When you’re seriously struggling with something, there are two versions of “Me too” that will often come your way. There is the “me too” that generally means that instead of actually listening to you and empathizing, that person has been waiting for the moment to jump in and tell their own story; or there is the “me too” that comes from genuine companionship and a willingness to let you know you’re not alone.
I want to offer you the second version. I want you to know that you are not alone on this journey to health and freedom, and that I care. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going when I’m struggling with depression or anxiety is knowing that I am not alone. I’m not crazy. Other people deal with this too, and I can find community if I just reach out.
Although, the catch-22 is that it’s often the time I am least likely to reach out and look for community. So, if that’s you, then I’m glad you are at least looking online for people walking this road with you and it’s for you that I offer these two simple words: me too.
The Canadian Days
My struggle began when I was 23 and freshly married. Not only was I freshly married, but I had traded my southern Winter shorts-with-a-sweatshirt weather for below freezing Canadian winters. About six months after our move to Winnipeg, Manitoba I started having bouts of crying for no apparent reason, repeated upset stomach, feeling hopeless, and avoiding people.
My poor husband. He married one girl, and then ended up in Canada with another. Or, I assume that’s probably what it felt like.
Years of ups and downs later, we moved from Winnipeg to Calgary, Alberta where we attended seminary together and I slowly went from bad to worse. After several years of trying to get pregnant I miscarried and then learned that I would not be able to have children. To say I hit rock bottom would be putting it lightly.
And, of course, I thought that my inability to deal with these issues on my own meant that I was weak. In my mind I was weak mentally, and I was especially weak spiritually. I felt that if my relationship with God were strong enough I would be able to pull out of this fog that surrounded me on a daily basis.
My husband was in a mentor group in seminary led by Richard Blackaby. After many months of sharing with his group about the things that I was going through, Richard pulled him aside and told him to take me to the doctor.
Something about having a Godly man who I greatly respect tell me that it was alright to seek medical help had me let down my walls. I have since told him that God used him to change my life and set me free.
After going to the doctor, receiving a diagnosis and finding the right medication, I got my life back and honestly, that depth of depression hasn’t visited me since. My issues morphed into a beast of another name: Panic Disorder.
The Louisiana Days
We moved home to Louisiana in the Summer of 2006 and I began to have strange episodes that made me think I was having heart attacks repeatedly. I would suddenly get dizzy, shaky, nauseous, my heart would beat fast and hard, and my chest would hurt. When it was over it felt like I had run a marathon and I would be wiped out for days.
After multiple trips to the ER, several different types of doctor, and some very strange tests, we had a diagnosis of panic disorder. This differs from anxiety related panic attacks in that I have panic attacks for no apparent reason. Anxiety does exacerbate the problem, but mostly my panic attacks come with no warning.
I dealt with this for about two years without medicine using breathing techniques and lifestyle changes, and this worked very well for me. I didn’t want to medicate myself every day for something that only happened every few weeks or so.
The Arkansas Days
And then one day, in the middle of unpacking from a move, it came and never went away. Literally. I ended up in bed for months, barely able to leave my house for fear of not being able to function. My parents came to stay and help with the kids because I couldn’t care for my family. I knew something had to change. This is when my Godly friend/Doctor said “now can we try it my way?” and again I let down my walls. Two weeks of medication gave me my life back and I thank God for that every single day.
I truly feel like God used medication to show me that I have an illness, not a weakness.
The Texas Days
I’ve been taking medication for four years now and PRAISE THE LORD it’s almost completely under control. It’s not totally gone and I assume it never will be. And here’s the strange thing: I’m glad.
Not that I enjoy having mental issues or feeling out of control, but because there is nothing in my life that has drawn me closer to the Lord than having this struggle. There are things about God and about myself that I would have never learned outside of this, and I wouldn’t change it. I have to lean on him constantly just to live life and it’s a constant reminder of His strength in me.
Also because I feel like God has given me a special place of ministry through these unique struggles. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 the Bible reads “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” and I have found this to be true over and over again. God has placed so many people in my path that I have been able to encourage with a message of hope and restoration through Him.
I feel like I am drawn to people with like struggles. Many times I will have already developed a friendship with someone before the walls come down and these things are shared, and I’m never surprised. It’s the way God works. I believe that’s the Holy Spirit drawing us together and giving us the community we need to walk this road.
So as you walk this road, or are walking this road with a loved one, let me be the first to say: