“Mental Health” is a new series that will explore the stories and experiences of our staff and guest writers and how they deal with their own mental health. Family Matters felt it appropriate to create such a series as it has been reported that an estimated 1 in 4 of adult Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Coming together and sharing experiences in a grace-filled environment can only create the support and understanding a suffering individual may need.
Have you ever heard the saying “Yes, I suffer from depression. No, that doesn’t mean I am never happy.” Well, that’s me in a nutshell.
I have been battling and dealing with depression since I was nine years old. It’s odd, I can remember the exact day on the playground where the horrible thoughts flooded in, the self-esteem dropped and I was forever changed with a skewed vision of what really was. What may surprise you is that I have been a Christian all my life; attended church on Sundays, youth groups on Wednesdays, every camp and outing possible and had a support system larger than I could count. So, it wasn’t that I didn’t have Jesus in my heart; it was because I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. I still do.
I can remember in high school when it got so bad that I had entertained the thought of ending it all. People around me were shocked when they saw the scars. A peppy blonde, always smiling and surrounded by friends, captain of her cheerleader squad was – unhappy? They thought that it could all be fixed with a pill, and for a while – I believed them. I saw doctors and took my meds as told, but never felt ‘normal’ and truly happy. In fact, after months of taking medication and talking with doctors I felt as though I had turned into a zombie. I was always tired, physically heavy, and found it exhausting to keep up the appearance of the happy-go-lucky cheerleader. I felt nothing. Nothing. I decided to stop the medication. I decided that I would rather feel something than live a life of nothing.
After becoming aware of all the side effects of medicine to treat my illness, I wanted to try and fight this beast naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT look down upon anyone who needs or wants to take medication for a mental illness; to each their own. I just don’t think it’s right for me, right now.
I have found different ways to keep me going; journaling and breathing.
Seems simple, right?
It’s taken me a while to get used to taking the time to take care of myself, but if I don’t – the entire family suffers. As a child suffering from depression, it really only affected me. Now that I have a family, it’s not just me anymore…but that is a whole different blog post entirely.
Surprisingly, taking 30 minutes out of the day ‘for me’ has made a world of difference. Writing down my thoughts, feelings, hopes and prayers has allowed me to make sense of my perception of life. Getting those feelings on paper and reading them back to myself out loud…sometimes I giggle at myself for thinking so ‘weird’. I am trying to train my brain to not treat ME as the enemy but rather the sickness. I learned something this past year; Depression lies. I have been believing lies all my life and am just now able to decipher truth from false thoughts.
Taking the time every now and then during the day to take deep meaningful breaths; concentrating on filling up my entire lung area, holding, and then exhaling slowly can rejuvenate me on my hardest days. Mentally visualizing placing my fears, worries and battles in my head at the feet of the Lord while exhaling, allows me to remove that weight-of-the-world guilt off of my shoulders and be a better person.
Mental illness is an invisible disease that is difficult to diagnose. If you feel that you or someone you know may be suffering, please contact a professional that can help. I am not a doctor; just a woman who is sharing her story in hopes of inspiring others in the same situation.
Family Matters and their guest writers are not and should not be seen as true medical advisers or a substitute for medical help. If you or know someone who may be suffering, please contact a professional.