Depression, PTSD, Mental Illness

The Depression

  In college, I had serious depression.
  What did I do about it?
  NOTHING.
  Now, there were lots of other things going on in my life, too, that weren’t any good. Did those things cause the depression? Did the depression cause those things?
  The short answer is: Yes.
  What I wish I’d done is seek help. But I was too prideful. I wouldn’t even admit to people that anything was wrong. The only person who knew was my husband. And he was too prideful, too, (or perhaps naïve or scared or all of the above) to encourage me to get help.
  What would that help have looked like?
  Well, now that college is years in the past, and I’ve struggle with depression on and off since that time- and now that I have sought help- I can tell you what I would’ve done:

1) Talk to a counselor.
  I know that sounds like a cop out answer, but it’s too true. In June 2017, my husband and I walked into a counselor’s office for the first time in our lives (ok, aside from the counselor who treats our sons- who totally rocks, by the way. And maybe it’s because she rocks so much that my walls of pride slowly crumbled so that I could seek help for myself.) My husband and I were both nervous, but we were, honestly, facing divorce, and this was our last option.
  But it should’ve been our first.
  Tara was our counselor and, though she was still in school, she had all the right questions and responses. We were able to open up and really talk about things that we couldn’t talk about on our own without a mediator.
  But Tara could only take us so far. We realized this about two months in and we said our goodbyes.
  Then, we met Vance
Vance
  Vance is awesome. He’s younger than us (ok, all my kids’ teachers this year are younger than us, too, by 10 years or more- geez, we’re getting old!). But Vance just knows what to say to get us to really talk and share with each other. (Ok, he doesn’t just know- he had training- but he just knows and it blows my mind!) 
  I know some people say they hate going to counseling and it only causes more issues in their marriage, but if you find someone like Vance (who is pricey, but insurance helps), then you are on the path to healing. Over a year later, we still have topics come up when we’re talking at home and we’ll say, “Let’s save this for Vance’s office.” Genius. Plus, it’s healing. Things are getting better.

2) Talk to a counselor.
  Ok, so that may have sounded redundant.
  It was.
  But, seriously, all I’ve talked about is marriage counselingand, if that’s all you do, you’re probably not going to find all the healing you’re searching for.
  Shortly after we met Tara, I decided I needed a personal counselor. (BTW- My husband was already in one-on-one counseling with a guy.) I definitely wanted a lady to counsel me. In fact, I think that’s a very important part of finding a personal counselor- same gender. But that’s totally up to you.
  So, I met my first counselor, who will remain anonymous. She was, well, a little, um, how should I say this- hey, do you know what time it is? What did you eat for lunch? Oh wait- I need to take a phone call.
  Distracted.
  Alright, she was very distracted. Glanced at her watch. Brought in other things to do while we were talking. And the way she spoke lacked that je ne sais quoi we’d already found with Tara. So, I quit her and met my second counselor.
  She and I were MFEO. We could talk about adoption and foster care all day long, baby. If we’d put our brains and ideas together, we could’ve changed the world.
  But I wasn’t there to talk adoption and foster care.  There were other issues on the plate and I needed help with those ASAP. But, the only problem was, when I brought them up, she said, “Why do you want to talk about that? That’s not a big deal.” I nearly jumped out of my skin when she said that. I knew it was time for she and I to part ways.
  There was a gap in there when I didn’t have Tara or my second counselor- and Vance wasn’t in the picture yet. It was an ugly, painful gap that seemed to last forever, but probably only lasted, like, a week, but I had some serious PTSD episodes during that time, and my husband was like, “We’ve gotta find the right counselor(s) now.” He did all the research, found Vance, and Vance found my next counselor.
Megan
  Megan is wonderful. Her office is five feet across the hallway from Vance’s. She’s like the wiser older sister I never had. (Ok, she may actually be younger than me. I’ve never asked. We’re probably the same age- maybe. But she could be like my older twin sister, so that she’s like 5 minutes older and she got all the wisdom. It could happen… Ok, I just want someone to be older than me!) 
  I know there’s a professional line between being a counselor and being a friend and I can’t cross that with Megan, but she’d make a great friend. She has so much wisdom and, like Vance, she always says the right things to get me thinking.
  Bonus- Megan (and Vance) love God. Megan brings Jesus and God into every conversation. When I speak with her, there is joy, peace, hope, spirit, love- all the feels. Our conversations are seasoned with salt. If you’re looking for a Christian counselor, don’t settle for one who merely wears the title Christian. Find one who also speaks life.

