Written by Rebekah Lewis of Moncton, NB
Before I was diagnosed with clinical depression, my life on the outside almost seemed complete. I had lots of friends and significant responsibilities at my church. I was just settling into a new place to live, and loving my city, Moncton, N.B. I was however feeling overwhelmed in my secular day-job and feeling very lonely facing the fact I was single.
In Spring 2014 my mind started whirling. I knew I was a worrier before, but now my mind was fixated on the same handful of concerns to the point I was feeling panicky and scattered in my thinking. I stopped eating meals, and all I wanted to do was lay on my couch and wish these overwhelming feelings away. I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t express how intense the anxiety was inside.
Soon, I couldn’t function. I didn’t want to be alone as I was experiencing what I believe was spiritual oppression. All of a sudden I was having dark thoughts of wanting to die – but not wanting to actually admit that out loud. The pain inside was intense and I’d dread waking up, wondering if I could bare to face another day.
My family members encouraged me to see a doctor. I ended up being diagnosed with clinical depression. This resulted in being “dragged” to appointments to see counsellors, being referred to a psychiatrist and two weeks in the psych ward – all pretty humbling experiences. As family, friends and professionals tried to help, I felt utterly hopeless and was going through all of this for over a year and a half.
Even though I’d been raised in church and heavily involved in Christian ministry, I was feeling that I had brought this darkness upon myself. I talked to pastors, Christian friends and whoever would listen to me, as I truly wondered if I’d “lost” my salvation. I’d scour the Bible and focus in on verses that reinforced my negative self-talk and listen to sermons on the radio. I couldn’t bear to listen to Christian music anymore. I felt like such a failure and useless, as I was someone who had been so committed to living for Christ.
Initially, friends would call, email, Facebook or text, and I didn’t have the energy to respond. I appreciated their kindness but I was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say, so I cut out most everyone from my life.
Through this all, the one Truth that was rooted in my mind was: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8).
I believe the key to my journey toward restoring mental wellness began during a phone conversation with a much older friend who I hadn’t seen in years, Kay. During that call in February 2016, she mentioned in conversation what she was learning in Exodus during her daily devotions. I admitted I hadn’t been able to read my Bible for a long time and I asked if I could read along in Exodus with her. That I believe is when my real healing began!
As I opened the Scripture and read how patient God was with the Israelites even though they would mess up, God’s kindness, grace and love stood out in a brand new way! I saw myself in the story of brokenness and redemption. I believe I was experiencing a “renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2).
Although I had grown up in a Christian family, been baptized, and had been constantly told I was a “good girl,” it wasn’t until my depression made me face helplessness, brokenness and sin that I realized my true need for my Saviour.
If you ever find yourself or a close friend with similar symptoms of depression, encourage them to slow down and reach out for help from medical professionals, counsellors and pastors – sooner rather than later. Encourage them to make it a priority to eat well, exercise and sleep. Surrounding ourselves with good friends allows us to feel unconditional love even when we might be not caring about ourselves.
As I reflect on these recent years, the lyrics to the song “My Lighthouse” by the band Rend Collective paint an accurate picture of what I walked through. “In my wrestling and in my doubts, / In my failures you won’t walk out. / Your great love will lead me through. / You are the peace in my troubled sea.” Although my mind was thinking I had been abandoned by God, He was still present and active.