That’s how I felt for a long, long time.
Completely shattered, with little hope of being put back together.
Depression is a black, seething darkness that grows and seeps into your soul until you don’t even recognize yourself.
It is a dark journey.
But there is a way out…..
I have been a Christian since I first received Christ as my Savior about thirty years ago.
I have been a Christ-Follower since I first recognized Christ as my Lord about five years ago.
That may sound strange, separating the two. But the reality is for a long time I said I was a Christian but lived like I was an atheist. I believed there was a God, but I lived like He didn’t exist. I had the reassurance that I wasn’t going to Hell for eternity, but I was living in what felt like Hell now.
The problem wasn’t my circumstances. The problem was my expectations.
I expected Jesus to save me from Hell; I didn’t expect Him to save me from myself.
I expected a blessing to look like a blessing; I didn’t expect a blessing to feel like a burden.
I expected to need Him in the hard times; I didn’t expect to need Him in the everyday, mundane.
What I didn’t understand then but see so clearly now is that while Jesus came to save the lost, He also came to lead the redeemed. He is the Good Shepherd. And the sheep don’t just need the shepherd when they are lambs. They need the shepherd every day of their entire life, in every moment and every circumstance.
Jesus came to redeem us once but He comes to rescue us daily.
I wish I had understood His saving grace earlier. I wish I had lived under His perfect peace sooner. But I had some growing to do. And it took walking through a deep dark valley of shadows for me to admit two things….
I am not ok; everything is not fine.
I need you, Jesus, everyday, in everything.
I was broken. And it took shattering my expectations to put me back together.
It’s not easy for me to tell this story.
It’s not easy for me to admit imperfection.
But sometimes the best thing we can do is be open and honest about our struggles.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is break.
And I was so broken, for so long…..
That is how I felt the first seven years of being a wife and a mom.
To be honest, my situation really wasn’t that bad.
Huntsman had a job that provided a house and food. We lived close to family for support. We weren’t wealthy but we still took the occasional vacation and my kids were involved in a few extracurricular activities.
I had no reason to feel suffocated by my life, but I did.
I felt like I was stranded in a deep sea, crying out for help. Boats of people, family and friends, would sail by, see me, and do nothing. I felt abandoned. I felt lost. And I was tired of fighting.
Physically, on the outside, I was fine.
But inside, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, I was sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness that was growing in my heart, and I saw little hope of ever coming up again.
It was a very black season.
My slide into anger didn’t happen with one child. My fall into depression was more of a trip here, a stumble there. It happened over many years, with many children, and through many seasons. For a long time, I was able to hide it really well. I could smile and laugh and act like everything was normal, even perfect. But on the inside, I was seething. I have never been an angry person. But anger settled and took root in my soul. And the longer I pretended, the deeper my resentment grew. Until I resented my husband, my kids, and my past self.
But I ignored the signs and the symptoms and just chalked it up to sleepless nights and busy days.
I could have done something about it. I should have. But I didn’t. And one day I just….snapped.
It was lunchtime.
We were going to have pizza. I remember getting out all the ingredients and feeling exhausted by it. The kids were excited because I was letting them make it themselves. They thought it was because I thought they were “big now”.
Reality- I was tired, and I was done.
We had spent the morning trying to school. I say trying because schooling was next to impossible with a recently turned three years old, a bouncy one years old and a needy newborn. The kids were distracted. I was frustrated. And the day had barely even started.
I set up the kids in the kitchen then went into the living room to try and do something that resembled cleaning. Every toy we owned was scattered in mountains all over the floor. There was a makeshift tent on the couch. And spilled cereal and raisins were squished into the loveseat. With a sigh I got to work picking up the mess that I knew would be pulled out, dumped out, and strewn out as soon as I put away the last toy in my hand. It was, and still is, a never-ending battle that I insist on fighting, for some reason.
I was just about done clearing the mess from the toddler tornadoes, when I looked up just in time to see Mister Twister grab a large cup of water off the table. I felt the anger inside start to bubble. I had just finished getting on to the older kids no more than five minutes before about leaving their cups on the table where the littles could reach them.
