My Rock Bottom

So I guess I’ll get right to the point. My very worst point. Because isn’t that what you’d really like to know about anyway? I mean, when I’m reading someone’s blog, I’m generally thinking, OK, that’s nice, but what’s the bottom line here. WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE.

my rock bottom

So my bottom (as in rock bottom) was the summer of 2007. It was probably the day my dad (a seasoned Marriage and Family Therapist who’s seen his share of people with issues) asked me very seriously if I was suicidal.

The question alone was enough to take my breath away, but what really frightened me was my answer.

I’ve had my share of anxiety and I’m definitely melancholy, but suicide? That was never even on my radar screen.

I’ve known people who were suicidal and you know, being on the other side of it was totally different. I figured anyone who was suicidal just wanted to die, to be gone, had no reason to live. I suppose that may be the case for some, but not for me.

Actually, I didn’t want to die. To the contrary, I wanted my children to have a mother and my husband a wife. And I wanted to be my children’s mother and my husband’s wife. I wanted to see my children grow up, to grow old with my husband, to enjoy life and to fulfill my life’s purpose.

My thoughts of suicide were not out of want to be gone, but simply out of want for relief.

It’s hard to describe, but emotionally, I felt like I was walking along the top of a sharp mountain ridge with steep cliffs on either side. I was desperately trying to keep moving forward but as time went on, I felt like I was losing control. I was terrified that something was going to push me over the edge…make me snap, cause me to have a nervous breakdown, hurt myself or my kids, I didn’t know what.

depression like walking a cliff

I asked myself on several occasions, Is this what it feels like to lose your mind?

The energy it took to simply put one foot in front of the other and keep going was totally exhausting. I completely lacked motivation and my daily goals were literally reduced to two things: making sure my kids had three meals a day and making sure they were safe in their beds each night. Anything on top of that, like having fun, connecting with my husband, seeing friends or going to the store, was gravy.

I realize there are a lot of people in the world dealing with far worse circumstances than I was. And I think we humans are designed to withstand periods of intense emotional stress. But for me, the thing that made my situation feel so crippling was that it seemed endless, indefinite. I saw no “light at the end of the tunnel.” I couldn’t imagine how things might change. Stuck. Everything seemed immovably stuck.

I now have a new understanding of hopelessness. And as tragic as it sounds even now, it’s the hopelessness that made death seem like a relief.

Keep in mind that the whole time this was happening, I really had no box to put it in. The symptoms of depression showed up about the same time I found out I was pregnant and I had never had depression before.

But I have had challenging first trimesters in every pregnancy so in an effort to make sense of it, I figured I was just having a particularly difficult first trimester. And even though the story sounds relatively coherent now, going through it was a different story. It was nothing but blackness.

And then there was the guilt. I cannot tell you how overwhelming the guilt was. I mean, here I was with SO MUCH compared to most. I had a great husband, 3 healthy children & one on the way, all my needs were met and more.

I’d try to will myself out of it. I just need an attitude adjustment, or I need to be grateful for what I have. So many people would love to have all this, or I’ve been pregnant 3 other times, I can handle it, or For cryin’ out loud, just pull yourself together. Stop whining, or the real doozy, I’m sure God called us to this place so stick it out.

I was plagued with guilt.

And then there was the confusion about what God was doing. To me it seemed like God was showing signs that our time at our church was over. Meanwhile, my husband was sensing the exact opposite. And I’m thinking, What gives God? We both want desperately to do what You want us to do and we’re asking, so how is it that we seem to be getting totally different answers?

And then we’d get opposite messages from people around us. Some would say they thought we should leave; others said they were sure we should stay.

I was desperately confused.

I had moments of anger toward God, but mostly I felt abandoned by Him. I definitely felt abandoned. Surely He saw me in pain. Did He overlook me? This was how I felt, yet it wasn’t what I knew the Bible promised. I knew the Bible said He will never, ever forsake me…but was this an exception? Was He really a good God?

At this point, I even questioned whether or not I still believed the Bible.

