Nineteen years ago today I awoke in a haze in a Los Angeles hospital trying desperately to piece together the events of the past 24 hours. Little did I know then that this would be the first day of my journey on the long road of conquering depression and anxiety. I had suffered a severe breakdown the night before. It was terrifying to say the least. I have always been a happy go lucky, upbeat, grounded and lighthearted soul. Depression and anxiety would be the last malady I would have ever expected to be diagnosed with. Yet, here I was frightened and confused and having to grapple with my new reality. A reality that felt much distorted in the moment.
For anyone who has suffered serious bouts of depression or confronted anxiety it can be the most hellish of nightmares. When you are in the depths of a full blown depression you feel as if you’re bound in chains and screaming underwater. You see the light at top of the water and exhaust yourself fighting to pierce through its veil.
The first episode was the most terrifying. You have no idea what is happening to you. You feel like you’ve literally lost your mind. You want to sleep forever and wake up to everything being normal again. The irony is, you’re now living your new normal. There will be hours upon hours of intensive therapy as you work toward healing your broken pieces. There are countless antidepressants you can take to numb yourself, but the reality is no one pill can “cure” your depression. That’s like putting a tiny bandage over the wound of someone who just had open heart surgery and hoping they don’t bleed out. Depression is a hard fought battle that you visit time and again. For me, my faith, family, friends, and insatiable will to fight have been the pillars to my conquering this beast. My prayer mantra is always Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. There were countless nights I fell asleep reciting this mantra and singing the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me” as a way of calming my anxiety.
I have encountered several bouts of depression and anxiety since my first diagnosis. They've come less and less over the years and have gotten easier to conquer but they are grueling nonetheless. I’ve learned to lean deeper into prayer and meditation and reach out to my friends in complete vulnerability to ask their support. My good friend David Grant Wright, while kindly nursing me through an episode last summer, said, “It’s like an old friend who taps you on the shoulder to remind you of their presence. You look back, smile and say, ah, you again. Yes, we've danced this dance before and I’ve got this”.
For all my fellow warriors facing the ugly beast that is depression, never give up. Never lay down your sword and never retreat. No matter how much pain you are experiencing, how weary you get or how frightened and hopeless you feel. No matter how many tears you’ve cried or how scorching the heat of battle gets, never, ever give up. Fight with every fiber of your being and know that you have what it takes to slay the dragon before you. Know that you are not alone. You stand shoulder to shoulder with other combatants who are fighting the same fight. Know that every wound you take to your armor is so the light can shine through when you finally win the battle.
For me, depression is one chapter in the many wonderful chapters that are my life story. It weaves its way into other chapters but it is not the entire book and I refuse to let it be the main character.
I thank God for allowing me to wake up in my own bed this morning healthy, happy and depression free. I thank Him for always having his hand of protection and grace over me, even in my darkest of hours. I thank Him for the scars and learnings along the way. I thank Him for being my strength when I wanted to drop my sword and run. I thank Him for always whispering in my ear that I am not alone. Most importantly, I thank Him for nineteen years of hard fought but sweet victory!