But looking back, inside, I knew the doctor was right.
This was not my first visit to a doctor. Months before this, I was overcome with the fear of stepping out of the house or going anywhere alone. I could not carry out my daily chores or even interact with people. I could not step out of the house even for small errands, leave alone big things like going to my kids’ school etc. Even the things I usually loved to do, I feared. It was only later that I realized that it was intense anxiety and not fear. It is God’s grace that I was at least aware that something abnormal was happening to me. I never used to be like this and there were no particular reasons for anxiety or depression. I met various doctors and I would say ‘my head feels funny, I have some sort of imbalance’ and then would begin a series of tests and treatment for various symptoms. They would say ‘check your eyes’, ‘check your ears’, ‘could be vertigo’ and so on. With each prognosis, I would withdraw more and more and my life was in total chaos.
Then I shared these feelings with friends, I thought would understand me. ‘You have become too selfish’, ‘what’s happened to your faith’, ‘don’t you believe there is a God who can heal you’, were some of their reactions. I withdrew even more.
My husband was not aware of what I was going through, as I was good at masking these feelings for a while. however, I soon reached a point where I was scared to just step out of my door and I had to tell him. I had become scared of being home alone; I felt if I stepped outside, I would fall down and embarrass myself. My husband realized that I needed help.
Thus, the bold step that I took on my own to meet this doctor at a program brought me to my senses that indeed it was ‘anxiety and depressive disorder’ and not any physical illness. I had always believed in God and His grace as I had been through traumatic experiences before and He had held me strong. Now I knew I had to just trust in Him and move ahead.
I knew I had to see a psychiatrist but I was embarrassed and afraid. No one I knew had ever been to a psychiatrist. What if my friends, neighbors, relatives came to know about this? What would others think? I simply could not bear the thought of someone seeing me step in or step out of a psychiatrist’s clinic. Whenever I would go to visit the doctor, my prayer would be, ‘let me not bump into anyone whom I know’.
My husband was very supportive through the treatment and stood by me. The psychiatrist explained to us that my illness is curable and dispelled the many fears I had about psychiatric medication. For the first time in a long time I felt a sense of hope. This feeling was not some magic healing that took place with the psychiatrist, it was because for the first time ‘someone understood what I was saying, my condition was accepted and I was told that I am not the only person going through this illness’. The relief that I felt at that moment was liberating. Rays of hope filled me enabling me to face the challenges that lay ahead.
Treatment began and I carefully followed the doctors’ directions. Things began changing slowly. My depression left me completely though I took some time to get over the anxiety bouts.
This experience made me reflect on my life and what had gone wrong. I had been through a traumatic experience a few years ago and I had never really dealt my feelings or shared them with anyone, especially with my husband due to fear of being rejected. I would always have this plastered smile on my face that made everyone think I was very happy. I learnt to let go of unmet expectations in my life. I learned to focus on the blessings in my life and to accept, graciously, the limitations in my life. I began to cultivate the habit of saying ‘no’ when I could not take up the commitment. Earlier I would never ask for help but now I began asking for help. I also realized that accumulated stress was another reason for this breakdown. I felt the need for recreation, entertainment or even a holiday somewhere.
I relooked at my priorities and began realigning them, which helped me a lot. Self-acceptance, to love and forgive myself added to the healing process. I learnt to let go of anger and bitterness that had accumulated over time. I also involved myself in small activities that rejuvenated me. I began with story telling for children.
After some time I got off medication, I had one relapse that took a toll on me but by God’s grace I bounced back. There are times when I do go through anxiety though not with the same intensity as before. At such times, I do a muscle relaxation exercise, listen to music, attend a Bible study, seek counseling help, repeat to myself that I have a God who carries me faithfully and His strength is sufficient for me or I call a friend and share what I am going through. I notice these symptoms aggravate when I have too many tasks on hand or if I have made too many commitments. I consciously work on my schedule to keep my stress levels in check.
God blessed me with an understanding family, friends who stood by me and encouraged me and I remember with gratitude my psychiatrist who encouraged me to reach out to people who were hurting. She told me ‘you should get into counseling; you will make a good counselor’. That was God’s plan I knew, and so accepted the challenge. My counselor has made a huge difference in my life by keeping me focused on what I need to do, how to cope and move ahead in a positive direction. She also challenged my ways of thinking, beliefs and this change in perception aided the healing process. She is still my friend, philosopher and guide.
I successfully completed a counseling course and I am so grateful to my mentor who supported me and put his faith in my work as a counselor. Today I reach out to people by counseling, teaching, praying and encouraging others. I have helped many to seek psychiatric help and they are on the path of recovery. The contentment that I receive when I see my clients happy after a counseling session is very overwhelming.
I am grateful to God for where I am today. Depression and anxiety are treatable and not a condition that should tie a person down. Today I realize that God’s ways and God’s thoughts are much higher than my ways and thoughts. He had purpose for me in all this – heal and to help others heal. I would encourage each one of you to reach out to people with psychological problems without judging them or treating them as outcastes. All they need is your acceptance, love, understanding and encouragement.
The author has chosen to remain anonymous.