I’m sitting here today, anxious about how much I have missed in the classes I’ve not been to the past two days while sick with a respiratory infection and awful sinus headache. It has me stressed and terrified that I’ve missed 2 important classes in the first 3 weeks of school because I could not get out of bed without my head throbbing. I know I can recover and make up for what I miss, but I still stress about it to the point of freaking out.
I’m sitting here today, realizing that I graduate college in 100 days, and both am excited and absolutely anxious about what life will bring after college. I can’t tell if I’m going to be more excited about the future or more anxious yet. Because I graduate in 100 days, and I have no idea what life will bring on the 101st day, after I’m not a Lipscomb student anymore. And that is freaking terrifying.
I’m sitting here today, thankful for a doctor that wrote for a refill of my Paxil on Tuesday and asked me how my anxiety is, and asked me when I was starting therapy again. I’m thankful she cares not just about therapy but about the fact that medicine is a necessary part of my self-care.
And I sit here today, jaw unhinged at the comments of Marianne Williamson about post-partum depression and anxiety.
I have two caveats to add before I post what she wrote:
- I have written about Williamson before. I loved a quote from one of her books–I still do.
- I am not a parent, so obviously I have not dealt with PPD/PPA. I do, however, struggle with mental illness apart from post-partum– GAD and depression specifically. So while I may not have the same experiences or issues as someone with PPD/PPA, her words had a profound impact as someone struggling with mental illness for a long time. I understand the situations surround post-partum and general mental health are different, but her words impacted me nonetheless.
That being said, I was appalled when I found the #meditateonthis topic on twitter, as it led me to Williamson’s words yesterday surrounding the idea about PPD/A screening in pregnant/post partum mothers.
Okay. Let’s think about this a bit.
None of what I’ve gone through is “normal” when it comes to my mental health.
Before I got on medication for GAD, I was up almost all night scared to go to sleep. I was scared I was going to die. I couldn’t concentrate on classes, I sobbed and cried every night thinking I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. I went to class everyday for an entire semester a walking zombie, unable to concentrate fully on anything. My grades suffered. My relationships suffered. My health suffered.
I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. Except I prayed that God would wake me up in the morning, that He wouldn’t let me die in my sleep.
And that didn’t do one thing to keep me from the anxiety the next day.
Before I started on medicine for depression, I was in a pit so deep I didn’t think I was going to get out. I was in a fog day in and day out. It didn’t matter if good things happened, my brain focused only on the bad. And when the anxiety appeared, it mixed with the depression and sent me into a never-ending cycle of mental hell. One that I didn’t know if I was ever going to get out of.
Suicide has been something I’ve thought of more than once in my life. From a young age, I’ve thought about ways to escape it through death. I didn’t feel like life was worth it, or I was a burden, that everyone would be better off without me.
As recently as a few months ago did I vocalize this. I said it both out loud to myself-and thankfully to someone else. I thought about medicines I could take, or what would happen if I walked out in front of a car on my ever-busy street. I just wanted and needed to get out of this painful life that had consumed me.
It was then that I knew I needed a medicine increase. And it has since made life bearable again.
Williamson could be right- prayer could help. same with meditation, nutrition, etc. But it was medicine that saved my life.
And just like I believe that God works through prayer, He works through medicine too. He did for me.
We don’t get the flu and someone say, “oh just pray and it’ll get better. meditate and it’ll go away,” right? We don’t tell someone with a broken bone to eat better or love more and their bone will heal.
So why would we EVER approach mental health the same way?
I can’t pray my way out of the flu. I can’t meditate my way out of pneumonia. Neither can I pray my anxiety away, or meditate until I don’t have depression.
For me, I’ve dealt with more mental health medical issues in the past few years than I have physical. Never broken a bone or had any big health scares. Yet, if I did, you better damn believe that I would take the advice and medicine my doctor gave me. So, when my doctor said it was time to think about medicine to help the imbalance in my brain… I trusted her. And it’s changed my life for the better.
No, it hasn’t taken the anxiety away, or made the depression cease. But it has helped me fight through the fog, to work through the pain instead of caving underneath it. It has helped me take the edge off enough to explore other channels (such as therapy and support groups). But without medicine as the beginning of my healing, I wouldn’t have had the strength to do any of that.
Honestly? Without medicine, I doubt I’d be here.
Words like Williamson’s are what keep people from getting help. Or they shame those like me that chose medicine as a pathway towards health.
They think it’s THEIR fault when they have these feelings or struggles. It’s not. It’s not your fault.
Or they feel ashamed that they feel this way, or think this way. It’s not shameful. At all.
It’s a battle. A relentless, evil battle against your brain and your body, and sometimes you wonder if your brain is going to win out. I’m one of the lucky ones that made it back from the brink.
Yet people like Williamson say bullshit like this, and make those that struggle like me and the 1 in 5 women that struggle with PPD/PPA feel less than because they use medicine that they are less than. That they just need to try harder to get better. They have to do more than they already are to feel better.
