13 thoughts on mental health.


1.

I didn’t want to work out this morning but I pushed myself out into the sunlight anyway.

I’m confused by the weather as I walk the streets of my neighborhood. November in Atlanta is like a puberty-stricken teenager square in the middle of an identity crisis. Some days she is hot. Some days she is cold. She dresses up like winter on a Monday and then slips back into the nylon of spring by Wednesday. I wish November would make up its mind.

I pull out my phone and set the time for 45 minutes. I only need to walk and get my blood pumping for 45 minutes today. That’s all it will take.

2.

I thought I would write about depression sometime in the month of October. It was National Mental Awareness Month. I thought I should have something to say but I watched the 31 days come and go.

I think there are times to write about what has happened to us and then I think there are times to allow what’s happening to us to just happen. No writing it down. No trying to make it eloquent. No forcibly documenting it for the world to comment on. October was a shaping month for me in regards to my journey to become healthy and whole. October was reflective and sacred in so many ways.

3.

I look at the calendar and I know that the anniversary of November 18 is coming up. Two years ago, my life was flipped in an instant. Doctors looked at me with concerned eyes. People nearly forgot how to pray. It was the darkest and thickest time of my life.

When we were in crisis mode last winter, I booked an appointment with any doctor I could see within the hour. I didn’t care who it was. I didn’t care what they gave me. I simply wanted to know I would be okay, I would could out of the woods.

The doctor I saw prescribed me for a dosage of Prozac. She gave me sleeping pills. She basically had a pill for every ailment I could name. I sat in that office feeling uninformed and afraid. For the whole time I’ve seen this doctor, I’ve never felt like a priority to her. I’ve never felt like she cared much about the prescriptions she was writing me.

I know this is not the experience of every person. It is mine though. I felt that every word that came out of my mouth was met with a common answer from her, “There is a drug for that.”

4.

I took my health into my hands this year. I started asking questions. I started needing answers. I decided to find a new doctor. I wanted to be off medication. I wanted to be healed. I wanted a natural diet and a good regiment of working out to be enough for me.

Lane is calm. He tells me people say all the time that God doesn’t do the same miracles now that He used to do in the bible. He says people aren’t looking close enough. People are discounting what a “miracle” looks and sounds like. He believes it is a modern-day miracle that doctors can create medication that balances the chemicals in the brain.

He tells me I am witnessing a miracle firsthand, if only I would open my hands and receive it. It is a miracle that I can be prescribed to something that lifts my fog of depression and allows me to seek God doggedly and serve Him persistently. Modern medicine— prescribed well and watched carefully— is a miracle to me. It allows me to feel the depth of my relationships, take in the love of my fiancé, and renew my mind without a million detour signs running in my brain.

It has made me feel seen by God.

5.

I sat on a waiting list for 5 and a half weeks before being able to see the new doctor. She is a Christian psychiatrist.  In the time I waited for the appointment, I prayed. I prayed she would understand me. I prayed she would see me. Like, really see me. I prayed she would have answers. I wanted to know the pathways where God and medication pass one another and overlap.

6.

“Working out will be medicinal for you,” the new doctor tells me when I am finally sitting in her office. “People who go through depressive episodes are twice as likely to come out of them when they workout 5 days a week for 45-minutes as opposed to 4 days a week for 30-minutes.”

She answers all my questions. She lets me start by telling my whole story from start to finish. She doesn’t look at me like I am crazy. She is patient and kind. We go over on time and she doesn’t flinch or push me out the door.

I feel heard.

7.

“Have you read the book of Job?” my new doctor asks me.

“I have in pieces,” I tell her. “It was my favorite for a while but people told me to lay off it while I was going through the depression because it was a little too intense.”

I’m an intense person. I like intense things. I have a tattoo on the back of my neck about the book of Job. That’s how intense I am

“And how did it end for Job?” she asks me.

“Well, I know he had a lot of awful things happen to him. But it was restored in the end.”

“Yes,” she says. “But it would never go back to what it was. And for Job, it was never about whether his life would be restored or not. He learned how much God loved him.”

We always talk about the restoration of Job’s life, how the blessings came back to him.

“I bet Job still cried at night though,” I say to her. “I bet Job still felt the pain of loss. I bet people said to Job all the time, ‘Well look, God restored it in the end.’”

If I were Job, I would probably look at them and say, “Yes, but you don’t know how much I value the taste of air. The taste of breathing after a long time of drowning.”

When you’ve been through hell and back, you never take the taste of air for granted again. It’s with you everyday. You suck it in and you exhale.

Waking up— after a long while of depression robbing sleep from me— is like poetry now. It never gets old. It never gets tired. I am most thankful for the days when I wake up and realize, “I am okay now.”

8.

My doctor tells me 1/3 of people go on medication, come off it, and never have to go back on it again. Another third go on medication, come off of it, and have to go back on it when symptoms return. The last third are on it for their entire lives and that’s okay too.

I’ve never had a doctor tell me “that’s okay too” in regards to mental health and medication. Words like “that’s okay too” are like water to me in the dry of a desert that has never seen rain.

