I haven’t always be happy.
In fact, there was a time where I had began to wonder if there would ever be anything in my life that would make me feel like this ridiculous life on Earth was worth all of the headaches and heartaches that I endured time and time again growing up.
I wasn’t abused physically or sexually, as I know many people who suffer from depression are. I didn’t come from a broken home with parents who were alcoholics or who beat each other up. In fact, most people just always assumed that I had this picture perfect little life. My dad worked hard to provide, my mom was active in my school growing up…just a regular middle-class American family.
Most everyone would never have guessed that all throughout High School and my first two years of college that I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts. Because we (societal “we”) wrap depression up in a little box with black wrapping paper, tattoos, and piercings. We envision people who are depressed as those society would deem as gothic or rebellious when in actuality it comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. It comes in the form of a 5’5″ sorority girl and private school graduate with “everything in the world going for her.” In the form of a girl battling great inner turmoil than anyone can see because she doesn’t look how you would think a person with depression is supposed to look.
I don’t remember exactly when my depression started because it’s been in my life for so long My mom battled depression throughout my childhood and I remember having an overall hate for life by the time I was in 7th grade. I didn’t wake up one morning and just realize, “Whoa…I’m depressed…and way more unhappy than normal people should be.”
But, I do remember the moment that I recognized it.
I always grew up feeling lacking in some way, shape or form. In High School it was lacking in all of the ways that you’d expect from a teenage girl trying to find her place at a private school she was only attending because she was on scholarship. I felt lacking in what I wore, what I drove, my position on whichever athletic team I was attempting to be a part of…always falling second or third behind someone else. Never quite understanding why I wasn’t as good as the others.
I didn’t fit in with the popular crowd. I never got invited to go out with the “cool” kids and didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 17. I was almost always the understudy in drama club productions and, even though I graduated sixth in my class, I didn’t make Valedictorian or Salutatorian, despite my best efforts. I was always in the role of the “best friend” or the “other friend” when it came to dating. Think Something Borrowed and I’m Rachel, or Friends and I’m Monica when she was fat. Guys would talk to me when they wanted a date with my best friend.
I was very lonely in High School. My mom and I did not get along the best in the world, especially right before my Senior Year when both of my grandmother’s passed away within a 10 day window. My mom slipped into a major depression herself and I just found it in myself to keep going and do my best to get the hell out. I knew that I wanted out of my small town and was determined to make that happen.
I was lonely. I was sad. I pushed myself harder than I think I ever have to prove myself. I ached to belong and ached to be wanted or feel needed by someone. Things at home were a disaster and I spent a vast majority of my time in my room crying or at my then-boyfriends house and with his family.
When graduation came and college loomed, I knew in my heart that this was my time. I was getting out, would join a sorority and finally be one of the popular girls…one of the sorority girls…the pretty girls…the stick-whatever-stereotype-you-want-on-it girls. And for a little tiny smidgen of time, I was. But, there was always someone else. There was always someone better than me. There was always someone more popular than me, prettier than me, better with the boys than me.
I figured if that’s what it took to finally get “there” and be one of the popular girls, then that’s what I would do. Drink a beer? Sure why not? Sleep with a cute frat guy that all the girls thought was “hot?” Sure! Why not? Skip class because you just want to sleep late or can’t get out of bed because you’re hung over? Heck yeah! I like to sleep.
I spent a good, solid year searching for who I was in the bottom of a bottle. My parents knew what was up and knew I was drinking and going to the bars underage, but they assumed they had raised me better than that and trusted that I was being responsible.
