I was staring at my computer screen, watching the cursor flash, almost as if it were coaxing me to finish my progress note. Running on a constant lack of sleep, my mind was fuzzy, and I couldn’t string words together in a way that made sense. What was I trying to write about this client’s session yesterday? My supervisor would be sending me an email soon about how my notes the prior day had not been completed. What would I tell her as to why? I must have stared at that computer screen for 30 minutes, getting nothing done, before I decided it was time to call my doctor.
My primary care physician, Dr. Andrews, shares a medical practice with her husband. Their office looks like a cottage and has a homey feel to it with family pictures of the doctors’ children and grandchildren in the hallway. I’ve kept Dr. Andrews as my PCP because she treats me like a human instead of a number or diagnosis and believes in educating her patients to make positive health decisions. A survivor of breast cancer, she is a strong woman who genuinely cares about her patients.
I sat in her office in February of 2015, telling her about my impending divorce and all the symptoms I knew were depression. I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep, so getting out of bed to do anything felt like a chore. I lacked energy and motivation. I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I had constant troublesome thoughts about the past. I remember thinking that my life was over not because I wanted to die but because I couldn’t imagine things ever getting better. I was exercising regularly, trying to eat well, spending time with supportive friends, and seeing my therapist weekly. Yet, I felt like I was barely surviving through another day. Dr. Andrews listened, told me about someone in her own family who went through a divorce, praised me for the positive things I was doing, and talked to me about the process of getting on medication for my depression.
So began my antidepressant journey. The biggest change came when I could get a full night’s sleep. Getting motivated to face the day was easier. The fog in my mind started to clear. I was making headway in therapy too. My therapist was the one who made the suggestion that I see my doctor in the first place. The wounds of the past were slowly healing, and the future didn’t look so grim anymore. In six months, with the support of Dr. Andrews and my therapist, I went off the medication.
I want to share this story now because when I look back, I still believe this was the healthiest decision I could have made for myself at the time. I know many Christians question whether going on psychotropic medication means they don’t have enough faith to get through it with just them and Jesus. For me, it seemed like God was closer to me than He’d ever been during my divorce. I knew that in a way of knowing in my spirit that God loved me and still had a plan for my life. I also knew that as much as I wanted it to be, my body wasn’t in alignment with that truth. My body is never going to be perfect this side of heaven and will malfunction at times. I believe God in his sovereignty connected me with people who could help me physically and emotionally. I’m so thankful for that.
I wish we could drop the stigma in the church surrounding mental health and medications. People are struggling, some are dying by suicide (even pastors), but antidepressants are the devil? That’s messed up church. I’ve been on prescription medication for acne for years and never once questioned my relationship with God over it. I don’t think psychotropic medications should be any different. Could God touch my face and make it so I never broke out again? Absolutely. Has he? Not at this writing, but that would be amazing.
When I first came to see Dr. Andrews for my depression, she made one of the most profound healing statements that has stuck with me to this day. “When you are young, you have your whole life planned out ahead of you, but when you get older, you realize there is more than one path to a happy life.” I can appreciate this statement more now than when I was in a cloud of depression. Praise God for working all things for good (Rom 8:28)!