3) Find a medication.
  That’s not a hard and true rule for everyone who feels depressed. But, for me, it has made a huge difference in how I’ve felt. I was in a serious depression this past Spring. I was in a funk and couldn’t shake it. (Yet, somehow, I managed to finish writing Lynchtown Wolf. God’s grace shining through!) The counseling was great, but things were screwy in my body chemicals. No amount of counseling could fix that.
  It was interesting how this happened, but I’d been reluctant for years to get my oldest son on ADHD meds. I just didn’t want him on drugs that were so highly addictive because I thought this would lead to him having addiction as an adult. 
Miss Ada being awesome.
  But, finally, his blessed, wise counselor Miss Ada said, “If he had a physical disease, like diabetes, you’d put him on medication. So, why wouldn’t you give him a medication for a brain disease?” She also pointed out that kids who need ADHD meds and don’t get them are way more likely to self-medicate when they get older. Conversely, kids who needADHD meds and get on them are way less likely to self-medicate. When she told me that, I was like, “Sign us up.”
  At almost the same time, I concluded I needed to speak with my doctor about depression meds. So, I did.
  My son’s meds started working on day one. It was super cray-cray to see how much they affected him- for the better. He was focused. He was sitting still. He could think something through from beginning to end. He didn’t talk back as much. And there were many more behaviors that changed for the better.
  My meds, however, took a little longer. In fact, my doc said, “You may notice you get worse before you get better.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “I don’t think I can get any worse.”
  She was right- I got worse. But then, within five weeks, I began noticing I was better. The way I feel now is incredible. I’m like, “Do you normal people feel this way all the time? Whaaaaat?? Seriously?? You don’t feel hopeless all day every day? Crazy!” So, yeah, my meds have made a tremendous difference in my depression- for the better.
  Side note- Always follow your doctor’s advice on medication. And don’t try to self-medicate. That’s called addiction and that’s bad for you.

4) Tell people.
  So, my husband and I were so hush-hush about anything that was wrong in our lives that when we, after fifteen years of marriage, finally got brave (or were so broken, depending on how you look at it) and told our family what all had been happening, they were shocked. Very, very shocked.
  Side note- Since we don’t tell everyone and their dog about all our dirty laundry, I’m not going to air it out here but, just know, there was a lot of ugly stuff happening. (If you want to know more, come to Celebrate Recovery at our church on Monday nights and you’ll eventually find out.)
Celebrate Recovery
  When we began talking about it and telling people, we discovered that, hey, we were pretty good actors. Which makes us sound really fake and I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck was going on. Just know that our children were and are totally safe– you do not have to worry about them. In fact, I think our talking about it has made our children even safer. 
  The day we drove all over Oklahoma confessing to our families, we confessed to our children, too. They were a little confused because the topics were grown-up topics and we had to water them down for our children to begin to comprehend them. But we were open and honest then- and we still are. Addiction and other topics are now part of our everyday conversations with our kids. Which, I hope, will fertilize the soil of keeping the conversation lines open between us and our children so that, when they’re struggling with things, they will come to talk to us about them and not hide them from their families like we hid from ours.
  I know I’ve mentioned Celebrate Recovery before, but I must say something about it again. It has been instrumental in both of our recoveries. God put it in front of us at exactlythe right time (to the day and hour, no less). Through CR, we have found healing in God. Which brings me to my next point.

5) Hide behind God.
  So, maybe that sounds weird, but bear with me.
  My husband and I (and a lot of other Christians) used to think that, to keep away from sin, we had to run away from it. However, in CR we have learned that, if that’s all we’re doing, then sin is going to catch us. Every. Single. Time. What we should be doing is running to God, hiding behind Him, allowing Him to fight our battle for us. He’s stronger than our sin. He’s stronger than Satan. He’s stronger than all the sin and Satan and all his demons combined and, well, everything else, too. God is stronger. Let Him fight for you.
  Depression is the same way. I used to think I had to fight it on my own. And I always lost. Of course, there were reprieves when I thought I had conquered, only to wake up one day depressed and hopeless again. It was an oppressive cycle.
  Then, I learned about what God could do for me. Of course, I already knew God, but I didn’t know that there was this particular line in His job description that goes, “I will go before you and will level the mountains. I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” Yep. God is pretty much a badass. (I don’t normally cuss, but God is so awesome, I couldn’t help it. Ironic, huh?)
  If He can do that, then why are we trying to fight that battle on our own? Hide behind God. It’s in His job description to destroy everything that trips us up and holds us captive.
  Now, there are probably many other things I should’ve done. Like not skipped my classes. Not shopped to soothe my depression. Not ate so many Sonic blasts. But I didn’t know then what I know now.
  But now you know. And if you struggle with depression- or anything- I hope you have found courage from this post to move you to do some of the things that will help you gain the freedom you so desperately want to find.

It can be done. Healing is possible. You don’t have to live in hopelessness.

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