You see it every day on Facebook. One of your friends posts a loving picture of their family. Maybe it looks something like this:
You think to yourself, “Wow, they look so happy! They really have it together.”
It was precisely what I wanted other people to believe.
The year leading up to this picture was painful. We moved across the state because my husband accepted a new ministry position. I gave birth to our son six weeks later. I returned to work ten weeks after his birth. We closed on a first home the day this picture was taken. My son was hospitalized twice the month after we closed on our home.
There were way too many life changes happening all at once, and I couldn’t handle it.
It was a year of tears, yelling, and anguish. A year of snapping my husband’s head off, and wishing for a different life. A year of living in a brand new area while adjusting to the new normal of working motherhood.
I looked happy and content in the picture, but I was miserable. I needed help but what would people think? What would people say when they find out the youth pastor’s wife has depression?
The stigma didn’t matter. A week before Thanksgiving, my husband drove me to a hospital and I was admitted to the psychiatric unit for four days.
I used to think strait jackets and padded rooms when “psychiatric hospital” came to mind. I’m not naive to believe there is no longer a stigma in the church concerning mental health treatments. Yet I learned more about God’s character and goodness in that hospital than in any church revival.
Christ does not condemn us. A group of us would get together and study the Bible when we weren’t in therapy. We spent most of our time in Romans 8 and found comfort in Paul’s words:
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Chris Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
I was condemning myself for being a horrible mother and wife. I thought others were condemning me for making the same decisions, but this was all an illusion. Christ died for us so that we may no longer live in condemnation. We’ve been set free from sin and death. He does not abandon us. I thought God had turned away from me in the mist of my depression. I was supposed to be happy and joyful for being a mother and serving in ministry alongside my husband. God had vanished in the middle of my darkest moments, or at least I thought He did:
In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. Romans 8:26
I had very little words to say, but looking back I can recognize the Holy Spirit’s work and how He answered those wordless prayers. He loves us. I felt completely unlovable and alone, but nothing could be further from the truth. Paul asks this hypothetical question to the Romans: who can separate us from the love of Christ? The response is truly remarkable:
For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8: 38-39
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Life or death. Height or depth. Not even depression and anxiety. When we’re in Christ, God loves us despite our circumstances, not because of it.
It’s been a year since my hospital stay and things have changed for the better. I’m still on medication but I am deeper in God’s word. I recall God’s promises when old thoughts and insecurities creep into my mind. I know His truth, His love, and His sacrifice.
There is no more pretending on Facebook; instead, there is freedom from sin and life through Christ.
Samantha “Sam” Citty is a born and bred Tar Heel who lives in Prince George, Virginia with her husband, son, and two dogs. She has a master of arts in religion from Liberty University, and currently works in their online division as a quality assurance analyst. Life is pretty crazy between work, ministry, and family, so she writes all about it on her blog, Square Peg, Holy God. You may also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope.
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