I have dealt with anxiety on and off since childhood, but in the last two years it has become a constant, unwelcome companion, escalating to full-blown panic attacks in recent months. Depression joined the mix this spring as I found myself struggling to leave my bedroom each morning, knowing that chaos waited on the other side.
I wrestled for a long time with deciding whether or not to see a doctor about medication. Was it postpartum driven? My main source of stress is the kids—could taking a pill change anything about that? Could a chemical really improve an unchanging situation?
While we were in North Carolina, I didn’t have a regular doctor with whom I felt comfortable admitting my struggles. Now that we are back in Waco, I’m back under the care of my doctor we started seeing when I was four. He is hands-down the best doctor I’ve ever met, and his Christian faith is infused in every diagnosis he makes and treatment he offers.
As we reached a critical point in May with a runaway incident, a week of no sleep, and a psychiatric hospitalization, I was pretty much out of options for surviving without at least trying medication. Making the appointment was the hardest part, when I had to answer, “what do you need to come in for?” with an embarrassed whispered, “depression and anxiety.”
In admitting my struggles to my doctor, I found utmost compassion combined with science that put me at ease. When I asked him how I could possibly feel better when the kids were the same, he told me that in the chronically stressful environment in which my brain had been trying to function, there truly was a biological process that caused my serotonin levels to be out of balance.
I started an anti-depressant with a fast-acting anti-anxiety drug as additional support during panic attacks. Y’all, I can hardly describe how different I feel. I truly feel like I can breathe more easily. The kids are as crazy as ever, but I find myself laughing off so much more and not falling into a pit of despair on a near-daily basis. I found that joy is something I can truly experience, not just something I have to constantly fight for while feeling like crap.
I have a panic attack every few weeks, but I’m getting better at telling PJ that I’m struggling instead of pretending that everything’s fine. He is so supportive when I need the extra medication help, which causes me to be knocked out for the next 10-12 hours.
On my medication, I feel better than I have ever felt, even before the kids came along. This makes me think that I probably could have benefitted from an anti-depressant a long time ago. Live and learn.
Like so many Christians, I tried to pray and work my way out of depression. Surely, if I could get close enough to God, I would be joyful. While participating in spiritual disciplines such as prayer and scripture study are so important, depression that results from a biological deficiency needs a biological response. I truly see medication as a gift from the Lord, as it allows me to rest in Him and pursue Him in the spiritual disciplines rather than panic about starting each day.
So I’m going to add my voice to the growing number of believers and say this: If you are struggling with mental health issues, seek medical help. Yes, pray. Yes, seek the Lord. Yes, seek Christian counseling if appropriate. But release the shame and guilt so many of us walk around with and find out whether you need medical intervention. You may need medication, and you may not—that’s between you and your doctor. But dear one, you are not a failure for having less than perfect mental health.
While I would love to not struggle with depression and anxiety, I am so thankful to have an intervention that is unbelievably helpful.