In the end, I chose to believe, not because I felt it (CERTAINLY not because I felt it), but because He had proved Himself over and over again before. I had to dig deeper than I’ve ever dug before in order to hold on to the promise that He never lets go and that He IS good, even when things are so undeniably bad.

His goodness is transcendent, even if I can’t see it. So I hung on…and I made it clear to Him that I didn’t know how long I could keep holding on.

Meanwhile, my husband and I were completely missing each other in every way. We argued constantly. We were both dealing with so much stuff (me with my junk and him with the huge responsibility of leading a church that was clearly at a major crossroads). Saying we were on different pages is the understatement of the century.

But then, in the eleventh hour, over the course of 2 days, God broke through as if to say, “Enough! The confusion is over.” It was at that point Brian somehow realized how badly my soul needed help. He immediately resigned from his position…and watched his vision die right before his eyes.

I know it was enormously painful for him. As far as I’m concerned, his sacrifice on my behalf is probably the single most healing part of my recovery to date, and a real life example of Ephesians 5:25 (“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”).

So, we sold our home and many of our possessions, we moved across the country to my parents’ house, Brian found a teaching job, we found a new church home that ministers to our souls, we bought a new home and we’re starting a new chapter.

I suspect we’ll be in full-time ministry again someday, but I’m grateful for this season of rest and reflection. There is a lot to process after an experience like ours and I’m sure we’ll be doing so for years.

But one thing I already know: I hit bottom…and there was my Rock.

Originally published on August 4, 2008.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for writing such a honest post that still gives hope and dignity. I really appreciated how you explained your desire for suicide came out of a need for relief rather than a desire for death. For years I have grappled with putting words to that feeling. God saved me from depression several years ago but I had a hard time explaining that I didn’t want to die I just wanted rest. I’m in the process now of writing out my story hoping that like your post it will touch peoples lives who are searching for a ‘cure’. I’m praying my work will plop them right into God’s hands.

    • says

      I’m so glad my story helped you define it. I struggled for so long to put it into words! I pray your story would also touch many lives.

  2. says

    I can totally relate as I had the same feelings during 2007 until a fateful day in 2008 that I just wanted “relief” or to “sleep” as I called it. To put me out of the misery of living the existence I was trudging through on a daily basis watching my body fade away and with no light at the end of the tunnel either. My actual “attempt” and subsequent healing, feeling the Divine’s hand in my life pulling me up and telling me “you have a purpose here, you “ain’t” going anywhere!” was the nudge I needed to turn my life around, heal and help others. Thank you for sharing and helping. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was about to end, she became a butterly.”

  3. says

    Amy, you are an absolute awesome person and thank you for sharing. I’ve been going through my own issues with depression being a stay at home dad while watching and caring for my now 2 year old. Those first 2 years of babydom are very taxing.

    Anyways, I’ve always admired your work on your blogging site and am inspired to share what I’ve learned over ten years on my hosting website. Thank you so much. :)

  4. says

    Amy, just checking out different ‘how to blog’ type sites and came across yours. Couldn’t help myself and had to check out a good portion of your site and then I saw the title to this post. You are a wonderful example of the type of blogger I hope I can be. It takes a lot of courage to put it out there and be open and honest about life. But the beautiful thing that can happen as I read the many replies to this post, is that you have loosened up the pressure grip we all hold on ourselves as women, wives, and mothers. So many people had words of thanks and that in itself is a testimony of the power in your writing. If you want to know what happens after one has a breakdown, you can read my blog, because basically that’s what I’m blogging about. I like to think of it as a break through, because that is ultimately how it manifested itself. Well it’s late and sleep is VERY important….but thank-you, for being so honest, sharing your creativity, and your how to’s with blogging.

