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.