My name is Eunice, and February of 2020 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
If you were to sit here and ask me what it feels like typing out those words, I'd say, scary. You might then ask me, "why scary?" Then I might respond and say, "I worry what my mother will think after she reads this." Yes, my mother. Something approaching your mid 30's doesn't change, the desire to please your family, even if it costs you living your best life. Even as I write this, I can't imagine where I would be had life's uncertainty, derailed plans, and unexpected happenings not lead me to the basement of someone's house. Seemingly metaphorical of my life at the time, I needed to experience the darkness to learn what living in the light felt like.
Let me give it to you straight, depression is not monolithic, and I'll be the first to admit that I always thought it was. Sleeping nonstop, suicidal ideation to the point of death, or self-harm were my definitions of it. But, unfortunately, because I viewed depression that way, I was oblivious to signs indicating I wasn't doing well and hadn't been for a long time.
Ever heard of High Functioning Depression? Neither had I, and I learned that this form of depression looked like a lot of things, but in my life some of those things were:
I share my "list" with you, not for your pity, but to highlight that almost everyone around me assumed I was doing fine. I was showing up to the church, serving in multiple ministries, and most days, I was able to muster up the strength to perform, preach, laugh, and crack jokes like Eunice does. However, the minute I got home and life moved on, I felt empty. I felt sad; I felt alone. Yet, I deserved an academy award for playing myself well. Mastering my two lines of "I'm good" and "I'm fine" with such believable tenacity. I had no words for my emotions, and the words I did have, felt scary but few.
For those of you waiting to hear the part of the story where I tell you I prayed my way out of depression or was miraculously healed, that sadly won't be the message today. I do hope and believe in those things. Still, it took prayer (yes) and a year of therapy and medication in my story to find normalcy and balance again. I made this decision after prayer and conversations with mentors, a friend, and some family. It required me to have faith and be intentional about rest and boundaries (COVID made that easy to do).
Even my worries and doubts about God and faith seemed to disseminate in time as I took steps towards health. After recalling a conversation I had with my dad freshman year of college, I found confidence in my decision. I tore my meniscus in a race and contemplated surgery to repair the tear, but had anti-surgery, let's believe, for miracle family members. Luckily, my dad stepped in and told me that getting surgery wasn't the end of the world because, "well God gave us doctors to help fix things, and wasn't it surgery that brought Eve into the world." In many ways, it was that convo years ago that gave me peace to say yes to human help years later. To go from grasping for air in ocean waves to realizing you could actually stand because you were in shallow waters, living and appreciating life again. That realization has been the best feeling in the world and still gets me through tough days because there are still those days.
I realize this is a "hopeful" story, and for many of us, we grieve the stories of depression ending tragically. So since May is mental health awareness month, I figured it a good time to dust off my pen and come on here to share my story and ask one thing of you, "Check in on your friends but most importantly your leaders." When they come to mind, send that text, speak that encouraging word. That bible verse. Just do it. Yes, there is a God who loves us and guarantees us a life of peace, love, hope, and joy. TRUST, we've been through so many seasons that we've learned to trust that well. We know what we should think, believe for, and pray for, our faith unwavering, but at times our strength failing. However, we are humans too, and we aren't above the darkness of this world. In fact, we often live in the gray of it, and we need community just like anyone else. So be that for us. We may not always accept it because we do feel the pressure to lead a certain way, but know that we are the arms shoot, maybe the eyeball or the leg, but we aren't the whole body. We are MANY, but ONE, and an elevated platform doesn't negate the reality that we need the eyes, ears, nose, and feet to function correctly.
And lastly, to the church, let's get more comfortable talking about mental health and offering those struggling with it more than prayer. Let's stop pushing leaders to do more when they dare to say they are tired and can't do more. Even if it leaves a hole, even if it's hard, let's not move on with business as usual; instead, let's create a culture of support that brings people to a place of hope. In the same vain, don't see our struggles as a barrier to our ability to lead, allow room for us to express what we need and how we need it. Yet, understand this, in a faith culture that unconsciously tells us we have to be tough and lead by example when we decide to open up, and ask for help, sit there with us in this. Help us. It might just save our lives. Sure, call our emotions whatever you want, and keep that to yourself, but please know that sometimes there is no why to how we feel; it just is.
I thank God that I am in a much happier place because there was a season I felt pretty hopeless. However, the best part about getting the help I needed has been knowing what being "healthy Eunice" looks and feels like, while being able to see the signs of declining mental health much sooner. Which is still hard to do some days, to admit to ourselves, let alone others we lead that we are "not okay," and at times, it would seem that it takes the same courage despite what one sees to believe us. Please believe us.
NEED HELP NOW?
If you or somebody you know is struggling emotionally and need to talk to someone, you are not alone. Talking about your emotional struggles is the first step to feeling better. You can start by talking openly with a friend or family member, reaching out to a mental health professional or using one of the free confidential resources below:
Call 24/7 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor.
Call 800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line
Have a free, confidential chat with a trained counselor. Available 24/7.
Text ACTION to 741-741
SAMHSA Treatment Locator
A free, confidential resource for finding therapists and other mental health professionals. Available 24/7.
A safe, judgement free support service for LGBTQ and questioning youth who are struggling or thinking about suicide. Available 24/7.
Text "START" to 678-678
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