05 Feb Beauty From Ashes – Laughter Despite Depression
Beauty From Ashes – Laughter Despite Depression
by Sara Soenen
My name is Sara and I struggle with anxiety and depression. When it all began, I’m not sure. When I was diagnosed – twenty-two years old. I’m confident it began much sooner, but the ebbs and flows of life kept it at bay. I have struggled for almost two decades with my mental illness.
My story began at the young age of twelve when my father decided to take his own life. This was definitely not how I saw my life playing out. The shattered dreams of a normal family were too much to bear. My father was diagnosed with depression about a year before his death. I didn’t understand it then and neither did my mom. To their credit, they did the best they could. My dad sought medical help, Christian counselors, wise counsel and medication. He did all the right things and unfortunately the burden was too much for him to bear.
When reality finally hit that I too was falling into the same pit I was more than disappointed. Why am I getting this too? Why am I struggling? Through Christian counseling, the love of my church and medication I slowly dug my way out of the hole. Time, changes in circumstances and God’s healing brought me out of that pit. I went nearly a decade without depression.
During my pregnancy, I let my doctors know that I had struggled with deep and dark depression. I wanted them to be aware and I knew I was at risk for postpartum. Once again, my depression went undiagnosed until my son was almost nine months old. Fortunately, as soon I treated my depression, it resolved fairly quickly.
With my next pregnancy, I was determined to have my doctors take me seriously. I was determined to not get postpartum. My doctors and I made the decision that as soon as delivered my daughter I would begin taking anti-depressants. I was meeting regularly with a therapist, and knew what was necessary for me to avoid the depression. Six months postpartum guess what? I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder… again. Seriously? I threw my hands up in the air. I’m done. I give up. I’ve done everything I can think of.
I had done all the “right” things to prevent this. I had been to Christian counselor. After I delivered my daughter I started my meds to prevent getting postpartum again. I was exercising regularly. I was spending time in God’s Word almost daily. I was involved with church and leading Bible Studies. I was doing everything right and it just wasn’t working.
I remember thinking “Third times the charm, right?”
Once I realized that all the tools in my tool belt weren’t working I went back to see a therapist. I needed someone who could shoot me straight. I needed help as much as I hated to admit it. The medication was no longer enough. As I sat down to listen to her words of wisdom and feel better about myself she punched me in the gut with this: “you will probably struggle with depression for the rest of your life.”
Seriously? Just those words alone were depressing. Now I was depressed about being depressed and anxious about the fact that I’d get depression again. You see the cycle? I needed to break it.
Luckily, I found a new therapist who not only wanted to walk me through my third round of depression, but wanted to help me succeed and live well with anxiety and depression. This was a hard pill to swallow. Live well? That sounds like I’m going to get it again. That’s what I had to prepare for. A life of constant struggle with anxiety and depression.
But, with God’s help (He literally had to provide me with the strength to do it some days), I spent a year doing all the things I should, asking for help, not committing to very much and putting in the work of healing. It was real, hefty work. There were months and almost years of little to no change in the way I felt. I just kept waiting for the day when it would just click, and I’d be over it.
But it didn’t ever just click. Now, I can see that God had a plan in the process when I was wanting Him to snap me out of it.
It was a painstakingly long progress where I hardly noticed the improvement. Everything seemed to take time. I just kept telling myself that it was worth it. Out of this process and frustration bore a love of writing and sharing my story. I never could’ve dreamed this up myself that God will heal me a third time and allow me to share my story. This process has kept me humble and on guard because I know at a moment’s notice it could all change and I could be back to feeling like Eeyore, but I press on knowing that healing may not come in this lifetime, but there will be healing when I see Jesus.
While depression had told me it was best if I just laid down under the weight of it all, I decided to stand up and channel my anger for good. I wanted to share my story. I wanted to turn my misery into my ministry. I couldn’t be the only Christian that had suffered from anxiety and depression, although it sure seemed that way when I began to research it. The Christian bookstores and blogs were completely lacking in stories of survivors of depression and anxiety. People that had actually fought this battle needed to share their stories.
I have learned that God is good, no matter how heavy and hard life is. That He can use terrible things for good. Personally, I’ve seen Him use my story to help others, which is more than a silver lining to my very dark cloud.
I struggle with anxiety and depression, but I love laughing and I love life. I want others to know they aren’t alone. I want others to find hope. I want others to know that Jesus isn’t an option, but a necessity. There is hope and laughter with Jesus, even in the midst of anxiety and depression.