If I’d tried any harder before getting on medicine a year ago, I would have spiraled even harder than I did. I was a shell before medicine was introduced. I look at myself a year ago and can’t believe how far I’ve come.
I wouldn’t have gone far at all if medicine hadn’t been a part of my recovery.
I can’t imagine the new mom reading Williamson’s words thinking she had to DO MORE to feel better. And the scary thing? People buy into it. Look at the screenshot– people are supporting her, agreeing with her. People that would have sought help now probably second guess themselves, thinking it’s all on them. This rhetoric isn’t just wrong–it’s harmful. It could lead to more people not finding help. And that’s terrifying. She has a social media platform of nearly 1 million people that see her rhetoric and shy away from finding much-needed support. That terrifies me.
I didn’t get help for a long time because I was afraid of people saying stuff like this. I didn’t want to be thought of as weak or doubting my faith. I was scared people would see my as less than, or broken beyond repair. I didn’t want to lose anything else, and I was scared I’d lose people.
I’m thankful to have heard more “me too” responses than anything else.
But sadly, I’ve had things like this said to me too, similar to Williamson’s rhetoric: “why don’t you pray more about it? what are you anxious about? You don’t have anything to feel sad about. Quit dwelling on it, that’s not going to make it better.” Those words stifled my recovery at the time, and made me wonder if anything was worth it. If I was actually getting better, if anything was helping me.
But I refuse to let those voices, like Williamson’s, keep me from being the best me. And the best me is someone that speaks up about her struggle, and one that uses medicine as her defense in this harrowing battle.
Like Williamson, I am a person of faith. I struggled so much with my mental battle and my faith and the tension there is between them. Was I not being faithful? Was I not trusting enough? Was Jesus there in the midst of my hurt and my terror?
I prayed often. daily, nightly. I read scripture and devotionals, and the words resonated in my soul. I sang worship songs and encouraged friends. But it was hollow. I was a zombie, going through the motions of faith. Faith wasn’t enough to save me from my brain.
In a lot of ways, my faith grew stronger because I relied on God so much when I couldn’t see the end. When I was terrified and unable to sleep, I would pray. It didn’t make things go away. It brought comfort, but not results.
I could sing It Is Well in chapel all day long. But I couldn’t believe it, because there was nothing well with me.
I, for one, thinks Jesus works through the tools I’ve been given to help me find mental health. He works through the counselor to help me find peace in my struggle. He gives me words and a voice to talk about things I wouldn’t even say out loud a year ago. Vulnerability has become a huge part of my story over the past year, and He is the only reason I have the strength to speak.
And he works through the medicine. He has given me doctors with wisdom, pharmicists with care and guidance to walk me through what the medicine will do and how it will help. It took time, but I finally found myself again amidst the fog. I found joy, I found peace and solace in the midst of the chaos going on in my brain. The medicine gives me the ability to do more, to be more, for the kingdom. It gives me the freedom to be all that He created me to be.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the things Williamson suggests, per se. It’s how she suggests them. Prayer is a big part of my life; meditation is something I use to calm myself down; and nutrition is something that is very closely tied to my anxiety (caffeine in particular). Those could be things that help people in their mental health journey.
But they should not be in lieu of seeking medical help if you desire. Or they shouldn’t be suggested instead of medical help if it’s needed. Because those things could help, but medical help can, too– it’s been proven to do so.
When I started down this journey, a friend told me to think about a toolbelt– a list of “tools” that help me when I have an anxiety attack or a bad day. The things that Williamson says are on it, but medicine is too. This shouldn’t be an either-or discussion; if medicine helps you, awesome! If something else helps you, awesome! Just please- PLEASE- find help. Selfcare is detrimental. Whatever works for you– whatever makes you feel better and come out of the fog– is the best thing that could happen.
If prayer, meditation, and diet work to keep your anxiety at bay, awesome. Good for you. They help me, sure. But they don’t help me thrive like medicine does.
Prayer, meditation, healthy food are all parts of my recovery. But my recovery didn’t start until my medicine did.
If it’s helping someone, why would we shame them about it?
Everyone is different. Selfcare is different for everyone. What works for me (medicine, therapy, walking, nightlight, rest) might not work for you. What you do might not help me. But no one shoud be told that they don’t need to do something that could help them.
No one should be shamed into not taking their mental health seriously.
Talk like this could take someone’s life. Let’s meditate on that, instead of choosing to meditate over taking medicine. Let’s end this stigma that we are doing something wrong, and that we have to try harder to fix something that is clearly a medical struggle.
I hope Williamson sees the uproar she’s caused, and realizes how harmful her words are to those that struggle. Stigma is real, and her words prove it.
Help is real. And for me, it’s in the form of a little white pill I pray over before taking each day. That pill is my prayer– that it allows me to be what God intended me to be.
There is not enough love or prayer that could have saved me like my medicine did.
If you are a person of faith struggling with mental health, here are some no stigma posts for your consideration:
Why The World Needs the Mentally Different-Momastery (basically all of G’s posts. Jesus loves me, this I know, for He gave me lexapro!)