Journey to Healing
**This is the second part to a 2 part You Are Not Alone Series. If you haven’t read Part 1: What is Keeping You From Getting Help, you can read it here.**
As I’ve mentioned before, it was in middle school when I can recall ever having experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety for the first time. Yet it took me much much longer to even acknowledged that I was struggling. It was a long hard journey of trying to take care of it on my own. I felt I had to suffer in silence – until I finally realized something needed to change… I needed help. This is my journey to healing.
What changed for me?
1. I had to admit to myself about my own mental illness
Before even talking about it with others I had to admit it to myself. I couldn’t keep using the excuse that I was just emotional, or that there’s nothing really wrong. I was struggling, I knew that. Next I had to admit I could be struggling with depression or anxiety.
2. Someone shared their own struggles with me
It took a friend’s vulnerability and transparency to share about her own journey with mental illness, that I felt safe enough to share my own struggles. In her story I heard, “you are not alone and that others go through this too.”
3. I had to accept that it’s okay not to be okay
Also because of this friend – and her honesty, and the way she showed me compassion after hearing my story, I learned to accept that it’s okay not to be okay. We all have our struggles and difficulties. We don’t need to be strong or perfect all the time.
4. My old ways weren’t working
It’s one thing to admit I was going through depression, but it was another thing to actually get the proper help. After acknowledging my struggles, I needed to learn a better way to cope, because whatever I was doing in the past certainly wasn’t working. I really noticed this when I returned to the U.S. after living in West Africa for four years. I had no idea how difficult that transition would be for me. Call it reverse culture shock or PTSD from living overseas, but there were definitely signs of depression and anxiety.
By this time I was aware I didn’t have a healthy way of dealing with my feelings. Yet I didn’t know any other way. So I reverted to my old ways of hiding and keeping it to myself. I just jumped right in to the next thing, without fully processing everything that happened in those last four years in Africa, along with everything that was going on with me currently.
5. I was completely broken
This time though, as I try to push all the feelings and symptoms down, things escalated quickly. In the past I had thoughts of self harm, but for various reason didn’t follow through. However, when those thought returned this time around – they were loud – to the point that I was giving in. I was so overwhelmed with all the emotions from hopelessness, hurt, shame, anger, sadness, loss, among so many others. I just found myself completely and utterly broken.
There came a point where I was able to share with a friend about what was going on with me. She did her best to provide support however, she was also on the other side of the country at this time. She strongly suggested I talk to someone closer. I finally started reaching out to a couple people that lived closer, but would still hold back details. Fear and shame kept holding me back.
6. I had a dream
Then in January 2012, I had the opportunity to return to West Africa for a couple weeks. In my last week I was able to visit my old village and stay with our host family. It was one night in the village, I had a very vivid dream.
In the dream I was running from someone, but I couldn’t get away fast enough. When she caught up with me she handed me a package. As I opened it, I saw a book, bright red. On the cover were the words Be NOT ashamed. I broke down crying in my dream, and woke up with tears streaming down my eyes, panting like I had actually been running, and very aware that God was telling me something.
I couldn’t let my shame and fear keep me from true healing.
That dream gave me the confidence and push to reach out for help. When I returned from that trip, I spoke to my friend that was in town and told her everything. She helped me find a therapist, and was very encouraging and supportive through my healing process.
7. I learned to accept that it takes time
Healing from something like depression or anxiety takes time. I needed to accept that it was going to take more than one session to start feeling like I wasn’t sinking anymore. In fact it took multiple therapists to find the right fit where I can even begin to process what was going on. To this day I’m still meeting with a (new) therapist working out the right treatment.
These 7 instances were what helped me begin my journey to healing. I say begin, because well, I’m still healing. It is an ongoing process. I still experience bouts of depression and anxiety. However, what’s different is I am more open about it now. I have a trusted support system in my family and friends. I was able to learn to recognize some of my triggers and have a plan of how to respond.
There are still some days when there aren’t any noticeable triggers, but the depression would just come on. I’ve had to learn how to respond to days like those as well by utilizing certain coping skills. I am thankful for each step of the healing process, and for every breakthrough I experience in this. One thing I’m grateful for is during this process I experienced God’s overwhelming love and how he pursues us and never gives up on us.
I fully believe God will bring complete healing in this area for me one day. And I also believe that for you. I also want to say that I know depression, anxiety, or other mental illness can look different for you, as well as your own journey to healing. Your road may not look exactly like mine. For some it may mean medication, other forms of therapy, among other things. But I share my story to provide hope that there is healing and freedom for you too. I share my story to remind you that You are Not Alone.
Once again I want to leave you with these resources from Mental Health America, that could hopefully be the starting point of your healing process.
If you filled out the screening test, you can print it out and take it to your medical physician to begin the process of finding the right type of help for you. Having the results of the screening test can provide you a tool to communicate what you may be going through.