When I first experienced depression, I didn’t understand what was going on. I knew I was sad, but I didn’t know why. I was pregnant with my first child, and everything in my life was going great, so I figured it was just hormones. My mental state began to decline rapidly as my pregnancy progressed. I felt a huge weight pressing on my mind and heart. Everyday tasks became nearly impossible. The thought of getting out of bed and taking a shower made me want to cry.
I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed for relief. I prayed for healing. I prayed God would hear me and He would let me know He was aware of me. But I felt nothing. Nothing.
Where was God? Why couldn’t I feel Him?
I had been very devout in my faith for years. I had all the tools to call upon God during this time of need, and I did. I was doing everything “right” but I felt no relief. No healing. Nothing changed.
I kept trying. Begging. Pleading. Asking with full faith that my prayer would be answered.
But the grip of depression squeezed tighter and tighter, and it felt as if the core of my identity was fading away like oxygen being sucked out of a room. I was so tired and felt so weak. I began to feel like healing was a lost cause. I could no longer call out for help. I began to shut down. I silently waited for someone to save me. I knew I couldn’t save myself.
I tried to have the faith to be healed, but did I have the faith not to be healed?
One day I was walking around our apartment and found my husband on his knees in our guest room praying. I had never seen him pray in quite this manner. He was extremely focused and appeared very worried. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and I didn’t know what he was thinking, but I had a strong impression enter my mind that said, “He’s praying about you.”
That is when I knew I had to ask for help from my doctor.
That was the answer to all my prayers. The Lord didn’t leave my prayers unanswered. He answered; it’s just that His answer was no. He wasn’t going to heal me.
I had to accept that this trial wasn’t going to be taken away from me.
I didn’t think I could spit the words out to my doctor during my next OB visit. My husband came with me, and I was thankful to have his support. But even still, my mouth felt paralyzed. Asking for help was akin to failure in my mind.
“I’m having a really hard time,” I started, while bursting into uncontrollable tears. I described everything that had been going on. My OB was a wonderful woman whom I happened to go to church with. She explained to me I was experiencing depression, and it had nothing to do with my spirituality.
“But I should be able to feel joyful with prayer and scriptures. That’s how it’s supposed to work,” I explained.
“This is not your fault. This is a chemical imbalance,” she replied. We discussed the nature of depression for quite a while. She then explained how antidepressants worked and what she recommended for me.
It was a huge relief to have another person of faith validate what I was feeling and acknowledge I had done everything I could. This was a medical problem, not a spiritual weakness. And just like any other medical problem, it needed a medical solution. For me, that was antidepressants.
I was extremely reluctant to take the antidepressants. I truly believed everything my doctor said regarding depression, but it was hard to shake the feelings of shame. Even after I got the prescription filled, I looked at the bottle in disgust. I am such a loser, I thought. I can’t believe I have to take pills. I didn’t want to take them, but I did.
A few weeks later, I felt mostly back to my old self. Things weren’t perfect, but I was able to manage with the coping skills I had . . . including the spiritual tools of prayer and reading scriptures. I could feel His spirit again, finally.
That’s when I really knew my depression was a medical condition and not due to my lack of faith. I was doing all the same things I had been doing all along, such as praying but felt different results. Before antidepressants, I found it difficult to feel close to the Lord. It was like there was a huge wall between us. After antidepressants, I felt like the lines of communication were open again. Treatment doesn’t “cure” depression, but it does make it more manageable.
I still struggle with depression, and I likely always will.
I may never fully understand why I have depression or what caused it. But the one thing I do know is that mental illness is not a punishment. God loves us and wants us to seek help so we can have the clarity to make our own choices, instead of being ruled by this illness.
Because that’s what depression is: an illness. Let go of the shame that it is something more than that.
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