When I decided I wanted to open up about this, I pulled out my journals from college and started reading. I found this entry from October 2005:
J came down the other day to go to Semi-Formal with me. Funny how that worked out. I’m pretty sure that he only came to get laid. Isn’t that what all of the boys think? I had one of the cutest dates there, though. But, when it was all said and done and the night was winding down, I was more jealous of the girls that were happy than anything else. I could see it on their faces. Sheer stupid bliss. What makes them so good? So much better than me? Why do I feel like this? Why do I hate myself and my life so much? I wonder if anyone would even notice if I disappeared…maybe my roommates if I didn’t come out of my room for several days. I cut myself shaving this morning in the shower and as much as it hurt, I almost felt relief. Like that little slice opened up enough to allow some of this misery to drip out. Maybe that’s why people slit their wrists. I’m too scared of blades though. I’d have to overdose…they say Tylenol kills you faster than anything.
As I sat and re-read those words, I still remember the feeling I had when I wrote them. I still have the scar on my knee where I sliced my leg open. I never could bring myself to start cutting, though there were times I thought about it. All I wanted was something-anything-to make me feel better. I’ve shared it before, but how I managed to never end up with alcohol poisoning, I don’t know aside from the fact that God had a bigger reason.
When my high school boyfriend and I broke up and he started spreading rumors all over campus that I was a slut and that I had an STD (which I didn’t, by the way), I bought three bottles of Tylenol PM and locked myself in my room. I opened two bottles and dumped them out on my comforter and started penning a suicide note. I was done. I was over it. I was sick and tired of hating myself when I looked in the mirror. I was sick of starving myself to try to be skinnier, tired of working all the time to buy clothes to impress people around me, tired of feeling like there was nothing in the world worth sticking around for if it meant that I had to endure the life that I was enduring.
Looking back now I see that things really weren’t as bad as I was convinced they were.
But isn’t that how it is with depression?
When I think back on that period of my life, I realize that my depression spawned from so many different things. My therapist and I have spent several sessions discussing this period of my life in great detail and I’ve come to see that most of it was a result of unacknowledged grief and anger. There was a lot of resentment in my life over a lot of different situations that I just never came to terms with. I never learned to love myself and placed too much emphasis on the opinions of others to find my value. When that didn’t come, it left me feeling worthless.
When I lost two people in my life that I cared about tremendously, I didn’t grieve. I picked up the slack that was present at my house and just kept moving. When our house burned down my freshman year, I didn’t grieve the loss of what I didn’t have anymore…I just buried my anger and kept on going. Everyone always told me, “the world doesn’t stop spinning because you’re having a bad day.” That stuck in my head in the sense that no one really cared whether my life sucked or not. Things were just to a point where suicide felt like the only option.
All I wanted…or needed…was just someone to come along and tell me all of the things that I wanted to hear: I was beautiful. I was needed. I was desired. I was wanted. I was chosen.
And one day, someone did. His name was Jesus.
I was saved as a child when I was 12 years old in the best ability of my understanding at the time. It wasn’t until I watched a boy I graduated high school with covered in blood after a drunk driving accident (that I was minutes from being involved in) pull through what should have been his death that I woke up. I hit my knees harder that night after I left the hospital than I ever had. I started to get my life back together. I stopped drinking and partying all the time and started joining in with some of the Campus Christian meetings.
When Josh and I got married in 2008, I went through a period of severe postpartum depression after Noah was born. My self-esteem hit rock bottom and I started once again questioning my worth and my capabilities as a mother. I cried and cried and cried about anything and everything. I wanted to run away from home and never return. If it hadn’t been for the sweet little baby that called me “mama” I have no doubt that those months following Noah’s birth would have ended me. Aside from being his mommy, I felt no sense of purpose whatsoever in life. No reason to be around…no one who needed me or cared if I was there or not. I was convinced that my husband would find another wife if I put an end to my own life and that Noah was young enough to not remember me and grow up with another woman as his mother.
I wanted more than that for my family. I wanted to find a reason to wake up every day, even if it was just a small reason. That’s when I found blogging and when I started journaling again. I started scrapbooking and playing around with graphic design (though very, very poorly and in Microsoft Publisher). I started reading books again and escaping into worlds and places that I had never been. Slowly, but surely, I started praying again and studying scripture again. For the longest time I had turned my back on God and blamed him for the things that I felt. It wasn’t until I opened up those wounded parts of me that he started to heal me and remind me that I had a much greater purpose than I thought that I did.
