My Moment Of Clarity
The week was almost done, and I was out walking; Bill would be home soon. Of course, walking is where I could think. I started asking myself, “Why is this depressive event not going away? Why is it so violent and extreme? What makes this particular time so despairing that I’ve actually been trying to come up with a way to kill myself?” While I had longed for heaven before, while I had idealized dying so I could finally be free of my suffering, I hadn’t ever considered the final step, the plan of how I might accomplish it. I hadn’t felt the need to write these kinds of notes before explaining why I might not be around some day because I had never gotten that close. Rereading those notes now, I believe that I was finally trying to say, “I am sorry and goodbye.”
Anyway, I started asking myself, “When did this depressive event begin? When did it start getting this bad? I figured it had been just over a month, which was unheard of in my whole history of depression, 1) that the event would be ongoing and increasing in intensity for over a month, and 2) of course, that it never had felt this severe. And then it dawned on me. I had begun a new drug about six weeks prior, an appetite suppressant that my doctor wanted me to try to kick-start a new diet. I rushed home to look up the side effects. Typical side effects? Nope! Frequent side effects? Nope! Rare side effects? Nope! Extremely rare and potentially deadly side effects? YES! What?!?!?!?!?
I had been enjoying regular weekly weight loss! It’d been years since I had lost 3-4 lbs. a week. Even in my depression, it was satisfying stepping on the scale. Better yet, I had no hunger! My doctor had implied, if I didn’t buckle down and lose the weight, it could kill me. I thought to myself, “If this is the reason for this depressive event, this might kill me!” I spent the night considering which way I wanted to die, by heart attack or by suicide. I texted my daughter first and told her what I discovered. She asked if I was going to stop taking them. I was still torn! Plus, I wasn’t absolutely sure yet that it was the drug. What if I were to stop it on a whim and the drug had nothing to do with it? Then, I texted my husband whom I had hardly texted all week, and asked him what he thought? Did he think it was the drug?
Both of them said, “Toss the drug! It’s not worth it.” It was a weight loss help! It wasn’t directly saving my life! It needed to go! The next morning, with some sadness, because I had tried for so many years to lose this weight, I didn’t take my pill. Nor the next day, or the next. In fact, I never took another pill. Slowly, I started to feel my “self” return. It was slow; in fact, it took about two-three weeks to feel like myself again. In fact, it was about a month before I felt depression-free for the first time in a few months. But I felt like I was back; praise the Lord! When I went back to my doctor, I was his first patient to experience this type of reaction. He sat there in the room and looked through the known side effects, and sure enough read, “Can make existing depression and mood disorders worse.” It is now listed on my chart as an allergy!
My Rescue Came From My Worst Depression
Glad to be relieved of this really bad episode, life went back to normal! My normal, anyway. I had a good week, then expected to fall back into another regular depressive episode the following week, one less severe as was typical. A week went by, then two. Then three! Then a month! I didn’t say anything! For months after that horrible month, I wouldn’t experience another episode of depression. I even experienced some other really difficult physical health issues. Yet, the type of incapacitating sorrow and irritability never returned. It was surprising to both Bill and me but neither of us dared to utter a word about it. We were almost afraid to believe what might be true. We’re not at all superstitious but yet, I think we were both just waiting for the next episode to show up as it had for twelve years. Still we waited, not believing it could be over. Another year and a half would come and go, and normal human emotions of frustration or discouragement would show up, but they felt “normal.” They felt like they had the first 39 years of my life: appropriate, rational and fleeting.
At thanksgiving, our family has a tradition. After dinner, we go around the table and say what we are thankful to God for in the prior year. On Thanksgiving Day 2015, I would announce to my children and my little grandchildren who would not understand what Oma was crying about, “I believe God has healed me of my depression. It has been 19 months since I last experienced an episode of depression.” The entire table began to cry; it had been a terribly long haul and they had all been there. Praise the Lord! God restored my mind and my capacity to reason and to cope and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. The expected lifelong loop of negative self-hate simply went away.
For those of you whose jaws you need to pick up off the floor, there was a medical reason! In short, I believe this drug so violently affected all my hormones, that it crippled my reproductive system and chemically shut down my hormonal system for good, putting me into menopause. The menopause stopped the cycling, so my body and mind were finally restored to normal functionality. All that suffering just ended because my hormones just stopped.
Back In The Light
I remembered then what the research doctor and researcher had told me back in 2008, 6 years prior, that the current consensus among researchers at that time was that when women with my rare depression went into menopause causing the cycling hormones to stop, that the ravaging mood disorder would dissipate and go away. Remember, he warned me that I should continue to get counseling so that when it did happen for me, I’d be able to find my way back to the life I used to know— that is, I would need to create new pathways to learn how to cope, to make decisions based on my upbringing and my faith, and to be able to know how to make good decisions.
What I was fearful would permanently damage my brain after so many years with depression did not occur because of one thing, I believe. During my years of depression, when I was able to crawl out of the darkness into the light, I devoted my thinking to adjusting my expectations of myself and my view of God. You see, I’d been seeing a different kind of Counselor. God had been renewing my mind, teaching me about Him and His everlasting kindness for me. He was teaching me Foundational Truths which adjusted my view of Him.
God Was Working Behind The Scenes
As I look back, during my depression episodes themselves, I couldn’t see what God was doing in my heart. Even after twelve years of learning how to view my own condition, learning how God might view me and learning about Who God was in His person and character, I could not see those truths, nor could I see Him “inside” the depression. But “in the light” (when I would temporarily emerge clear-headed), deep inside my soul everything was changing; I was being remade. These lessons didn’t deliver me from my depression, but instead it comforted me and gave me an underlying peace about my depression—a hope and a confidence in the One Who knew all and controlled all. God didn’t rescue me from my hell, nor did He tell me to just push past it. He lovingly made a way to make His presence known to me. He simply walked alongside me, working behind the scenes, repairing the broken pieces of my heart and life, and making all things new in my view of Him while all the while He was repairing my own view of me.
Continue to Part Five (the conclusion)