Today’s “What It’s Like” post is vulnerable, relate-able and so important. It’s about what it’s like to struggle with depression. A word we hear often but still look away from, a word that needs to have the stigma about it broken. I am so thankful for my friend Ashley Morgan Jackson for sharing her experience with depression today and encourage you to reach out for help and support if this is something you struggle with. Thank you Ashley for sharing.
Here’s what its like to experience depression.
I watched as my husband closed the door to our bedroom for the night, I hated to admit it to myself, but it was the best part of my day. It felt like relief. He would be taking care of our newborn all night and allowing me to sleep. He would then get up and go to work the next day and I would do my best to not feel worthless and care for our baby all day.
The guilt alone could crush anyone. The voices in my head never stopped, “What kind of mother are you? What kind of wife? You are horrible at this! You are such a failure! What a joke! A lot of good all those verses are doing you now!” Like an inner committee of voices sent to mock me relentlessly, but they all sounded just like me.
I had no idea what was wrong with me, why I felt like this. I felt desperately tired, sad, irritable and sometimes, just crazy. I boiled it all down to the fact that I just wasn’t cut out to be a mother, that was certainly what the evidence pointed to. Mothers were tired, they sucked it up and got on with life. Having a baby was hard, why was I being such a whiner! Suck it up, Ashley!
With every portion of strength, I could muster I would gather him up with all his baby belongings and drive myself over to my parents. I wanted to scream, “help me! Take him, hold him! I can’t do this. I’m scared, someone save me!” But instead I would act normal and feel somewhat like a zombie, going through the motions, but inwardly everything was screaming for relief. Instead of asking for help I became bitter and resentful no one would help me, bitter that I couldn’t pull myself up by the bootstraps and get on with it.
What I didn’t realize was that I was in full fledged postpartum depression. I had no tools to recognize it and didn’t seek help until almost 2 years later. What I didn’t know was that yes, motherhood was hard, but what I was experiencing in my body made it impossible. The extremes of my emotions were out of control, I began having anxiety attacks in public, I started believing my family would be better off without me.
Anger presided over my life because all I did was talk in mean and demeaning ways to myself and then lableled them other people’s thoughts. What I wanted was to be saved from this. It felt as though I was drowning but everyone around me simply swam by and waved. The problem was they didn’t know how bad it was, because I was always able to wave back.
Depression isn’t like a broken leg, where everyone can see what it is that causes you the issue. You can move along in life in a perceived as “normal” fashion because birthdays and vacations and holidays are still happening. You feel dead inside, but you have to keep on living. It’s scary and lonely and isolating and as a Christian, I didn’t understand why all my knowledge and Bible verses weren’t working.
I just wanted to get back to what I knew, get back into church, just serve like I always had. I was lost and afraid and I wanted someone to tell me I was OK, I was valuable, I was worth something. That place had always been church for me. But no matter how hard I tried to serve and pour out and connect, it was like wringing a rock. I had nothing to give because I was refusing to receive. I believed to receive I had to earn it and that was now impossible for me.
Years later, as the depression clung to me, and had become my new identity, I sent a text to my family crying out for help. It was dripping with anger, bitterness, pain and self-loathing, I thought it was a cry for help. I sent it to my parents, all my siblings and all their spouses, ten in all, and not one person responded to me. My soul was crushed, my anger and hurt intermingled raged “well maybe they will care at my funeral!”
But as I reeled from that experience God broke through it all and whispered to me in my spirit, “Ash, they can’t save you and I will no longer let them try. I am your Savior from more than just hell. Let me be your Savior from this as well.” From the “good Christian girl” with all the answers, helping those poor people that needed saving, I realized, I was that person. I was the one that desperately needed saving and I did not have any strength, good enough answers or solutions, just my mess, and that was all He wanted.
He taught me that I didn’t have to take this anymore, and the first thing I had to do was take my thoughts captive. If He wouldn’t say it about me, I wasn’t allowed to think it about me. When you become aware of how mean you have been to yourself and how often you think awful thoughts about yourself and others, it’s an uphill climb for sure.
It didn’t become better over night. With His help I learned to fight and clawed my way out of years of lies I lived with. To be honest the struggle had defined me for so long and brought me comfort somehow and to let go of it was to let God redefine me. That felt scary and risky, but He likes to ask, “Do you want to get well?”, and after a lot of fighting, I decided, I did.
Through medication, counseling, and learning to believe truth the Lord brought me out of that season. For me, it was more than just depression and anxiety, it was God’s way of teaching me grace and the power of who He really is. Not a cute churchy version of Him that I kept in a nice orderly box that I defined, but the God who gets down into your muck with you and says, “I love you, let’s get out of here.”
Ashley Morgan Jackson is a wife, mother, and warrior of the Spirit. Her greatest passion is to see women fall more in love with Jesus, His Word and let Him change them until it encompasses every aspect of their lives. When she’s not sharing devotions on Instagram you might find her lifting weights, drinking (another) cup of coffee, having a dance party with her family, or listening to podcasts while she cleans her house.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage and suffer with endometriosis. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!