I never thought of myself as a control freak. And until the past couple years I would’ve argued that I wasn’t. The truth is I don’t like to “control” people or make all the decisions; it’s more that I want to know everything is going to be okay. When it comes to my life I want to feel like I have control over what’s happening with me. And I hate not knowing. I guess that’s really where the control side of me comes in. I HAVE to know. The unknown freaks me out. A lot.
Recently, I have been put in some unknown situations. At various times in my life I have dealt with periods of what I would call mild depression. These periods would be mostly in the winter time after all the holidays had passed. When spring would roll back around I would perk right back up. I had heard of Seasonal Depression and self-diagnosed (dangerous, I know) myself through the years with it. This year I was prepared once again for a little bit of sadness to flood in. However, after spring came around, I noticed I wasn’t perking back up like I normally did. I contributed this to having a toddler and a new baby and trying to adjust to being a mom of 2 instead of one. After a while my sadness became overwhelming. I would sit and cry over nothing, literally nothing. I noticed I couldn’t shake the sadness when I felt it and nothing I did made it go away. I had never experienced the way I was feeling and it alarmed me.
Being a minister’s wife, I feared telling anyone. I had already experienced a lot of backlash previously for being open about my struggles and I knew there was no good explanation as to why I was so sad. Therefore, I hid it... or tried to. The problem with trying to hide depression, anxiety, or any other sort of struggle is that in doing so you push others way. My husband started noticing the distance I was keeping even with him, and how frustrated I was all the time for no apparent reason, so he finally addressed it. I began to sob, uncontrollably as I explained to him that I did not know what was wrong with me. I was starting to come to the conclusion that I was losing it; like I would end up in a psych ward somewhere because I was really losing it. At least that’s how I felt. Praise God I married a man with such patience, love, and wisdom. After praying with me, he gently said, “Maybe you should talk to a doctor about what’s going on.”
If you know me, you know I hate going to doctors. I hate medicine. It’s very rare that I will even take Tylenol, but I knew this stuff going on inside me was far beyond anything I could control anymore. Reluctantly, I scheduled an appointment and went in completely embarrassed and fully expecting to be put on anti-depression medicine. Luckily, my doctor ordered labs first. So I went in for labs and waited for my next appointment a couple days later. Again, nervous because I hated admitting I was depressed, and embarrassed because they knew I was a minister’s wife, I sat down ready for him to say my labs were all normal and indeed I was just depressed. But, he didn’t.
This is where my life became out of my control. You see, I could handle depression, or so I thought. I would just work harder at controlling stressful situations, try to find the brighter side of things and pray more. And probably be put on medicine for a bit. This was all naive thinking of course. As I sat there, I was told my thyroid levels were off. Honestly, I didn’t even know what a thyroid was nor did I realize the havoc a messed up thyroid can cause (trust me, it causes a huge mess). Again, I thought it’s probably a false reading. He told me he wanted to schedule an ultra sound and more labs. I thought to myself, he’s wasting his time doing all of this, but okay, I’ll do what he says. After an ultra sound and more lab work they discovered not only do I have a messed up thyroid, but I have an auto immune disease called Graves attacking my thyroid and a nodule that has to be monitored.
Going home that day I had no idea what any of it meant. I just knew that what started out as a trip to the doctor for medicine turned into a very complicated situation that felt completely out of my control, and quite frankly that scared me more than anything the doctor told me.
Fast track to now, a couple months later, and not only am I battling sadness off and on, but I am dealing with a rapid heartbeat that makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack, extreme fatigue (on top of caring for an infant and toddler), random panic attacks that I have never experienced in all my life, and moodiness like I’ve never felt before. In fact, I don’t feel like myself at all. There are days I feel disconnected from myself and those around me. I still don’t know a lot about thyroid issues but I do know that these symptoms are pretty common in an over active thyroid and especially in Graves’ disease. The treatment plan is incredibly difficult for someone with my personality to grasp. They start out treating the symptoms, meaning medicine for anxiety/depression and rapid heartbeats (because the thyroid is over working itself it causes your body to basically freak out), however, the way for the doctors to know if the medicine is working is based on trial and error... meaning I become a living experiment. Again, out of my control.
Why tell all of this?
Because sometimes in life things happen that are completely out of our control. When dealing with issues such as feelings of depression, anxiety, and a crazy list of other things (I’ll spare you the details), often we feel as though we are “weak” or “bad” because we are going through these things. We are told something is wrong with us, we aren’t measuring up, and we need to get over this so we won’t “ruin” what God wants to do. And because we are told these things we keep it all in, afraid to let others see what’s really going on. We have been “put in our place” too many times before for being so honest, so this time we don't even try. I’ve been there.
As a minister’s wife and someone who has their ministry license, I have been told these things and more. So when I began to feel all these feelings inside, the overwhelming sadness that I couldn’t stop, the irritability that hit me out of nowhere, the anxiety that would appear and then go away, I held it all in. Now, I find myself dealing with many more symptoms, symptoms I cannot control. And I think about how many other people feel these things. Anxiety, fear, depression. Real feelings. And how many feel as though they can’t tell anyone for fear of what others will think or say to them. You see, this season of my life is hard, so very hard. There hasn’t been days go by in over a month that at some point in the day, I haven’t had an episode from my thyroid. When these episodes happen I get frustrated. Frustrated because I cannot control what’s going on with my body, and frustrated because I feel like I’m failing. I think I should have it all together. I shouldn’t have “issues”.
The truth is we all have issues. We all have struggles of some sort. And this time in my life I have to learn that I cannot control everything and I hate it. But I’m also learning the true nature of dying to myself, dying to my desires of that need to control, in order to experience full freedom in Christ.
I’m not guaranteed everything will turn out okay, nor am I guaranteed that I won’t have some really bad days, weeks, months, or even years before all this is over. In fact, more than likely (unless God completely heals me and He is more than able to do so) this is something that I will live with for the rest of my life. However, I am guaranteed that the God who created this universe is with me every single step of the way, and that He has me in the palm of His hands. His promise to us isn’t that life will turn out the way we want it to or think it should. His promise to us is that if we let Him, He will lead us, carry us at times, and never leave us.
To anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, or loneliness—you are not alone. And you are not weak, a failure, or a mess up. You are a real person, dealing with real issues. And to that pastor or pastor’s wife struggling, that means you too. God sees you, He hears you, and He loves you so much.