I grew up in a Christian family that attended church every Sunday. I went to youth group in junior and senior high. I volunteered in the children’s programs. I was plugged in, I read my Bible, I prayed, I was saved, I was a Christian. Then why was I still struggling with anxiety and depression? I thought I must not be doing something right. Maybe I really wasn’t a Christian?? Maybe I wasn’t good enough? Maybe I needed to try harder?
As I transitioned into college I started to understand that I could be a Christian and still have depression and anxiety. There was still a disconnect between my faith and what was going on in my head though. I thought it was something that I needed to work through on my own. I was still afraid to talk to anyone about the thoughts I was having. I did have an excellent mentor that helped me with the stressors in my life – which in turned helped to mellow out the anxiety. But I never once told her about the cutting. It wasn’t something that I’d ever heard anyone talk about. Now there are after school specials about it but back then it wasn’t a topic of conversation.
In my early 20’s I finally started to pray about what was going on in my head. I asked to be fixed – to make it all go away. And when God didn’t… well, I didn’t know what to think except to pray harder.
Fast forward to this year. In February my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I’ve blogged some about that and what was going through my head. In my heart I truly felt peace about what was happening. But then my head would get involved. I am a pro at catastrophizing. My son has had several funerals… all in my head. I’ve pictured what my family would look like with just the four of us. I’ve tried to imagine what it would feel like to lose my son. I’m sure those are thoughts that all mothers think when their child has a terrible diagnosis. But they weren’t just fleeting thoughts. I lived in them. I dove in deep and immersed myself in the worst case scenario. I hated it. I hated thinking like that but I felt out of control. I needed to prepare for the worst. On the outside I kept smiling. I needed to be strong for my son.
Excuse my language here… I just needed to hold my shit together until he survived surgery. That was my mantra. After that, everything would be fine. And for awhile it was. Surgery went perfectly. He had no problems in recovery. We were rounding third and coming in to home. Then we had his follow up appointment where we learned about the type of tumor they had removed. Despite being benign this type of tumor likes to come back. Again and again. Suddenly home plate was gone and we were in a marathon. Trying to hold my shit together was like trying to hold on to a wet cat.
The straw that broke the camel’s back…
I got a phone call Sunday afternoon. My father had bladder cancer and has regular check ups. I didn’t know his last check up brought up some concerns. They were calling to tell me that he has prostate cancer. “Oh, ok. Keep me updated. Bye.” It didn’t sink in until Tuesday morning. I was sitting at work and the voice in my head wouldn’t shut up. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the crap our family has been through. Big stuff. Lots of little stuff. It was all piling on. I could feel the weight of it pressing down on me.
I went home at lunch time and thought I’d just lay down and try to relax. My alarm went off and I knew there was no way I could fake my way through another afternoon. I was done. I pulled the blankets up over my head. My husband came home and found me curled into a ball with quiet tears slipping down my face. He laid down next to me. I could see the concern in his eyes. I felt like I was letting him down. I was letting down my kids. I wasn’t being a good wife or mother. I had the worst panic attack I’ve ever experienced. Oh the desire to cut….. I craved physical pain… anything to stop the emotional hurting. I had one moment of clear thought, “Take me to the hospital. I need help.”
I thank God that my husband didn’t hesitate and he didn’t waiver. He got me in to the car and to the hospital. Even when I balked in the parking garage. He quietly took my hand and lead me to the ER doors. There are moments that I have doubts that anything is wrong with me. I think to myself that maybe I just made it all up, that I’m just fine. And then I force myself to remember the ER and how out of control I was.
There’s a separate triage area for the mental health side of the hospital. My husband sat by my side until they called my name. The nurse took me in to a private room to talk. She gently asked questions about why I was there and what was going on. Midway through her assessment she stopped. “This isn’t on my list of questions and I don’t normally do this, but can I pray for you?” I am thankful for her faithfulness. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit was nudging her to pray for me and it was through her obedience that I knew I was doing the right thing, I was in the right place.