This time last year, if someone had told me I would have been the happiest and most joyful I’ve ever been in a year’s time I probably would have laughed in their face. This week as I sat down and reflected on the last six months of my life I am filled with a gratitude that brings me to tears.
Twelve months ago began a downward spiral in my mental health. I was the saddest I’d ever been and for no apparent reason. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, it was gradual –perhaps over two or three months. But slowly I felt like I had this great big grey cloud that would rest upon me. A sticky grey cloud. I would feel so lonely, and often cry myself to sleep. My health specialist got me to write a well-being journal and I recorded the amount I cried per day. Tallying two to five times per day.
I would resonate with the Psalms on a completely new level! Feeling like perhaps the only person in the world that understood where I was coming from was King David… and he was dead. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm chapter forty-three, Verse Five). Times like that should have been happy (like taking my little horse on an adventure trip to Adelaide CBD), was filled with tears and crying non-stop with my mother (who is amazing) patiently holding my hand in the seat next to me.
Do we really need labels?
I don’t like labels, but I knew I was depressed. But even still, it didn’t have a root cause, and perhaps that was worse. I also didn’t want to be another teenage girl coming out and saying, ‘Yep, I’ve got depression and anxiety,’ and I wrestled with being truly known by those around me in that season. Who likes it when people see you cry? More so, who likes being around someone who is depressed? There is a tendency to push the ones we need so far away when we carry such a weight within but putting up walls will not help people!! We need others around us in this time, and we need to know our place in the family of God. It took me months for me to tell my parents what was going on, but when I finally did, there was release. Comfort. And that began my road to healing.
Not long after talking to my parents, I saw a hormone specialist. Being diagnosed with PCOS in March 2017, with depression being a leading symptom, I assumed it was a good idea to get it all sussed. And wullah, my hormone levels were so imbalanced that my doctor told me I had the oestrogen levels of a pregnant woman and my body was making barely any progesterone… cue my excessive crying, baby fever and intense liquorice cravings!
But I wrestled with so much shame in that season. Should haves. I should be happy. I should be joyful because I’m in a relationship with God. I should be feeling better than this. I should be able to choose joy and not have this overwhelming weight affect me so much. But when I look back on that season, I saw three things very clearly.
- God accepted me just as I was
- Mental health can be related to a physical problem (not necessarily always spiritual guys!!)
- It gets better
You need to accept yourself
My mum is really good at dropping truth bombs. During one of my crying-shame filled episodes she very boldly said to me, ‘Shannon. You need to accept yourself where you are at right now. Even though you’re crying all the time and you don’t know why, Jesus accepts you where you’re at right now. Of course, he’s going to help you and lead you to healing but right now you need to accept yourself where you’re at and stop trying to change it.’ Because I felt like ‘I had to be better,’ I was striving for his love. But his love wasn’t dependant on my mood or my joy. He loves me no matter what, and he accepts me FULLY where I am. That has given me a beautiful perspective into my future should I ever experience it again, and to others who may too struggle in such areas.
Finding out I was depressed due to my hormones was an interesting experience. A relief, sure. But also…really? Like this is JUST to do with my hormones? Sure, maybe not all of it, but a lot of it was. And once my hormones levelled out in the months that followed, so did the grey cloud. I haven’t experienced such sadness since, and I’m thanking God for everyday that I’m alive, and that he has brought forth healing in me and led me to this place.
The hardest thing for me to contemplate during this time was my future. Will I feel like this forever? Will this feeling ever go away? But Jesus was my greatest hope in that season. Without him I have no clue where I’d be! The comfort I can offer to others who may find themselves in a similar season, is that it gets better. God sustains and he heals. We don’t know the timeline. But we can be assured that ‘he works everything for the good of those that love him’ (Romans chapter 8, verse 28).
Shannon Munyard is home to the Adelaide Hills where she works as a horse riding instructor and equine assisted learning facilitator at a non-for profit youth campsite. Shannon is passionate about authenticity, and seeing people connected to their hearts. She loves the outdoors, bush camping, pondering deep questions and Jesus.