Originally published Sunday, 25 March 2018.
I realize this post might be controversial to many. Believe me, it’s not one I ever thought I would write. I’m prepared for social media unfollowers as well as an onslaught of unsubscribers on my blog. I’m okay with that. I write my heart.
Most of you know, but just in case you don’t, I’m living wide awake through the nightmare of loss. First my stepfather, who died suddenly three years ago, then my brother, suddenly, eight months ago, followed by my mother, just three months ago. The old saying is true; I really can’t go home again. The people who lived there are gone.
I’ve been serving Jesus most of my life. He’s walked with me through miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, and every other battle that’s come my way. I’ve always bounced back, until now.
These past three months in particular, I’ve smiled for pictures with friends, woke up with my kids in the morning, picked them up from the bus stop after school, fed them, helped with homework, and got them ready for bed at night. But nobody could see the in between time. After my family walked out the door, I went back to bed. After evening homework, I would sit in my chair with a cup of coffee staring into space. The skin on my face was constantly irritated from the salt of my tears, and my heart quit beating in rhythm. Literally.
I trusted Jesus, pushed onward, opened up my Bible and fought, but I continued to lose ground. Anger came next and that is always ugly. I looked in the mirror and saw my aging eyes and could not recognize whose they were. I didn’t feel like myself, and eventually, I couldn’t remember who I once was.
My faith in God never wavered. I had hope, but peace and joy were lacking. I’m a firm believer at the moment of salvation, God gives us every gift we will ever need to make it through this frightening world. Those gifts include peace and joy, but tapping into them takes effort. It usually necessitates a fair amount of battle to reap those rewards. My spiritual “tools” didn’t seem to be working. I was trying to connect the “pipeline” that would cause the flow of peace and joy and ultimately free my soul, but nothing was happening. And then Friday came.
It was a Friday morning, and I had an appointment close to my mother’s house. After I was finished, I told my husband we should stop by and check on things. I hadn’t been inside since the day she died. My mother passed unexpectedly, so everything from that day remained untouched. When I walked through the front door, my eyes glanced down to the left focusing on her tennis shoes and pink slippers. I walked into the dining room and saw a pack of military paperwork she was filling out in an effort to settle my brother’s burial expenses. I made my way to her bedroom where her heating pad was still on the bed next to where she slept, the blankets rolled back waiting for her to return. I crumbled.
I cried, and screamed, and moaned. I didn’t even recognize my voice, it didn’t sound familiar, yet I knew it was me. Hysteria rose to the surface confessing fear, torment, and grief like I’d never experienced before. My husband stood next to me, apologizing over-and-over again, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He shares my heart, but I could find no comfort. Once again, I came home and went to bed.
Later that afternoon I had an appointment with my doctor to discuss the rhythm of my out of sync heart. She walked through the door, took one good look at me and asked, “What’s going on?”
Now, before I continue with what happened next, let me tell you that I’m not a fragile person, I do not make a habit of crying in front of anyone, and I don’t like being vulnerable. Actually, I hate it. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m just telling you like it is.
After my doctor asked that first question, the floodgates opened all over again. I could barely breathe, let alone speak. I told her everything while expressing these words: “I’m a person of faith who is supposed to be living in the light of a Savior, and yet here I am standing in darkness. It won’t relent; I can’t take it anymore.” She told me I didn’t look the same; there was no joy, no evidence of peace, no zest for life. And then she said words I thought I would never hear regarding my own life, “Let’s talk about medication. I’m worried about you.”
It’s my guess that only half a second passed between her suggestion and my response, but in that time a million thoughts raced through my head. They sounded something like this: I’m a faith writer, I tell people about Jesus, I’m an example for Christ, I can’t be weak, this isn’t okay, I’ll be nothing but a hypocrite, etc.…
You can only imagine how stunned I was when I heard the following response pop out of my mouth – in the midst of every negative thought I responded, “I’ll try anything that makes me feel better.” I meant it.
In that moment, I learned something about myself. And, in the subsequent days, I learned something about God. I can still surprise myself. As I age, I change. As I change, I learn more about life than I ever wanted to know. And, with this new education comes new ways of looking at who I am and what God expects from me. Could God just take the dark cloud away and help me run this race without a physician’s care, absolutely. Does it always work that way? Absolutely not. Is it okay that it doesn’t always work that way? You better believe it is!
Why is it that when Christians require medical intervention for depression we feel like we’ve failed? We haven’t. One week after beginning my new medication, I had a terrible anxiety attack. All I could think about was how weak of a person I must be to have to take this route to healing. I pictured myself writing every blog post I’d ever written and saw the word hypocrite above me in flashing lights. My heart continued to beat out of rhythm, requiring heart tests that came back as a diagnosis of nothing more than anxiety. I labeled myself crazy, and it sent me into further panic. In my lifetime, I’ve heard pastors and other Christians preach against medications for depression. I never bought into that for anyone else, I know if God used a donkey He can use anything at all for the betterment of His people, but when it was my turn I couldn’t shake those Christian opinions. Or should I say judgment? I told my best friend I was done with popping a pill every day and could fight this war without it. She talked me off the ledge convincing me to stay on track.
For every Christian who has ever taken medication for depression, either past or present, every morning when I open my bottle to take my dose, I think of you. I understand. And, hey, maybe that’s part of this journey for us. Maybe God is saying, “Go ahead, use your pain to reach more people. Do not waste one tear.” I’m okay with that. I’ll tell you why…
I feel joy again. Yes, I still cry for my mother and brother on a regular basis, but not because I feel like it’s the end of the world. I cry because I’m human and I miss them. I still hurt and wonder how this is all going to work itself out for me, but in the reemergence of sunlight, I’ve started to see more than ever that God’s in complete control of this, and He’s going to handle all of it. I just need to keep trusting, and taking medication in no way means I’ve stopped trusting in my God.
My husband came home from work one day last week and found me cooking a big meal for my family, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. He took me in his arms and said, “You’re back, Jenny.”
Friends, Jesus can use anything to bring you back and put your purpose to work. Even medication!
I’m not saying it is right for everyone. You need to see a doctor, answer the questions, and take proper steps to healing. What I am saying is Christians shouldn’t fear and let sermons from people who know nothing about darkness from chemical imbalance dictate proper steps to recovery.
- You are NOT weak!
- You are NOT a hypocrite!
- You are NOT any less of a Christian because you need medication!
My depression is situational, and I’m hoping to only have to take medication for six months. However, if it’s longer; it’s longer. A lot of prayer has gone into this, and I know the Lord will continue to direct my steps. When you seek Him, He will direct yours as well.
If this is something you’re struggling with, remove all those other voices from your head, seek God, and do what is best for your life according to His guidance.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
My name is Jennifer Kostick, I’m a woman of God, a faith writer, and I’m struggling with situational depression. I’m taking Wellbutrin. Jesus is okay with that, and so am I.