9.

I’ve struggled with feeling right or wrong about medication. The church rarely talks about it. I’ve stumbled through conversations with people who have told me that God could heal me in an instant if I would just let Him. They talk as if I am holding doubt by the neck, refusing to let it go.

I believe God is a big-time healer. I believe His breath is the first and last one. However, I also know my faith is mighty. My faith is not small. And so, while I believe that God can heal me, the fact that I have not been healed is not a sign that my faith is weak or my expectations are low. It means we are partnered. It means God thinks I am strong enough to keep walking this road and asking my questions. 

“Taking medicine is a wise act of faith, not unfaith,” Zack Eswine writes. “It would not be wise to live by a supposed faith, and cast off the physician and his medicines, any more than to discharge the butcher, and the tailor, and expect to be fed and clothed by faith,” Charles Spurgeon said.

10.

I don’t know where God stands on medication some of the time. But I listen to wise counsel. And I pray often. And I try my best to still the voices in my head that are chaotic and loud. When I can still them, this quieter voice comes through. It is polite and it is sweet. It is honest but it is graceful. It tells me often that I am okay, to relax, to breathe, be okay with the “not knowing.”

My new doctor lets us close with a prayer. It’s not short and rushed. It’s long and winding. She cares about the words. I’ve never had prayer in a doctor’s office before.

11.

My favorite element of God is the not knowing. I love that about my relationship with God. I love that there is grey area. I love that I cannot possibly be wise enough to understand all this life has given me. There are a dozen things that happen on the news, or happen in my personal life, that leave me raising my hands, shrugging my shoulders, and saying, “I’m not really sure.” I don’t get it. It is not always mine “to get.”

Learning the elements of God is like learning the traits of someone you’re in love with. Lane gets a fire in his eyes when he comes home from work, makes a meal for himself, and sits down with a blanket to drink a big glass of chocolate milk. It’s like he is seven. I fall in love with him all over again as he dances around the room in giddy delight. I think, “I didn’t know this about you before. This is another element of you. I love trying to understand you. I could make a lifetime out of getting to know you better.”

I feel that way about God too. I think my heart would be broken in two if ever there was a day where the learning stopped and I suddenly knew everything there was to know. That’s the beauty of God: you can spend your whole life “coming to know Him” and still never touch the tip of what He is.

12.

I am still on medication. I can talk openly about it.

I take medication but it is not the only way I take care of my health. I see a therapist. I talk things out. We open the wounds, we don’t hide them.

I love bringing it up. You might think it is strange but my conversations with readers and people who come to see my talks are a thousand times richer and deeper when I say the word “Prozac” from a stage. People have questions. People have been in need of answers just like me. People want to know they are not alone. So I like to stand on a stage and tell people the truth, “No, you are not alone. Ask all your questions. Don’t stop.”

I am stronger now, thanks to modern medicine and big faith. Now I have eyes that see in the dark. This is, by far, the most beautiful part of my diagnosis. Some days are still hard. Some mornings are still slow and threatening. The threats are empty though because I know the way home now. I have eyes that see in the dark. I know the dark cannot have me.

13.

Two November 18s ago, there was a sermon series happening at my church in Connecticut on the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the part in the bible where Jesus gets up on the mountain and basically throws the game off as He declares that blessed will be the opposite of the ones we think should be “blessed.”

This is when people start to say, “This Jesus man— He is something different.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

I clung to that one. I prayed in the darkness that I would be pure in heart. That God would know I wasn’t doing anything but trying to make it out of this time alive. I begged for the pure heart. I begged to see God.

Two years ago, I would have thought it was proud to say I have a pure heart. Today, I know I am not proud. I know I have a pure heart— scraped and chiseled— because I see God every single day. I see God in the way you see the man at Kroger shuffling the stray carts through the automatic doors at the front. He’s living in my inbox. He’s sitting at my speaking engagements. He’s everywhere. 

Now I have eyes to see God. Now I have eyes that see in the dark.

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29 thoughts on “13 thoughts on mental health.

  1. I’m not nearly as religious as you, Hannah, but I want to thank you for writing this. I recently made a decision to go on an anti-depressant. It hasn’t fully helped me yet, but I’m trying to remain patient and hope for the best. My depression and anxiety stems from a lot of little things that pile up into big things. This whole year has been so hard for me to battle through, feeling like no one is hearing me. It’s my hope that as 2017 rolls around, I can get back into therapy. I can feel more confident in medication. I can stop feeling like a lost cause. Thanks for this entry today. I think I needed it.

  2. I’m so proud of you for where you’ve come and your faith in God is amazing. I’m so glad you found the right doc for you, that’s truly a wonderful thing. Stay strong always and I’m always here to listen if you need anything. 🙂 Also, I just can’t even describe how happy I was reading this post like it just gave me so much joy to see someone talking about mental health as honestly and fairly as you just did. Thank you for existing!

  3. I want to weep with gratitude for this post. Thank you for putting words to the journey. What hope it brings me to have you share, and how much it emboldens me to share, too.