  5. says

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve struggled with depression off and on for many many years, even before I was married. It only got worse after having children. Going from a life of partying every night to a Christian life married to a husband who didn’t drink at all…in the span of three months. It was a shock to my system. Then we had our son, who was born with a cleft lip and palate..and all the surgeries he has gone through. Also, my husband is a paraplegic. After our daughter was born in 2010..october of that year I had a break down and I checked myself into the hospital. I was there for a week. It was nice and relaxing. It taught me a few things. Now almost 2.5 years later I’m still struggling every once in a while. Especially since I have anxiety and ADD…and don’t believe in Rx’s; hating what they do to me is a factor as well. One medication landed me in the ER with stroke like symptoms.
    My husband never really understood what I was/am going through. He’s just neutral, on the side lines. I sent him a link to this post in hopes that he will read it. Maybe something will click in his brain..who knows.
    In the mean time, I keep on keeping on. Hanging on to God..questioning if he is really there.

    • says

      Hi LizAnn,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your struggle. It certainly makes sense why you would be feeling the way you are. I’m glad to hear things are looking brighter and I pray you continue in that direction. Hoping you are graced with the strength to press on and cling to Him!

    • says

      Never give up, there are always alternatives, support and people who “get it.” Though we question God’s hand in all of this, we have to understand that there is always a divine purpose for what we go through, we just have to rest and listen. Be well!

  6. R.Sethuraman says

    Dear Madam
    I came across you write up just now. Unknown to you,may be your steely resolve has come to the fore. Possibly your willingness to face reality might have helped. all said and done you are a good inspiration. I am past 61 and I realized only recently i everything in our lives is generally Quarter Final which we erroneously assume to be Final. We need to laugh a little more at ourselves to beat stress. Otherwise we seem to be stranger in the mirror. We should flush old memories which are burden anyway and live in the present. We are mice in the hands of God and total surrender to Him may result in our betterment.

  7. Anna says

    Amy thank you so much for sharing that. For many of the 26 years of our marriage my husband was both violent and spending us out of house and home and I couldn’t understand why. Basically I know he was a good man but MAN did the drink make him evil, so he took it out on me. I, in turn, changed from my normal happy-go-lucky self and started drinking, not for the taste but because I wanted oblivion. Hard to do when you have a full-time job and 2 kids!!!! So I became an alcoholic, it affected my work and everything else. I have to say my employers were tremendously supportive, but there is a limit. I have/am slowing working my way out of the alcohol but feel tremendous guilt for what my kids went through. Then, in January of 2012 my husband was diagnosed as bi-polar!!!! It went such a long way to explaining much of his behaviour – not excusing the violence of course but …. He had already left me in 2010 for another woman (which was GREAT as I finally got sleep and some peace in the house). We are now divorced and I have complete control over my own finances and my life is my own and I am HAPPY. There is peace at home for my son and I am climbing out of the horrendous desire to obliterate myself. Add to that the menopause …. yuck. But ladies, I would say, speak to your doctors and don’t suffer. I was on anti-depressants for nearly 5 years and finally got myself off them. But you know what, as someone mentioned earlier, I am now going to make exercise a priority in my life as I truly believe fresh air and sunlight probably beats anti-depressants handsdown. While I am not a churchgoer, I truly believe God walked alongside me and held my hand even when I didn’t know it. So to those of you suffering, take courage. It can and will get better.

    • says

      Wow, Anna, what a story! I am so sorry to hear about your experience…but it sounds like you are in a much better place and I’m so glad to hear that. I pray God would continue to give you glimpses of Himself as you journey along. Clearly you are a woman of strength and courage. Many blessings to you! Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. Debbie P. says

    You just wrote my story. Word for word. I experienced those same feelings. Am I depressed or just loosing my mind. Standing in large shopping centers wanting to jump up and down, scream like a mad women while pulling my hair out and ripping my clothes. How I longed to scream ever single nasty word I ever heard but couldn’t because I’m a good girl. For goodness sakes! A missionary! I had 2 prayers. “Father, LEAD ME TO THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I!!!” In that moment I would feel as if something solid was slipped under my feet and although the storm was still raging and my head was just straining above the waves, I was no longer sinking. My 2nd oft used prayer was, “Though you may slay me, yet will I trust you.” I didn’t understand what was happening. I was always the happy, joyful, balanced one but I trusted. We have 3 and the youngest is 3 so I also feel as the children have aged these feelings have slowly disappeared. I also need sunlight and know that winter will be tougher. We also changed churches to be in a place that is more spiritually encouraging to me. What hard, hard years but oh the things I learned in the valley. Some one once said that suffering is the fast-track to sanctification. How true. Thanks for sharing. Debbie

    • says

      Yes, the Rock that is higher than I. Great reminder. And yes again…suffering is the fast-track to sanctification. Thanks for your your story here!

