Real Talk: Confessions

Confession: I have serious digestion problems.

Confession: I have depression and anxiety.

I don’t remember when I started struggling with either of them, but both became very serious in November when I started attending a group at my church. It was a recovery group for women who had experienced sexual abuse.

Confession: I was sexually abused in my childhood and it’s something I never dealt with until now.

Reasons I avoided it and lies I believed: It wasn’t rape, so why did it matter? It was probably my fault anyways. No one would believe me if I told them.

Going to the group every monday night was admitting to myself that what happened to me was abuse and that I had to get healing from it. As the dam of denial began to broke, all the emotions that I was holding flooded through my soul: fear, despair, disgust, rage, apathy, to name a few. This not only affected my emotions but my body as well. I had panic attacks on the daily, and had serious digestive issues. Like I said, I’ve had mild anxiety and mild digestive issues since I was in high school. But this was life altering, and definitely interfering with my daily life.

Guess which issue I went to the doctor for first? That’s right, my stomach issues.  I knew no one would judge my faith, or tell me to pray more if I told them I was taking stomach medicine. I briefly mentioned the anxiety during the check up and my doctor said she’d love to meet with me to talk about the anxiety. I kind of shrugged it off and went about my life excited to have some IBS medicine for my stomach that could normalize everything below my belly button.

The medicine worked beautifully, I had no idea why I had waited for so long to get some help. I kept thinking my symptoms weren’t THAT bad, or that maybe it’ll just fix itself on its own but thankfully I got over myself and asked for help. My doctor wanted a follow up meeting with to make sure the IBS medicine was working and so I went in there thinking “i’ll tell em the medicine is great and then walk out and go about my life.” But since it was January, they decided I was due for a check up. They took my blood, they did a lady test, and then asked me about my anxiety. My doctor is a Christian so I told her about the stress I was experiencing due to processing all the memories. And she empathized and said let’s get you on something that’ll help you through this time. (Side note: I had thought a lot about taking medication before this, and had talked with a lot of women, my community group, my mom, my friends from college, my counselor, and really wrestled with this) And I decided that If I was going to take care of my stomach, I needed to take care of my brain too.  10 mg of Lexapro, every morning until January 2018. 

The first two weeks were scary. I felt like I was carrying this dark little secret around and no one could know or they’d say I wasn’t a Christian. The imagined judgement I felt from people was worse then the initial side effects. As the side effects subsided, so did the imagined judgement. No one actually told me that I needed to “have more faith” or that I was the cause of anxiety and depression. I told myself those things.  I told myself that I didn’t trust God, that I needed to have more faith and pray more and read more of the Bible and memorize scripture. However, as I attempted these things my anxiety robbed me of any joy in Christ. I over thought every word I prayed and every word I wrote down in my journal.  My depression told me it didn’t matter and that God never really cared anyways so neither should I. Depression and Anxiety were the reins, and the Enemy was steering me all the way to destruction.

As I processed the memories from my childhood in the group, I replaced the lies I believed with truth, God began to open my eyes so that I could  begin to understand and grasp that I am lovable, I can trust others and God, I am worthy of God’s affection, I began to experience healing and freedom.

As the medicine began to really start working, I realized a lot of nervous tics I had that I didn’t know were anxiety related started to fade. I stopped obsessing over my breathing (I’d lay in bed at night and convince myself that I wasn’t really breathing), I stopped rubbing my fingers together and shaking my legs when I sat. The panic attacks stopped. The feeling of overwhelming dread faded. I could focus on one or two things at a time. I could focus and really pray, I could really journal, I could really meditate on truth in God’s word without wondering if I was doing something that was upsetting God.

Right now I’m sitting here wondering did God use anti-depressants to help me get closer to Him? It sounds so weird. I feel like the church makes it black & white, you trust God or you don’t. You have faith, or you don’t. I still have this little voice in my head that says “Wow you’re on medication, you really don’t trust God.” It takes a few seconds during the day to take a pill. But, the rest of the day I got to trust God and know He’s sovereign. If I can trust God and take medicine to make my stomach feel better, then I can trust God and take anti-depressants to help my brain feel better. And you know what, after a month or so on the antidepressants, I no longer needed to take the IBS medicine for my stomach because my digestive issues are gone!

I’m 3 months in and have been so lucky to a) found a medcine/dosage that worked on the first try. b) to be surrounded by such supportive and loving people. c) to have had an amazing job to work at during all this crazy stress (my boss brings her dogs to school every day and I get to love on them during my break. how amazing is that?)

I had a much different blog in mind when I opened this document, but I think what came out is good. I hope it helps you feel less alone, maybe it helps you understand mental health issues more. Maybe it’ll start good conversations about getting help. I’m open to any questions or comments. Please know that this is simply my story and experience so far. It might not look like yours, and it probably wont. Medicine affects everyone differently, so don’t let someone elses negative or positive experience effect your decision. Let that be between you, your doctor, your family and close friends.

