A classic symptom of depression is the desire to withdraw and isolate. When depression is paired with anxiety, this tendency only worsens. However, in isolation, the emotional pain caused by both conditions becomes more poignant. For years, I isolated myself. I focused on me and my pain – I had no room for anything outside of my personal, dark reality.
About five years ago, I stepped into a local church with a congregation that surrounded newcomers and each other with genuine love. Through my church community, I had the opportunity to connect with women of real faith. As I have gotten to know them, I have heard their stories. These women have walked through the varied seasons of life – they have dealt with failed marriages, failed businesses and jobs, children walking through dark times, and their own mental health and spiritual struggles. Some have wrestled with finding direction in life, or with just finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Despite being battered by life, these women have not given up. One started a business based on her specialized knowledge to help others. Another found true love later in life, and together she and her husband use their exceptional talents to bless and encourage others. Yet another woman struggled to have children for years, and after God granted her kids, she told her story to inspire others.
Most importantly for me, these women proved to be open and caring people. They extended their hands in true friendship – even when it took years to reach past my barriers. I realized my pain, and my mental health difficulties, were not unique to me. Though the circumstances and details differ, what my friends felt in their difficult seasons was similar to what I was going through.
Through having the chance to hear my friends’ stories, I found hope for my own life. Their difficulties, and their emotional struggles, did not end their lives. They remained in the faith, and found meaning and purpose in their lives, in ways beautiful and unique to each of them. Their stories have impacts far beyond themselves, and they have changed lives around them for the better – including mine.
If I had not taken a chance and reached out, I would still be isolated. I would still be drowning in my pain. I didn’t start to heal until God placed people in my life who truly cared about me: everyday mentors who showed me that overcoming depression, and having a meaningful life, are not empty fantasies, but a hope I claim now for my own future and story.