November 7, 2006

this is long, but with purpose.

Tonight I came across a person’s comment about anti-depressants and found myself personally offended at their negativity, even calling this form of medication “poison,” telling someone they didn’t need those things.

Well, I beg to differ. And I am not ashamed to tell you my story, in the hopes that anyone who ever reads my blog will not fall victim to the aforementioned advice.

I was a pretty decent teenager… stayed out of trouble, did well in school, was always at some church event or youth group meeting… but my senior year of high school a darkness began creeping into my life that i still really can’t explain to anyone. in fact, the only person who knew i was struggling was my friend Shaunna (married to another good friend) I figured it was spiritual; that there was a problem with me and God and so began my huge complex with my relationship with God and having really messed up views of who I was as a Christian.

Enter college.

Many nights of crying myself to sleep, finally seeking counsel from professors and campus ministers, thinking I was stuck in a dark night of my soul with no end in sight. those conversations i still hold dear, because many people hurt for me during this time. but i still refused to think anything could physically be wrong with me; it was something God could fix, and he would…. wouldn’t he?

2 years later i was in a really serious relationship. i confided in him that i was not what i appeared on the outside; many people saw me as a bright, female theology student and i allowed that image to carry me through my college career quite well. but inside i was in turmoil, rarely believing God was there, rarely believing I was redeemable from this situation. I turned out those papers and exams quite well, mind you. I had learned to manage my sickness quite well, as a wise woman eventually told me. and no one was going to take my ability to control this from me. funny thing was, i couldn’t make any decisions without consulting every person i knew. i didn’t trust myself (because of some unwise advice i had taken from a counselor) so i became obsessed with opinions.

in all of this, i started hearing about people taking medication for something called depression. not spiritual depression, but something physical. physically ill? me? where was the proof? a few people over the years had recommended anti-depressants to me but i just couldn’t reconcile it…and why not a remedy of prayer, scripture memory, and bible study to fix it? slowly the wrestling began.

i met a girl during all of this turmoil (fall ’04) and she was the first person my age i had known to be on medication and wasn’t ashamed to talk about it openly in a class. she will never know how much freedom the conversations i had with her brought to my life. she was the first person to tell me that after so much darkness, the medicine she took was what finally brought her healing, even with God.

i began studying depression. i read books, i found articles, and the more i read the more liberation i felt at taking the medicine. i realized i had fallen victim to the same stigmas other christians had attached to anti-depressants. for 3 years i wallowed in this misery because of the opinions of others and i finally decided it was time to do something i wanted to do [and as a good friend’s mom told me, if it wasn’t a physical problem, medicine wouldn’t help anyways.]

my boyfriend didn’t want me to take medicine. he thought it would change my personality and that i wouldn’t be the same person anymore. eventually, we broke up and i think its safe to say my depression had a lot to do with it; he couldn’t handle my emotional state, and i couldn’t be a decent girlfriend. dating him helped me see that those who do not truly know pain can really have a hard time relating to people. [he was right… after i got on anti-depressants i did change, i became myself. and myself was very thankful to not be in that relationship anymore.]

my closest friends to this day walked along side me through all of this. they saw the darkest days of my life that winter, as i battled depression, a horrible breakup with a guy who i thought i would marry, and the news that my dad had leukemia. (the latter two evens happening on the same day)

fast-forwarding a few weeks, with my relationship over and with the encouragement of my family (who i had finally admitted my struggle to) and friends (while some remained skeptical they were supportive and eventually able to see why i chose this route) i wandered into the doctor’s office at school and after an emotional conversation with a nurse and the doctor, i emerged from the office with a prescription in hand (okay, so i did sort of hide it, but i was still working through my own vices with the drugs).

and who i am today is quite different from who i was, even 2 years ago. Just like the darkness I can’t explain to you, I can’t really put into words what happened in the months to come. I was not a moody terror anymore, i wasn’t self-loathing, i rarely cried (okay we all know this isn’t true, but in relation to how i used to be, my tears are much less frequent, albeit still regular occurences in my life), when i am upset/sad/angry i usually know why now, and while i value opinions, i do not live for them anymore.

i stayed on the medicine for about 8 months. i never wanted to be dependent on them, so i wanted to see if i could live without them. and i have for over a year. but i am not too proud to take them again, if the warning signs return. i finally saw depression as capable of being physical. and physical illnesses usually require physical remedies.

i still struggle with being meloncholy at times. but i think thats my personality. i do think i am still battling some of the unhealthy views of God and myself from those dark years, but thats okay. at least im progressing rather than digressing.

and now i have this amazing part of my journey to share with people.

God has allowed me to be an instrument of hope to people regarding depression and that itself is enough of a reason to be thankful for those dark years. enough of a reason to not question “why me.” our pain has the potential for something good, if we allow God to be a part of it. if we see Him in the midst of it. pain allows for community to form around us as friends and family gather in support. it allows for you to comfort others who have also felt similar pain. it draws us nearer to God. it gives us the platform to speak into the lives of those who don’t understand pain; who are blinded by stigma and lack of personal encounters with people in pain. it helps us be sensitive to those in any type of pain. it fosters empathy rather than sympathy.

as a wise man once said; pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

oh, and my dad went into remission months later… that next year brought healing in its various forms to the Hearty household 🙂


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