A few years ago, I was drowning in depression. I can’t count the number of times I considered taking my own life which only compounded the depression because of the shame that, as a Christian, I should not even consider that, right? But in that dark hole, all I could think was that I wanted the visceral pain I felt to stop. I wanted my heart to stop hurting. All I could see was the pain. I could barely function, could barely get out of bed and take care of my family. I tried to hide from the pain; in reading, in food, in anything that would take my mind off it and distract me for even a moment. But inevitably, that moment came when I had to take a break from those activities, and there the pain would be again, closer than the breath I was trying to drag into my lungs. It was a physical vise wrapped around me that I could not shake. I pulled away from everything. I stopped going to church because I felt guilty. I stopped singing because I had no song. I just wanted it all to end.
Then, I received notice that my sister-in-law had taken her life. This devastated me. I knew she was struggling because we had talked about it. To hear that her despair and loneliness had driven her to such an act shook me to the soul. Sitting at her memorial, hearing my precious niece express her grief and uncertainty why her love for her mother wasn’t enough to keep her there, I looked to my left and saw my baby boy and knew…I NEVER wanted to put him in that situation. When we came home, I contacted my doctor and started taking anti-depressants. That was the beginning of my recovery journey.
There is this stigma in the church that if you struggle with depression, or any mental health issue, that you don’t have enough faith. This was part of the shame that kept me out of church. I did not feel free to be able to be open about my struggles, either the pain I felt or the coping mechanisms I had developed over my life to self-medicate. I would walk into church and put on a mask that I was okay, I was a “good” Christian. Until I couldn’t hide it anymore. Then, rather than admit my struggles and ask for help, I hid because I did not want to be judged. I did not want to be weighed in the balance of others’ opinions and found wanting.
Coming to Celebrate Recovery a little over a year ago was so renewing for me. It was hard walking through those doors for the first time, and I was absolutely certain there would be no one there that struggled like I did. What I found was a group of people just like me, struggling with pain and desperate to get out of the bondage to coping strategies that never really worked. I found a safe place where I could be myself; fears, failures, warts, and all; and still be loved, be accepted, be understood and supported, even without my mask. This is what I want for the church as a whole.
So, this is me…taking off the mask…daring to be who I am, discovering who God created me to be, and living it out…one day at a time, one moment at a time.