I remember the day I realized I needed help 10 years ago. I was standing in front of Target in San Angelo, TX and I didn’t even want to go in. That’s when you KNOW it’s bad.
I stood there thinking “I don’t want to do ANYTHING. Nothing at all. I am numb.” If you aren’t acquainted with depression, that can just sound like bratty thinking. It’s not. It’s being paralyzed by a lack of ANY feeling at all. And then being afraid of the WHY….the reason you’ve lost the drive to do anything….and not knowing what to do about that. It’s feeling like everything sucks and knowing it shouldn’t. We are aware of how strange that is.
I started noticing that same paralyzing numbness day after day. I had to fight for joy. Things that used to bring me joy just felt so mundane. I felt like I was faking life. And I HATE faking it. Fake anything. Still makes me shake my head.
I had to see my general practitioner for something else a few weeks later, and at my appointment she graciously explained how postpartum depression and anxiety can show up a year after a child is born. I guess it was obvious. Kyle, our youngest of 3, was 12 months old. I agreed to try a low dose anti-depressant. This wouldn’t be my first time. I figured I had nothing to lose. I was annoyed that it would take several weeks before I noticed any change with this med, but still I knew I didn’t want to feel that way. And the only tool being offered to me to fix what seemed to clearly be a chemical deficiency in my brain was a little, inexpensive pill. A “low-dose” at that. I’m pretty sure the “low-dose” jargon was meant to give me comfort that I would probably not have any of the side effects that, even 10 years ago, were widely known.
So here I sit. Writing this 10 years later. Almost 11 now, I guess. And I’m off my meds.
I don’t even know what month I got off my meds. Sometime in early 2018. That’ll have to work. I have so many friends who would be so much better at documenting this journey. They’d have the day and time noted that they decided to stop the meds.
I just know it was early 2018.
I keep telling God surely someone else should be writing this story. Living this story.
He keeps saying “Ok Moses...no more excuses. Stutter through it.”
So I’m going to keep writing. I’m trembling.
This time last year, I was crazy depressed. I felt like a BRAT. I had nothing to be sad about. Which seems to always make a depressed person feel worse. When there’s a clear trigger, it’s easier to fight it or rationalize it. I started thinking maybe I needed a higher dosage of the anti-depressant I was on. I was taking the same 10 mg of Citalopram (Celexa) that I had been taking for 10 years.
I wanted to know if a higher dosage was what I needed, or if I should try something else. While researching (googling) extensively, night after night, I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about the treatment of depression with prescription meds. Specifically, the mental health system in the United States.
I. Was. Terrified. Of. Higher. Dosages.
I said a prayer, resolved to google more ways to fight depression, and made a plan to wean myself off the meds.
To be clear, I am NOT against anti-depressants. I do not regret taking them. But I made a choice to stop.
For awhile, I told no one that I was off my meds. Not even my doctor. He still doesn’t know.
This was a thing me and God were going to do together. And I didn’t want anyone to try to talk me out of it. It’s a thing, one year later, we are still doing together. Which brings me to my main point for even sharing this tonight. I kept telling God I would share my depression story once I got through this journey. Once I got “over it.” God keeps showing me it’s not over until I get to heaven. So, what am I waiting for?
Also, I read a quote tonight from Charles Spurgeon. Famous, world-changer, saver-of-souls, preacher-man Charles Spurgeon. He said this: “I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression of spirits. I know the borders of despair, and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone; but hundreds of times I have been able to give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have given if I had not known their deep despondency.” The blog I was reading said that Spurgeon “fought crippling depression throughout his life.”
You mean he never overcame it?
What if he had waited to write about it and share his journey because he was waiting to be completely free from it? Meds or no meds, it doesn’t matter. He would never have been willing to give the helpful grip that pulls other people out of the darkness of despair.
And that is what I want to do.
I want my writing about depression to be an arm extended to others who are fighting it too. I want them to grab ahold of the tools I’ve learned to use over the past year because they are working.
I got off my meds because I didn’t want to go down the spiral of more meds and higher doses and the erroneous belief that anti-depressants were the only tool I had to fight this disease. Yes. That is true. But I also got off my meds because I wanted to go FACE TO FACE with the depth of depression and fight it. Spiritually. Physically. Intellectually. Fight it with everything I had. Find new tools. Find new friends. Find new authors. New podcasts. New ideas. New breakthroughs.
And then tell my story.
What this journey over the last year has shown me more than anything is this: depression is REAL. And not many people want to talk about it. But if you set your mind to be an overcomer, there are so many tools you will find to fight both anxiety + depression. Tools in addition to, or in place of, prescription medicine. We MUST stop the victim mindset, take responsibility for ourselves, and then confess this: God is faithful. And He has given us everything we need for life and godliness.
I have learned that a willing heart is a powerful thing. Over the last year, I have had to confess my willingness to be a lot of things that I was afraid of being.
I had to confess that I was (and am) willing to learn from Him. Whatever that looked like. That I was willing to open myself up on the worst days of the antidepressant detox and ask Him to show me how to press on.
Willing to push back against cultural norms and expectations.
Willing to be weak. Willing to be a mess. I HATE BEING A MESS.
Willing to deal with crippling shame that I’ve carried around for decades.
Willing to face my tendency to judge people who don’t understand me because I am so painfully insecure.
Willing to admit that I am FAR too competitive. Which feeds discontent. Which FUELS anxiety.
Willing to confess my complete dependency on Him.
Willing to trust Him for courage when all I wanted to do was hide. Forever.
Willing to discuss my weariness in trying to do what it SEEMS like everyone else is doing with no problem.
Willing to let Him love me.
Willing to put one foot in front of the other when my entire body was telling me to GO TO BED.
Willing to stop blaming everyone else.
Willing to take responsibility for my own thoughts and actions that flow from my unhealthy thinking.
Willing to change.
Willing to be transformed.
So that’s the journey I want to share. I want to share what I’ve learned from authors like Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability. What I’ve learned from Melody Beattie on codependency. What I’ve learned from how Puritans dealt with depression and anxiety from Richard Baxter. What I’ve learned from Rachel Hollis about just getting up and trying again. What I’ve learned about how many other people struggle with this and reach out to me and share their darkness every time I write about it. What I’ve learned from Jesus about all of the above, and what I’ve learned about being weak. That’s where I find my strength, actually.
Maybe some day I can clean this story up, tie it with a bow, and put it in a book. But for now, I’m just going to let people in to the journey, right where I am. It’s time.
Please don’t be weird in public if you see me. I am, after all, “off my meds” - and you never know what might happen. ;)