  4. Hannah, you are so lovely, down to your core. I needed so much to read your thoughts on God and not knowing and how gorgeous that is. I have struggled for much of my life to try to “figure God out,” so that I can believe all the right things and do all the right things and handle everything the right way. How beautiful it is, and how loudly it speaks to a dark world, to just be in love with God and always in the process of learning to know Him better, without the pressure of nailing Him down.

  5. Hannah, you are just so wise for one so young. I wish you all the best in this world, and I thank you for the way you are able to express what so many of us feel! I’ve shared your blog with my teen-aged daughter, and what you say clicks for her as well. Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Hannah,

    I’m new here, but it’s pure grace that I found this entry tonight. Thank you for sharing your heart with me, with us. I don’t know you, but I feel like I do. Your words are a mirror giving me courage to look bravely and tenderly at myself. I see so much of my story in yours. And you’re reminding me that we serve a God by whom every devastated chapter can be redeemed. I’m praying peace and protection over your heart, and for God to continue the good (great!) work he’s doing in and through you. Love.

  7. Hannah-

    I’m very careful these days on what I let my eyes read, but I wanted you to know that the Lord brought to my heart “Pure of heart,” when I was asking somethings to Him and then realized it was Him that said it, and now I am seeing what it means and well, Jesus was pure of heart too and look at what He took on…at the end of the day, when there is so much noise, I want to remember He’s the example.
    I used to be on medication. I had anxiety and depression, and also ADHD, but one day I just stopped it all in 2009 which I know is so not recommended, but though I wasn’t sure of who I was I wanted to know away from the meds.
    2016 now, and how do I handle things?
    If I get into a dark place I find a book on my shelf by John Bevere…I love Beth Moore, Lisa Bevere and others but John is who God will specifically kick me in the head with to get me back on track. I obviously will read my Bible too, but remembering declarations of truth is really what beats down those lies from our flesh. I still battle, I battled this past week actually, but I’m not going to let the world affect my soul, because God is God and He is in control of all things. Praying as you battle through too.

  8. This is so wonderful and beautifully written, Hannah. I have been on anxiety medication since I was 12, and I have tried going off and had to go back on again. As you said, I think it’s important to also use other avenues as well. I also go to therapy, do yoga, and go to acupuncture. And when that doctor said “that’s ok too” – that’s a good doctor right there! Everyone is different and needs different things to heal. And it’s all ok.

    Also: “November in Atlanta is like a puberty-stricken teenager square in the middle of an identity crisis” LOLOLOL

  9. I wish I were like you about God. I am 56 years old, and I lost my 22 year old daughter on 1/11/11 in a car accident. I have not been the same since. I have another daughter who is 31, and another that we adopted that is 10. My 31 year old has 3 daughters, 4, 2, and 5 months old. I love all of them very much. My husband & I rarely talk. I don’t know when the last time I laughed, listened to music, or did something that ‘I’ like to do. I am lost. My 10 year old needs help with school work, and at 56 it is very hard for me, and my husband does not do any helping. My family is continually wanting me to change, but this is me. I know I’m not what God would want me to be, but I don’t know how to live anymore. My daughter who passed was my twin. She’d finish my sentences, and I hers. She suffered from depression, an eating disorder, and was a cutter. But she got her life together, and was on the right path after getting counseling. Then boom, she’s dead. I am extremely depressed, suffer panic attacks, and my brain is always working. I am on 3 types of depression/anxiety meds. I don’t go to church, and have no excuse other than my husband doesn’t encourage it. He may be still mad at God. I’m not mad, I just don’t understand why this happened. Our family was SO CLOSE. That’s gone. I need help. I see a psychiatrist who is wonderful, and continually encourages me to do things for ‘me’. But I never did that, so how am I supposed to know how to do that now. My youngest daughter hates to study, and I have always helped her, but I am ready for her to do it herself because she thinks it’s boring, and I am tired of being treated poorly. I want things to be the way they were. But that will never happen. I need advice and I need it bad! Please, someone help me….

    1. take heart my friend..Do not allow anyone especially the enemy to steal your joy..keep your head up for your little babes..

  10. beautiful writing, amazing revelations you’ve had from God. this is so inspirational, and i stand in awe at your faith in God. Im thankful He brought me to this post and blessed me with it. you’re an amazing child of God, keep holding on to His promises and shine for Him. xxx take care and God bless! ❤

  11. Your writing is beyond inspiring and pushes me to do more of what I need to be doing. It always brings motivation and confidence. So, thank you more than I can say for writing and continuing.

    Also, I was wanting to add the “votes” (the 5 stars at the top of your page) to my blog, but I’m not sure what they’re called. Could you tell me how you added that?
    Thanks again.

    -Olivia

  12. hallo there, i dont know how i found your post but i am glad i did, such insightful and inspiring material. i am sorry that you have had to deal with the monster that is mental illness, but i understand in a way, i have been dealing with mental illness for a while to, which is why i found your post so full of truth and beauty. i dont think there is anything wrong with needing to take medication, as i have to do the same! thank you for such an amazing post, i really feel better after reading it and i hope these comments bring you joy! keep up the good work!

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