I drive past the hospital almost every day. It sits directly across the busy road from our church & school. In fact, I see it when I look through the glass of my office window. I never thought much about the people, though. The people who work there – the psychiatrists, therapists, doctors. The people who go there – their lives overtaken by issues that have become unmanageable. For 12 years I drove by and never thought of them. Until I became one of them.
It had been 3 months since the auction and my anxiety was worse, not better. A general practitioner prescribed meds, but I thought they made things worse. I started seeing a therapist and working through some issues. On top of the anxiety, I now was depressed. I was disappearing and losing hope. I want to use this post to give you insight, to help you understand. Author Glennon Doyle Melton recently wrote a brilliant description of anxiety and depression. Every word of it is true. She writes…
When I slide back into anxiety and depression—well, it’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. You know how—when something scary or really hard is about to happen—you feel fluttery and wired and nervous until it’s over? Anxiety is a little bit like that, except “the thing” is never over. The thing is life. And the constant fear/jitters/whateveritis makes it impossible for me to enter the moment. This is the best way for me to describe it—I am never ever landed. Never relaxed. Never present. On stage in front of thousands or in my kitchen talking to Amma about her day—I am not THERE. You can look at me and see me but I am not THERE. I am not feeling the feelings that one might be expected to feel in a given circumstance because all my energy/thought/emotion is going to calm my nerves and soothe myself. Anxiety is like a shaky hovering. Good times.
And depression is like putting a heavy, itchy blanket on top of anxiety. It’s like pouring spilt pea soup all over fear. It’s like a sucking out of the soul. It’s a disappearing act, really. It takes all the colors that a person is and bashes them all together until no color is left at all and all the person is or feels or reflects is gray, gray, gray. There is no LIFE anymore, just existing.”
That was me. I was existing, but barely. Justin was soon leaving for another 3 week trip, and I knew something had to change. After 3 consecutive nights of no sleep – torture on top of torture, I just lost it. That Sunday I curled in my bed, crying and screaming in frustration. I was so bitter that this was happening to me. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better. I had no hope. I could see no future. There seemed to be no way out. I didn’t make plans to hurt myself, but I finally understood why people did. The thought of living like this day after day was unbearable. I had prayed and begged for healing. I knew God was there – He was the only thing holding me here. I tried to see a psychiatrist, but after calling several with new patient appointments no sooner than 4 months out, I knew the time had come.
I got out of bed on Monday morning. I kissed my girls goodbye and told them I didn’t know if I’d be home that evening. I was going to a hospital to get help. It was a beautiful summer day. Blue sky. White clouds. It was surreal. How did I go from having the “perfect life” to walking into a mental hospital in a matter of months. I couldn’t even wrap my head around it.
Justin and I walked into the lobby, which looked more like an upscale hotel than a hospital and signed in for an evaluation. As we waited, I looked around the room. The people were normal. We could have been sitting in any doctor’s waiting room, not the stereotypical “One Few Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at all. I was numb. What was I doing here? I didn’t belong here, did I? Would they keep me? Would they drug me? The waiting was the worst.
Finally, they called my name and Justin and I walked back into a small room where we filled out more paperwork and more questionnaires. The woman interviewing me was named Sarah, and she was lovely. She asked me to share my story, and gave encouraging nods as I went along. In the end, they said I was not a risk to myself or others, but recommended an outpatient program where I would be able to see a doctor weekly and do group therapy 3 hours a day for 3 days a week. I started the very next day.
Driving home that day, I felt a tiny bit lighter. I still didn’t know why this was happening, but I was finally doing something about it. I was just doing the next right thing and sometimes that is the best you can do.
A year later, God would redeem this experience of walking into a psychiatric hospital in two miraculous ways. I will share those stories at some point in this 31 day series. In the meantime, I have some words for anyone standing at the crossroads of asking for help.
Asking for help does not mean you are weak. It means you are strong. So very strong.
You don’t have to go it alone. Ask someone to go with you. If they say no, keep asking until someone says yes.
The people who work in mental health are God’s angels on earth. They want to help. Let them help.
There are no magic cures. Healing takes time, but it starts the moment you reach out.
One in four people will need help for anxiety and/or depression. You are not alone.
It’s often the people who seem least likely that need help.
There is hope. There is ALWAYS hope.
Whether you know Him or not, Jesus is with you each step of the way. He will never leave you.
Evaluations are completely free. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
A good place to start is the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
This week just happens to be National Mental Health Awareness week. Coincidence? I think not. Ask for help. Walk with someone who needs help. Together, we can break the stigma. It. Is. Possible.
This series is not a tidy story of a fairy tale life. It is messy and truthful. For 31 days, I will share pieces of my journey, practical coping techniques for dealing with anxiety, spiritual insights, emotional struggles, and a whole lot of other. I will likely jump from here to there as the Spirit leads. I invite you along as I share my experience, my strength, and my hope. Thank you for being part of this journey with me. Together, we shall seek the still.