I feel like this particular post has taken the better part of twenty years to compose.
Many are already aware of this, but for those who aren’t: I first started struggling with mental health issues in my teen years. Family problems, spiritual struggles, physical maladies, and destructive natural tendencies plagued me…and they all seemed to converge in the development of severe anxiety, depression, and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
It didn’t all happen at once. These issues took years to form and develop. And they continue to grow and warp and progress to this day. But somehow in all of it I am starting to be able to look back and to see God’s hand. During the time it seemed like it was a hand of anger and of hatred towards me…but in truth it was – and is – and always will be – a hand of love.
Never have I and never will I (until I see Him face to face) be able to fully understand how God works. His ways are mysterious and beyond my comprehension. But as I continue on this journey that God has planned specifically for me, I am learning that He knows what is best. He has my best interests at heart, and He is so incredibly good. The difficult, the hurtful, the almost unbearable circumstances that He allows into our lives at times…they are horrible. They are heart-wrenching. They are discouraging. They are unthinkable. And they are so out of line with His character, that it makes you wonder if there truly is a God – and if there is one – if He is truly a loving being. I won’t even pretend to have a complete answer for this age-old question. But I canshare with you how God has worked in my life, and what He has taught me through everything so far.
As I mentioned, my mental health issues began to develop about twenty years ago. During that period, I have had many up’s and down’s. Many good and bad experiences. A lot of blessings and answers to prayer, but also a lot of heartache and suffering that led me to be suicidal at times. I have been in and out of the hospital, through numerous out-patient programs, have seen more psychiatrists and therapists than I can count, have been on almost every medication available for my problems, have gone through forty ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) treatments, and have endured around six months of daily (5 days a week) treatments with TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). And it still seemed like each day brought a new form of torture. I would “conquer” one stronghold, only to have another one appear and take its place.
I mention all of this because I want you to be able to understand the depths of the pit into which I had fallen. My heart cried out to God for help, but no clear answer seemed forthcoming. There was no easy cure for my problems. I knew that God could heal me completely if He wanted to – and I did pray for this – but His answer came as a firm “no,” or at least, “not right now.” But He did answer my prayers for grace; for strength; for patience; for peace; for joy; for everything I needed to be able to take that next “baby step” through the mud and the mire. And now I’m starting to feel like He has begun to pull me up out of the pit and into the sunlight. I still struggle constantly, but I’m learning that it is for a greater purpose. And I believe that purpose is to make me into the person that He wants me to be, and to prepare me for the work that He has for me to do.
Things changed drastically when my husband and I decided that we wanted to try to have a baby. I had to go off of almost all of my medicines. With the guidance of my psychiatrist, I lowered the dosages of four of my medications over the course of several months, until I was off of them completely. My body did not react well to this. It was used to being on heavy medication for many years to control my symptoms, and without them I began to spiral downward. I experienced horrible withdrawal symptoms that I didn’t know if I would be able to endure. But after a lot of prayer, close collaboration with my psychiatrist and therapist, and wisdom and encouragement from my family and friends, my Hubby and I felt that the Lord wanted us to move forward. If I had to begin taking the medications again, I would – but for now we felt that God wanted us to take a few more baby steps. And let me tell you, they were very difficult baby steps. But I am grateful to say that I am taking only one main psychiatric medication now, along with an over-the-counter med to help with my persistent insomnia.
What has been the result? Well, we’re not pregnant just yet! But we’re praying and waiting on God to see how He wants to work. I struggle with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), so it may take a while. However in the meantime, I have been blessed with another benefit of coming off of most of my medications:
I feel like I am coming alive again!
I can think more clearly, I can experience more emotions, I can joke around about things. I am more snarky, more quick-witted, more empathetic towards others. In short, I am able to enjoy life more fully! Now believe me, this does not come without its drawbacks. I have slept very little over the past several months, as the medicine I used to take for insomnia is not safe for pregnancy, and nothing else seems to work well. Also, since I don’t have all of the other meds to help control my symptoms, they have been returning…sometimes in full force. The OCD has been creeping back into my daily routine. The anxiety and racing thoughts are extremely persistent. And I still feel very low sometimes. But as I mentioned earlier, I have been following the instructions of my psychiatrist and trying to see my therapist weekly to assist me in handling these symptoms. At the recommendation of friends and family, I have also been using more natural methods to combat these problems, such as daily exercise and exposure to the sun, eating more healthfully and making sure I drink tons of fluids, taking a bath or shower before I go to bed and using essential oils to help me sleep, and meditating as I go throughout the day. And it’s been working! 😀
I’d also like to share a warning regarding my experience. What I did as far as going off of most of my medications is not for everyone – truthfully, it’s probably not for many people who are taking meds for mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, OCD, and other forms of mental illness are not to be taken lightly (just as any other forms of illness are not to be taken lightly). If you feel like you are in a pit of despair because of your symptoms, or you are taking medications for your symptoms but feel like they are making things worse, please seek out help! Know that there are people who care and who want to listen. Do some research and locate a good psychiatrist and/or therapist – if you don’t see one/both already – and follow the instructions and suggestions that they give you. Please don’t stop taking your meds without the approval and guidance of your care team. And if you ever need a listening ear…feel free to send me an email! I would love to hear your story. Thanks so much for reading! ❤
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the LORD.
~ Psalm 40:1 – 3 (NLT)
Photo taken by: Crystal Knauss