  9. Lisa says

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this post while I was reading about how to start a blog. I’m not sure if I’d call this a “rock bottom”, but I have definitely been stuck lately. Every year around Christmastime, I feel like this. I have a pretty dysfunctional family of origin and really do not look forward to heading home for the holidays to hang out with them. And, although I blame it on my Catholic upbringing, I totally get the guilt feeling. I feel guilt for not being the best mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend – ugh! It’s exhausting trying to be everything for everyone. Reading this and the other comments has given me a sense of relief that I’m not the only one out there who feels like this every once in a while. So, thank you, Amy for sharing this hard time in your life. And I totally agree with Sandy’s post above, I came here too looking for information on blogging and got so much more! Lisa

    • says

      I’m so glad you stopped by, Lisa. I’m so sorry to hear that you are stuck. Please know you are not alone! Many hugs to you.

  10. Sandy says

    Thank you Amy for sharing…I am sure it was a hard thing to open for all to see…but so encouraging. I have known I am Bipolar since I was in my early 20s…I am 67 now. Back then they called it Manic Depressive. Didn’t know why I was so strange all of those years before my 20s…just knew I was. within the last few years I have become more knowledgeable about my illness. There just wasn’t much out there years ago when it could have helped. I tried multiple time to commit suicide…but God has always been there protecting me even from myself….Not that I haven’t caused a lot of pain to myself and a lot of others but God has always helped me to overcome. It is good to feel the precious love of a most exceptionally loving God. I do now know that in ALL things…God works together for good of them who love the Lord…even in times when I didn’t want it to work out in His Way…I know many know what I mean…But now I rest in HIm completely assured of His abiding and constant love. Thanks again for sharing….Sandy
    PS I came to this site looking for blogging help and got so much more…

    • says

      Hi Sandy,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad you are with us and have reached a point of hope in God’s sovereignty. Very encouraging. Thank you.

  11. Mary says

    Thank you Amy for sharing your powerful story. I feel as though I’m going through the beginning stages of that right now. Lost, confused, looking within myself to spirit for some guidance.

  12. says

    Amy, I just came across your blog and I think it is wonderful that you shared this. There are so many people (myself included) who have periods like these in their lives. I am grateful that even though I wasn’t able to feel or see God when I was in the midst of despair, that looking back he was always there helping and loving me. Again I thank you for sharing, and I look forward to reading both of your blogs.

  13. Stephanie says

    Thank you so much for posting your story. It is encouraging to know that there are others who have been to the bottom and God lifted them out. I have been (and still am) in the process of working through a long barren season in my life. This past year has been especially difficult. After 12 years in a relationship with the person I thought I would spend my life with, that person walked away and married someone else. Since then it has been overwhelming trying to heal, put my life together again, and find hope for the future. I feel so much time has been lost and am desperate to make up for lost time but feel confused where to start or what my purpose is. I am grateful for my relationship with the Lord, family, and the stories and encouragement of others like yourself. Praying for direction and grace to walk through the remainder of this season.

    • says

      Oh Stephanie, I’m so sorry to hear that. A rough year indeed. I’m glad there is no wasted time with God, but I think I would feel much the same way. Hang in there, my friend!

  14. says

    This really blessed me! My husband and I were in full-time ministry for 15 years until I hit “Rock-bottom” too! It has been 10 years and we are in a church where are gifts are being used but we can say “no” when we need to. Long story – short, God is faithful:)

    • says

      Yes, He is indeed. We are at a wonderful church now too which has been so instrumental in my healing. Ministry can be brutal for sure. Glad to hear you are better, Laura. :)

  15. says

    Thank you so much for being transparent and honest and sharing your story. I have never suffered from clinical depression, though I did go through a grieving depression when we lost our foster child. But I do have a friend who went through a debilitating depression, and her story was much, much like yours.

