Mental Health — From Shame to Seeking Help, Part Seven: Lana Hobbs the Brave
HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’ blog, Lana Hobbs the Brave. Lana describes herself as “an aspiring writer and a former religious fundamentalist” who currently identifies as “post-Christian.” She was homeschooled in junior high and highschool. Part Seven of this series was originally published on June 19, 2013.
Part Seven: Lana Hobbs the Brave
This is the final part of my story. For the introduction and the list of all previous posts -and any recap posts I might do – see here.
Trigger Warning for descriptions of suicidal thoughts.
After Christmas 2012, which was more stressful than usual due to having left the Church and not knowing what I believed or what was trustworthy, I was a bit blue.
In early January 2013, mild post holiday blues turned into a full-scale serious depression with severe pain, emotional darkness, suicidal thoughts, and on occasion the inability to get out of bed. No will to eat, read, or tell any friends I was depressed. Due to the changes in my beliefs and my depression, I wasn’t even sure I had friends. Frequently, getting out of bed and getting dressed was all I accomplished. I moved to the couch or floor and lay by my children while they played.
Sometimes instead of a deep sadness or an apathetic depression I experienced a raging, drive-the-plane-into-the-ground, furious depression. I sometimes would read short blog posts or play quick games on my phone, when I had furious depression, to distract myself from it.
For months, I felt nothing but depression and self loathing, with tiny blips of less-sad that i struggled to feel and pass off as happiness, mostly for Luke’s sake and our children’s sake.
I stayed as strong as i could during the day and after the boys went to bed I broke down (you can imagine what this did to our sex life. Basically obliterated it. Making me feel even guiltier.)
I was also dealing with leaving the faith and coming to terms with some things my parents had taught me - I was trying to salvage my faith while getting rid of the self-righteousness and legalism. Trying to thresh out beliefs while your brain wants to kill you is plain hard.
And the suicidal thoughts – they were just there; the wish to not-live was almost constant. I wanted to cut myself so bad, but I was afraid of being caught, especially by my children. I banged my head against the wall in a twisted (but sensible, at the time) attempt to feel better about myself, to punish myself for being a miserable, depressed person.
Gone – or pushed aside – were my beliefs that ‘this isn’t my fault’. To Luke’s frustration, all my progress seemed lost in the fog. The self doubt and hatred from my college days all came back, but now I had the words to combat that. It was a battle; a near-constant battle between self hatred and the wish to die and acknowledgment of illness and the wish to really live.
At one point, I decided to get help, but I shook and gagged when I held the phone to make the call. Luke called the place we had decided on, and they weren’t taking new patients without referrals. There were a couple other places to call, but we didn’t. It is hard to find mental health care around here and I was still fighting — ‘yes i need it, no i refuse it won’t help but it might but i don’t need it I’mabadperson!’
One night, I decided to kill myself. I purposely tried to stay awake until Luke slept. He noticed and asked why. I decided to tell him so he wouldn’t be unpleasantly surprised at finding my dead body. I considered myself a very thoughtful person. I can’t remember my plan (some things I don’t want to remember, I hardly like to remember this) but I had one. I felt as happy as I had felt in a long time.
(Wow this is hard to write. It all made so much sense at the time, you see. This depression-mind feels so far away, although not as far as this somewhat healthier brain felt then.)
I literally couldn’t remember what it felt like to be healthy or happy, or what my personality was like when everything didn’t make me sad or panicky. So I was ready to end it.
When I announced my plan, Luke was… mad. As mad as I had ever seen him. I tried to explain that we would all be much happier if I were dead. It was the ultimate solution. My depressed self finds that Luke rarely understands my brilliant depressed logic. He was angry. He yelled , ‘This cannot be happening!’ He hit the wall beside the bed with both fists. I have never seen him so angry, but I wasn’t really scared, I was mostly sad for him, that he didn’t realize how brilliant my plan was and how happy he could be. He assured me it was a stupid plan and he wouldn’t be happy and our boys would not be better off without me.
I didn’t want to die. i just didn’t want to ruin everyone’s lives by being alive and being a terrible depressed mom, and I was tired of fighting. I was tired of trying and feeling like I was failing at life. Tired of being miserable. And just tired. Always so tired.
But Luke didn’t care about that. He furiously challenged my logic, but more than that he reminded me of promises I had made to never kill myself. Something in his anger reached through the superficial happiness of my final decision. I held him to my chest, whispered ‘shhhh’ and I angrily and sadly remade the promise. ‘I won’t, Love. I won’t kill myself. I’ll stay here for you. Why are you doing this to me? You’re a jerk. But I’ll stay. I promise. shhhh. it’s okay. You’re mean. But I promise.”
I was pissed off, but I was not going to die.
The next weekday (I think it was a weekend at the time, days are fuzzy when you are depressed), he made a call and made an appointment for an initial evaluation. The appointment was scheduled for Friday, that week.
I was nervous. It was at an inpatient mental health hospital, with lots of locked doors and old faded carpets. We waited forever, and when I went in, I was by myself and frightened, but the man who did my evaluation did his best to put me at ease. I cried while answering questions – they should keep tissues in there.
The evaluator recommended considering medication and therapy and told me I’d be getting a call to make an appointment for each.
That was the beginning of the official journey to seek help, although my journey to mental health really began 4 ½ years before that when I finally allowed myself to think I might have a problem beyond just not being good enough.
During this depression, while I was hunting for the truth and what to believe, and how to heal, I was slowly coming to realize I really had issues and I really could get help. When I was in bed but could concentrate, I read a lot of stories of people – women especially – who had grown up in fundamentalist circles and left. They were often scarred, and some of them have mental illnesses. They got therapy, they talked to friends, they took meds, they admitted that they were not mentally healthy and that praying it away wouldn’t help.
Whether they were blogging about therapy or just about leaving fundamentalism, these strong women helped me realize i could get help, and they helped me occasionally see a glimmer of hope through the fog. Sarah, Samantha, Libby Anne, Sarah, and Shadowspring were all helpful.
I was mentally ill, I had been mistreated and misled in the name of Jesus, but I could get help. Maybe, someday, I could be healthy.
We made appointments, I had to wait 8 weeks because mental health care is apparently hard to come by where we live and everyone is booked, and then I finally got to see a therapist and a nurse practioner, both funny, good listeners, and Christians, and both saying I present as bipolar. My med-lady, C, had heard the pharmacopeia/witchcraft argument before (I brought it up as making me hesitant to take medicines, to partially explain how long it took to get help), and flourished her pen like a witch’s wand when writing my prescription.
If I ever feel like a terrible person when I take my medicines, I picture C flourishing her pen to write out an order for my magic potion, and I laugh, and I take my medicine with gratitude that I am getting help for my brain’s struggles.
I’m learning things in therapy, and I’m taking meds every day and we’ll work on dosages but I think the mood stabilizers started helping right within a week. I have stabilizers, anti-depressants, and something to take for anxiety when i need it.
I have a new self-help tool that is all about changing my thinking. So now I have decided to view it not as fighting my brain or hating on my brain, but as working with my brain and my body, with therapy, meds, and a lot of thought-changing, to become a healthy individual.
I’m still pretty messed up. I still deal with depression and hypomania. I still struggle with the stigma and other unhealthy ideas from my fundamentalist upbringing. I will always be bipolar, and I might always have to fight against the negative self-beliefs in my brain since childhood. But I will learn to handle them better.
I have always been brave and strong, and I think that some day, it will show up for everyone to see.
In the meantime, I know it. I am bipolar. I am depressed but I am getting help. I am strong. I will raise my children and I will live my life.
I am Lana Hobbs the Brave.
End of series.