Today I am sure that I am not the only one, but during my journey through it I was certain that I was the only one. Burnout. Meltdown. Depression. All of these combined is where I found myself not long ago.
Though I am in a healthy place right now, I remember the day when things came crashing down on me like yesterday. Laying down on my living room sofa I felt a strong, overpowering sense that my life didn’t matter to anyone. Laying there I was sure that life was not worth continuing. I was utterly depleted, empty, drained, and lost all sense of hope. The dangerous part was that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to call or like anyone could help me.
Miraculously I made it through that night and managed to call a friend in the morning planning to leave a message. To my surprise she answered the phone and she only asked one question – “Are you ok?” After bursting into tears I exclaimed “I don’t think I am.”
Eventually I was diagnosed as suffering from Major Clinical Depression. The challenges of the struggle to be honest about the battle had everything to do with worrying over the perceptions of others. What would people say? A Christian? A Leader? Darlene? Depression?Not to mention that in African American culture, as well as in many Christian circles, the encouragement is to just pray and eventually get over it. But I needed more than just a little talk with Jesus…. It took great Christian counseling, solid friends, and a few praying people to help me reach a place of releasing the shame. Depression is more than having a low day or low moment, it grabs a hold of you making it impossible for you to function as you normally would.
I am now in a place where I refuse to allow shame or embarrassment to have power over me – the love God has for me is what makes me so secure and confident! My personal opinion is that the stigma surrounding this type of issue needs to be chipped away at much more so that more folks can get the help they need….
Not all who experience burnout also experience depression. And not all who battle depression battle it due to burnout. It’s a very complex illness. For me, it was a combination of being genetically predisposed and ministry burnout.
I found out personally that Depression is more than just feeling down, we all experience that. I found out through personal experience that it is not something that just goes away, or that you simply pray away and wish away. For some of us, it needs to be treated in a variety of ways – whether through therapy, medication, self care strategies, and so much more….. It knocked me down and left me with no hope of getting back up again (that’s the short version). Me and God were straight, I still loved Jesus, had a prayer life, was doing ministry, etc (I say that for the benefit of those who sometimes interpret depression as a sign that one is not spiritual enough, etc). It was like being in a dark room with no light switch…. The story is too long to tell…. But I am grateful for God’s care for me, and the support of those who love me, and for doing well – I still remember the first day I could actually hear the birds sing again and started to see the beauty in each day again. I STILL can’t believe it!