    I did have to struggle with anxiety attacks, though, after a huge asthma attack that apparently raised my adrenaline levels or threw off my brain chemicals or something, lol! Those attacks were miserable and scary. I no longer need medication now but if they ever start coming back again I will be popping those pills in a heartbeat, lol!

  16. says

    Thank you for being so incredibly authentic and real – not only am I learning a lot from your “Geek Expertise” but I thank you for showing us vulnerability! And I do realize that this post was written years ago so I hope and pray that things are better for you!

  17. says

    This post took some courage! Bravo.
    I am a suicide survivor, if that makes any sense. I struggle with depression. every. day. I “succumbed” to it in December 1997. God obviously wasn’t ready for me to leave this earth since He miraculously healed me and lifted me up, before I was even a Christian. I have 4 kids and an awesomely forgiving and gracious husband. He is my Rock. ;)

  18. Elaine says

    A dear fb friend(actually started on Etsy) referenced your page and article on setting up FB better. I learned some things from it and I thank you. I was naturally curious about the rest of your story, as I too, have dealt with depression. The full real thing after the birth of my 3rd child at 39. My life has had many valleys and losses. Marriage, finances, and the birth of our second child who was born with cranofacial deformities followed by years of her surgeries, my job in corporate America and my choice to take an early offer at age 49, followed by the last 14 years of unemployment and living in a city I have hated since following my job here in 1998, having to use all of my retirement money of 25 years to live on and coming to grips with it being God’s money first, watching our financial problems and marriage problems continure to spiral downward……while continuing to cry out to our loving God. I am now 61, continuing to search for another corporate job, a grandmother to 1 with the 2nd on her way, a college senior who was my 39th birthday present, our 29 year old living with us and she too is unemployed and still deals with her facial difference, and still praying and hoping. Yes, depression has been with me and is with me. But it is our great God who has to be the one carrying me. Life is very hard at this time. A fellow struggler.

    • says

      Elaine, thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like a lot of loss and heartache. What a testimony, though, that you can see God’s hand carrying you. Much love.

  19. Kat says

    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. It took me back to a bad, bad day that God got me through. I’m a single mom of two and I have ADD and depression. One week a few years ago I didn’t have money to refill my anti-depressants or buy groceries and I was overwhelmed with huge, all-consuming guilt. I had taken my kids to their elementary school hadn’t had time or ideas to make some kind of lunches for them before school started. I had to make something to take back to the school so they could eat and I was late for work on top of it. Guilt, stress, anxiety overcame me and all I could think about were the sharp knives in front of me. Sobbing I dragged myself from the kitchen because I was afraid. I thought I might not be able to stop myself from grabbing a knife at that moment. It was a nearly uncontrollable urge rather than a decision.
    Finally, I pulled myself together enough to make lunches and go to the school. As soon as I started talking to the ladies in the office I fell apart. One of them came around from her desk and just held me. The two of them were God’s love on earth. They helped get me through the rest of the year, even making lunches for my kids some days.
    Now I’m off anti-depressants and I’m okay. Not necessarily great, but not at the bottom either. I just keep trying to keep the Holy Spirit in my day. I understand the feeling of endless hopelessness. But at some point a little hope pushes its way back in.
    I appreciate you work here more than I can say.

    • says

      Wow, Kat, what a story. I GET that feeling–an urge not a decision. Great way to describe it. So glad you’re in a better spot now, although I know it’s still a journey. What a gracious gift God gave you in those women. Much grace, my friend!

  20. says

    Wow. Thanks so much for your openness and sharing. I’ve been there too… mine was a financial situation that stretched on for years. I understand the feeling of suicide sounding like a welcome relief… and of finding our Rock at the very bottom. It was during that time God spoke Deuteronomy chapter 8 into my spirit… the “why” behind the “what.” I hung on to that until, one day at Thanksgiving 2010, suddenly like you, it was all over. God turned the page and I felt like a new person, and have never gone back to that darkness. But God did a tremendous work in my character during that time, which I’m just now learning. What a God we serve.

