Something was wrong. No giant red flags, only subtle changes.
Like not wanting to plant summer begonias. A ritual dating back 9 years. Or letting chinese maple leaves wilt from lack of water. Or not returning a friend’s call. Ignoring the phone all together. Emails remained unopened in my inbox.
What used to bring joy brought fear. I used to leave the house 2-3 times a day because “I’m just not a homebody.” But now, now, I hold tight to home. I traded my party girl status for hermit-dom. Being with friends felt risky and undesirable.
Prayer and Scripture should have been enough to pull me through, right? I should breathe the Breath of Life. But why couldn’t I catch my breath? In one moment the assumed demands caused my heart to race. While my husband ordered fried chicken at the drive thru, I tried to open the car door and run away.
What would cause a woman who sought God and wanted to glorify Him lose hope? Feel helpless? Feel life so heavy she crumbled under it?
It didn’t matter if I called it an “anxiety attack” or “break down”. What mattered is after "the event" I could no longer continue without community. I could no longer carry my thoughts, fears, and worries alone.
So, at my husband's urging, I texted a friend. A friend familiar with the status of my thoughts. This time I simply asked her for a phone number. The “I mean business” text. The “time to stop complaining and wallowing and do something” text.
For the next month I held on to the number she gave me, because “I was feeling better already”. And maybe I didn't need to see a counselor after all.
During that month of "feeling better" I started sharing my story with friends. Letting them know things weren't right. Most were relieved to hear me say the words out loud. Because they saw the difference in my manner and mood...and it worried them.
Surprisingly the more people I told, the easier it became to tell. To say, “You know after each of my babies I feel overwhelmed, anxious, and sad. Perhaps I’ve had some form of undiagnosed postpartum depression each time?”
I was amazed how many responded, “Yes, I know those feelings.” And “Yes, you should speak with someone.” And “Talking is healing. Keep talking.”
After I exchanged stories with one friend, the word “depression” didn't seem to fit me. I know I'm not supposed to compare stories. But she had suffered deep, deep pain. My current "functioning" state, feeling like "not planting flowers", seemed far from where she had been.
She comforted me, “Heather, I don’t think what you are experiencing needs a label. You just don’t feel like yourself. That’s enough.”
Because the Heather I know threw fun New Year’s Eve parties in her house with a live band while kids slept soundly upstairs. The Heather I know laughs loud and dances freely. The Heather I know gives of herself without holding back. The Heather I know answers the phone on the first ring anxious to encourage the woman on the other end. The Heather I know creates and enjoys beauty. The Heather I know doesn’t want to miss a thing. I missed her.
So I made the phone call. I boldly scheduled my first session. Because I want to love the Lord my God with ALL my mind. And my mind has been otherwise occupied. I really wanted to feel like the Heather I know.
When I entered Sally’s* office I discover the cliché is true. I commented on the couch and I loved her already when she replied, “don’t worry I won’t make you lie down on it.”
She loves God. She studied at seminary. She doesn’t want to blame parents. But she said life words, like, “You have come a long way, but you have some baggage to set down. I’ll help you do that.”
The verse, “prepare your mind for action” (1 Peter 1:13) encouraged me to get better. The greek for "prepare" means to “gather up what entangles you”. So by taking care of what trips me up in my mind, I can be ready for action. Putting down baggage so I’m ready to serve Him.
My purpose in sharing what has been going on in my life the past few months is not to glorify it or me. My hope is you will tell a friend if you “don’t feel like yourself”. Tell a friend, even if it doesn’t seem bad enough to be diagnosed. Because we don’t need labels to feel out-of-sorts.
If your mind is so occupied with baggage and toxic “shoulds”, I hope you find a godly, Christian counselor (one recommended by friends). Sometimes getting a phone number is the hardest step. The second hardest step is making the phone call. I will tell you once you are sitting on the couch there is nothing easier than talking.
For me part of my journey to humility is writing this post. Because the words, “crazy” and “insane” are slang for “wild” and “good”. Admitting weakness feels weak. But it’s not about how I feel. Like Ann told me, “this laptop is my altar”. So I will lay down my pride. Because if you are healed and your mind is free to serve, then you win and God is glorified. But if I only write my story in a journal then it remains in my journal and you continue to feel “not yourself”.
I pray for those who read these words. I pray you will stir a desire to love you with ALL their minds. I pray you will give me a deep understanding of your grace. I pray you will continue to work in my thoughts and my “shoulds.” I pray boldness for those who are suffering alone. I pray for friends who can share openly about feelings of anxiety, fear & worry. Friends who can encourage one another to go to You, Lord, so You can take “brokenness aside and make it beautiful.”
*To maintain privacy, actual name was altered.