I don’t know how many people know this about me, but I suffer from anxiety and depression. I’m not shy about it (or anything), because it’s part of my story and who I am, but I’ve lived with it for so long now that I don’t always think about it.
I never would have thought that I could say that 10 years ago.
In 2004 I went off to college at Texas Christian University. I was close to home at a private Christian school and by all appearances I would transition from high school to college without any problems. I wasn’t diagnosed with depression and anxiety until after my first semester, but I think that it really all started sophomore or junior year of high school. I think I’ve always had the potential for depression and anxiety, but it wasn’t triggered until high school when I was surrounded by a few emotionally and verbally abusive relationships, stress, very poor diet, and not sleeping enough. I really didn’t know how to take care of my mind, body, or soul.
I ended my first semester with a 1.67 GPA and a failed suicide attempt. I was put on Paxil, which helped tremendously. Until I couldn’t take it or forgot to take it. Or if I got super overwhelmed of upset, both of which happened almost daily.
I was in therapy every day for about 3 months while they adjusted my medication. Then I went once a week until school let out. I was 19 years old and completely engulfed in the darkness of my own mind. Medicine helped, but I had horrible withdrawals and was still having panic attacks. They kept upping my medication, which was helpful for the most part, but just increased the withdrawal symptoms. Once, Paxil had to stop producing the continued release version, which I was on, and my doctor had to switch me to a generic version. I went crazy.
Do you know what it’s like to be trapped inside your own brain, completely tied up and unable to control anything that comes from your mouth or your body? It’s like knowing that two cars are going to collide and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I was on Paxil for 6 years and in that time I tried to kill myself twice; one time landing me in the hospital and another time leaving me with a permanent scar. My daily reminder of who I was and how far I’ve come. While Paxil helped me to a degree, it wasn’t until 2010 that I got put on Zoloft.
Guys. Zoloft changed my whole world.
Colors were brighter, tastes were… tastier? I don’t know, but my whole world opened up. For the first time since probably junior high or even elementary school, I felt like myself. I didn’t even really know what that meant, but it was myself. The dark cloud had lifted from my head and I could finally see and be my true self.
Side note, this isn’t an endorsement for any sort of medication, I’m just telling you my story.
My point is that darkness has the potential to completely engulf someone. There are people that I have known for 15 years that never really knew me until the last 5. People I went to college with knew a completely different Katie than the one you’ll meet today. And while I don’t know if I believe in this completely, to me, it really equates to the stories in the bible of people who are possessed by demons. Because if I lived back then, I’m sure everyone would have said that I had all of them in my body all the time.
Darkness takes many forms and those forms manifest in various ways in our lives. To the outside world you could be perfectly fine while you silently suffer inside your own mind. The darkness in our lives is not always visible.
I was brought up from the dark pit of my depression by a combination of medication, therapy, and a whole BUNCH of people who love me relentlessly.
Ecclesiastes tells us that “there are people who are utterly alone, with no companions, not even a child or a sibling. Yet they work hard without end, never satisfied with their wealth. So for whom am I working so hard and depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is pointless and a terrible obsession. Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap.”
To find light in this world, we must seek out people, places, and service that brings joy to our lives. We must do things and be with people who make us feel empowered and give us strength. These things are like flint; they ignite the tender that is waiting to burn inside you. They are like a match in the darkness, shining bright so that you can find your way out of the dark places in your life.
And when you’re finally out, however long that takes, go be that light bringer to other people. Tell your story. Help people up. Take your light into the world and make it a brighter place for everyone. You don’t have to be perfect either. In fact, that makes you kinda useless to others who are hurting. Own your brokenness. Live your story. Shine brightly through who you truly are.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Photo credit: Gary Waters/Getty Images via google search for “depression”
Image found here: http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/depression-men-why-its-hard-ask-help/ which is an awesome article about depression and gives a shout out to my main bae Jared Padalecki.