I actually created this blog to share this story. I have wanted to share this story for a long time. I have found many reasons why not to share this story. Many things have caused me to not want to share this story. But I am going to share a story.
Disclaimer: I do not share this in any way to gain some form of sympathy or attention. I am not jumping on any sort of a bandwagon of people who are exposing dark parts of their lives. I will also not share everything. But I have 2 reasons to share: 1. I want to get out my story of what God has done in my life & what He can do you in yours. and 2. To help remove the stigma that surrounds what I am going to share.
I have been blessed so much in my life. Blessed with a family and friends who love me, but I have depression.
No, I don’t mean just “Oh I feel sad today.” When I was a small child, around 5 or 6, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but after counseling and medication I wasn’t improving and my parents still struggled with understanding me. After a few more sessions of counseling, I was diagnosed with depression. Again, even with this diagnosis, I was blessed to have some great doctors and counselors. I was so fortunate to have Dr. John Kelley who pioneered Child Psychology at I believe WVU… A fantastic man… But I digress. (My ADD kicked in… ha)
I don’t want you to think I am blaming my mom and dad for my problems. That’s what sucks about the type of depression I have. It does not make sense. If I could tell you one thing about mental illness it is this: It does not make sense. I was blessed with a close knit extended family growing up. While because of that I experienced a lot of death, I also experienced a lot of love.
But even though I grew up with a loving family, even as a kid I felt alone. I mean at a gathering with all my cousins, I felt alone. Again, it doesn’t make sense. Growing up, I felt different. I felt alone. I know that I wasn’t the only one with problems. But I felt alone.
I’d love to be able to point to one issue and say this is why I have felt depressed. But there isn’t a single issue that has made me this way. Sure, there are a few events that have negatively shaped me, but I tend to be melancholy by nature. Again, it doesn’t make sense.
Now, some of you may think this is a spiritual issue. And I would agree with you. But I know the depression I battle is not because of some sort of demonic oppression, or some kind of spiritual deficit in my life, at least not entirely. There is a spiritual component to the depression I deal with, but even when I am doing great spiritually, I can still feel depressed.
And some people know I have had this battle. But the vast majority have no idea had difficult it has been.
When I was a teenager, I refused to deal with life and various complicated issues and I thought about death continuously. I felt unaccepted by my peers… Which is ironic because while by no means the most popular kid in school, I was friends with just about everyone. I realize now how superficial those relationships were.
I don’t know why I would feel this way. I just did. I’m not asking for your sympathy. It’s just something I had to go through. I was suicidal at times. How serious was I? In hindsight, I just don’t know. I know that I wanted to die. I know that I wanted to stop feeling so down, so unloved, so useless. I felt my life had no meaning or purpose. I tried it. Several times. Either I never had to courage to “do it right” or the hand of God intervened or perhaps both.
When I was 17 I was finally baptized (I had become a follower of Jesus at around the age of 6). My pastor at time showed me acceptance. His family opened their home to me and I felt like I finally had friends I could be real with. People who I knew accepted me as I was. I grew to love them all as my own family.
It’s not that my own family didn’t love me. It’s that I was scared what they would think of me. In my family, I was taught to believe that I came from a good line of hardworking people who had made something of themselves. My grandparents and great grandparents were respected pillars of the community. How could I be messed up and let them down?
Fast forward to College. I attended Bible College at Ohio Valley University. Nice school. Fantastic professors. Fellow students: mostly ok. But I didn’t fit in. I was an outsider. I came from a different theological background and never found a niche. I’m not blaming the school or the system. I recognize that it is my responsibility to find a niche in which to thrive. What sucks about depression is that you lack the willpower to improve your situation. I would go to chapel, and leave inspired and excited to serve Jesus but completely lack the drive to grow enough to deal with parts of my depression. Even while seeking professional help, I would struggle to get out of bed. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy. I was scared. I was alone. I didn’t want to “adult” any more.
2nd Semester of college my roommate moved into another dorm. It was the middle of the school year and I was alone in my room almost anytime I wasn’t in class. Which is crazy. There I was being alone because I felt alone. Say it with me: Depression doesn’t make sense. I was heading into a dangerous spiral. I noticed it. No one else did because I didn’t have the guts to reach out. Soon after a girl I went to school with died in a car accident. We weren’t that close, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. I, a Christian man with so many blessings, would break down and cry in the middle of the day. About nothing. I would cry myself to sleep at night. In the Bible, Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die.” I tried that. But I wasn’t going anywhere.
Finally one night I had a late heart to heart with a friend. I poured out my soul to him. I shared all the sinful things I had done and hidden. All the guilt I carried. All the sadness I felt. And he responded and said God loved me anyways. That he was my friend regardless. That he loved me no matter what. Oh, I cannot tell you how my heart soared!
Within 2 months I became the pastor of a very small struggling church. The perfect place to see if I was truly committed to ministry. What seemed like the toughest 8 years of my life was really just preparation for my future ministry. I worked hard to grow that church, I prayed. I preached. I trusted God. I invested my own meager salary back into that church, People came. People began to follow Jesus. Then something happened. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I made mistakes. Maybe it simply wasn’t God’s will for that church to grow. But I lost two very dear friends who no longer came to church there. People who I thought had my back began to attack me without cause. Maybe I lead out of anger. Maybe my determination led me to respond in un-Christ-like ways. I don’t know.
I knew God was calling me somewhere else. So after 6 months of prayer and seeking God’s will I resigned and lost half of my family’s income. But I knew God had a plan for me.
The past 2.5 years I have been back at my home church, where through a strange series of events I pastor a church I never thought I would, and I love it.
But I still battle depression. I am surrounded by people who love me, and yet I still feel so very alone. There are times when driving down the road I still will break down. But praise the Lord, those are fewer and far in between. I truly believe that depression is a battle I will have my whole life. And I have now come to terms with that. I think that it has made me a better pastor, a better husband, and a better friend. I long for authentic relationships. I do my best to empathize with others.
I can truly see how God has used this for God.
But I still battle. I’ve been suicidal since my teen years. It makes no sense. I have an amazing wife, two incredible daughters, and some very special people in my life. But I battle nonetheless.
My name is Adam, and I have a mental illness. It makes no sense. But with God’s help I am fighting.