It was the night terrors that landed me there in the office of our pastor. I asked him for material on spiritual warfare, certain I was under some kind of oppression that wouldn’t leave me. He suggested something else – a counselor.
He gave me the name of a reputable counselor who keeps Christ at their center, and is focused on healing.
I checked my insurance – counseling wasn’t covered. No money = no counselor.
I decided to go with the therapists that my insurance did cover, and to my luck, they had in their practice a psychologist who specialized in sleep disturbances and disorders.
I made an appointment and couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of the issue.
Sitting in the office of the psychologist, I was nervous. I had never done anything like this before. I felt the compulsion to reassure him that I was okay, I was perfectly fine, but just needed some guidance. The psychologist sat across the room from me, legs crossed, notebook in his lap, and proceeded to ask me probing, confusing questions. Did I see shadow figures while awake? Did I ever see or hear people or voices that no one else could hear? Did I sometimes feel that my thoughts were not my own? His questions were aggressively leading in the direction of bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and paranoia, none of which accurately described me.
“No, I don’t see people who aren’t there. I don’t hear voices. What do you mean, shadow figures? I’m so exhausted from sleep disturbances, sometimes my periphery is foggy in a disorienting way… What do you mean thoughts that aren’t my own? Sometimes I feel so numb inside, I don’t feel like myself. Is that what you mean?”
His questions were difficult to answer, and I was surprised when he asked for no details whatsoever of the deep, sad feelings that haunted me.
He wrote three prescriptions, one of which, he explained, was usually prescribed for war veterans suffering from PTSD. I walked out of his office exactly fifteen minutes after I had arrived. I almost left the building entirely. I wanted to crumple the paper prescription and leave it there in the hallway. But no. I was there to seek help. I couldn’t jump ship so soon.
I should have.
I followed the psychologist’s instructions to go down the hall to a room where a psychiatrist was waiting for me. She was kind and welcoming in a detached, polished way. We shook hands. I sat down.
She asked me to describe my issues. I told her about the nightmares, the overwhelming sad feelings, the exhaustion, occasionally feeling an impulse to cry for no apparent reason.
“Let’s try a new method of therapy. I’ve been waiting for the right candidate, and this method seems perfect for you.”
She explained something called EMDR, compared it to mild hypnotism, and said it has been extremely successful in many cases, particularly those who had been in war.
I wasn’t sure why they kept comparing me to war veterans.
The idea was that the method would force me to face my most horrific feelings, memories, encounters, then participate in gentle rapid eye movement while focusing on a positive image to replace the bad feelings with good ones.
I was skeptical, and honestly, a little frightened. But what did I know? I had never done anything like this before.
She consulted a manual of sorts in her lap as she took me step-by-step through the therapy. Half an hour into it, I was violently shaking, weeping, and felt the need to curl up on the floor. My body was dehydrated from the tears. I felt like screaming. The overwhelming sad feelings seemed to completely envelop me and swallow me whole. I was drowning. I was dying.
Walking back to my car, the sun was too bright. My heart was hollow. My soul felt violated. My spirit was dead. My mind was depleted.
Just focus on driving home, I told myself. If I can make it home, I can sleep. There’s nothing left of me to do anything else.
I called my husband, to whom I had been married less than a year, on the way home and told him what happened. I told him I was a wreck, and for some reason, felt terrified. I didn’t want to go back. But how could I seek healing if I didn’t allow someone to help?
He decided to go with me for the next session.
Feeling brave and empowered with the man I loved in the room, I sat across from the psychiatrist, ready.
Half an hour later, I felt void of life. I could only speak with slurred, emotion-laden words. Through my tears, I caught a glimpse of my husband’s face. He was horrified, and looked as if he wanted to sweep me up and carry me out of there.
I should have let him.
Two more sessions later, I couldn’t do it anymore. This method may very well have been successful for some people, but it wrecked me. The gaping hole in my soul had grown into a canyon.
That’s when I remembered the name of the counselor my pastor recommended.
I decided it was time to listen.
I made an appointment with no money to pay, and wasn’t sure where it would come from. I prayed for provision, and went anyway.
Sitting across from the counselor, I was surprised to see him smile. He didn’t look at me. He looked into me.
It made me feel human again.
I braced myself for a method of therapy that would leave bloody claw marks on my spirit, but it never came. His voice was gentle. He didn’t just hear my words. He understood them. I described my previous experience with a psychiatrist and assured him I never even filled the prescriptions. He apologized, and said he wished I had come to him first.
“We won’t do anything like that here,” he said.
I cried with relief.
Weeks of counseling followed. From the beginning, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was in the profession because he truly, deeply had a passion for helping people restore health to their spirits.
The things he taught me echo through my mind to this day.
Oddly enough, several weeks after my last counseling session, I had the darkest day of my life
It was a Sunday morning, and I was alone.
The depression had been slowly creeping up on me, and it was frustrating. I had been through counseling – didn’t that mean I was healed from this? That’s when it dawned on me.
I was broken.
I could never be fixed.
I was useless.
I was a burden to my precious husband.
I was unfit to ever be a mother, and should be grateful that we didn’t have children yet.
I was a wasted life.
My existence was a mistake.
My husband would be happier with someone else, but because he was loyal and committed, he was stuck in a marriage that he would have to endure for the rest of his life.
I had robbed him of happiness.
Lies, lies lies.
I listened to the lies, those words of hate whispered to my vulnerable heart.
I had to set him free. He would probably be relieved.
I didn’t know why I felt that way. He had never been anything but loving, supportive, giving, self-sacrificing. For a moment, my heart warmed when I thought about how beautifully and selflessly he loved me.
You don’t deserve it, the lies hissed. You’re broken and you’ll never be whole again.
I won’t describe the events that followed. I will never again speak of that moment where I readied myself for death. It was cold, dark, and lonely.
Somewhere in that void, a warm light penetrated my heart. I suddenly remembered to Whom I belonged.
God doesn’t create waste. I was not waste.
That warm light brought to life my awareness of the moment. It illuminated the vicious, vile, evil lies mere seconds before my life ended. I was so close.
My heart blasted to life, and I desperately needed to throw up. So, so close.
With rows of chills prickling down my spine, I ran downstairs and sat on the bottom stair.
Don’t move, I told myself. Just don’t move. Sit. Wait.
An hour later, my husband arrived home. He saw my face, and rushed to my side.
My eyes were long dry, empty of tears that had poured for the last hour. I told him everything.
He rocked back with a look on his face I’ll never forget. An expression of horror, confusion, grief, and relief.
He said very little. He said just enough.
Over the following week, we talked miles and miles of words. He reminded me of what I had learned in counseling. We tried to dissect what led to that moment.
My husband then named the monster that tormented me – Depression.
But wasn’t depression temporary? I had no idea depression could be so dark and empty. I had no idea I was still susceptible to it. I had been through weeks of counseling! This couldn’t be possible.
He made me promise I would never hide the depression from him, that I would always be open and let him know.
I kept my promise.
To this day, the nightmares still torment me. They come in waves. Depression is still an evil creature that lurks in my world, occasionally attacking fiercely. So many times I have begged God to free me from depression. For whatever reason, He has chosen not to. I trust his reasons. I have spoken to many who suffer the same afflictions, and when they were finally pointed back to Christ, they felt hope again. Ever since that dark day, depression doesn’t take over me anymore. I have protection now.
I wear armor.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:11-20 NIV
God didn’t remove the depression from my life. I rely on Him to help me through, and use what I have learned to help others. For this reason, I have stopped asking God to take it from me. For this reason, I am an ambassador in chains.
Depression no longer kicks me down.
I declare this boldly: With Christ, I stand.