He eyeballed me and I immediately knew what he was thinking.
I think I screamed his name. I know I screamed, “NO!”
Mister Twister gave me one last glance then dumped the entire cup on the floor.
It was only a cup of water. But on that afternoon, after that morning, after those many months, years, it might as well have been an ocean that poured from that cup.
My chest immediately tightened. A fog swelled in my head. And I lost all control over my actions and reactions.
I’m pretty sure I leaped over the couch into the dining room. I couldn’t get to him fast enough. In a rage, I grabbed Mister Twister by the arm, and half carried, half dragged him to time out. I not so gently put him in the chair then turned to the puddle spreading under the dining room table.
I know words were spewing from my mouth. Hateful, venomous words. Words meant to cut. And with each vile word, my anger grew and the darkness seeped further into my chest. Years of frustration. Years of resentment. Years of saying “I’m fine” when I wasn’t. Years of tears, and scars, and broken dreams all came rushing to the surface, until I could no longer contain them and they came exploding out of me with one violent act.
I grabbed the empty cup, still screaming and yelling. And before I could stop myself, before I even knew what I was doing, I threw the cup as hard and as far as I could.
I didn’t care what it hit. I didn’t care if it broke.
My heart was exploding in me and the pressure that had been building, for years, had to get out.
The cup hit the stove in the kitchen then bounced onto the floor.
Everything else went silent.
No crying. No yelling. No screaming.
Except for the bounce, bounce, bounce of the cup.
And with each bounce, dark thoughts echoed over and over and over again in my mind.
And that is when I shattered.
I don’t know what brought me back to reality but I broke through the fog enough to find my kids staring at me, looks of shock and fear spread across their faces. Somehow I found the sense to pick up Baby Bee from her rocker, give her to Bunhead, and mutter something about turning off the oven when the pizza was done.
Then I ran.
To my closet and from my shame.
I had lost control.
I had finally let the darkness win.
And there in my closet, with tears streaming down my face I finally admitted to God and myself that I was not ok, that I was drowning in a deep darkness, and that I had been pretending for far too long that it wasn’t happening.
I begged Him for help. I begged Him for peace. I begged Him to just take away the pain that was tearing my heart a part. But I knew deep down inside that this was going to be a long journey out; it had to be. It had been a long journey in.
I stayed in my closet for hours, begging, crying, praying, and pleading.
I remember laying there in complete darkness, feeling at first cold and empty. I curled into a fetal position and cried out to my Good Shepherd.
“Father, Jesus, Lord, please hold me. I can’t do this anymore.”
I felt a warmth over me and in my head I saw a bright light ahead of me, a warm breeze behind me and a strong hand next to me resting on my shoulder.
And I knew in that moment that I was in the presence of El Roi, the God who sees all, even me in my broken, messed up state.
I entered that closet shamed and shattered. I emerged beautifully broken.
I can’t say that I felt better when I told my husband later that night that I needed help. I can’t say I felt peace when two days later I was diagnosed with post partum depression, then later anxiety and depression. I can’t say I felt real hope when nothing seemed to change.
But I can say for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel alone.
SomeONE else was walking through the valley of shadows with me. SomeONE else was carrying my burdens, my bruises, and my brokenness. SomeONE else was going before me, fighting for me.
Because I couldn’t do it anymore.
But I now knew, and was trusting, the ONE who could.
I was on anxiety and depression meds for two years. I didn’t want to be. And I prayed every day that God would heal my heart and my head so that I didn’t need them anymore. But whenever I tried to get off them, I sank. Sometimes I lost hope, sometimes I lost faith. But I leaned into the truth spoken in Philippians 1:6 for strength.
“I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I repeated this verse, along with Ephesians 1:15-23, for over a year. I prayed these verses. I tried to live these verses. And yet, I still couldn’t get out of the darkness without the medication.
Little by little, day by day by day, my faith grew. I learned to lean. I learned to fall. And I learned that living broken at the feet of Jesus is the only way to live.
