This was the first, and perhaps the most important step in my healing process.
During that season, my husband and I were doing an internship at our church. It was an amazing year of leadership development, hard work, and growth.
In the midst of this internship, just as my depression was hitting critical mass, one of our pastors taught a lesson on eating spiritual meat. The idea was that, as seasoned Christians and leaders-in-training, we should not solely rely on the Sunday morning message for our spiritual food. We should learn how to feed ourselves through daily quiet times in the Word and not hold anyone else responsible for our own spiritual growth.
It was good. It was truth. It taught me things that I am still using to this day.
But in my twisted, depression-skewed mind, I heard this: You shouldn't need spiritual help from anybody at any time for any reason. And if you ask for help - especially at the church and especially if you are a leader here - then you are a spiritual baby, and you are disqualified.
That is not what they were teaching. But that is what I heard. And it confirmed in my heart what I already knew - no one can ever know about my depression. Not my family. Not my husband. And especially not my friends at church.
If you skim past everything else I'm writing STOP HERE. READ THIS. Read it again. Let it sink in.
Depression's greatest weapon - our enemy's greatest weapon - is shame.
Because shame tells us to hide.
Shame tells us no one can ever know.
Shame makes us run from relationships, and from God.
Shame tells us we're all alone.
I was so ashamed. And I couldn't bear the thought of anyone ever knowing about my failures. I was terrified of the judgment, the stigma, the label that would be slapped across my forehead for the rest of my life.
And so I was alone.
For weeks - FOR WEEKS - no one knew. I was spiraling into the pit, and not one person knew.
Finally, on that one morning, when I hit rock bottom, I made the decision to tell three people. Only three people.
I needed someone to take care of my house and family while I took care of me. So I called my mom. Forever my hero, she drove the eight hours of highway between us, then cooked and cleaned and loved on my family and loved on me and basically rescued us.
Next, because my husband would be at work until late that night, I sent him a simple text: I am really depressed. I'm going to counseling as soon as someone will see me. Mom is coming to help.
Finally, I called every counselor in the book.
In the midst of looking for a counselor, I called our church and asked if they recommended anyone. Through a series of my own miscommunications, I filled out the wrong paperwork. I thought I was requesting a private meeting with a counselor. But I filled out a pastoral request - asking for a pastor to contact me regarding my depression.
When I discovered the mistake, I was mortified. I had missed my internship class for the past two weeks because of my "back pain," and now they would know the real reason why. Would they ask me to "take a break" from the internship? Would they question my spirituality? Clearly, I was lacking faith and a strong Christian walk. And surely, that would disqualify me from any leadership position at the church.
I remember walking through the doors of the church, begging the Lord to spare me a run-in with the pastor who had received my request. But lo, and behold, there he was, walking straight toward me.
I bit my lip in an attempt to hold down the vomit - literally. He walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulders, and said something like, "I got your request, and I want you to know we're here for you." Only it didn't sound like a canned response. It was genuine, and concerned. He went on to say that he had passed my information on to a pastor-friend of mine, and she would be contacting me. I pushed back tears and mumbled something like, "Okay, that's fine. I'm fine. Yep. Fine." And then promptly went to the bathroom and threw up. (It's ugly, but it's real y'all.)
But in that moment, something broke off me. Because there was nothing except love and compassion and concern coming from my pastor. There was no judgment. No lecture. No shame.
And in that one connection, I gained a little boldness. A little fight. A little courage.
Because that's the thing about shadows and darkness - the only remedy is light.
Over the following weeks, I told a handful of close friends about my struggle, and I was shocked to discover how many of them had their own struggles with depression and PPD.
The enemy would have me believe that I was all alone in my depression, that I was isolated in the darkness.
But the more people I told, the more lights came on, and the more I realized that I was surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses." People who had gone before me and battled the depression demons, people who had never faced depression but who would stand in the pit with me and give me a leg-up, people who loved me, who supported me, and who knew - even when I didn't know - that this would not be the way my story ends.
And that was my first step out of the pit. The moment I realized that I am not alone.
So tell someone today. Tell your best friend. Tell your spouse. Tell a counselor. Turn on the lights. And discover you're not alone. You. Are not alone.
"But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light." - Professor Albus Dumbledore