Receiving My Diagnosis
I remember that day vividly. It was October 10, 2018, and ironically World Mental Health Day. I drove home crying because my therapist had just diagnosed me with severe clinical depression and anxiety. I felt relieved because the diagnosis confirmed that I was not crazy and that I wasn’t just making all of this up. But I was also scared, ashamed, and felt guilt.
After all, I survived the horror that was my first-year post-undergrad. I just landed my first big job; I was making my dream salary; I just moved into my new studio apartment. The very moment that I had always dreamed and prayed for was here. So, why was I depressed? Did this mean that I didn’t trust God? Was I ungrateful for all that He had done in my life? Did I not know my identity in Christ? Saints, I was all kinds of confusion.
A few weeks back, I was talking to my friend, who was completing her residency program. I was telling her that I was so stressed, losing my appetite, losing a ton of weight, struggling with insomnia, struggling to get out of bed, and had extreme anxiety at work each day because it was such a stressful and toxic work environment. She pointed out that I was experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, and she encouraged me to see a doctor.
I was shooketh because I thought that I was adjusting to my new job and life. But, over the next couple of days, I began to pay attention to how I was feeling, and I soon realized that it was abnormal. Do you know that pain you feel in your heart and chest when you get bad news or experience a break-up? Yea, I felt that EVERYDAY!
Most Sundays, I was too exhausted to make it to church, so a few friends and mentors reached out. I told them that I thought that I was depressed, and I remember one person telling me, “be careful not to self-diagnose yourself.” I know that they meant no harm, but that statement made me feel crazy, guilty, misunderstood, and afraid that I was making things up in my head.
Instead of seeking medical help, I decided to see a Christian life coach because I felt like that was what I needed. That was not the best idea for the following reasons:
- Life coaching is for people who are mentally stable enough to receive criticism and tough love. It is more beneficial for those who are well and strong enough to complete assignments, exercises and make drastic life changes to reach their goals.
- There was more of an emphasis on the spiritual root of my depression, such as mistrust in God or not having a deep understanding of my identity in Christ. But, less of an emphasis on addressing the very real symptoms that I was experiencing.
My coach at the time did not believe that I was dealing with a medical condition. She believed that I was feeding into the lies of the enemy. My homework assignment was to find scriptures to combat the lies that I was believing.
Completing my assignments was incredibly hard because I was overthinking everything.
“What scripture do I need?”
“What is the context of this verse?”
“Can I apply this to my situation?”
Saints, it was hard, and most times, all I would do is cry myself to sleep because no matter how many verses I read, I was still hurting.
The scriptures did not bring me comfort; they just made me angry because I could not tangibly feel that peace that surpasses all understanding. What did my identity as a daughter of Christ mean? How were my identity in Christ and the hope of future glory helping me deal with my depression now, in 2018? Make it make sense, saints!
Instead of taking time to stop and acknowledge my pain and hurt, I always told myself to get over it, work on myself, and trust God because He has been so good to me, and I don’t have an excuse to be depressed.
When I eventually started seeing a therapist,I realized that my behavior was out of pocket. I did not need coaching; I needed to heal. Moreover, I did not need a Christian coach; I needed to seek help from a licensed mental health professional who could help me understand depression and provide resources to address my symptoms, Christian or not.
While going through coaching, I was frustrated because there was no progress, and I blamed myself for it. I thought that it was because I did not trust or believe in God’s word. But, when I went to receive my diagnosis, my therapist explained to me that the reason why coaching was so hard was because I was not mentally or physically capable of thinking clearly enough to complete the assignments that my coach asked me to do. At that very moment, I felt so understood and heard. I wasn’t crazy!
So, What Caused It?
This is the golden question. Many people think that depression is the result of a wild and unusual life event; like the death of your mother, a car crash, escaping from war, or abuse. Yes, these events can lead to depression and other mental illnesses. But, my therapist helped me understand that everyday events like losing or starting a new job, experiencing heartbreak, academic failure, changes in the seasons, and even genetics can cause depression. Your life may seem normal in comparison to others, and yet, you can still become depressed. Don’t let anyone minimize your pain or feelings; don’t minimize yourfeelings; don’t engage in conversations that make you feel misunderstood, and remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Below are a few things that caused my depression:
In short, college was a complete joke. I went to UNC-Chapel Hill with the goal of becoming a doctor, but Biology 101 said, “no, sis.”
