Depression. The word alone brings up the imagery of someone alone, in a dark room, under the covers, unable to eat, shower, and in a constant state of sadness with no expiration date. It was a word that I heard in commercials or saw displayed in romantic comedy movies, often with a woman sitting on her couch, binge eating takeout and ice cream, while crying about a recent breakup on her friend’s shoulder. At the time, I thought anyone struggling with depression was being overdramatic and needed to simply pray, have a good cry, then get over it. Never once did I think I would be the one feeling powerless under the weight of depression with no idea how to stop it.
For much of my life, I’ve lived depression-free. I had what many would consider a “normal” childhood. I even went to a Christian school from elementary through high school. After college, I thought I was off on my “life’s journey” to fulfill big dreams of having a large salary, working my way up the corporate ladder, and traveling the world, but life wasn’t that simple. After years of working in a direct service job, which didn’t allow me to use my creativity, I finally landed a job that allowed me to do exactly what I went to college for. I was networking, going to events, and helping to bring resources to underserved populations. I felt like I finally got my “big break,” but three months after landing my new job, I discovered that I was pregnant, and it felt like my world came crashing down.
I was single, pregnant, and afraid. It was a great group of supportive friends and Heaven-sent relationships that helped me navigate this difficult season. Through that journey, for the first time, I was able to view myself as God’s daughter and begin a real, intimate relationship with Him that was based on His love and not my idea of striving for spiritual perfection. Throughout that season, I never experienced depression and God’s grace gave me the strength I needed to navigate into motherhood. Although this was a major unexpected life change, I still had a vision for my life and a strong determination to accomplish my goals.
When my daughter was two, her paternal grandmother passed away. Her death affected me deeply, as we had grown close since my pregnancy. We were with her every weekend and talked every day; I considered her a spiritual mentor and close friend. This was the first time someone close to me passed, and my first experience with this level of grief. Her passing caused me to waver in my faith as we had been praying, fasting, and believing for her healing. I truly believed she would pull through.
I distracted myself through work, remaining busy, and getting out of the house. A year later, on almost the exact same date, another close relative died a traumatic death, which left me completely devastated. As I tried to understand why God allowed this to happen, I leaned on Bible verses for strength and to make sense of how to move forward. I also took walks in the park and buried myself in work, but navigating through this grieving process was more difficult than before. I couldn’t sleep; worry gripped my heart that something unbearable would happen to my daughter.
Parenting became challenging as I was easily annoyed and agitated with my daughter. I had very little patience for anything she was doing, regardless of whether it was positive or negative. I would snap for the smallest things. Soon the TV became her babysitter.
Less than a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and I was stuck in a one-bedroom apartment with my four-year-old daughter. I was unable to send her to school or with my mother due to the strict social distancing guidelines and I started to become very overwhelmed. I didn’t think my changing feelings were anything to worry about as everyone was adjusting to our new normal. According to the television news outlets, I was just one of the millions of other people who needed some “fresh air”.
Shortly after the lockdown, my grandmother was rushed to the hospital and passed away a few days later. I said my goodbyes to her over FaceTime, while she lay unresponsive in the hospital. We found out she had cancer and never told us. Due to COVID, I could not go outside and distract myself, as I did with the previous deaths.
As a community event planner, I struggled with finding my new professional identity as work transitioned to virtual platforms. I had a hard time focusing on tasks when I previously excelled at remembering detailed information. Things that normally took me five minutes to complete, were now taking hours and I couldn’t understand why. I struggled with low energy and felt constantly fatigued, so I decided to visit the doctor to have my blood checked for anything out of the ordinary. Everything came back normal.
I didn’t panic, I thought it was part of the anxious desire, like many others, to “get back to normal,” but when the world began to slowly integrate back to in-person activities, these feelings still remained. Engaging in casual conversations with co-workers or friends felt like a heavy task mentally. I had to motivate myself just to get off the sofa.
I knew something was off, but I just couldn’t identify what. Each day I woke, I wanted to make the bed, exercise, write, or to finish my work assignments, but I just couldn’t. I made beautiful To-Do lists and hung them on the wall, only to leave them unaccomplished.
The fourth death in three years was my breaking point. Losing my close girlfriend at the end of 2020 caused me to question God. I later realized that the closeness of each person who left my life lessened my ability to function every day. I lost a piece of myself with each death.
I suddenly felt like I just couldn’t do life anymore. I started to loathe doing daily chores. I remember sitting in my living room and having this heavy feeling of, “I don’t care!” I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t care how the dishes got done, if the bathroom was cleaned, or if the clothes got washed, or if my work assignments were completed. I just didn’t care about any of that. I grew hopeless, not even caring if I woke up. I thought “Why bother?” since I may just die anyway. With the other deaths, I had been sad. Now I was feeling hopeless.
After months of nothing changing and me still not caring about brushing my teeth, I realized I couldn’t break out of this dark cloud and no longer had a vision for my future. I didn’t care what happened the next day, let alone in two months. I considered I might be struggling with depression, but I was so embarrassed to admit that or say it out loud.
