catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 11 :: 2011.06.10 — 2011.06.23


What I wish I'd known then

I sat in the cold hallway outside the campus counselor’s office trying to be as nondescript as the tan brick wall behind me, hoping no one would recognize me. It was fall of my sophomore year in college, and I was unable to shake the depression hanging over my life.

I had no “reason” for being depressed. I’d spent the summer as a counselor at a beautiful camp in northern Michigan where I’d seen God do amazing work in the lives of my young campers. My life was full of countless blessings, including a relationship with the man I would eventually marry.  I lectured myself that I shouldn’t be depressed. I prayed. I read my Bible and posted verses around my room. And I’m sure that if I ever found any privacy in my dorm’s community bathroom, I stared myself down in the large mirror as if my reflection might offer a sensible solution.

I did my best to assume an air of normalcy, but my future husband wasn’t fooled. One night I broke down, and even as I confessed my misery, I kept saying, “But I don’t know why I’m depressed!” I was hung up on the fact that my life was so full, therefore I shouldn’t be feeling miserable, which in turn, only made me feel more miserable.  He gently urged me to see the counselor, even though I insisted there was nothing a counselor could help me solve. I finally broke down my pride and made an appointment. I went to a few counseling sessions and didn’t make any progress. I felt like I just spun my wheels in the appointments, accomplishing nothing other than flinging more muddy pain all over myself. So I stopped going.

It’s easy through the lens of today to blame the counselor for not recognizing my anxiety disorder; back in the mid-1990s we knew so much less about depression and anxiety than we do today. I probably never let the counselor in past my walls of steel so she could actually see my list of symptoms. Instead, I struck out on my own, determined to just get through it, ignore it and press on.

If I could visit my nineteen-year-old embarrassed self huddled in that cold dorm hallway, I’d wrap my arms around her, whisper these few truths into her ear, and pray they’d sink into her soul…

You’re not alone. Look up and hold your head high, because down the road, you’ll realize that 30% of the women walking around on campus today will battle this as well. Health professionals believe that 41% of those battling depression are just like you, embarrassed and not likely to ask for help.

There doesn’t have to be “a reason” for this. There are many complex pieces to the puzzle of your body and your brain, and we may never know exactly why depression and anxiety cripple us. And, honey, it’s not just a spiritual thing. You’re a physical, spiritual and emotional being. With the pressure you put on yourself with schoolwork and the stressful summer you just went through as a camp counselor and how poorly you are sleeping and your genetics, it’s no wonder you’re not feeling well. And that’s okay.

There is hope. God will redeem these dark hours. While you’d never wish to go through them again, you will be amazed at the woman of strength and peace God will create in you through this storm. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). Sometimes the night is going to seem like it will never end, but morning’s rejoicing will come. Hold on to that hope.

Don’t go this alone. Don’t close yourself off from the many people who love you and are willing to walk through this with you. Let them see your tears and your pain. Open your arms wide to the love that God is lavishing on you through them. They are God’s hands, God’s voice. I know you fear that some will judge you or won’t understand and will inadvertently hurt you more. But if you close yourself off from everyone, you will miss the gems that God has placed in your life to nurture you and pray for you.

I silently rode the waves of depression and anxiety for fourteen years, thinking this was just the way adulthood was supposed to be. Then after having two children, I hit rock bottom again. An observant doctor fished my anxiety disorder out of a bucketful of various symptoms. Once I accepted her diagnosis, I found I was able to move past the shame, and break the chains that bound me. As I opened up to my trusted circle of family and friends, I realized it wasn’t normal to live under such fear and anxiety and that I didn’t have to continue to bear that burden alone. I followed my doctor’s orders, started a prescription, and over time began to experience freedom.

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