As I write this, I almost feel as though I'm posting a scantily-clad photo of myself on the Internet for all the world to see. The clothes we wear cover a variety of imperfections and perceived faults. The facades we wear can do the same. To disrobe myself on an emotional level for all the world to read is a bit scary. Ninety eight percent of those reading this will have no idea that depression has been a part of my life. I've had to work to come to terms with this being a part of who I am.

But I also know first-hand that God can indeed "make all things work together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

Since my battle began 14 years ago, this depression has dotted the canvas of my life. I've learned that for the most part, my bouts or episodes or whatever you want to call them are brought on by high stress--good or bad. One of the times I crashed the hardest was just a few weeks after Mark and I were married--the happiest time of my life. It was especially frustrating and sad to look at myself in pictures from our honeymoon in Hawaii and wonder where that person had suddenly disappeared to. Other times have been more obvious--the sudden death of my sister, moving to a new town.

But my recent episode came completely out of the blue. Unexpected. No obvious explanation. Frustrating.

My last post was on October 15--not quite two months ago. That was when I realized I was not going to be able to pull myself out of the slump I found myself in without some outside help. That last post detailed the trip Mark and I were about to take--a trip I was very excited about. A trip that I had looked forward to for weeks. A trip during which I spent much of the time fighting the darkness and anxiety that threatened to overwhelm me, not wanting to let Mark know what was really going on inside of me. Not wanting to ruin the trip we'd been planning for so long. By the time we were headed home, I could hide it no more, and I spent much of the four hour trip home in tears. Great way to end a vacation.

So that explains my absence these past several weeks.

After I was diagnosed with depression and became more aware of its prevalence in our society, I made the decision that I would try to be as transparent as I could when the right situations presented themselves in order to let God use me to help someone else who might be travelling this dark, lonely, frustrating road. That was a very hard decision to make. It meant letting my guard down and allowing others to see that I don't always have it together. That became especially difficult when this Type A perfectionist became a preacher's wife.

There are many lessons I've learned on the battlefield of fighting depression:
  • God's grace is indeed oh so sufficient. He is so much bigger than even depression and strong enough to carry me for as long as I need to be carried.
  • Despite what you see in others in the comings and goings of everyday life, you never know what battles they fight behind closed doors. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from those I've shared my story with, "I had no idea. You seem like you have it so together. You seem like everything is going so well." My personal battles have made me much more compassionate in this way, and I try hard to never forget this when dealing with others.
  • God can use medication as a means of healing. This is a controversy, especially among Christians, and I'm not here to debate anyone. But it is my own personal belief that medication is one of the avenues God uses to help those of us fighting our way through this strange monster called depression.
  • God can use counseling as a means of healing. I have become a very strong advocate for professional, Christian counseling and have personally experienced the difference it can make. God is our ultimate source of healing, but I believe He uses many different avenues to do so. I have learned that there is no shame in receiving counseling, and I believe it is a good idea, even when life is rocking along and going well. We take our cars in for periodic tune-ups in order for them to run efficiently, so why not take ourselves in for a periodic tune-up?
  • Satan loves an opportunity to kick us while we are down. Even though depression is not always a spiritual issue (again, a controversial opinion), there certainly can be a spiritual side to the battle that must be addressed and fought against as well. Praise God, victory is ours to claim because "He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world."

I have missed my bloggy friends these past several weeks, but my time has been and is continuing to be focused on getting myself as healthy as I can for the benefit of myself and my family. It's hard to be the wife and mommy I want to be when there have been days that just getting out of bed is an accomplishment.

I am doing better. I am on the mend and focusing on enjoying this beautiful Christmas season that is upon us. I am drinking in every ounce of joy and excitement and wonder that is a part of every day when experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a four-year-old and two-year-old.

Talk about good medicine.


Anonymous said...

Oh Karen - I have been checking back every single day and I have been praying. I knew something must be up....and I am glad you are all safe.

Thank you for your vulnerability. It will touch hearts. You are such an amazing example of God's powerful grace and love poured out for us!!!

Many, MANY hugs!

And welcome back. :)

His Doorkeeper said...

I also had been checking every few days or so and felt that something was not quite right. I am so thankful that you shared and you will be amazed at the number of women who are suffering the very same battle. I am a pastor's wife also and I see it frequently. God has already used you greatly by this post. Blessings to you and may His joy fill you to overflowing!

Will and Taylor said...

A beautiful post by a beautiful person. I love you my dear, sweet friend. I am praying for you and will continue to do so. Please let me know if there are specifics you need prayer on.

Woman in the Tent said...

I just wanted you to know that I read this last month and I have checked back every day or so to check on you. I am praying for you. You know, that perfectionism you mentioned has a lot to do with depression, I think. At least from my own experience. Cling to Him and His grace. God bless.