A Mission of Love
It was one of those cold, gray spring mornings that make a soul wonder if the earth will ever bloom again. My heart was heavy and as lifeless as the day itself. The grass was brown and soggy underfoot as I walked across the yard to the house. I wonder how long I'll be gone? I thought, as I entered through the side door.
My little girls were inside, waiting for "Mommy". One year-old Jenna tottered into the entryway when she saw me, still quite unstable with her new skill of walking. Four year-old Lauren followed closely behind her sister, eyes wide, looking like a concerned little mother with arms ready to catch Jenna should she stumble.
As I watched them make their way toward me, I felt an ache in my chest, as if my heart were breaking. How can I leave them? I asked myself. How can I help them understand what is happening? I didn't understand myself. I was no longer able to provide the love and attention that my daughters needed and deserved, and my spirit was heavy with guilt.
Being a wife and mother meant everything to me. I had never pursued a career because I wanted to give all I had to my family; I wanted to focus my energy on them. The problem was I no longer had any energy; I had nothing left to give.
One year earlier, I had believed my life was perfect. Lying in the hospital room, holding my newborn daughter, I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace and joy, unlike anything I had ever felt before. I had a wonderful husband, Tim, two beautiful children, and more blessings than I had ever hoped for. What had happened?
On this dreary morning, just days after baby Jenna's first birthday, I realized that my "fairy-tale" life had fallen apart. Instead of looking forward to each new day, I dreaded waking up. I had lost the desire to play with my children. Lying on the couch watching them play was the best that I could do. I used to love talking to my girls, telling them stories and listening to Lauren's chatter, but even the sound of their voices had become irritating. I no longer wanted to talk, to listen, or to answer anyone's questions. I just wanted to be alone.
None of my previous hobbies or activities held any interest for me anymore. I didn't want to leave the house, or my bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, eternally, if possible.
Death seemed like the only avenue to peace. When I expressed these feelings to my physician, he was alarmed. I was referred to a psychiatrist the very next day, who diagnosed me with major clinical depression, prescribed an antidepressant medication, and recommended that I be hospitalized for my own protection. My life took a u-turn of major proportion as I went home to pack a few essentials for my hospital stay, and to say "good-bye" to my children. It was the first of many good-byes to follow.
Walking down the long hallway toward the psychiatric ward I sensed, with each step I took, that I was losing a piece of myself. As the door closed behind me I felt defeated and confused. What's someone like me doing in a place like this? I wondered.
After a nurse had shown me to my room, Tim returned. He'd just met with my psychiatrist. "The doctor said the medication will help you feel better in a couple of weeks. Then you'll be able to come home," my husband told me as he sat next to me on the tiny bed. I felt relieved by this news. Two weeks isn't such a long time, I thought, but the doctor was wrong. Two weeks stretched into eight months, and that was just my first hospitalization.
In the years that followed, I spent more than 80 weeks in hospital psychiatric wards. Twenty different medications were prescribed and I received 200 electro-convulsive treatments ("shock" treatments).
Depression is a strange illness. Most terminally ill people have a spirit that longs to live, even though the body is dying. As a depressed person, I felt that my spirit had already died, my body just refused to follow it to the grave.
I was torn between my desire to end my own suffering and the knowledge that in so doing I would be leaving a legacy of incredible pain and sorrow for my daughters and my husband. My choice to live was not easy on them either.
My children had to deal with the reality of having a mother who could not care for them. My husband had a partner who was unable to contribute anything to the marriage. Tim became my caregiver and assumed the roles of mother and father to our girls, making a conscious effort to provide them with the affection, support, and love that they needed. He did his job well.
People often asked Tim, "How do you do it?" There were some who said they wouldn't be so patient, so sacrificial. Many saw him as a pillar of strength, but Tim didn't feel very strong. No one knew about the nights when he quietly slipped into an empty church and sat in a pew, weeping and praying that God would give him strength and heal me. Tim became my lifeline of intercessory prayer to God on my behalf. Years later he confessed to me how afraid he was. "I used to dread coming home from work. When I opened the door I didn't know if you would still be there, and if you were, I didn't know if you would be alive," he said.
The years of my depression were frightening but also very lonely for Tim. The woman he married was gone. He once told me, "I used to see couples together, holding hands and smiling, and I wondered, Why can't I have someone like that—a wife who smiles?"
I have wondered about the timing of my depression. It stole some of the most important years of my life. Why couldn't it have happened before I was married, before I had children who needed a mother? Now I realize the wisdom of God's timing. I do not believe that I would have been able to endure this devastating illness on my own. In my children, God gave me someone to live for, when I no longer wanted to go on. In my husband, God gave me the strength I needed to get through each day.
Tim's response to my illness was a key factor in my surviving depression. He was always there to provide the encouragement and support that I needed. Many times I would call him at work, hysterical with fear. "I can't live like this anymore! I am so scared!" I would cry. Tim would drop whatever he was doing and be by my side in a matter of minutes. As my husband held me he assured me, "Everything will be alright. You will get better." I believed him when he told me, "No matter what happens, I will always love you. I will never leave you." In my soul I knew that when I could no longer push forward, Tim would be there to carry me.
After nine years my diagnosis was changed to "refractory" depression-depression that does not respond to treatment. It was apparent that the cure I desperately needed would not come through medical treatment.
While at home, I began to see a Christian counselor. Together, as believers in Christ, Berys and I invited the Holy Spirit into each counseling session. He revealed much to me.
I learned that the roots of my depression were not biochemical or emotional, but spiritual . I discovered lies that I had believed my entire life, which had led to my depression. I was not the worthless person I had always thought I was. I was a beloved child of the King!
This truth, and others, transformed my life. Three months after my doctor's grim diagnosis, I was healed.
I never returned to the psychiatric ward. I never had another shock treatment. I no longer needed medication or the care of a psychiatrist. Six years have passed and I remain free from depression! Tim and I are enjoying this second chance we have been given to experience life, and marriage
Recently, I asked my husband what made him remain faithful to me during those dark years. His reply was very honest: "While you were sick, it didn't really seem like we had a marriage relationship, so I just kept telling myself that you were my 'mission field,' my ministry opportunity." Tim humbly credits God for giving him the strength to do the right thing. I thank God each day for giving me Tim.