Sometimes The Bravest Thing You Can Do Is Get Help

I can’t pinpoint when my depression started, but I would say it followed when I was diagnosed with lupus in 2013. I had started an independent life all on my own in the mountains of Colorado only to have to move back to my parent’s home a year later because I could barely pour a cup of coffee.

I ignored my depression for years after moving back home, blaming it solely on the fact that I was physically ill for life. But when medicine started working, and I could pour a cup of coffee without searing pain, my depression became naked.

Blaming it on my illness only lasted so long before the people closest to me could see the pain in my eyes – even when I was laughing.

I met the love of my life in 2016 and we married in sweet November of 2017. Our first year of marriage was a beautiful hot mess. We fought all the time. I cried a lot. He got frustrated. I threw things at doors. He cleaned up broken glass. We didn’t know how to communicate. I was sick – a lot. I winced every time someone awed us saying, “Enjoy that honeymoon stage.” And then, my depression woke up – I hid it under my pillow every night until it was no longer comfortable.

I began to self-harm in 2018 and I did it six times. Every moment was different, but every moment I felt the same hopeless feeling. My brain started to connect the relief from my emotional pain with the act of cutting, and so, it became easier every time.

Try holding this away from your spouse – it ain’t gonna happen. Especially when your spouse is a therapist. My husband knew I hid a lot of my childhood, as well as the ache of my father’s abandonment at 18 and a whole lotta family dysfunction. Maybe it all added up and became too much to bear. My husband did everything he could to prevent my self harming. He hid knives and sharp objects – I tear up as I write it. I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed help.

My body has wounds on my arms and legs, but there were wounds that went so much deeper than anything that bled – than anything you could see. And I needed help.

One morning, with a crick in my neck after how much I had stuffed under my pillow, I agreed to get help. It took everything in me to accept it because accepting it meant I had to face really scary things.

And it was the bravest thing I could’ve done.

I started medication and saw a counselor for a while and today, I’m better for it. And then, as my life would have it, I was diagnosed with a very rare, incurable disease in October that makes me painfully half-blind for months and feels like jellyfish live inside my body. It’s called Neuromyelitis optica – I have my good days, I have my bad days. It’s been easy to fall into depression, but by the grace of God, it’s not prevailed.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m winning, but maybe sometimes we have to fight battles more than once to win. I like to think of my depression as part of my story that had to happen in order for me to be where I’m at today.

I think people who’ve been depressed have a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion and a sincere kindness for others. Maybe we’d not know this deep empathy if we’d not lived through our depression.

If you struggle with depression, here’s a virtual hug and a gentle nudge to seek help if you haven’t. It’s OK. You’re not depression. You have a powerful story to tell. You have a past, a name, and your own quirky awesome characteristics that make you who you are. None of that goes away because you seek help. You’re still you. I’m still me.

You’re already brave.

Who knows, maybe you’ll better for it.

When You’re Homesick For All That You Were Before Depression

My fifth attempt.

This is my fifth attempt at writing this piece only to erase what I’ve written to prove to myself that maybe, just maybe I’m not in this.

Stare at blank page.

Resume latest episode of “This Is Us.”

Tears birth that have nothing to do with the show.

Close laptop.

I can’t wrap my mind around the place I’m at very well and so writing about it seems absurd — silly, even. You could say it’s all of life’s major disappointments all piling up. Or you might say it’s living with an incurable disease, but then I’d tell you I’d choose my physical pain over depression any day.

Maybe it’s people’s disappointments one after the other.

The timing of it all.

It pains me that I no longer feel like a broken plate of glass, salvageable because it’s only cracked in three pieces. Maybe some people can cement their broken parts with green tea matcha and essential oils or whatever the earthy healing trend is today, but that doesn’t cut it for me.

I feel crushed. Shattered in ashes.

Dust-like.

Homesick for all I was before depression met me.

The home of my heart is vacant; every blow of life only churns the ashes round and round in my heart.

If you’re going through depression, I know you feel heavy. You make a list of different reasons to tell your friends why you can’t make the outing so they sound different each time. Maybe you have a good family, a loving spouse, even a furry friend to take away your Sunday blues, but you still feel alone. It’s not that you’re not grateful — you’re heartbroken, hopeless at the thought you’re alive and yet no matter how hard you keep trying, you can’t seem to be present.

I have a reoccurring memory of my husband stopping me in our hallway to dance with me. I started to cry, croaking, “I don’t feel like dancing.” My husband’s reply was everything when he said, “Well then, we’re gonna dance.” Though my husband was holding me, I couldn’t seem to feel him. I only felt his hands holding mine and the warmth his neck brought to my freezing nose. My tears could fill a stream. No, it’s not that I’m not grateful. I’m desperate — frantic for just a moment not to feel miles and miles away from everything and everyone I love.

Depression feels like you’re waiting for something that’s never going to happen. I don’t know how to encourage you in my pain except to tell you a short story.

In early October of this year, I got a tattoo of an olive branch. Its meaning goes deep in my veins: Olive trees surprisingly thrive in deserts and rocky soil and when these trees are pressed, they produce something called beaten oil of the highest quality.

Olive oil was used to light household lamps in the past — the very thing that came once the fruit was picked and crushed, became the thing that gave new light.

Two months later, I walked into a Christian book store and saw a book titled, “100 Things God Loves About You.”

I opened the book and landed on #22:

God loves your ashes.

Tears filled my eyes and the words became a blur. I realized my dust doesn’t have to mean the end to anything. God loves my ashes because He will use them to make something new, like He did in the beginning.

But dust was essential, you see. This heartache has a purpose. And like other seasons of my life, this will be something I’ll look back on and know exactly why it had to happen this way.

Whether it starts out as a small flicker like the day I opened that book, the household lamp of my heart will turn on.

My light is coming.

Originally published on The Mighty