Even though I wasn’t doing a good job of taking care of myself, I grew concerned about my daughter and wanted to make sure she had everything she needed and wanted. I was intentional about praying for God’s will over her life, along with direction for the choices I needed to make concerning her.
I tried to reach out to people in my circle and share how I was feeling, but no one took me seriously. I would receive a quick motivational word of encouragement and then the conversation would casually continue. No one knew there was a problem or what I was going through. I was always known to have a bubbly personality and I don’t think anyone believed I could ever be depressed. I continued making inspiring and encouraging posts on social media, but once the camera went off, so did the mask, and I went back to the darkness.
Like others, I struggled to believe that I, someone who is known for being energetic, always smiling, and encouraging others with positive quotes and Bible verses, was actually struggling with depression. Even though I was encouraging others, I was questioning what the purpose of my life was. I no longer had goals or a vision.
The only thing I cared about was being home, so I could aimlessly scroll on social media, only to feel even less accomplished about the current reality of my life and mental health. I no longer had routine in my life. I was falling behind on deadlines at work, my daughter was chronically late to school, and I struggled with finding the energy to even shower some days.
I searched online for Bible verses on depression and sermons on depression, and although they would uplift me at the moment, I would find myself feeling hopeless and purposeless a few days later. I found myself in a perpetual state of questioning, “God, why am I here? What is the point of life? And what will be the next sudden devastation to disrupt my life?” I wrestled with wondering how I could be saved yet struggling with depression this bad. Having no plans for the future was scary. If someone asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I had no answer and thought I would remain in this overwhelmed mental state forever. There were some days I had peace with the idea of going to sleep and not waking up.
I began getting frustrated with God. I know that it was Him alone who carried me through hard times before, so I didn’t know what I was doing wrong this time, where I could not experience freedom from these emotions. At one point, my depression got so bad, I started having bad physical pain. I had chronic back pain, gastrointestinal issues, and constant fatigue. But, no matter how hard things were, God always managed to send me signs that He was with me. Whether through a random text message, an Instagram post on something I was thinking about earlier, or a comment from someone in the grocery store, He would always remind me that there’s purpose within me, even when I couldn’t feel it at the moment.
As I read through scripture, I saw how so many others struggled with depression and it helped me to not feel as ostracized in my struggle. I read about David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Job, and each of them had moments where they questioned their very existence due to their current circumstances. In each of the passages, God never rushed any of them to quickly dismiss their emotions, so they could “feel happy,” instead he provided them a space where they were allowed to express their anguish during their most troubling times.
Realizing the need for a safe place to share my real feelings, I finally decided to sign up for therapy a year later. I was nervous, and the process of finding a therapist seemed a bit challenging due to the limited availability of some providers. I cycled through a few therapists until I found one that worked well for me. Therapy did not “cure” my depression, but it did allow me to uncover some underlying core wounds I didn’t know even existed. When left untreated, core wounds, or deep emotional wounds formed from suppressed pain and emotions, can have detrimental effects on our lives. Uncovering and admitting that these wounds existed was a painful process, but it has helped me to revisit parts of my past, and bring the Holy Spirit with me to comfort former versions of myself that are still crying out for help.
I leave you with one of my favorite passages in the Bible:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
This scripture reminds us that we all have a pre-destined lane in life that God has called us to live out and that by keeping our eyes, thoughts, emotions, and trust in Jesus, we can run that race the way we were created to. It doesn’t mean each day will be easy, but I try to show up each hour with a “Ready, Set, Go,” mindset, which helps me to break down my day and reset my thoughts more often.
I’ve found the most freedom in acknowledging, identifying, and feeling my past hurts. By uncovering these wounds, I can speak to each of those areas with Scripture and the truth about what God says about me, regardless of what my life experiences have told me. I repeat this process as many times as I need to, without feeling like I have to rush healing in that area. Accepting the truth that healing is a process has helped me to release the need to control the when, how, and outcome of what I want that healing to look like. The only person that can be trusted with my pain is God.
Encouragement for Moms:
To any mother struggling, I want you to know that depression does not define you, nor is it your final destination. God will use this experience and those dark days as a way to remind you that He never left you or abandoned you. Nothing you go through is wasted, including those days you are struggling with depression. It is through first-hand experience that you are better able to connect with and minister to someone struggling in that same area. I know how dark it can get and how hopeless it can feel, but God provides us a safe space to bring each emotion, without condemnation. He can handle it. Trust Him.
Prayer for Moms:
I thank you so much for each woman reading this blog. I thank you, God, that you are reminding her that, “the best is yet to come,” and you are right beside her in the midst of her pain. Your thoughts are not our thoughts and your ways are not our ways, so help us Lord to release the control of our healing and trust you with the process. You know what you’re doing. Help us God to have the courage to identify and acknowledge the pain of our past, so that we can uproot any thoughts that do not align with the truth about what your Word says about us.
God, I thank you for your patience and grace that walks with us through each day. Your Word says that you heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds, so allow our hearts to be like clay, so that you can mold them into the image of You.
Lord, we thank you, magnify you, and give honor and glory to your name. We are healed!
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Want to hear more of Jenise’s story? Watch our Moms Night In conversation on YouTube.
Or watch our conversation on the Faith-Filled Moms Facebook page here!