By Kim Lawrence with Dave Franco, courtesy linkbooklegacies.com
AS THE EMTS REMOVED ME FROM THE AMBULANCE, I slowly shook my head as I cried tears of disbelief. They would soon be wheeling me into Scripps Mercy, and I would be admitted as a mentally ill patient.
I couldn’t believe it had come to this.
It began when I felt a wave of depression come over me. My dad had died months earlier and I experienced a deep sadness, but finally, it went away, and I seemed to be doing much better. But then it returned, only this time all of the sadness was heavier, darker, and more severe. I wondered if the loss of my dad was somehow circling back. Ultimately, I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. Whether my dad had died or not, it appeared that depression was going to find me one way or another.
Over the years, and with the help of medication, I was able to bounce back from bouts of depression, but as they returned, it seemed they were getting worse, until the depression draped over me like I had pulled six feet of earth upon my body. It was smothering. I was weak. I could barely stand to take a shower. I was almost helpless to pull myself out of bed, and I would lay face first, and just cry out to God to take it away from me, or at the very least, let me feel that he wasn’t so far away from my reach.
What else could explain the acute desperation I felt? I would call out for anything from God to indicate that He was with me—even the slightest sound of His voice. But anything I asked of Him was not granted. I couldn’t understand it. I was His child and I knew well His power and never-ending love. What could I have possibly done to bring this upon me?
The isolation that comes with depression is awful. You can hardly bear the thought of being in the presence of others where you have to keep up a false demeanor that you aren’t dying inside. The only thing worse is if your friends might figure out how sick you are and show you pity. No, being with others is too much to bear, and yet, being alone is its own hell. There is no winning.
Church proved to be a very lonely place. I would walk in with so much hope that God could meet me there but, of course, nobody knows you’re suffering and you really don’t trust that if you reveal your problem, that you won’t be looked upon a little differently. So you stay quiet and suffer alone.
Finally, however, I allowed myself to be in the presence of some girlfriends from church. I was deep in the abyss of another bout, and my hangdog demeanor dragged me to an all time low. It disturbed them terribly to see me that way.
They gathered around me, saying they had never seen anything like it. I was like a woman melting away. They touched me, and hugged me, and prayed mighty prayers for me while I sat there and wept uncontrollably. Later that day, after seeing a few medical professionals, a doctor told me that I needed to get to Scripps Mercy, to begin the process of getting better under the watchful eye of professionals who deal with the mentally ill.
Me? Mentally ill?
The shame of being in a mental ward was agonizing. But I was just desperate enough to do it—so I allowed the EMTs to wheel me in there, despondent face, red eyes and all. What embarrassment I felt. But I had had enough. It had been 14 years since the battle with depression began, and so I said yes to the shame in exchange for any relief they could offer. If I had to be thought of as a freak to get some treatment, I was ready.
The next morning, when I woke up in Mercy, I found that my nightmare was a reality. The people I feared I was most like were out on the floor; the shock treatment patients, people talking to themselves. I couldn’t believe that this is where I found myself.
Later that morning, my husband came to be with me, and so did my friends. It was so wonderful to see them and, in a way, sit exposed and known, and then loved even so. There is freedom in that.
But when my pastor and his wife showed up, it was particularly moving. He prayed with me, and all of us, and as he was leaving he leaned over me and spoke these words: Don’t forget in the dark what God has shown you in the light.
It gave me hope. I had been given God’s word in the light. Now, in the dark, it was time to submerge into it.
I began to pour over the Psalms of David and that is when a picture began to emerge. King David, Israel’s greatest King, the anointed of God, suffered from depression. What else can make sense of the constant crying out for God to save him from his deep emotional pain. “I am worn out from my groaning,” David wrote. “All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (Psalm 6:6)
Suddenly, God had come to me in a way that I had been hoping for. He gave me Himself by giving me someone to commiserate with; someone who had walked a mile in my shoes. King David was my brother in arms. I wasn’t alone.
Between David, Paul and even the sadness that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gesthemane, I began to see that where I was trying to call God into my sadness, He was there all the while.
I took my own depleted state, and I searched for something that expressed the exact opposite. I found and memorized David’s words in Psalm 34:1-6:
I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. 3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
Finally, I was starting to feel stronger, more connected to our Savior in a way I hadn’t before. God was with me all along. He is with us even in the silence.
That was 10 years ago. I still battle with depression today. But instead of feeling lost and at my wit’s end, I feel certain that God allows the pain and adversity to bring us closer to Him. Winter may bring a desolate barren land, but just below the surface, a world of growth and activity proves that God is busy preparing for spring.
He is near in the suffering.
On the day that I allowed myself to expose my depression to my friends, three life-saving things happened in the next 24-hour period that are essential for every depression sufferer. First, like I finally did by letting myself be admitted to Scripps Mercy, I admitted that I had a problem. Second, the body of Christ came around me, loved and didn’t judge me. And third, I adhered to the Word of God in a way that I hadn’t before. If spoken and prayed, the Word pokes through the dark clouds to leave holes where the sun can be seen. On some days it’s enough to get you through the night. With persistence, it is enough to give you hope for a lifetime.