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(This blog has been gracious shared with the Praying With The Eyes community by Laura Gohl. Please check out Laura’s website, Super Mom Wannabe, for other stimulating posts.)
April 2013 was the beginning of a downward spiral in my life. To avoid turning this blog into a venue for my own passive aggressiveness, I will keep the details of why to a minimum. (I also want to protect any other involved parties, despite any lingering anger or hurt I might feel.)
SO, I will instead share with you that my family experienced two major friendship changes, one right after the other, and neither connected. Having a close-knit relationship suddenly end, particularly a friendship that had seemingly grown stronger and stronger over more than a decade, felt like a divorce. Not only did it feel like a divorce and hurt our children incredibly deeply, we were left puzzled, lost, and I was questioning what we did wrong. We never got answers. We were miserably sad. And with that sadness came a lack of desire to have fun. This is when another friendship ended; we weren’t fun anymore and couldn’t keep up the facade of a partying/spontaneous lifestyle.
Both sets of “best” friends. Gone. Within a month of each other. You can imagine one would question everything about themselves in such a situation. I kept sobbing to my husband at night, “there must be something about me. What is it about me that is so awful?” Reassurance from him was sincere, but was received empty. His words meant nothing. Losing our best friends meant everything.
To add to the stress of suddenly feeling lonely and without close friends, we’d had our house on the market for almost a year with no bites, meanwhile a new house was being built and would be ready to close that June. We made the decision not to rent because we had too much equity tied up in the house that we wanted back and we didn’t want to be landlords. Nothing about renting felt right. So we stayed positive. “It will sell. Who wouldn’t want that house? It’s beautiful! The right buyer just hasn’t come along yet, but they’ll fall in love with it just like we did 8 years ago.” Or so we thought.
For one full year we carried two mortgages, two insurance payments, and two utility payments, and for the first time in our marriage we began accruing credit card debt. All the time we kept thinking, “The next people who look at the house are going to buy it.” We switched realtors, did our own open houses, and did additional advertising ourselves. But it still took two whopping years to sell the home we brought our children to as newborns. You can imagine how emotionally stressful and financially draining that year was.
I have always considered myself to be a strong, positive woman. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” felt like my personal motto. I CAN do all things! I was determined to get past all the pain. I kept telling myself, “Depression is for the weak. I’m not weak. Depression is brought on by bad attitudes. I have a great attitude.” I joined a Bible study, joined a MOPS group, volunteered, we went out with new friends, I plastered on a fake, bubbly smile every time I left the house, I tried to get to know all of our new neighbors, and I focused on other people’s lives and how I could help them. I attempted to ignore my pain.
I wanted to ignore my pain because I was embarrassed. There are people in this world who live in poverty, are starving, have lost loved ones, are unemployed, and are dying of horrible diseases. So I lost some friends and we’ll have some debt to pay off. “Things could be worse,” I’d tell myself. “Look at how blessed you are. Focus on what matters.” Over and over again. Daily I’d think of encouraging verses from the Bible, like Psalm 9: “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Gosh darnit, it’s not working! Giving myself these reasonable explanations of why it was NOT okay to be so sad, repeating Bible verses over and over again, it’s not working! Why isn’t it working?!?! My eyes would fill with tears and I’d wipe my eyes thinking it would be okay as long as they didn’t start rolling down my cheeks. Too late. I’d feel a cold, wet tear drop from my chin. Oh no. Uncontrollable sobs. “Stop it! Get a hold of yourself!”
I felt sick constantly and couldn’t eat much anymore, so I lost about 13 pounds (when I couldn’t afford to lose half a pound). My desire to work full-time was gone; I just wanted to fix the problem. Get out there. Put on a fake smile and fix it. Focus on getting the new house decorated. Spend more money; it’s okay, because the other house is going to sell any day I just know it! I even talked about my depression at my Bible study in the past tense, thinking that if I’d pretend it was over it would magically go away.
