My Story of Depression and Faith

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You're a fake, a phony, a liar. You call yourself a Christian. You're an imposter, a poser, a worthless human being...a terrible person. You have hate in your heart. You have no friends. 

And the tape kept playing. For five months the tape played over and over again in my head. Surely my husband could hear it. Even if he couldn’t hear it he surely knew all these things about me.

Who do you think you are? You‘re going to speak at a women’s retreat about the Greatest Commandments? You, who love no one? Imposter, fake, liar. You think you know everything. You know nothing. You have fooled people in the past but you aren’t going to get away with it this time.  hey are going to see you for what you truly are...a fake, a phony, a liar. 

Let me start at the beginning. 

In June 2017 I talked to my doctor about coming off an anti-depressant I had been on for 10 years. I was in a better place, I told her. I was retired, under less stress, things were going smoothly and I no longer felt I needed the medication to cope. She agreed and together we worked out a plan to gradually reduce the medication over a period of time. By July I was completely off the medication and I was feeling great. By September a series of events, life altering events, seem to hit all at once. Little by little the tape in my head began to play reminding me of my inadequacies. I became outwardly emotional, crying at the slightest provocation. I was angry and argued with anyone who wanted, or didn’t want, a fight. I had no patience. I pushed away those closest to me because I didn’t want or need anyone. After all, I was unlovable. 

Prior to all this drama, I was asked to speak at our annual women’s retreat on the Greatest Commandments. You know, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. As I read and dug deeper into the scripture it was if it pierced my heart. Who do you love; really love? 

The answer was no one other than your family. You have no friends, no one cares about you. If you wanted to run away where would you go? You have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. You’re going to stand up there and talk about the love of God and the love for neighbors when you only love yourself?

I slept a lot. I played Candy Crush a lot. I ignored phone calls and emails. I couldn’t force myself to be in contact with anyone. They knew who I was, a fake, a phony, a liar. I tried to keep up appearances. I had a part-time job as a receptionist at my church. I had to go to work but there I felt like everyone could see through me so I kept my head down and my mouth shut, trying to act “normal.” I knew I had other responsibilities, which continued to gnaw at me, but I was paralyzed to do anything. In October I skipped my birthday.

Throughout this dark period I prayed that God would take away the pain that I was feeling. I prayed, on some days, that I would just lie down and not wake up again. I vowed to be a better neighbor. I promised that I would try to connect with other women intentionally. 

By November I realized, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that I needed to go back on my medication. I called the doctor’s office and while I only asked for a half-dosage of the medication she prescribed the full dosage. I told myself I only needed half so I proceeded to cut each pill in half. I didn’t want to become “dependent” on medication to make me feel better. So I took the half-dosage for six weeks or more. The tapes kept playing. No real noticeable improvement. I am a fake, a phony, a liar. Is this life really worth living? 

In November I slogged through Thanksgiving with little to be thankful for. The Christmas season was tough. I had no energy or desire to shop for gifts. I recall one night when my husband came home and tried to give me a monetary gift from an elderly friend. I started to cry and refused to take it. I wasn’t worthy to receive a gift that I knew was a significant sacrifice from her. You are worthless, a fake, a phony.  I let Christmas cards sit unopened. There was no joy in my heart. 

Then the Holy Spirit nudged me again. I needed to take the full dosage prescribed by my doctor. Slowly, almost unperceptively, I started to feel better. The tapes were not playing as loudly as they once were and not as frequently. After church one Sunday in late January I said to my husband, I feel as if my head is breaking through the surface of the water. I felt as if I had been drowning and now I could start to breathe again. Little by little the tapes stopped. My sense of humor returned and I was able to laugh again. I think it was about this time that I finally had the courage to open the Christmas cards that were sitting on the coffee table unopened.

While at work in the church office a "friend" came in to volunteer. I use the word "friend" because while I had known her for decades, we had only a superficial relationship.  She was in the midst of a divorce and I suggested perhaps she could use a Stephen Minister. Her reaction surprised me. She said she was offended. All she wanted was a friend, not someone who was assigned to her, who would be required to spend time with her. She told me that she was in the audience when I gave the eulogy at a friend's celebration of life. 