    • says

      Indeed, what an amazing God we serve. I’ve never gone back there myself, although I’m surprised how many people He’s put in my path since that are in that place and so I go back with them. It’s different now, of course, but I know exactly how it is. I’ve heard it said many times that our greatest ministry often comes out of our greatest pain. But that’s God’s redemption at work and I LOVE THAT!

  21. Lisa says

    Kudos to your dad for being so direct with you. Sometimes people don’t want to believe that their friend/family member could be depressed so they ask. I’ve been there so I have a sense of how terrible it can be. It sounds like you and your family have come through the experience with more strength and resolve. Thanks for telling your story.

    • says

      Yes, I’m so grateful for my dad–both my parents actually who have been key in me getting back to normal. There’s nothing like supportive family. :)

  22. says

    Great read and great transparency. It is refreshing to read a moving post by someone that can help others in a real way. I think we have all been in a place where we start to question “why me?” or “what kind of plan would have me experience this?” I would love to hear more about how you broke yourself out and clawed your way back. Did exercise play a role? Or maybe some other form of goal setting to keep you on track?

    • says

      Hi Steve, we did move out of the situation (moved to a different state actually) and things began to improve then. It has been a long journey and I will say it took a good 4 years to feel like myself again. I’m not saying that’s how it is with everyone, but moving near a support system (family), my kids getting out of the newborn/toddler stage, a climate with more sun (I think I had S.A.D.D.), exercise and a church where I was given permission to take as long as I needed to get better without having to feel like I should contribute were all huge. And of course, God’s continued grace. Not an easy road for sure.

  23. Bethany says

    I am currently having those issue. I feel stuck and I don’t feel like things will ever change. I am 20 years old with a husband and 2 kids; one of which I just had in August. My other is 18 months and full of attitude. I am also a college student. All of this paired with the fact that my husband works 80 hours a week makes me feel alone. I seem to cry all of the time and go between happy and sad so quickly it scares me. I am so glad to read this and know that I am not the only person who has had a rough time even though I have so much to be greatful for.

    • says

      Bethany,

      I’m so sorry. Oh man, I can relate. It’s not an easy place to be at all. Sounds like you definitely have a lot on your plate and it certainly makes perfect sense to me why you’re having a hard time. Hang in there my friend! You’re definitely not alone.

  24. says

    Amy – this was amazing. It also helped me so much because I have problems with depression and have had some serious depression a few times. I could never really reconcile the suicidal type of feeling with not really wanting to die. This from your post was it: “My thoughts of suicide were not out of want to be gone, but simply out of want for relief.” That helped so much to be able to put a concrete feeling to it and make sense of it.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      Ah yes Angie! I know what you mean. Took me so long to figure that out myself too. It was very helpful when I was finally able to put that into words. Before that, I felt totally crazy–I want to die but I don’t?!? WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? That was tough to wade through for sure. I’m so glad it helped it make more sense for you as well.

  25. says

    Oh, Amy! I know what courage it takes to be this transparent as a ‘regular’ human. But to have shared it as the wife of a pastor took super-human strength. Meeting you at 2:1 this past spring, I would have had not a clue that you were anything but a self-assured, powerhouse of success. You are a blessing in so many ways. That blessing has been multiplied many fold in my life today. I am waiting on God to speak “enough” into my life and am so thankful for stories like yours as I wait on him.

    • says

      Hi Carol Anne, I am grateful you stopped by and I’m glad to share my story if I know it’s helpful to others. That’s definitely my goal. I am far from self-assured and a powerhouse of success (oh you just wait and see what kind of posts I’ll be posting here, lol). God is very gracious and I’m learning, but man oh man have do I struggle with things that could best be described with words like “fetal position” and “totally self-unassured.” :)

  26. says

    I remember reading this post before – still packs the same punch of how much I can relate, though my situation was different (just me, no family; major issues at work). As you say, when you’ve never experienced depression etc, you just have no idea what’s going on, no appreciation of how serious it is. I am grateful that my experience helps me notice the signs in others so they can get help sooner. And it is through courage like yours to share that others can be helped!

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