Going Public: My Struggle with Mental Health

Today at church, we witnessed the baptisms of two ladies who professed their faith in Christ. I always get choked up when I watch someone proclaim to the world that they are not ashamed of their faith, but today was different. Even though I got baptized almost thirty years ago, today I too have decided to go public.

One of the ladies shared her testimony of how she felt like a bad wife and mom and wanted to end her own life. She secluded herself from others and didn’t want to ask for help. She eventually joined a small group at church and shared with one of the ladies her struggles. Instead of being shunned or embarrassed, that lady loved and prayed for her; and this morning that same lady was able to baptize her friend, and now sister in Christ.

I’m not going to go into the theology of if women should or should not baptize other people, but it was a powerful image of what happens when we go public with our faith. It includes sharing our hurts and our struggles and, as a result, can even help someone and possibly save their life. It’s my hope that by going public with my experience, it might help someone who may be going through something similar.

If you know me or have been following my blog, you know that the past couple of years have been hard. We’ve experienced loss after loss after loss. Loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, loss of home, loss of health, loss of relationships, loss of hopes and dreams. It’s been one setback after another and for the most part I’ve managed to push through and endure…except for one day a few months ago.

I’ve not shared this until now because what I went through terrified me. I’ve never experienced anything like that before (and thankfully, I haven’t since), but I’ve been afraid of what might happen if I find myself in a similar situation like that again. Afraid that I might lose it all and be left with nothing, not even my faith. To expose this part of my life and be vulnerable about something I don’t completely understand myself, is scary. But if what I went through can help someone else, then I’m willing to take the chance and risk it all.

It was the day after I had gone to the doctor and received the news that I had shingles for the second time in less than three months. Shelby was still unemployed and at that point had stopped looking for work. He’d spend most days in bed and was up late into the night watching TV. The kids were fighting with each other…again, and at that point I had just had enough. I locked myself in the bathroom, sat on the toilet with both hands on my head and screamed bloody murder. I just kept screaming and screaming. It was like an out of body experience and I had no control over my body or my mind.

I remember crying out to God asking him to take my life. I didn’t want to live; I wanted to die. I could never take my own life, but I wanted to give God permission to take mine. I don’t even know if that’s a thing, but I was desperate.

Thankfully my parents were still in town and so I asked them to come and pick up the kids because I didn’t know if it would be safe for them to be around me. I remember sitting across the kitchen table from Shelby repeatedly telling him, “my mind is not right”. I know it may sound strange, but it was like I couldn’t control my thoughts. My heart was racing and I felt overwhelmed and anxious. I began to pour out my heart to Shelby, letting him know that I needed help. We needed help. The amount of stress we were under was taking a toll on me physically and mentally, and as much as I thought I could handle everything, I couldn’t. I felt like I was literally losing my mind.

As tears streamed down my face, I told him how I felt like the one thing I took comfort in, my strong faith in God, wasn’t as strong as I had thought it was. Maybe I was a fraud. All the blogs about trusting in God and preserving in faith, were they all lies? If I truly believed in that, then what was going on? Why couldn’t I handle this? How come I couldn’t be more positive about my situation? Why was I not more grateful for the things the Lord had blessed me with? I felt like a spiritual failure.

This morning when the lady shared her testimony about feeling like a bad mom and struggling with thoughts of ending her life, I could relate. I also felt like I too needed to go public with my story. Perhaps you are reading this and have had a similar experience. Please know that you are not alone. Reach out to someone and let them know what’s going on. Whether it be a spouse, family member, friend or a professional counselor, letting others help you is perhaps the biggest and most important step you can take. I’ve also been reading a few books that have been beneficial in understanding mental health and making intentional lifestyle changes to take care not just of my physical health, but also my mental health.

As a side note, I’m sure many people had absolutely no idea that I went through this. Only my immediate family and a few friends knew. Please be kind to people. You don’t know what silent struggle they may be going through. Your well-meaning comments may not be what they need to hear at that moment. I apologize if I have been unkind or insensitive to those who struggle with things silently. I know others deal with these issues on a daily basis, and I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of that either, but I hope to have more compassion and empathy for those who do.

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