Well, I don't want to get too deep and dark right at the start of this blog...oh, what the heck, let's just dive in!
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 20 years old. At that time, I don't know that I was really aware of my diagnosis, I just knew that my mom took me to counseling because I worried A LOT, had trouble sleeping, cried often and had developed an eating disorder. My 20s were a series of highs and lows, and times that were pretty dark inside my mind. And if I am honest, really honest, there were times that I even felt like disappearing or wishing that I would go to sleep and not wake up. I never wanted to hurt myself and I never wanted to end my life (I knew that God had made me and I had a purpose). But at times, the sadness and anxiety was so great, that I wanted to escape the feelings. I was prescribed some medication for depression and this seemed to help some. I learned to exercise to help wake up the "feel good" chemicals in my brain and began to work on my negative thinking and low self-esteem. I felt like I was getting a handle on my life, starting to feel more confident, and I even weaned off the medication by the end of my 20s.
Enter my 30s...and being pregnant for the first time. Such an amazing time of my life! But within a couple of weeks of having my first child, I entered one of the darkest phases of my life. I now know it was post-partum depression, which with my history of depression was pretty severe. Again, I went on medications, began attending a moms support group and returned to counseling. I remember feeling some guilt and shame for why I could not find more joy in becoming a new mom and asking God "why" a lot. Why do I have to feel so negative? Why do I have to feel tired all the time? Why do I have to worry? Why, why, why??
Enter my 40s and baby number two! I was a little more prepared this time and worked with my physician on how to cope with my depression and anxiety during and after my pregnancy. And although it is ideal to not take medications during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, my physician supported my decision to stay on medications to attempt to prevent and reduce the severity of my depression and anxiety while pregnant and after the birth of my second child.
Growth Can Be Dark and Hard, but Keep Pressing When it Doesn’t Make Sense
Over the years, I would have these talks with God about the depression. What is the purpose? Why me? Please take it away. Recently, I have begun to realize that maybe my questions to God and my desire to get rid of the pain and avoid my feelings is not the path I need to be on. Maybe, just maybe, I would move closer to God if I began to accept the depressive and anxious feelings as part of myself. Maybe there can be purpose out of the suffering and maybe I need to lean into Him instead of trying to handle it on my own. Rather than feel guilt and shame and pull away from God by questioning and then avoiding Him, I could move closer and ask Him to love me and lift me up when I cannot do it myself.
Looking at the growth that has come out of some of the darker, more difficult occurrences in my life is pretty amazing! My ability to be a mental health counselor has grown tremendously over the years due to real life experience (some of my own and some experiences from the many people I have met along the way). My patience and understanding has increased with my children as I recognize my own feelings and learn better ways of coping. My ability to be vulnerable with my husband and express myself in a genuine and authentic way is growing. I realize now that without going through my own struggles, I would not have as much ability to help others through theirs. Without having a deep experience with emotional pain, how can I help others to the light? Without recognizing how God can help me through each thought and feeling, how can I lead others to Him?
God has started to give me some clarity and understanding. We ALL have times that are deep and dark! We all have a choice to keep pushing through the darkness and attempting to learn and grow through the difficult times. God can use all experiences we have to grow us, even when it does not make sense to us.
Sarah has always been fascinated by how the human mind works and how we relate to each other in this world. This led to a career of helping people recover, manage the challenges that life brings and work towards healthy relationships with their partners and children. Sarah's other career is attempting to be the best mom and wife she can be. Those who know her well might say she is a bit obsessive and likes everything to be in its place. She has been known to try to pick up toys and put them away while her kids are still playing with them. God has sent an amazing man to her who is slowly teaching and encouraging her to live in the moment, relax and let things get a little messy. If you want to see Sarah's soul come alive, take her to the beach. The smell of the salty air, the waves, and an underwater dive bring her back to calm and God's creations like nothing else does.