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.
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.
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.