"Sharon," she said, "I wanted to come up to you then and ask you to be my friend." Here was an answer to prayer. A woman, as lonely as I was, who desired a meaningful relationship. We decided on that very day to be intentional about our friendship. We continue to meet several times a month for lunch and offer support to each other. We are learning that we have so much in common. 

It is now the middle of May and, with the help of God and medication, I am starting to feel like my old self again. I am motivated to take on those responsibilities I have ignored in the past. The Lord has answered my prayers. I am developing friendships. There are still days that I struggle but overall life is good and God is great! 

The ironic thing about this whole story is that I should have known better. As a counselor who worked with emotionally disabled children in the public schools for over twenty years, I saw this pattern many times. Students were prescribed medication, feel better and go off the medication, only to have to return to taking it again. Mental illness is a life-long disease. I thank God for the doctors and scientists who study the brain and develop medication for those of us who deal with mental illnesses. I don’t ever want to experience again the depths of despair I lived with for those five months. 

UPDATE: I spoke at that retreat in April and shared “my story.” I was unprepared for the response I received. Women thanked me for my transparency, hugged me, and they began to share what they had been through. A number of the women told me that they, too, were on medication for anxiety and/or depression. It was frightening to be that open but it started a dialogue that I hope won’t end. We need not be ashamed of our mental illnesses. We do need to fight for better education and understanding and I hope to do just that.

Sharon McQueary

Regional Disability Advocate of SW Classis

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Community Builder

Thank you for sharing your story of depression, Sharon, and for capturing in words what your experience was like during those months. The description of the negative tapes playing over and over is helpful for me in understanding your experience, as is the image of breaking through the surface of the water.

I also am touched by your vulnerability in sharing a difficult and painful period in your life and how you're opening yourself up to others. As one who understands the stigma of mental illness, you are to be commended for your work in normalizing what many understandably are reluctant to share.

Admin

You've done something important and powerful in sharing your story, and in sharing it so well. Thank you, thank you!

Community Builder

I, too, wish to express appreciation for you sharing your story. I pray it encourages others and empowers more people to seek help via medical professionals, friends, prayer, and whatever other avenues God opens up.

Community Builder

This reminds me of psychotic depression. That was my primary diagnosis as well although I was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Those voices in your head saying mean things to you, I heard them too, and for years I would have the delusion that I should go off my meds because I was not taking an anti-psychotic (for ten years). And when the doctor who diagnosed me with schizophrenia did prescribe an anti-psychotic it was HALDOL, which was totally ineffective in controlling my psychotic symptoms. Then  my mom suggested I move back to Montreal, which happened in June 1999, and I took steps to see a. real psychiatrist. That happened in the early fall, and I had another psychotic episode after that, and when I told my psychiatrist she said she could not increase my dosage of Haldol without the risk of its awful side effects beginning to kick in, so she switched me to another one.  

Since then I was switched to Seroquel, which is an atypical antipsychotic and my voices are reduced to the sound level of a white noise--basically what an electric fan makes when it is on--so I can't hear anything distinct, but they still bug me when I'm upset.  In the meantime I've learned that the reason I feel good is that i take my meds. Depression used to be called the common cold of mental illnesses and expected to last about one year.  Now it's a chronic illness, and you probably have to take those meds until the day you die, but hey, if you feel better with them than without, what's wrong with that? Who wants to go through hell when you can feel better by taking a few pills? Psychiatric medication does not really cause a dependence like street drugs or pain meds would because once you've reached the point where your symptoms are controlled, you won't keep on increasing the dose to get the same results, so the argument against becoming dependent doesn't apply.

Community Builder

"Who would have thought that I would be hit with depression? But the devil doesn't discriminate. This is my first-hand account of those dark months and the light that was at the end of the tunnel."  