I came to realize I was struggling and opened up to someone close to me. Whoops, bad idea. Instead of getting a hug or words of encouragement, I was told that I was being a bad Christian because I was not trusting in God.
OUCH. A sinner? Sure. We all are, right? But a “bad Christian?” Self-doubt. More self-doubt. A long stare in a mirror and I could no longer recognize the reflection.
The other house wouldn’t sell, so I did what most of us do without thinking and posted my frustrations on Facebook. Whoops again. It didn’t take long to get a snarky comment: “At least you have two beautiful homes; there are people out there who don’t even have one.”
It’s hard to feel sorry for other people in this country sometimes, isn’t it? If it’s a “first world problem” we laugh it off as insignificant and silly. I will admit I’m guilty of it. I’ve known people who have struggled with depression, whether clinical or situational, and I lacked empathy for them. I saw them as weak. “We all have problems, get over it,” is an easy thought that comes to people’s minds. Depression makes us uncomfortable.
When news spread about the sudden and tragic death of Robin Williams, people were shocked by the manner in which he died. And sadly, there was a lack of compassion surrounding his suicide. Even people I adore and respect were saying things like, “What did he have to be depressed about? He was a billionaire.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What did it matter how famous he was or how rich he was? People often wonder why people with severe depression don’t go to someone for help. This is a big reason why. Maybe Robin DID go to someone and he was met with the same reactions I was. Maybe someone said to him: “What could you possibly be depressed about? Do you know how incredibly lucky you are??” Or maybe he just knew he’d be met with that type of reaction.
I didn’t take my depression seriously, partly because I knew no one else would. (I even had a friend make a joke about how she wished she would lose weight when she got depressed.) I made excuses and kept telling myself I would feel better as soon as our situation improved. And I did, eventually. We eventually sold our house, made new friends and grew close again with old friends. Time did help with healing, but the REAL wake-up call for me was having my daughter’s well-being threatened. She suffered a severe concussion after falling off her scooter (Fall 2014) and couldn’t retain memories for more than about 60 seconds. It was by far the most terrifying night of my life and immediately forced me to re-prioritize what matters. (She was fine after a couple of days and had no permanent damage.)
I’ve always been a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason.” While that was a scary day for our family, it somehow snapped me out of my darkness. It’s like I was hanging from a bridge by only a bungee cord, that slowly dropped further and further into a dark valley, and suddenly I was back on the bridge again.
But I had lost some time. The bonds I had made with people weren’t real because they were formed based on that fake smile and fake positive attitude. I realized some of the friends I made weren’t really my friends at all. My business had suffered, which especially became clear after filing our taxes a few months ago. My husband and kids endured a near-empty wife and mother, and that’s the hardest part to admit.
I want you to know . . . you do not have to put on a fake smile. You don’t have to be embarrassed about feeling depressed. You are NOT a bad Christian because you have such horrible feelings of sadness. It’s OKAY to seek help. Don’t waste another minute or make excuses for your depression.
And if you know or suspect someone is depressed? ENCOURAGE THEM! Don’t give them reasons why they SHOULD be happy, because it will make them feel worse for being “ridiculous.” Hug them. Tell them you are here for them, no matter what they need.
You know the best part of this story? My kids still think I’m “Supermom.” And that’s pretty cool.
Laura Gohl has a loving and supportive husband, Bryon, and two children: Evelyn and Oliver. She can be viewed as a “Jack of all trades,” as she’s not afraid to learn and try new things. Prior to having children she managed a help desk, was the operations manager for a freight company, and was even a personal trainer. After having her first child in 2007 she made the decision to stay home and shortly after started a vacation rental business that has continued to blossom. In February 2015 she felt called to blog as well, and this was the start of “Supermom Wannabe” (www.supermamawannabe.com), where she hopes to bring a variety of anecdotes, crafts, ideas, and inspiration to others. Laura loves singing, all things Disney, watching movies, decorating cakes, travel, and most importantly: spending time with her family. She and her family have attended Holy Cross Lutheran Church since 2005.