Suffer the Silent, No More

Many, many years ago, I lived just south of the San Francisco Bay area. Occasionally that meant that the heavy fog that San Francisco is so famous for, drifted down towards my neck of the woods. While San Franciscans easily navigate their way through the heavy marine layer, for a girl who hails from the Phoenix desert, I was anything but comfortable with the foggy conditions.

Battling depression, panic and anxiety attacks or other mental illnesses, oftentimes feel like a life lived shrouded under a heavy fog. At least, that’s the way depression frequently felt for me until I finally received treatment for my chronic battle.

As a young girl, I was regularly plagued with anxiety and an oppressive darkness that somehow always loomed over me. Back in those days, depression wasn’t really given a name, but those of us who silently suffered were labeled as moody, sullen or emotional. I attributed my darkness to my parents’ divorce and the rejection I felt when my dad remarried and started a new family. I never dreamed that depression was a genetic disease that many of my family members suffered with as well.

With age and an ever-changing kaleidoscope of life changes, my panic attacks steadily increased in severity and regularity. Depression descended like a giant joy-sucking black hole of despair and stayed with me much like an unwanted relative who didn’t know when they’d overstayed their welcome. I was frequently overwhelmed with thoughts so dark and deep, they terrified me.

One day not long ago, I was seized by the strongest, most powerful anxiety attack I’ve ever experienced. This attack caused intense heart palpitations and an inability to breathe. A woman my age can’t afford to be too careful and I mistook the symptoms for a heart attack that sent me to the ER. This incident literally scared me into finally – at long last – getting the help I truly needed for my depression and anxiety attacks.

More than 300 million people suffer from depression. I can’t speak for any of these other sufferers, but I was embarrassed and ashamed of the recurring depression and anxiety episodes. I foolishly believed that as a Christian I should be able to pray away the darkness or wish away the sadness. I honestly thought the depression I lived with was something that would eventually pass on its own – like a cold or a stomach bug. I naively resisted the urge to give my problem a name because there’s a certain stigma that comes with those two damning words regarding depression: mental illness.

Thankfully because of widespread media coverage on mental illness, it’s becoming more acceptable to talk openly about depression and anxiety. It’s becoming more commonplace to admit when we are struggling and to get the treatment we need rather than silently suffering.

It’s easy to tell someone to “just suck it up and get over it” when depression attacks us. But if you’ve never had to crawl your way out of a pit of despair, talk is cheap and really of no help to someone who can’t breathe their through a paralyzing anxiety attack.

If it were simply as easy as changing our thoughts or willing ourselves out of depression – then no one would ever need suffer. No one wants to depressed. Finding the right health care provider and right treatment – be it medication or therapy, is key to learning to combat this illness. That and for me, having faith in Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I believe that even in this, God can use my pain and suffering to help others.

I’m slowly finding my way out of the darkness; the light is making a comeback. As Christians, there is no shame in admitting we have a health problem. There is nothing wrong with believing that God can heal us instantly and supernaturally. But we shouldn’t feel guilty if God chooses to heal us with the help of a competent doctor or properly prescribed medication.

I don’t care how my breakthrough comes … just so long as it comes … and I KNOW it will.

Don’t suffer in silence. Get the help you need. And most importantly … don’t ever let the enemy convince you that you are all alone in your struggles. You are not alone … fix your eyes on God.

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. Psalm 42:5 (NLT) (Message Bible)

Blessings in Christ and as always … Happy Reading!

Kathy K.