Living in the Valley of the Shadow

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***This one may be hard to read.  Please know that you are not alone, and help is available***

 

She was a little less than 2 years old, and I was on my way to work.  I was 22.

 

I had been fighting anxiety and depression on my own for 11 years.  I had been battling severe exhaustion and what I can only describe as a post-partum depression for 18 months.  And I was completely at my end.

 

Tired of fighting.  Tired of being so completely tired all the time.  Tired of listening to the voice that told me it would never be any better than this.  But at the same time, absolutely believing that the darkness would never leave.

 

I’m waiting at a red light to turn onto the highway.  Its morning time and I’m exhausted and anxious and yet again feeling like this is an endless, hopeless day.  The sun is up, but its slightly overcast and foggy.  There is a tractor trailer coming down the highway headed through the intersection.  Its barreling toward the light I’m waiting at, and the thought pushes through my brain fog suddenly, clear and fully formed.

 

“I should just pull out in front of it.  Poof.  Easy.  Done.  It would be over, no one would have to worry about me anymore.  Maybe it would look like an accident, and James would even get the life insurance money.”

 

The thought is so perfect. And easy. And simple.  It makes so much sense in a world that no longer makes any sense to me. The urge to listen to it is so strong, and almost pure.  Everything would be better if I just let this one clear thought guide me.

 

I take my foot off the brake and hover it over the gas pedal.

 

A half of a single second ticks by, my foot still hovering.

 

My foot goes back on the brake.

 

Looking back – I don’t remember what stopped me.  Did the light change?  Did I just chicken out?  Did I think of something I needed to do first, to make sure everything was squared away for my family?

 

I don’t know.  But it scared me tremendously.  How close I had come, how strong the urge had felt, and how much sense it had made.  It scared me enough to finally go home and tell James.

 

I can’t imagine James had ever prepared for a moment when he would have to be the support for a confession like this.  I can’t imagine what went through his brain in those moments.  But he simply looked at me and said, “Well, we need to go see a doctor and get you some help.”

 

I resisted a bit. I was fine – probably just overly tired, I’d feel better tomorrow.  But I knew I was lying.  He knew I was lying too.  And he called the doctor, made an appointment, walked in next to me, and with him beside me I told the doctor everything.

 

And so began my long-term relationship with antidepressants.  It took a while to find the best one for me – I imagine that is fairly common. I ramped up and down on a couple of different ones before finding the one that worked the most efficiently.  And each time it was a rush of hope, a waiting game, the frustration of defeat. . . .and then cycle through it again.  But eventually we settled on Effexor.

 

And still.  Very few people knew.

 

James and I had joined a small group at our church when our daughter was born, and I mentioned it to a few people in the group at first.  James knew of course, my mom, my best friend, and maybe 2 other people.  And of those, only James knew how bad it really was.  I still put up so much of a mask with everyone else.  I was still so completely ashamed and confused.

 

Surely.  Surely.  The fact that I needed this pill meant something was wrong with my faith.  Surely someone who fully trusted God, who had a relationship with Jesus. . .would not need this crutch.  We were highly involved in our church, we attended, we served, we studied, we prayed. . . .and I took my pill every day, hidden like the darkest secret.

 

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