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{Unpublished Post from 2014} Mental Illness Talk

Robin Williams. 
Another celebrity death that sent shockwaves through our generation. 
First, it was Michael Jackson.  I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.  Next, a few short years later, I was sitting at dinner with Paige and we heard that Whitney Houston had passed away.  This time, it was Robin Williams.  We all know that MJ and Whitney were tragic deaths due to drug overdoses, and now, a third celebrity in which we grew up watching and loving has died tragically--suicide.  As reported over the years, Robin suffered from drug addiction in the 80's and most recently battled alcoholism, clearly hiding from deep dark demons in his life.  On Monday, those demons within got the best of him.  

Just with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, with the news of his passing, a little part of me broke.   It's strange when that happens...as if we actually knew these celebrities, but really not knowing them at all.  Their talents had profound influences on our lives through their music and comedic relief.  Their art provided an escape to us, but nothing could provide an escape to them.  We watch Aladdin at least two times a week in this house; Mrs. Doubtfire is an all time absolute favorite movie of mine, Patch Adams pulled on heartstrings, but this death seems to have such a more profound effect on the status of my heart.  My emotions can't escape the fact that he lived his life to make the world laugh but could not find the joy within to make his own self happy.  He gave light to so many, but in the depths of his soul was surrounded in darkness.  What tragic irony. 

It all got me thinking. 
What Robin Williams was on the outside was a mere cover for brokenness on the inside. 
So many people surround us living like that every day.  

***
This isn't going to be easy to write about. 
It's gonna hurt and bring back painful memories, but it's worth it. 

When I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression in late 2010, I did everything I could to hide it.  From the moment the words slipped through the doctor's mouth, I felt weak, as if I couldn't handle my own problems, and if it wasn't for looking in the mirror and having no clue who the woman staring back at me was, I would have easily been in denial.  The coined phrase "mental illness" could not escape my head.  I was labelled.  My record of sanity was suddenly marred.  As if a depressed person needs any additional reasons to feel insufficient, this diagnosis made me feel even worse about who I had become.  It certainly didn't help when I finally confided in someone outside of my family and the response to my admission was pure laughter.  "Depression isn't real...it's just a mental thing, Meagan.  You're not depressed."  

Boom. 
Shattered. 

At the time, I did not realize how innocent the comment was; uneducated on the realities of mental illness and lacking in understanding?  Yes.  Malicious as I took it, no.  Looking back, I know that it wasn't meant to hurt me in the way that it did, I just wish I had been in the mindset to have understood that then.  The darkness that was consuming my soul continued to convince me that the comment was heartless, crass, rude, unsympathetic and full of judgement towards me and others who suffered from this disease; it placed even more shame and embarrassment on those who struggle; it made me wonder if every one shared that same view.  Was I crazy?  As if I already wasn't filled with shame over this diagnosis, I was now hell-bent on hiding my demons from just about every single person I knew.  After all, maybe the shame I felt was because I had never truly understood the seriousness of depression until I had walked a day in it's shoes.  How could I blame a comment thrusted upon me in which there was a day I may have, too,  lacked that compassion in understanding why people couldn't just snap out of it; why they seemed to stand on that excuse for their actions or reasons why they had a right to be a certain way.  I've always been compassionate and empathetic to a fault, but I couldn't really grasp the disease.  Whatever the case, I was now not only trying to figure out how to go forward with this disease, but now I was scared to talk to anyone.  One of the worst things that someone who is dealing with depression can do is to hide it.  Lesson number one. 

The next few months of my life were undoubtedly some of the hardest days of my life.  They were full of joy; so much to be happy for; so much love in my life.  Yet, hiding a very sad side that I could not even begin to explain.  In the midst of all of this, Adam fell extremely ill.  He lost 30 pounds in a matter of months, he was feeling horrible, pale, pain, and multiple trips to the ER.  We began down a long road with an hematologist searching for reasons his sickness.  Blood tests, CTs and Xray's that led to a bone marrow aspiration procedure finally clearing Adam of a rare cancer possibility, which further led us to our diagnosis.  It's a time where we had all the world could offer: a loving marriage, an adorable new baby girl, and a thriving career for Adam.  But on the inside, we were breaking...and hiding.  All in the name of shame that "mental illness" seemed to carry to those on the outside looking in.

