Ho, there. I’m less than 48 hours away from delivering our second child by c-section, early early Monday morning.
And the past two weeks have had moments that have felt soul-crushing. Hellish. Oh, wait. Maybe I’m just pregnant? No, that’s not all. There’s more to it than that…I also struggle with anxiety and depression.
It’s a battle that I have been consciously fighting since my senior year in college…so that makes it about 8 years. (I experienced the fall-out of a/d in high school and early college, too, but was unaware that it was not ‘normal’ for people to struggle like I did—hopelessness, inability to connect with people, fear of getting out of bed because I would let someone down…and many more symptoms of a/d.)
My sister used to call the depressive episodes I had my “I-hate-people” moods. Me, the extrovert. The external processor. The needer-of-relationship.
When I ‘feel like myself,’ I get lots of energy from being around people and from talking a lot. I can’t really get clarity on an issue unless I’ve talked about it with at least two people. So the times when I withdraw into myself and am unable to talk to anyone about what’s going on inside of me, it’s a sign of a deeper problem. Performance-based anxiety. Which spirals into despair and depression.
There are several strategies for dealing with the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Therapy is a good one. So is medicine. Prayer and Scripture recitation are great, too. Accountability, too. A combination of all these has largely worked for me for the past decade.
Sometimes I get cocky. Maybe over-confident is a better description. No, wait. Naive is probably the best word. I stop spending time in the Scripture for a few days and get a little out of whack. I decide that I’m doing really well and don’t need to continue the medicine that has been working for five years and I end up in bed, unable to get out of it, for no apparent reason.
Here’s the deal. I’m pregnant. Have been for 9 months. And the medicine I normally take hasn’t been proven safe to take during pregnancy. It wasn’t a hard decision to make in my first pregnancy to quit cold turkey. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have much to do during the day besides take the dog out, and I definitely didn’t have a 20-month-old running around and demanding so much of my energy and attention.
Second time around, the decision wasn’t hard to make at first. Quit the medicine. Get over the cold-turkey effects of dizziness. Give myself grace to not put clothes on until 3 p.m. Let the dishes pile up. Nap whenever Child One was napping. But then crap got real. Depressingly real. Anxiety-ridden real.
And the last two weeks I’ve found myself slipping into a state which can best be illustrated by a mom in a pool holding her child above her head, treading water but barely able to breathe. I can take care of Lily, but I am not really taking care of myself.
The darkness can seem overwhelming. And I simply have no energy to declare scripture over myself. I can’t ask for help because it sends me into a cave of “you should be able to do this, wimp” and I cry.
Finally I texted a friend to pray for me. It’s really hard to talk to people who haven’t experienced panic attacks or depression…”But what’s wrong?” they ask. “Why do you feel this way?”
I. don’t. know.
Is that okay?
It has to be okay or I’m never going to get through this.
If I have to have an explanation for the way I feel, then I will never talk to you about it. And I will go back into the cave and cry by myself. Because I don’t know why I feel this way.
Yes, pregnancy hormones.
Yes, financial struggles.
Yes, physical exhaustion.
Yes, spiritual attack from the enemy.
But I can’t articulate all of that when I feel all of nothing.
My freshman year of college, I read an essay by Parker J. Palmer which made me more of who I am today. “All the Way Down” is about his struggle through depression. And one friend he described, in particular, struck me to the core. His friend came over every day, just to massage his feet. He didn’t offer solutions, he didn’t try to empathize. He simply touched his feet and loved him in silence.
That is who Jesus has become to me in this place of anxiety and depression. Demanding no answer of me. Wanting only to be near me, to suffer with me, as I am myself before Him. There is no need for explanation or action. It is the heart of Immanuel.
So, as I mentioned before, I got up the nerve to text a friend that I was feeling abandoned and alone, anxious and depressed. She has had panic attacks before. She understands what I want to say even in a few words and demands no explanation or reason.
She responded with grace, telling me that she loved me. Also, she said this: “I feel the Lord prompting me to encourage you to turn on some worship music and declare loudly the truth that our God is near to the brokenhearted, he delights to rescue you, and the darkness will never be able to put out the light of Christ which is in you!”
I have to admit, I cringed when I read her words. So many times, so many people have encouraged me to do the same thing. And I have no energy to do any of that.
But in that same moment of wanting to reject her counsel, the eyes of my heart saw something in it that I had never seen before:
All God is inviting me to do in this place is to say ‘yes.’
I realized for the firs time that in the soul of a person in depression, a ‘yes’ does not have to be declared loudly, spoken confidently, or even uttered audibly. When a person in depression opens her heart in weakness and agrees with those words—He is near to the brokenhearted, He delights to rescue me, and He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world—simply whispering ‘yes’ is loud and bold and defiant proclamation of truth to God, myself, and the demonic world.
The ‘yes’ in my heart, from the depths of my weakness, is more powerful than an ‘affirmative!’ shouted from the rooftops in my strength.
When Gabriel came to Mary, he didn’t ask her to sign any papers of consent. He didn’t demand any loud or proclaimed answer from her. When God asked her to bear His Son into the world, she simply said, “Be it done.” Yes. Okay.
I think it was probably closer to a whisper than a shout. But the declaration of Mary to the messenger of God, to the heart of God, in front of all the angelic host, all the forces of the devil—it was not a shout. It was a consent.
So when I got that text from that dear friend, this was what came out of my heart.
“Okay. I’m Yours. I trust You. Do it. Let it be done to me as You have said.”
No loud singing, no shouting. No promises to do better. No expectation of immediate radical change.
And it was the seed of God planted in my heart for life and hope and joy, and He is ever-faithful in watering it.