I graduated with a terrible GPA, but our Lord is a redeemer, okay??! Anyway, that’s a TEDTalk for another day. I found my worth and identity in my grades, and when my grades failed me, I felt worthless and incompetent.
Grad School Rejections:
As if my tragic GPA wasn’t enough of a sign to give school a rest, I applied to grad school because I believed that the Lord instructed me to do so. I had received several prophesies that grad school was the next step for me. I prayed for months and felt like the Lord had confirmed it.
Not only did I bomb the math section of the GRE, but I got rejected by ALL schools!! To make it worse, I lived in an apartment with three friends, and we all planned to move to DC for work and school. One roommate got into law school and another into grad school. All my roommates eventually made it to DC, and I was devastated. I started to question my ability to hear God. I also felt forgotten by Him.
The Job Market:
It took me MONTHS to find a job after I graduated from college. I finally got a job, and it was going well, but then the company was at risk of losing funding for my position. So, I embarked on another journey to find a new job.
My First Grown-up Job (You will need wine for this one):
Just when I had lost hope, Jesus came through!
My friend referred me for a job at a healthcare tech company, and after four rounds of interviews and a case study, I was one of the very few people to receive an offer.
During the first three months of my new job, I had to complete three evaluations at work, and if I could not pass them, I would lose my job. During those evaluations, our directors would tear us apart and criticize us harshly. The learning curve was steep for me, and instead of focusing on learning my job well, I just needed to survive. The first three months felt like the 2018 Hunger Games, lol.
I remember going on a work trip with my director, and not being able to concentrate on my job because I was so incredibly sad. My director noticed that something was wrong with me, but instead of checking in, she assumed that I was just not cut out for my job. I was under the microscope, and that is when I knew that I had to seek professional help because I could not afford to lose my job.
I survived the evaluations but remained under the microscope at work. I tried my very best to fight for my job and appease my managers/directors, but it was never enough. On May 15, 2019, they let me go.
Heartbreak (You might need tissues for this one):
I have always wanted a Christ-centered relationship.While in college, God instructed me to pray for my future husband. He gave me a list of things to look for in a guy:
- He must love God.
- He must be in community.
- He must be actively seeking sexual purity.
I also felt like the Lord told me that I would meet this guy very soon, post-undergrad.
After some wild, unbelievable “stars are aligning moments”, and vivid dreams, I thought I had finally met this person. Our connection was incredible, and I really believed he was it. But, it did not work out.
It felt like the Lord literally teased me with my biggest desire, and just when I reached out to grab it, it felt like He just snatched it away from me and said, “Just Kidding!” with no explanation or closure.
If I am completely honest, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. On top of everything else going on in my life, heartbreak was it. Losing someone I cared about so deeply hurt. I lost it and spiraled into severe depression. I cried to God for an entire year to heal my heart.
Saints, you can be completely souled out for Christ and still suffer from clinical depression. What you’re experiencing doesn’t disqualify you from the Body, nor does it make you any less saved. In fact, God knew of the sickness some of us would be facing, which is why He created therapists to help us battle this disease.
Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind:
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”
Even amid your troubles, God is with you. He has plans of hope and a future for you. The proof is that He makes the tools (medication, therapy, community, etc.) available so that you can get the help you need for a hopeful present and future.
If you believe you may be struggling with depression or any mental illness, please reach out to someone and look into getting a therapist. Please utilize the resources that God prepared for us. They are life-changing!
Visit Psychology Today or Therapy for Black Girls to find a therapist near you. If you are concerned that you may not be able to afford a therapist, don’t fret. A lot of the therapists on any for the sites, as mentioned earlier, charge based on your income.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Next week, I’ll be back with part two of my depression story, where I discuss the importance of medication, a solid community, and finding God amid sickness as well as my current life update. Stay tuned!
Until then, remember that you are loved, seen, heard and that your life matters. Please do not hesitate to reach me via my IG, @kjemeia, if you need support.