We wore the mask just like Robin Williams and millions of other Americans wear today.

Days passed into weeks, weeks into months, and slowly our lives began to change dramatically.  This terrible time of uncertainty was the absolute best thing that EVER, EVER happened to our family.  It sounds so crazy to say, but as soon as I started taking antidepressants and was able to gain clarity and stability, I cracked open my dusty bible.  I knew that taking a psychotropic medication could only help so much.  I needed my soul healed.  I needed my savior.  And that was nothing I could ever find in a little blue pill.  

At this time, relying on an antidepressant for me and anti-anxiety medications for Adam (a first for him as well), we rediscovered who we were.  We may have been hiding in shame enduring emotional disorders on the outside, but on the inside, a new life was blooming for the both of us.  A better life.  A more fulfilling life; a life where Christ comes first and Christ's salvation doesn't stop at his atonement.  We both pulled through our depression and anxiety through regeneration in resting our burdens in Christ.  While it is easy to claim that Wellbutrin healed me of depression, that is simply not true.  In 2011, we were both rescued by our faith.  We were walking hand in hand with God and seeing and living the word was healing.  The use of anti-depressants was temporary in order for me to regain control on my life to where I could get to a stable place that would allow me rely solely on God.  When I was there, I finally released my secret where I was lifted up and loved on by so many people.  It was amazingly therapeutic and encouraging.  

I spent the next nine months walking the strongest walk I have to date; living in the word every single day.  I would love nothing more to say that depression left me and never returned, but since then, I have gone in and out of depression.  My second pregnancy dished out a severe dose and there was very little I could do to pull through.  I relied on my faith, but I dipped to a point where even my faith wasn't strong enough.  Being pregnant, I couldn't just lean on an antidepressant.  It was a rough road.  As soon as I was able to get back on anti-depressants, I did.  It helped, and I slowly weaned myself off again.  

Most recently, in March I believe it was, I went back into a deeper rut than I did after having Preslie.  I remember exactly where I was driving when it clicked to me that I was back in a dark, deep hole.  I looked into the rearview mirror at my beautiful girls.  My heart could have burst with the love for the two of them.  I remember thinking how I wanted the very best for them.  I wanted them to be every last things that I am not.  I wanted to protect them from harm.  I wanted to be everything that made them happy and secure and feel loved.  Then, I was filled with anger and hate towards myself.  I mentally berated myself until I felt there was not one thing to love about me.  I wanted to give up; move away and never come back.  I hadn't been feeling right for a few weeks, but when those harsh emotions crossed my mind, I was scared that I could never find love for myself again.  That is not normal.  I went home and wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and cried...and cried...and cried.  My life is so perfect.  WHY do I feel this way? 

I immediately had my thyroid levels checked and when the results came in, I was ecstatic to see that my thyroid was in horrible condition because that gave my a justification of sorts for why I couldn't be happy.  Sadly, I also knew my faith might not be in a great spot to have let this dark hole overcome...again.  Determined not to fight this alone, I gave Adam my journal of writings.  He read, and I cried.  He vowed to never let me feel that way, even though we knew it was something I would probably deal with the rest of my life.  I have never felt so supported and loved in my entire life. 

It's taken me some time, but I have decided to not kept my struggle secret anymore.  Something I am finding in my journey is that depression isn't staying away, no matter how hard I try.  I lived 28 years without this, but the last three have been filled of ebbs and flows of this daunting ache. I can also tell you that the longest stint I had without it, a little under a year, since having Preslie was when my walk with God was the strongest. 

