My favorite Bible verse is what you see on the home page at the top--Jeremiah 29:11-"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV). Why? Because it gives you, me and everyone hope in a God who can do above and beyond what you think He can and change your life.
MY STORY.....begins back in 1967 when I was born in a small northeast Mississippi town called Starkville. You might know it better as it being the home of the Mississippi State University bulldogs--woo hoo GO STATE! My dad was a professor there and where I eventually graduated from college in 1989.
My first bout with depression was when I was 13 years old after the death of my beloved grandfather Roosevelt. He was born in 1904 and named after Teddy Roosevelt who was a pretty good president, I hear. He had no middle name and was 1 of 10 children born in a sharecropper's house in southern Illinois. His education ended after 8th grade. Later, God had a call on his life to preach the gospel. He became ordained as a minister in his early 50's. The way he would say it was, "God would just not leave me alone." He had no seminary or Christian college training of any kind. Preaching to a small Baptist congregation was what he loved doing.
I was an unbeliever for some while. We attended church on few occasions, such as Palm Sunday, Easter and here and there. It was an Episcopal church--so very ceremonial. My depression led my parents to contact a psychologist who attended our church. I had my first appointment with this person. Those few sessions helped me very little and seemed like a waste of time. This was my first experience with the psychological world.
Fast forward ahead for me to age 19. My grandmother has just passed away after a terrible bout with lymphoma. She was my grandfather's (Roosevelt) wife. I was in college majoring in interior design. Since I was an upper classman I was getting into studio design courses more related to my major. At the time, my father and I traveled every other week from Mississippi to southern Illinois to visit my grandmother in the hospital. I became too overwhelmed doing the traveling back and forth, trying to finish a project at the end of the semester (she died November 12-a few days before my 20th birthday) and deal with her imminent death. It had been so long, really since someone close to me had passed away--since my grandfather and it affected me again deeply.
This time, I knew I needed to see a counselor and did so on my university campus. Being overwhelmed mentally became a repeated pattern for me in my life and indicated to me, "I need some help." The counselor referred me to a doctor who prescribed me my first anti-depressant which was Prozac. It helped tremendously and was I SO thankful for her and the medicine! Prozac was fairly new at that time. I had no undesirable side effects so, to me, it was great!
Go ahead about 4 more years where by then I had graduated from college, moved to Missouri where I had family, got my first job in St. Joseph, Missouri and then moved back to Columbia, MO. I got a job working at the University of Missouri in a secretarial position. I had just come out of another secular relationship and was getting depressed.
The only kind of counseling I could afford at that time was with a grad student where I had to agree to be filmed as the "subject" and probably the focus of many fascinating conversations--I'm sure--just kidding :-) So, I was prescribed Prozac once again through this scenario. This was still before I became a believer. What I remember the most beside the always uncomfortable look of my graduate student counselor--was being told, "You have a mental illness." Too much reality for me, folks. Way too much. I mean, how would you react to that?! Well, I pushed it to the back of my mind for the most part.
In the meantime, my mother had become a born-again Christian around May 1992. She and my sister had been telling me about a small church and their new lives in Christ. All I could do was moan about the guy that got away.....So, in November of that year, I decided to take them up on an invitation to attend a Bible study in the church pastor's family's house. Remember, I had never known a pastor, nor his family. They were like 'untouchables' in my stereotypical mind. All I had ever known was the Episcopal church.
I am a quiet person, can be introverted around people I don't know. Not awkwardly so, but just quiet. I listened A LOT. You learn a lot by just listening. So, that's what I did when I entered the pastor's home and met his family and some other Bible study attenders. They were not living so well. That hit me first. Their home was a second- or maybe third-hand old small mobile home. That was the 'parish' I guess. What did I have to compare it to? I do not know, but did not expect to see a covered cloth over a suitcase as an end table. I was being judgmental. After the study, the pastor wants to visit with me outside. He was rather assertive, asking me about my failed secular relationship and telling me I was a sinner. I got defensive at times. But I took a wait-and-see attitude with the whole church thing. I started attending church there which was an old house with a metal building on the back half of it, rather pieced together--it was small and nothing fancy. I met new people who were very nice and became lifelong friends and still very dear to me.
My mother gave me my first Bible for my 25th birthday. I was somewhat excited, not sure.....but it was pretty! I had started reading my grandmother's old blue leather Bible because that was the only one I really had that looked like a real Bible (whatever THAT means). So, I was interested in this Bible gift. I saw changes in my mother and sister. I wanted whatever it was that they had. It was a joy I saw and they were happier. The big day came in January 1993, when a visiting missionary pastor from Nepal led me through a salvation prayer (I was just having a conversation, in my mind, and then he started praying out loud for me, so I answered and repeated). All of a sudden, everything gets quiet around me. Everyone stops talking and they are looking at us. Being the introvert I am and not truly knowing a lot of these people----I started to get self-conscious. Well, that didn't stop me and it became the first day in my walk with Jesus--January 14, 1993.
