I’ve been immersed in the darkness of depression, and suffered from a bout of secondary infertility. And through the grace of God, I’ve emerged, whole and healed on the other side.
But through my experiences, I’ve realized what a stigma and silence there can be. The suffering of isolation and self-condemnation that comes along with these types of suffering.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Through sharing my stories, I want to offer you solidarity, hope, and a share in the peace I’ve been able to find.
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I remember the darkness.
If I could have skipped the whole holiday season that year, I would have.
I had unknowingly suffered from growing depression for over a year, and it was finally coming to a head. I retreated from the world. My emotions were turning off, and so was my body.
I watched my reproductive system shut down. I suffered from endless fatigue, no matter how much I slept. And I muddled through episodes of what I could only describe as “a fog.” Where the world was thick around me. It took heroic effort to cross a room. To swim through the oppressive atmosphere.
And the worst part was, I didn’t know there was something medically wrong with me. I thought I was being a melodramatic jerk. I thought I was failing at my vocation. I tried to pray my way out of it, to think happy thoughts, to push through the hard days. But nothing worked. I sank lower and lower into my misery, and all the time tried to hide it.
And then I couldn’t any longer. I poured my heart out to a dear friend who helped me recognize the illness I was suffering from. Who looked past the smiling face I showed to the world, and saw the depression festering underneath.
Thanks be to God for her advice.
She didn’t tell me try to fix it myself. She didn’t suggest that maybe I was being too self-centered, or ungrateful, or a bad Christian, or any of the things I had been telling myself.
She told me I needed to get help. That same week, I saw my doctor. I went on antidepressants, and made an appointment for counseling with Pastoral Solutions.
You were a longshot. Every month, my cycles told me you wouldn’t come. But I never stopped thinking about you.
Never stopped hoping for you.
I always made sure you would be safe and cared for. Even when you were just a glimmer in my heart.
I find myself asking: Why am I even sharing this?
My suffering was short and mild. My story has a happy ending. What cause did I have to complain, when others suffer far worse than I? But I learned something from this trial.
I learned that my story is not your story.
In my very first session of therapy for depression, my counselor introduced two important tools. Strategies to help me monitor and control my stress and moods: the Healthy Mind Platter and the emotional thermometer.
I started using these tools right away. In fact, they took over my life for a few weeks. They were the most important things on my to-do list every day.
As my emotional and mental health stabilized, I found myself settling into a comfortable pattern. I realized that caring for my mental health isn’t only important in emergency situations – it’s important all the time! Even when I’m healthy, I can use the mind platter and emotional thermometer to maintain my wellness.
Now they’re part of my everyday life. Let me tell you what they’re all about.
I was so unhappy.
But there was something there.
Something that dragged me out of bed, finally, three hours after I woke up. Something that made me want to try to be patient for just ONE more minute before I inevitably lost my temper on my kids. Something that kept me running back to You, God, in prayer, in the Eucharist, in confession.
Begging You to give me the grace to stop.
To stop being a failure of a mom, wife, and Christian.
This something kept me going even on my darkest days.
It wasn’t happiness.
But I didn’t know what it was.
It was joy.