You see, I am lucky.  
I've learned not to hide this wicked demon any longer. 
Despite the shame and the ill-effects of that comment on a cold December night, I still work to convince myself that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Sometimes, I hit it out of the ballpark with faith and others, I walk in the dark not realizing that it's crept back to steal my joy.  But others in the world are not that lucky. 

Thousands, no millions, of people are out there so lonely.  So desperate.  In so much pain and hopelessness that they cannot fathom facing another day.  It's not just adults.  It's teenagers and children, too.  Yes, children.  Two students at a local elementary school have committed suicide this year alone. It's devastating.  It's real.  And it shouldn't be hidden.  

No one should feel shame.  
Loving some one through this could be just the thing that leads them to being saved. 
I realize that it isn't that simple.  Maybe simple love can't save them...but it can't hurt.  Shame, judgmental friends and family, and non-acceptance of those struggling, though...it WILL hurt.

In many cases, 
Shame + embarrassment leads to drugs + alcohol dependency and 
alcohol dependency and drugs leads to addiction and overdosing 
which leads to accidental and purposeful deaths of so many depressed people. 

It's TOO real. 
And it's a REAL problem. 

My words that follow are NOT an answer.  I know this disease is much bigger and much scarier and so much more in depth than this.  It would take me ten blog posts to cover every aspect of my inner thoughts, but here is a start in a the on place where I have found the most joy in my journeys. 

Since the passing of Robin Williams, the media has infiltrated our homes with depression statistics, psychologists, and advice and tips on how to help friends and loved ones who suffer from this disease.  It's unavoidable and it brings up emotion and memories every time I see the word.  Something is missing, though.  All this talk about depression and there is NO talk of Jesus Christ.  Nothing, NOTHING can save us like the love of Jesus and what he did for us on the cross.  Things of this world can stabilize is, but only the Lord can truly save. 

I am HIS statistic. 
I am HIS patient. 
I am HIS child.

I spent the last six years on and off of anti-depressants.  

No matter what, depression will not be my permanent excuse for dissatisfaction for life.  It will not be an excuse to hermit away from the world around me (which is exactly what I do). 
It won't be my excuse to lose dependability with friends and family. 
It won't take me away from my kids and husband. 
It will try, but it will not win. 

I stand on the battlefield against the dirty mental illness. 
My faith has won the battles countless times.
My lack of faith has lost battles times, too. 
Even if one of my soldiers is an anti-depressant, I am okay with that because I know my army is so much more than that when I am walking day to day with the Lord. 
In scripture, God has provided me with everything necessary to create, sustain, and nurture a SPIRITUAL life of healing and happiness.  I know that I can find joy when I am giving my all to Him. Drugs, alcohol, addictions...they just help you run to cope with the pain. 
Jesus.  He reveals to you the light in the darkness; his mercies are new every day; His love and grace never stops. 

"My grace is sufficient for you; my power works in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

My mission is to seek those troubled souls and help them see that 
The redemptive love of Jesus Christ is ENOUGH. 
The road for depression is NOT easy.  It isn't even easy when you are walking it alongside the Lord.  
Ultimately, Christ himself is our counselor.  Not pharmaceuticals or even the kind psychologists and psychiatrists who listen to the hearts of many.  Those may stabilize us {which is very necessary; I am terrified to see where my mind would be without Wellbutrin}, but nothing can cure us from the heart outwards like the love of God.  


A "mind of Christ in the bible {1 Corinthians 2:16}" can conquer anything, if you're willing to wholeheartedly commit to the word of God and live for Him.  I many never be able to permanently function without an antidepressant, but I will never give up on my goal knowing that Christ is all I truly need.  

In my darkest hours of my pregnancy, convincing me to pray wasn't even going to happen; I had lost all hope.  I understand all too well pushing God aside in those days.  I realize that my thoughts and feelings could be unrealistic, especially for those are fighting suicidal thoughts.  But we have to pull together, somewhere, somehow.  Let LOVE shine into the darkness of the depressed soul. 

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