Like many cases of depression, mine has always gone “undiagnosed” until Josh and I started counseling in January. My therapist has diagnosed me with bouts of recurring depression and put me on medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I pop a little white pill every morning to keep me relatively grounded and less overwhelmed by the life I live. I have a prescription for medicine that aids with keeping my Panic Attacks under control. I keep a gratitude journal to constantly remind myself that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for no matter how stressful or busy or overwhelming my day is.
I still have a long way to go to get my anxiety under control and some days are much better than others. I recognize my triggers and so does my husband. I take more time out for myself and unwind now more than I ever have. I’ve made time in my schedule for things that matter to me. Like writing more frequently on this blog and creating Art Prints to raise awareness for Anxiety and Depression through #TheSemicolonProject!
Which is what this post and this heart dump about my struggle has been about…raising awareness for the hundreds of thousands of people out there suffering in silence. The ones walking around with that suicide note in their pocket just waiting on the breaking point and the moment in which they will call it quits for good.
Let me tell you a secret friend…
As part of my hopes in raising awareness for depression and anxiety…a portion of every sale that is made through my Print Shop will be donated to a worthy cause. I’m donating 10% of each purchase total Project Semicolon to continue to raise awareness for those suffering in silence with depression and anxiety. I’d love to have your support! You can share our shop information via any social media outlet (word of mouth marketing is so crazy powerful), purchase prints or even contact me if you’re interested in sharing your story here with a special featured guest post. Also, for a limited time ONLY you can snag 10% off of your entire purchase price in the shop using the code GRANDOPENING at checkout!
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback and read a lot of heartbreaking stories the last few days from ex-church members...ex “christians” (notice that I use the quotations marks when I say Christians). I use those for a distinct reason. Because, like me, many of the people commenting here and emailing me with their stories of brokenness and their stories of hurt, are people who loved the Lord then and love the Lord now.
Religion and Christianity are very different. You start talking to someone about religion and they’ll shut you down and walk away before you get in any kind of detail about Jesus. Why? Because religion is man made…led by sinners…filled with judgment…filled with hatred and self-righteousness.
I’ve been part of a church where people accused my daddy of arson when our house caught on fire. Sat in the pews when people at that church told my family that they couldn’t donate basic household items to us when we had nothing because “it would take away from the profit of the church.” I’ve been a member of the church when I was told that because I didn’t think tattoos on Christians was a big deal that maybe I wasn’t really a Christian. I’ve been part of a church where my husband and I were told we were an impressive couple until we both admitted that we were sinful and struggled with things that almost everyone else we know struggles with…like suddenly because we are human we are no longer impressive or “good enough.”
You see…with “religion” comes the idea that you need to be perfect. That once you’re a believer, your issues go away. Poof. Vanish. Praying that sinners prayer is supposed to be the cure-all right?
I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 12. I don’t remember much other than praying the sinners pray and “asking Jesus into my heart” at the foot of my bed. I didn’t know who Jesus was at that time. Not really. I just knew that I didn’t want to be cast in the fires of hell when I died. Knowing Jesus is a process. And it’s a journey that I’m still on. In fact, I was journaling last night and even wrote that I feel like-right now-I have had a misguided idea of Jesus really is; even after all of these years.
At 12 years old I accepted Christ.
At 17 years old I lost my virginity to my high school boyfriend.
At 19 years old, I contemplated suicide.
At 20 years old I got pregnant out of wedlock.
According the “religious” people that I know, I should have lost my salvation a long time ago. Shame on me for suffering with depression or alcoholism or pornography or lust or a love of beautiful tattoos or a love for ALL of God’s people regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or status. Because if you asked the “religious” then they would surely tell you that I was going to hell. That I was a blasphemer (without even truly understanding the meaning of the word blasphemy) and surely destined for purgatory.
