While the phrase “hit rock bottom” has become a bit cliche in our culture, I find it a rather accurate description of my experience with depression. I most definitely hit my rock bottom seven years ago. My depression became so severe I pictured myself as a helpless child curled up in fetal position in the bottom of an abandoned well, much like what you’d see on TV or the movies wherein a harrowing rescue effort would ensue. These scenes usually ended with frazzled parents embracing the frightened child encircled by a cheering crowd of dirty rescuers.
The only difference between the movie scene and my reality was that in a movie the child can’t wait to get out of the well, whereas I found safety in my pit, as dreadful as it was. I was too frightened that if I sought help, I wouldn’t be able to face myself, or the cheering crowd of rescuers. Thankfully, peering down from the top of the pit were a handful of people who coaxed me out with God’s grace. It happened very slowly during which time I did my best to hide in plain sight. I moved to a new city and spent a lot of time at home. I found a large church where I could blend in with the crowd and avoid any kind of meaningful conversation. I kept at distance from my peers, avoiding making friends.
Hiding in Community
Eventually, with God’s help, some anti-depressants, a good therapist, and some supportive friends, I was able to emerge and all the stronger for it. God blessed me abundantly for my efforts allowing me to fall in love and marry soon after. My husband is sensitive to my mild bouts of depression and provides a stability that helps me stay above ground.
The depression still comes in waves but I’ve learned what I believe to be healthy coping mechanisms. Most recently I rode a wave of depression due to my unmet longing of becoming a mom. Actually, this is more than a longing for me – it’s more of a calling. For three years I agonized over my childlessness, each year worse than the last. Instead of dropping into a pit, though, I found myself hiding in plain sight – more like hiding behind a rock which blocked my view from the ugly game of comparison.
I avoided baby showers. I’m pretty sure if I went I’d have been anything but supportive of the mom-to-be and would have sat quietly desperately holding back tears. I also hid from my social media newsfeed anyone announcing a pregnancy so as to avoid a collage of baby bumps and smiling baby faces. I averted my eyes from moms out in public. I believe had I not filtered out these things I would have fallen into that pit again; a place to which I never want to return.
The Humility of Help
Then this past June I became pregnant the month after a very early miscarriage of 4 ½ weeks. My current pregnancy is all the much sweeter because of my loss and the struggle over the past three years of longing. I cherished the morning sickness (let’s be real – all day sickness) and the frequent trips to the bathroom and all the other not-so-lovely affects pregnancy has had on my body. I love my baby bump and the ill-fitting clothes. But pregnancy is so much harder than I could have ever imagined.
First of all, aside from the physical challenges, it took about three months before I could re-follow all my mommy friends from social media. Once I finally did, it was truly freeing and healing. Every once in awhile I hear someone else announce their pregnancy and I get that old twist of dread in my stomach before I remember that I, too, am pregnant. However, the more my pregnancy progresses in a healthy way, the more healing I find. I’m sure God is using my pregnancy to stretch and grow me in preparation for the growth I’ll experience as a mother.
When I was in the depth of my depression seven years ago I found I struggled to care for myself. I was humbled by those who came alongside me to help care for me in my time of need. Without them, I may not have recovered…or at least it would have taken much longer to do so.
My mind is now sound, but my body is weak. God is teaching me once again the holy humility of leaning on God’s community of believers to keep going. As I slowly emerge from the first trimesters nausea and exhaustion I stand humbled before God for those who’ve offered to come to my filthy house and wash 3 day old dishes or clean out weeks and weeks worth of food that I could no longer stomach much less look at or smell. The offers to fold laundry and clean the cat litter have been an abundant blessing. Admitting that I can’t do it on my own has been so absolutely difficult but so wonderfully filled with God’s reminder of His presence and love for me. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that receiving this kind of help is Biblical.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ….And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” -Galatians 6:2, 9 & 10
As Christians, we are called to help others. Most Christians I know do this naturally – it’s just part of who they are. The challenge is in being on the receiving end of that help. It takes a lot of humility to let go of one’s pride and accept help from others. But who are we to help if no one admits they need help?
In John 13, Peter struggles with this. Just before Jesus is to be hung on the cross, he and the disciples gather for a meal. No servant is present to wash their feet, so Jesus prepares to do the job.
“He came to Simon Peter who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’” -John 13: 6-8
It is at this point that Peter challenges Jesus to wash not just his feet but his whole body. Jesus pointed out that Peter should be capable of daily hygiene and only his feet are dirty from walking the dusty roads. Jesus was making an even deeper point than just their external cleanliness, but also the cleanliness of their hearts. We must take responsibility for our lives, our sin, and our calling to follow Jesus and in that, we must not take advantage of those who come alongside us to serve. However, in order to be truly responsible, we must know when we can’t do it ourselves. We can’t cure our own sin any more than we can go through life without receiving help in times when we are too weak, too busy, or too emotionally spent to do it ourselves.
When it comes down to it, if I knew a friend was struggling to perform daily tasks I’d jump right in and help, so why would I deny others the joy of helping me in my time of need? As someone recently told me, “Don’t be a blessing blocker.” Follow Jesus and be a blessing to others, but also know when it’s your turn to allow another to bless you.