Tuesday, July 23, 2013

joy and peace, part 2: cry for help

"There’s no shame saying that your heart and head are broken because there’s a Doctor in the house. It’s the wisest and the bravest who cry for help when lost.
There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and medicine to make miracles.
There’s no guilt in mental illness because depression is a kind of cancer that attacks the mind. You don’t shame cancer, you treat cancer. You don’t treat those with hurting insides as less than. You get them the most treatment."

It took a month or so for me to realize I was depressed. It was my junior year of college. I was living with my best friends, involved in an amazing organization at Baylor, and having the time of my life. But when I got back from Christmas break, I was automatically homesick. 
Now, for those who didn't know me growing up, this was weird. I had never been homesick. At camp every summer, I was all like, "peace out, yall." I cried on the way back home every year.  I was a little sad moving into college my freshman year... I cried that first night in the dorm, thinking about my baby brother growing up without me... but I adjusted pretty well overall. 

So there I was, twenty years old, and all I could do was cry because all I wanted to do was go home. Baylor is two hours away from Plano, so I COULD have gone home... But I didn't, because I knew if I did, I wouldn't come back.  I didn't understand. I loved my life. Why was I so sad to be living it?

Ironically, I was studying depression in one of my Psych classes at the time. It never clicked. Sure, I considered it... but dismissed it quickly because I wasn't suicidal. That's where my anxiety kicked in. I was terrified I was going to die. I just wanted to go home. I found myself wishing I would get in a car accident... not bad enough to die, just bad enough to have to go home. 

I started sleeping more... Not enough for  me to notice until the therapist pointed it out, but a lot more than staying up until one or two and waking up at seven.  I couldn't study anymore.  Reading my textbooks was almost impossible. I never missed class, though, because failure was not an option. That was the semester I had 8am classes every day. So I had to get up and go to class every single morning. And I did. But at night, I would cry.

My breaking point came when I was driving home from work one day. I often cried on my way to and from work... It was some of the only times I was alone. But this time, I couldn't stop. I walked into my apartment and closed the door to my room. I watched the newest episode of LOST, hoping to stop during that hour. I didn't.  So I watched Friends. And still didn't stop. At this point I couldn't even remember why I was crying. After crying nonstop for 2 hours, I finally texted my mom, "I want to come home." She replied with, "Why, what's wrong?" and I said, "I can't stop crying and I just want to come home." So, she called me, told me she was driving down to Baylor right then, and that we were going to see some doctors the next day. My best friends came over and sat with me while we watched Friends until she got there. They didn't say much... They didn't have to.

Over the next couple of days, I saw psychologists and a psychiatrist. I got put on medication, failed a Greek test, and cried hysterically in my painfully awkward Greek professor's office. The medication was making me physically and emotionally sick instead of making me better. So, I got put on another medication. During this time my bedroom was also infested with bedbugs and I received the the biggest news of rejection that I had ever experienced. It was a rough week. 

It's hard to take medication to make yourself better, when the illness you're experiencing makes you want to stay sick. I didn't want to get better, I wanted to go home. I wouldn't have to go home if I was better. But I took it, and endured the strange side effects of hyperactivity, constant hunger, and random twitches. And my depression got better...

That initial step of telling someone else that something's wrong... it's hard. When everyone else around you seems so good... when you can honestly tell yourself you have nothing to be sad about... The words "There's something wrong" sound so absurd coming out of your mouth. You can't explain why. It seems so irrational that it doesn't make sense to tell anyone else. 

But man, can it be freeing just to get those words out. Just to have someone else take a portion of the burden and say, "hey, I got this... I'm not going to tell you how to fix your life. I'm not going to try to fix your problems. But I'm on this journey with you. You aren't alone, even when you feel like you're watching everyone else live their lives without you." 

God didn't plan for us to go through life alone.  He's there, yes... He's the ultimate burden carrier and I can rejoice and rest in Him.  But I'm also grateful that He placed people on this earth, in my life, who are willing to journey along side me, even when the path isn't pretty. 

((Next time- depression in my life now. Coming up soon- my story of anxiety, then and now.))

Sunday, July 21, 2013

joy and peace ((part 1))

I have a story to tell. It's not one I tell many. But maybe I should. It's a story that I generally keep for my closest friends, and those who ask.  But maybe it's time for more to know. Not so they can feel sorry for me. Not so they can give me advice. But so that if just one person can relate... just one person can read my story and say, "I feel that way too"... they can know that they aren't alone... it's not the end of the world... there is hope.

So, here it goes. The beginning of a series of stories about my struggle to find peace and joy. 

You may be aware that four years ago, I started taking medication for depression and anxiety.  I'm not ashamed of it... I'll tell anyone who asks.  It's just hard to give people an honest answer to "How's it going?" Because most people really just want to hear, "Good..."  Most of us don't even bother to listen for the answer because we just assume that "good" is what it's going to be.

My family, best friends, and college community all knew about this during the time. But then I moved... to a place where no one knew me. How do you introduce yourself? "Hi, I'm Haley, and I'm afraid to drive on the highway. I have to give myself a pep talk just to drive to the grocery store." Or, "Hi, I'm Haley, and if my husband doesn't text me back after five minutes, I automatically think he's been killed or injured." No... none of that.

It's pretty common not to tell people when you're struggling with depression or anxiety... It's this sort of secret that people carry, not knowing that so many of the people around them carry the same one. I know for me, I didn't like telling people because I didn't like the things they would say to me. These sicknesses... They really can only be related to by people who have actually endured them. A person who has never experienced the overwhelming hopelessness of clinical depression cannot begin to imagine what the other person is going through. A person who has never endured an irrational anxiety attack doesn't understand how it feels to be trapped inside one. When people who didn't understand would try to help me, I would just get angry. These people meant well. They loved me and wanted me to feel better. But their comments like, "Just trust Jesus," "Go work out, that will help you feel better," and "Maybe you should pray more" were NOT comforting. Do you think I'm NOT trusting Jesus? Do you think that I DON'T cry out every single day begging Him to heal my brain? Just to help me get out of bed... study for a test... decide on something to eat?

BUT. When someone says, "I know what you're going through... I know it sucks... I know you feel hopeless and you don't know why..." That's when you find comfort. They don't offer unwanted advice. They just sit and distract and love and pray.

So my thing is... If we aren't willing to share our stories, how can others be comforted from them? How can I offer hope to a person lost in depression when they have no idea I've ever even struggled with it?

I can't pretend that I don't struggle with these things anymore. I can't say that I know all the answers and that after some medication and rest, I was happy for life. But I can write down my story. And maybe someone, even just one person, will be able to know that they don't struggle alone.