Depression is a monster — a foul beast that creeps into the mind and a storm that torments the soul, wreaking havoc while destroying hope. My name is April, a grateful believer in Jesus who struggles with depression and anxiety. My grandmother, my Mema, was the center of my life during my early childhood. When I was 11 years old, she died after a struggle with breast cancer. I was left trying to make sense of it all. She had told me she was going to run circles around me in the yard when she got better, and she would never lie to me, right?
I became angry with God. I hated him and openly blamed him for the cause of my pain. I questioned his existence. Why would a loving God take away one of the most important people in my life? Why would a loving God take away one of the greatest sources of joy and love I felt I had ever known? A paralyzing depression closely followed her death. It was a painful poison that slowly spread. This poison intruded my thoughts and debilitated my ability to maintain joy and happiness.
I was bullied in school daily without fail. Eventually I began to believe what the bullies were saying. I started believing that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t belong, and that I deserved the pain. Things got so bad, I even planned my first suicide attempt. I gave up on God, the God who hated me or didn’t exist, the God who had taken my Mema away from me. I felt alone and isolated, filled with an overflow of raw emotion and feelings I had no idea what to do with. I did not want to deal with them anymore. I wrote a poem about my desire to end my life. Someone cared about me enough to tell another person, which landed me in a teen psychiatric ward for one week. While there I learned that if I just pretended to be happy, then things were “okay.”
Years later, the depression came back again as my husband and I fought constantly. I felt inferior and isolated at my job while struggling with anger and uncontrollable emotions. I was someone that no one wanted to be around. One day I lost all control at work and was sent home. At home I undertook my second unsuccessful suicide attempt. This time I had no one to tell. So I kept it to myself. I felt alone and isolated, as if I was holding a shameful secret.
Keeping it bottled up inside, I found myself on my knees one night pleading with God to take my life. “Lord, I need to be happy or I need to die.” I was invited to church through a work friend, a God-sent friend. It just so happened that the preacher was preaching a series on “How to be Happy” based on the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ. The particular principle he preached on was the HOPE choice, Principle Two that states, “Earnestly believe God exists, that I matter to him, and that he has the power to help me recover.” Also he preached on Matthew 5:4, the verse that started my recovery: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (ESV). When the church started Celebrate Recovery with John Eklund as the ministry leader, I was right there volunteering and working my own recovery. Celebrate Recovery saved my life.
Celebrate Recovery helped me to realize I was trying to fight a fight by myself — but it’s a fight that I was powerless to win on my own. I realize now I am not my depression. I am worthy of love and grace. I am worthy of being alive. I am worthy of recovery. I have a choice to recover. I am so thankful for the Celebrate Recovery Mental Health Initiative and proud to be a significant part of helping others to break free from the bondage and chains of the stigma that bound us to shame and guilt.
To this day I still struggle with my mental health. However, now I have a strong support system that includes my sponsor, accountability partners, my Celebrate Recovery forever family, and a team of mental health professionals to walk with me on my journey. Using the Mental Health Agreement, I find that I am able to share with others how to hold myself accountable, regardless of their level of knowledge of my mental health issues. If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone. It’s time to break the silence and change the way we look at mental health. Thank you for letting me share.