I just wish that I could shout that from the roof tops and help everyone see that. I’ve been reading Jefferson Bethke’s book Jesus > Religion and I am absolutely floored that someone other than me “gets it.” There’s a reason that this book isn’t being pushed on congregations’s by pastor’s. Because it steps on toes. It shoves the real Jesus in the face of the church and gets down and dirty with how “church” (the building on Sunday mornings) has completely and totally taken away from what God intended church to be.
Maybe I’m beating a dead horse over here guys. Maybe I’m running on repeat right now because my heart is literally in shambles over the emails and comments that I have gotten. Churches are HURTING people and it infuriates me. I have literally sat in my office and cried over the emails that I’ve been getting because I know how you feel. I know what it feels like to think that you’ve found a family among a body of believers only to have them throw you under a bus when you show signs of weakness. I know what it feels like to sit in a pew and feel the eyes on you because you made the mistake of opening up to someone about your past mistakes.
And it sucks.
And it hasn’t happened to me just once. But many, many times. It’s happened to my husband long before he and I ever got married. It’s happened to my mother-in-law and my sister and my parents. It’s happened to friends of mine and it’s happened to SO MANY OF YOU.
That’s why church attendance is down all over the country. That’s why you seldom see “certain kinds of people” in a church. Because some people…the broken…the homeless…the lost…don’t feel welcome in a church. We feel condemned. We feel judged. We feel shamed and ridiculed and hurt. Those of us who own our brokenness and our weaknesses and aren’t afraid to confront them head on feel the stares and hear the whispers and see the looks we are given.
I don’t hide behind a perfect mask. I don’t walk around acting like I have it all together. Because quite honestly? Most day, I’m a wreck. I need Jesus a whole lot more than he needs me. But I also need him a whole lot more than I need those kind of people…those who condemn and judge and ridicule. Because the problem I have is that most of them are a lot more broken than me; they just are too ashamed to show it or admit it. And call me crazy, but I don’t want to feel like I’m alone in my brokenness. I want people willing to admit theirs, own up to theirs and embrace theirs surrounding me.
Based on the comments that I’ve gotten, this attitude from church members is doing more harm than good. It’s pushing more people away from the gospel than it is bringing it in. I’ve heard people say “Be the Church” and I say NO. Don’t “be the Church” because the church isn’t what Jesus Christ created it to be. It’s rules and doctrines and other sinful people reveling in their self-righteousness.
Loving one another doesn’t mean agreeing with one another about everything. It means being there to encourage, lift up, listen to, pray for and cheer on a fellow sinner when they fall.
I am not a preacher. I am not even a certified counselor yet (70 credit hours to go till then…). I’m a lowly mama of two little boys and a husband living wherever the military tells us we have to live. I am a self-taught Photoshop addict who stumbled into Photography and Graphic Design by God’s grace. I drink more coffee than I should and I yell at my husband and my kids over things that are idiotic. I cuss more often than I care to admit. I have a tattoo on my wrist with intentions of getting another. I have anxiety and battle depression periodically throughout life. I don’t have a perfect life or a perfect family.
I would love to tell you about my Jesus. Not about religion…not about church. But about the one and only one who can and will forgive you of whatever mistakes you’ve made. I hate religion. And so did Jesus. It was the religious people who put him on the cross to be crucified. Let me tell you about Him…not about them. My inbox is always open to anyone who is curious!
End note two: ugly, rude, hateful comments will not be approved and are not welcome here. Not to me, not to anyone else. Healthy debate and disagreement is welcome and encouraged. But rudeness is not. Don’t be a jerk.
I’m going to get on my soapbox and stir the pot a little bit today. I’m pretty good at that and I really try hard to be as unbiased and non-judgmental as possible. But, hot topics and debates leave me thinking…and pondering…and itching to share my opinion. Because we are all entitled to one of those, and I personally and wholeheartedly love a good debate with people who don’t always see things the same way that I do. We live in a free country and good, healthy, NON-ILLEGAL and riotous debate is good for the soul. And it leaves people with new positions and opinions to think about.
Right now, I want to talk about Bristol Palin.