Until next time, thanks for reading my friend.

-Marlie

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I spent almost a full year as a 13 year old pretty unscathed. Well, I guess we all spend a year being 13. But, I’ll never forget that year because it was the biggest wake up call of my life. Several things happened to me in about a four month span and they all hit me pretty hard. Some people get hit by actual buses, and others get hit by psychological buses. There must have been a parade of psychological buses cause I got hit multiple times.

I spent years begging my parents to get me a dog. We had one cat at the time, he was old though…not the most interesting creature. I wanted a dog, a best friend. Lo and behold,  when I was 9 my mom took me to the pound and we adopted one. Her name: Sweetie.  We learned through the years that that name applied to her on conditional terms. Sweetie was strange. She was a lhasa apso/shitzu mix, so she had that awesome tail.  she LOVED car rides, french fries and barking. BOY THIS DOG COULD BARK. She looked like a dog that would chirp or yelp. nope, she barked like a hound dog. Anyways, she was old when we got her (had back problems) and right around Christmas of 06′ her health started declining, and fast. I think we’ve all been there before. It’s so hard seeing the life drain out of an animal that had so much energy and personality. (Sweetie was a diva) In December, I walked into the Vet’s office with my dog in my arms (as she shook) and walked out that same door with nothing but memories. The house was very empty and quiet when I walked in that evening. I missed her so much, but she wasn’t in pain anymore. I learned a life lesson that Christmas: Sometimes the best gift you can give someone you love is to put their needs above your own desires.

February rolled around and so did some more rough news. My friend had invited me to her youth group since I had stopped going to the one at my old church. I had a blast the first time I went. Me, her and my other good friend went every Wednesday. The youth leaders were fantastic. They were hilarious and engaging as they brought the message each wednesday. By the time February ended, both youth pastors had left. One by choice and one by circumstance. At that age, you believe that everyone has it all together…especially adults… and hearing that one left because God called him somewhere but he doesn’t know where, and that the other was asked to resign…it was a pretty big moment where I realized “Hey…adults aren’t perfect. and they don’t have it all together.” I’m thankful for that lesson at an early age because it helps me feel okay when I didn’t have everything together (which is always)

March was the toughest, though. Without a doubt. I’m very confident that this part of my life has been used by God and will continue to be used by Him because otherwise…I just don’t have a clue why it had to happen. So, I met my best friends in Junior High. They had all gone to a different Elementary school in the district than me  ( they all had grown up together) and when I met them in band, they welcomed me into their circle right away. Bunch of personalities they were. We were always laughing, making jokes, being crazy hormonal acne covered teenagers. Invincible and the smartest things on earth, we trudged through classes…and spent the afternoons playing airsoft, watching TV and playing Halo 2. March rolled around and we all day-dreamed of Summer and tried to not pee ourselves with the reality of High school around the corner. There were 7 of us in  that tight knit group. And on March 22, there were 6. We all had 7th period together and didn’t think much of it when he wasn’t there that Thursday. That night my best friend’s mom called to talk to my mom. I didn’t think much of it when I handed the phone to my mom and ran up to my room to continue playing computer games. And when my mom called me downstairs and told me that he had committed suicide, I couldn’t stop thinking. My best friend came over that night with her mom. We all talked for a little bit, then my friend and I ran upstairs and sat on my bed, like we usually did on sleepovers, but instead of talking about boys and school, we talked about him and avoided the question we both were thinking: why?

I had no idea that people could reach such a low point in their lives. I knew people died, but  I didn’t know some people chose to. The six of us, with the floor taken out from underneath us, held on to each other; as we faced a world that remained silent to issues such as suicide and cutting. We held on to each other as we cried, laughed, did memorials, shared stories. When you love someone, tell them, even if you know they already know: hearing you say that you love them will give them something to hold on to when they reach low points in life. I don’t know who I would be today if  I hadn’t gone through this. I experienced some of my darkest nights that summer. I would not have made it without those six amazing, strong individuals who I will always have a very unique bond with because of those months. I lost touch with a few of them but they will always, always be in my heart. I would not have made it if my mom hadn’t taken me to counseling. I can’t stress it enough, you can’t do this alone. Get help. You are worth it.

March 22, 2007 (3/22/07) will always haunt me. A few months after it happened, I found  a verse in Lamentations, Chapter 3, verse 22.

“Because of the Lord’s great love; We are not consumed for his compassion never fail; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

The verse before it says “Yet this call I to mind and therefore I have hope…”

Because God  loves me, I have not and will not be consumed by grief, sin, lust, depression, addiction or the world. His compassion for me never falters, never gives up. He loves me the same each morning, now that’s what faithfulness is. When dogs die, and pastors fail us, and friends die. God is the constant presence of hope and love. Not the kid on the ant hill, but the Father whose heart breaks for the sin and brokeness of the world. He takes the ashes, and creates beauty out of it.

“Lord you took up my case, you redeemed my life.” Lam 3:58