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Monday, July 4, 2016

Levels of Denial and Acceptance

Imagine sitting in a therapist's office (albeit, an  office used by graduate students, in my case) and being told that, "You have a mental illness called depression."  That's the first time any mental health professional (well, she wasn't a professional, yet) told me that I had a mental illness.  And its name was depression.

I had been rather happy that day because I had recently found Jesus and my life was changing.  I thought all things are possible with God because...well, they are.  I thought my days of depression were in my past.  That I didn't need help anymore since I had accepted Jesus as my Savior.  My goal that day was to tell the psychology grad student that I was ending my sessions because I didn't need them and the Prozac I had been prescribed through her (and I'm sure written by her supervisor).  The Prozac had helped, but in my mind, I was cured.  She was not a believer and didn't get it.  She was telling me, "No, no...", as I was pretty much walking out the door for the last time.  That was 1994.
I was in denial.  Even though I had experienced major depression episodes every 4-6 years throughout my life starting at age 13--I thought that was all over.  I was trusting God that I would never go through that again.  Call it denial or call it faith.  I would have called it faith at the time.  This was long before I knew that someone could be a believer AND have a mental disorder at the same time.  If you have read the page on this blog called My Depression Journey, then you have read some of this in that story.

Starting in April 1999, this depression reared its ugly head again in a most vicious destructive way.  Some thought it was postpartum depression because I had given birth to our daughter in October of the previous year.  I knew it wasn't that.  I was having unsolicited thoughts to harm my daughter with a knife.  These thoughts were very specific in that way which I didn't understand.  I didn't understand any of it.  I can tell you that I knew that the enemy, Satan, was having a field day with me and my mind.  Never in my life had I experienced something so horrible with my mind.  I thought I was going crazy.  I was afraid my husband would think I was a baby killer even though I had never attempted to hurt our daughter.  The thoughts plagued me day and night.  I became dysfunctional when I was besieged with these thoughts and it escalated.
After my diagnosis and during my in-and-out stays in a hospital psychiatric environment--I was really wanting to share with someone (only info. up to a point--I knew I couldn't share what my thoughts were about)--a believer--who would hopefully understand what I went through, at least the depression part of it.  But I kept coming up against walls where I knew I couldn't penetrate them.  I had already been hurt by comments at my daughter's first preschool she attended.  Someone called me on the phone and asked me a question I couldn't believe I was hearing.  I had shared something with my daughter's teacher and it got back to the board members (this was a preschool in a church).  It was a board member who called me and she had gotten twisted information.  I was shocked, angry, and felt horribly exposed.  When I went to remove my daughter from this preschool, I told the teacher that she just taught me to keep my mouth shut.  Shortly after that, I found a preschool that was newly starting--also at a church.  I did keep my mouth shut and didn't share anything with the teachers.  Our daughter had a wonderful experience there and had a favorite teacher she really loved. 

God has slowly worked in me over the years to trust Him more with who I am.  To not be defined by my mental illness, but be defined by who I am in Christ.  It makes such a big difference in how you view yourself.  I came to accept who I was--flaws and all.  I didn't share my depression experiences with anyone much other than my family.  I always knew, even when I was in the hospital that whatever I was going through--God would use it for good someday to help other people.  You have to remember that when I had my horrible experiences starting in 1999, hardly anyone talked about mental illness and disorders.  I had never heard of OCD.  It just wasn't discussed.  But that has changed tremendously over time.  That stigma is still there, but people are being educated.  I have had people, some I didn't know well, share with me their struggles with depression.  I see their fear of sharing that information.  I went through all of those levels of denial and self acceptance knowing God was with me every step of the way.  I now, through God's grace, have no fear of sharing my whole experience to an audience.  If this blog and me talking to others can help a believer not feel alone in their struggle then it's done what it needed to do.  That is why it exists.  And I hope it is helping you.  God Bless!