Over the past several months, I have come to realize the difference between guilt and shame. I have discovered how to breathe and visualize in order to calm down in my “crisis” mode. I have been told I am good enough, and that “good enough” is indeed okay. I have learned the difference between feelings and truths. I am becoming more aware of how I perceive something versus the reality of it. I am learning that it is okay to not be perfect, not be the best, not be what I think I should be. I am who I am, and God loves me this way. I don’t understand why He does, but I accept it.
I have learned all these things, and will continue to learn more, because for the past several months I have been in an intensive outpatient program. Typing those words is actually hard for me ,and I’m not sure I’ll ever publish this. I have been diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder, PTSD, and Severe Anxiety Disorder. It sounds like a lot, and it is. Normally, I would say, “But it’s not,” but having worked through a LOT of issues, I can say with the utmost honesty–It IS a lot. Coming from a Christian background, I thought by saying things like, “I trust God,” or “God will get me through this ” was enough to alleviate the pain. And, while yes, God has gotten me through everything, just saying the words and not actually processing the feelings did nothing for me. In fact, it made it worse. My feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, self hate, self blame, disgust for myself, sadness, distance, fear, anger, bitterness…..all these just piled themselves on top of each other and eventually toppled over into a sea of mental breakdown.
I cried for hours at a time for no reason. None whatsoever. I yelled because someone breathed wrong. I stayed in bed because I COULD NOT face people. I couldn’t leave the house. Thankfully, I have a husband who cares enough to make me get help. I began treatment in October. I had no idea what “treatment” meant, but I knew I needed help. I immediately began group therapy three times a week for 3 hours, individual therapy once a week for an hour, and psychiatrist appointments once a week for an hour. Intensive is exactly what it means–intense! I had to put on clothes. I had to leave the house. I had to talk to people. This was not my element….but it was what I needed. It eventually became my safe place, and I looked forward to going. I dreaded the long weekend when I didn’t have therapy. One of the first things I was told to do was talk to my husband…about everything…..therapy, feelings, let him see me cry (hardest.thing.ever.)…..It was truly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. To be VULNERABLE to him? I didn’t even know what that meant, let alone how to accomplish it. So, I began small. Letting him in a little at a time. Over time (lots of time), he became my safe place. The time away from therapy wasn’t so hard, because I would talk things through with him.
Another thing I had a difficult time with was : what do I tell my kids?? I struggled with this in each therapy session, group and private. This probably took me the longest to overcome: the fear of seeming less than perfect, of being vulnerable, to my children. But I did it. I sit here with tears in my eyes, as I recall telling my oldest. He was so understanding, concerned, and genuinely wanted to help in any way he could. He began making me coffee, making my bed while I was at therapy, quieting the other kids when he knew I needed a minute. I am truly blessed to be his mom. Making myself be vulnerable, open, to him and my other children was so scary for me because I didn’t want them to think I was anything less than the best mom ever. I wanted perfection. Because, if I was anything less than perfect, then it was my fault (blame, shame, guilt). These feelings of perfection are in fact ludicrous from a Christian/Biblical standpoint. The only perfect person ever to walk the face of the earth was Jesus. So, why was I even entertaining the notion that I could be perfect? I don’t know. I think somewhere along the way, we (Christians) forget that while yes, we should live our lives according to God’s Word, we can’t BE God. We can’t control every situation, we can’t live without fault. In spite of our faults, our many many faults, we have to remember that God still loves us.
For months, I struggled with not “feeling” God’s presence, not connecting with Him, not hearing Him. It wasn’t because He wasn’t there, but because I was going through a trial. He was watching, waiting, protecting, providing for every need. It was so hard for me to accept that everything is not my fault. Some people are just mean, and that isn’t my fault. People die, and that isn’t my fault. Bad things happen to innocent people, and that isn’t my fault. I control how I act, not how others act. I am still struggling with that. I still think that things that have happened in the past are somehow my fault; I’m responsible. It is the apparent theme in my therapy sessions, or so my therapist says.
I now only attend private therapy once a week, and see a psychiatrist once a month. The picture above is of me in my psychiatrists office. Yes, the cliché of a couch in therapy is real…and comfortable. I’m making progress. Progress does not come easily. It comes through a lot of hard work, tears, and effort. But today, I will put on clothes, get out of bed, go to the store, and take care of my kids. And if I need to cry, I will cry. I will do so knowing that it doesn’t make me less of a mom or less of a Christian. If I’m judged by others, that’s okay. The only judgment I concern myself with is God’s. I’m hearing Him more these days. I laugh sometimes when He makes it obvious that He has His hand in something. God hears my heart’s cry, and He also hears the joy. He knows my heart. I still live with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I probably always will, but I live with it, knowing God hears my cry and catches my tears. The therapist I see, thankfully, knows God. I don’t think that is a coincidence. I believe God hand picked him for me, knowing I would need someone well versed in the Christian life. Even though I suffer, I’ve learned that I’m a survivor. I’ve survived. I’m ready to thrive. One step at a time.