After accepting Jesus as my savior, I went to tell my grad psychology student counselor at my next appointment with her. I told her that I got saved and I was getting off of my Prozac because I didn't need it anymore. She was saying, "No, No...." In my mind I was thinking, 'Jesus can do anything and I don't need meds anymore, ever.....' And JESUS CAN do anything. I was going to find out, that, for me, it would be this life-long pattern I've mentioned before.
Now, I was 28 years old--had been attending the church where I got saved. I had really wanted to get married and have children. There was a fear in the back of my mind that someone may not want me when I tell them all the counseling for depression that I've had. The biggest problem I was having was actually meeting men who were born-again Christians, the right age group, etc. Every time I tried to meet with a group where I could meet Christian men it would fall through. I had contemplated another church's singles group just so I could meet eligible Christian men. That would fall through also. Even though my pastor and his wife kept telling me that God could lead my husband straight to the door of our small, tucked away church that was half house and half Butler building. I didn't believe that. God proved me wrong.
It was December 28, 1994 when my future husband walked into the Wednesday night service during worship time. (This is a whole other testimony--our marriage testimony.) We married on December 30, 1995. I became pregnant in January of 1998 and had our much-prayed for precious baby girl on October 10, 1998.
The following April 1999 was when I continued my long difficult journey with depression, but this time it was much worse. Out of the blue I started having completely unsolicited thoughts that scared me to death. These thoughts were specifically about harming my newly-born daughter with a knife. I was terrified something would possess me and that I would hurt my daughter--this precious baby we had prayed for before she was ever a thought. I tried and tried, prayed and prayed to get rid of the thoughts, but nothing worked. I laid prostrate on the floor begging God to help me. Was I going crazy? I felt like it. I finally told a friend who was a Christian. She gave me a strange look and said I needed to see my doctor. Then I got more worried. So I told my family. They all took off from work to help me because they didn't know what to do either. I felt my world of happiness falling apart.
They ended up taking me to a psychology clinic at a university. I started explaining it all over again--which you have to do. The lady I spoke with called the local Charter Behavioral Hospital to arrange a place for me to go to be safe. I was suicidal because I didn't want to have the scary thoughts I was having and live like that. I would rather hurt myself than hurt my daughter. It was mental torture. My family took me there. I had to go through a check-in procedure--answering a lot of questions, explaining what happened to the best of my mental capacity. I was then taken to a basement level (it wasn't scary and dark, like it sounds) area of the hospital where the patients who were suicidal were staying. You had to be checked in by someone with a key punch code and couldn't leave unless an employee had the code to take you somewhere else in the building. They went through all my bags like I was a criminal, taking out anything that I could use to harm myself, including shoe laces, razor. I was assigned to a room that was made for double occupancy, but luckily I didn't have a roommate yet. I tried to process what was happening. I cried a whole lot. I felt very much alone. But I had my Bible with me. At first, I didn't look at it. I was angry with God. No one seemed to understand me, even the employees about why I was there other than for depression. I felt the looks of employees and patients. I kept thinking they probably thought I was crazy. Those were lies.
2006 was the last year I went to a facility for psychiatric help. I've still gone through ups and downs, but never the deep depression I experienced early on--nothing that would cause me to go to the ER. I have an excellent psychiatrist I completely trust with my medications. I hope he won't retire for a long time!
Health is health. It's great when it's good and not when it's bad---physically or mentally. Don't let your mental health suffer because of embarrassment of revealing your struggle, losing friends (if you lose them for this reason, then they weren't your friend to begin with), fear of anything. You live your life; no one else does. So live it as healthily as you can. Do all you can to stay healthy. If a Christian counselor or doctor doesn't help, then move on to the next one. Just because someone is a health professional and a Christian does NOT mean they are the right one for you. BUT I DO RECOMMEND LOOKING FOR A CHRISTIAN COUNSELOR ABOVE ANYONE ELSE--you just may need to find another Christian counselor that suits you personality better. And it's okay if you need to look elsewhere.
Why a Christian health professional? Because you know they rely on a higher power to help them and help their patients. They will pray for their patients. They will relate God's character to you in a counseling environment. They will dissolve misconceptions about how God views mental illness and always look at you as one of His children. Why would you go anywhere else? Do the research to find a Christian psychiatrist and counselor/therapist nearest you.