The devil doesn't discriminate.  Are you sure?  What if he purposefully used depression--or other mental illnesses for that matter--  to afflict Christians knowing that many Christians still believe that those illnesses are moral issues? Or if not as moral failures, then as lack of faith?  

 For those who believe in the "Prosperity Gospel" if you're sick it's because you either don't pray hard enough or your faith is inadequate.  The devil knows that Christians' attitudes and assumptions can be a burden to other believers, and since he hates us I wouldn't put it beyond him to make a point of choosing Christians as targets for his arrows.

Thank you for sharing your story. It is hard to be open about depression, as I can attest. I am so glad you got the help you needed. I can relate that the Holy Spirit does indeed express our thoughts when we cannot. Before reading the article I was wondering about your statement that the devil doesn't discriminate. That makes me wonder about your theory of mental illness. Yes, we have mental illness in the world and physical illness, because there is sin in the world. I don't believe those that are ill are targeted necessarily. I wish you had clarified that a little more. However, thank you again for being vulnerable to us

Community Builder

Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your experiences with depression and medication. Your experience mirrors my own. I took myself off medication several years ago, thinking that I was in a better place than when it was first prescribed. In fact, I was in a better place. As I re-entered the paralysis of my depression, I discovered that the presence of depression does not depend on whether or not I am in positive or negative life circumstances. I resumed taking the medication. I am now retired as well, but I have resisted the temptation to discontinue the med again. I know what the result would be.

In my own journey I have discovered that my use of medication does not lead to dependency. On the contrary, the medication enables God to use the gifts and talents that God has given me. That only occurs because I am freed from the yoke of depression to recognize that God has given me those gifts. They are good gifts that help to build God's Kingdom where I am. The voices of depression had caused me to, not just question, but deny the reality of those gifts. As a result, I am better able to hear God's "still, small voice."  The voices of depression have not disappeared, they are just silent. Praise God!

(I also take medication to help keep my heart functioning in a healthy manner. So what's the difference?) 

Blessings to you in your journey.  David

 

   

Community Builder

 I agree with you, David, that medications taken for depression or other mental illnesses do not cause dependence.  We take them because we NEED them, not to get a buzz, and if we need to increase the dosage it is because our symptoms are not fully controlled yet.  When they are we won't need to increase the dosage anymore.  I might add that for women sometimes the dosage is too high because those meds are primarily tested on men, who because they cannot get pregnant are considered by pharmaceuticals to be safer to test meds on even though they need stronger doses than women.  Some years ago my new psychiatrist at the time had prescribed 900 mg of the anti-psychotic I take every day, but I found that I do just as well with fewer side effects on 600mg.  especially less drowsiness during the day.  So if your meds make you feel drowsy during the day, talk to your doctor.  The sedatives in psychiatric medications are added because insomnia is a frequent symptom of mental illnesses, and one of the first things depressed people need is to catch up on their sleep.

Community Builder

Thank you for sharing your story of depression with us.  It takes much courage and trust to go public.  I shared my story back in 2013 in my self published book  "This Poison called Depression".  You can obtain my story simply by requesting it of me.  It is free.

Larry 

Community Builder

Thanks, Larry. The "courage and trust to go public" comes back manifold in the greater freedom that results when who we really are need not be kept hidden. The numerous responses to Sharon's post all help her and the rest of us to live our lives as we really are, not as who we want people to think we are. Untreated depression is an emotional prison. But my reaction / response to my depression can be a way out of that prison...or it can be like throwing away the key. This dialogue makes it more likely that the former will happen. Each of us has the power to make that choice. 

Community Builder

Thanks, Larry. The "courage and trust to go public" comes back manifold in the greater freedom that results when who we really are need not be kept hidden. The numerous responses to Sharon's post all help her and the rest of us to live our lives as we really are, not as who we want people to think we are. Untreated depression is an emotional prison. But my reaction / response to my depression can be a way out of that prison...or it can be like throwing away the key. This dialogue makes it more likely that the former will happen. Each of us has the power to make that choice.