I’m not going to get started on whether I am for or against abstinence or anyone’s decision to embrace or encourage abstinence. The fact of the matter is, my testimony is out there for anyone to read; I’m not ashamed of it. Nor am I ashamed to admit that I was pregnant with our oldest son before I got married.
There. I said it.
Anyone who can do math would have known that, but let me just throw it out there in case it’s one of those things someone thinks they need to ridicule me for. The fact of the matter is our oldest son was a blessing. He still is a blessing. My husband and I, given the chance, would never go back and change the fact that we had him a mere six months into our marriage.
Do we wish we’d had more time to get to be just husband and wife? To get to know each others habits (both good and bad), enjoy that “honeymoon phase” people talk about? Sure.
But, does that mean that I’d give up being a mom to our son for a few more years of eating at restaurants that didn’t give out kids placemats with every meal? Not at all.
What caught my attention about this news article about Bristol Palin was this part:
I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you. (via)
I read this, and my heart broke for her. Because of the fact that this poor girl (and I mean “poor” in the non-monetary sense, of course), felt that she was a disappointment…to her friends, to her own family and to hundreds of thousands (if not more) people that she’s never met in her life.
A baby, no matter the circumstances under which he/she is conceived is a blessing. Period. That in itself should be enough for people. It is for me.
But, even more so than the given fact that there’s going to be a new baby…a tiny little perfect miracle, created by the Almighty God…is the fact that this girl is stepping up.
She’s not running to an abortion clinic to “solve a problem” or get rid of this child. She’s not placing blame on anyone or anything…she’s not making excuses.
I remember the “shame” that she feels. Knowing that people ‘know’ what you were doing before you were married. And in the deep south, getting pregnant before you were married was a No-No. There were special names reserved for girls who did that, no matter their age.
I remember hanging my head in shame for a bit after the news came out that I was pregnant, a mere two weeks after Josh and I said “I Do.” I knew that people were whispering. That people assumed automatically that we only got married because we were going to have a baby. Most everyone assumed that we’d be divorced by now or that Josh would end up running off or having an affair (which brings me to a whole ‘nother stereotype with how people view the military that I won’t touch today).
And it was heartbreaking.
Because I knew what was happening. God had chosen ME out of the million upon millions of women in the world to carry THIS baby. This beautiful, perfect, not even fully formed baby that kicked and wiggled and squirmed inside me.
And that’s when I realized that I didn’t care. That I just frankly didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. Because we were having a baby. Period. That’s just all there was to it.
Sure, it was hard. Sure there were days that I cried and pleaded for God to make my child stop screaming or crying or puking or whatever he was doing. There were more days than I can count in which I was absolutely, utterly and completely exhausted.
But those days passed. And we came out on the other side just like I knew we would. And I sat back at night and watched my sweet baby boy sleep, and thanked God for the blessings in my life. We may have been broke and driving a two door car, relying on WIC to get us through on formula (hey, non-rate military pay is very, very minimal in case you were wondering…and I wasn’t working at that time)…but we did what we had to do. And we were a family.
So, to have to apologize for making a mistake…
To have to apologize for being pregnant-regardless of the circumstances…
Is just pitiful.
Shame on us, America for making this poor girl feel like she’s less than the rest because she made a mistake.
Shame on us for making ANY girl whose respectable enough to not only admit to her mistakes, but deal with them and embrace them, feel like they are a disappointment.
I don’t know her personally. And I probably never will.
But I do know what it feels like to feel like you’ve disappointed the people that you care about. And it sucks. It’s a horrible feeling to look into the eyes of someone who you know loves you and see the disappointment on their face.
But that doesn’t change Grace. Or the fact that God is still God and he still loves us the same. He knew that baby’s name long before his or her mommy was even thought of. And that sweet baby, whoever he or she may turn out to be, was part of a divine plan that we don’t even understand yet.
So, Bristol Palin…you are not a disappointment.
The people who judge you? Who criticize you? They are the disappointment.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.