The storms in my heart still roared and tried to swallow me. But through the raging sea, Jesus was my anchor. The more I clung to Him, the closer to the shore I moved. Until one day, I was no longer drowning.
It was a Saturday this past April. I was trying to prepare for a ladies’ dinner I was hosting that night. I had to clean, cook, parent, and get kids from one activity to another activity. Charles was working so everything was falling on my shoulders. At one point, I felt the waves start rolling over my soul. I felt the all too familiar tightening in my chest start to grip. And realized that I had forgotten to take my medicine that morning.
“Please don’t let the darkness come, please don’t let the darkness come,” I quickly prayed. I had stayed it for so long, I didn’t want to feel it again.
I will never forget the next moment…..
I was walking into the living room when I thought, I should go take my crazy pills, as I called them.
Suddenly I heard as clearly as a friend speaking to me, a voice sternly say, “NO.”
I immediately stopped walking and looked around.
I was alone in the living room. And yet somehow the voice was loud and clear. It was forceful. It was powerful. It was demanding. And I knew it wasn’t speaking to me.
I felt the darkness that had been building all day, suddenly flee. Literally. No tightness. No blackness. No anger. No fear. Nothing but pure peace. I felt lighter than I had felt since my first daughter was born twelve years ago.
Then once again the voice spoke, this time to me, soft and still, “You don’t need them anymore.”
And it was then, right there, in my living room, in my everyday mundane, that I knew the darkness was gone forever.
My drowning was over.
I had reached the shore.
God always makes a way. We call them miracles. Blessings.
But sometimes the blessing first comes as a burden.
Sometimes the blessing is the storm.
It wasn’t until I reached the end of myself, that I was finally able to admit, and to accept, that not only can I not do the hard times on my own, but I can’t even do the every day on my own. And I finally saw what I had missed for so long. I knew the Truth, but I lost sight of Him because I couldn’t see past my pain. I took my eyes off my Savior and instead put my focus on my circumstances. I had to go through the valley to find the Good Shepherd.
I had to break before He could heal me.
Psalm 23 is one of the most well known, most well versed passages in scripture. But have you ever really let the words roll over your circumstances, through your soul, and into your deepest fears and darkest shadows?
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.
He refreshes and restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff they comfort and console me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever in the house and presence of the Lord.”
Life is hard.
Life is stormy.
Life is messy.
And we mamas and wives and women are so good at pretending it’s not.
We convince ourselves and our family and friends that everything is fine, life’s good, and we’re ok.
But on the inside we are dying, drowning, and shattering.
We’re breaking, and we can’t, or don’t, want to admit it.
We want peace. We want joy. We want to feel whole, complete. We want to be put back together.
But the irony is that to be put back together, to find peace, we have to break first.
We have to break, but we don’t have to stay broken.
We have to walk through storms, through valleys, but we don’t have to walk alone.
We have to shatter, but we don’t have to glue ourselves back together.
That is not our burden to bear.
The Good Shepherd says come to me and I will give you rest.
Since I started living in His Grace, my life is completely different. I walk with a new purpose, a new hope, and a new peace. I still struggle, daily. I still sin. I still fall. I still have doubts. I still get angry in the fleeting moments of fleshly pride. But I don’t dwell on my mistakes like I used to and I see Grace and Mercy working in my life, every day and in all things….
I don’t know who needs this word of encouragement, but I am certain that many moms, wives, women walk in the same darkness that I felt myself in. The enemy is out to capture our souls, to make our lives a living hell. But there is ONE whose kingdom is here now, and the message of the gospel is that you don’t have to just be saved by Grace. You can live in His Grace now.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together will all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide, and long, and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all understanding-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
(Ephesians 3: 17-19)
You are not alone, sisters.
Cry out to El Roi, the God who sees even you.
((If you are suffering from post partum depression, depression, or anxiety, please talk to someone. There is no shame in being broken before someone else. We are all broken. Healing begins when we admit we are not ok. Call a friend, a family member, or doctor. And pray! The God who sees will be faithful to walk with you through every valley, every storm, and every burden until it becomes a blessing.))