What can depression or anxiety birth in your life? Can anything good come from it?
Today, I’m glad to introduce to you Mary Kate, someone I’ve met online and admired her honesty and commitment to her family for awhile. She shares a brave story today of living with depression and anxiety, something I’ve struggled with as well and wrote about in Birthed. Write on, warrior sister!
I spent the first several weeks in my first full-time job in a field I was extremely passionate about trying to figure out ways just to make it until 3:15 PM until I could go home and sleep or cry or dread going in the next day to do it all over again.
This is what happens when depression and anxiety take over your life.
I had a 30-minute commute to one of the schools in which I taught music in our rural, mountainous NC county. So much beautiful scenery surrounded me the 2 days a week that I traveled to that tiny K-8 school. But, more often than not, other thoughts clouded my mind’s eye and prevented me from seeing God’s handiwork. One thought occurred more frequently than others: “If I just got into a small accident, I wouldn’t have to go to work. Not enough to die, just enough to break an arm or a leg.”
The other three days a week, I worked at a school much closer to home. This school was much more affluent. As is unfortunately and often the case, with affluence came a feeling of “we just don’t talk about it.” As if we pretended a problem didn’t exist, it would in fact cease to exist. I tried that mindset too. It didn’t work for me. But, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was called to be a teacher, but I was paralyzed in my depression and anxiety.
I could not see beyond the gut-wrenching dread that shrouded my everyday life . . . until a bomb threat changed everything.
For many, this may seem like it would be the metaphorical straw and I the metaphorical camel. But in a supreme twist of irony, on this day, I could see past everyone else’s anxiety and truly find my calling once again.
Early in the morning, I showed up to work. I sat at my desk before the bell rang trying to take some deep breaths and stop any tears from falling before a brief planning period and then my first class of first graders 25 minutes later. I heard the intercom click on and the principal say, “Teachers. We are executing our evacuation procedure.”
I was a first-year teacher. It was the first few weeks of school. I figured this was a scheduled drill that I had ignored during staff meeting. I looked out my door and saw several teachers scurrying even more hurriedly than normal. I then figured out that this wasn’t routine. I grabbed my phone and my keys, went to the bus parking lot and asked the Assistant Principal what I needed to do. She instructed me to board the bus with 50 precious kindergarteners.
These little 4 and 5 year olds were just like me in that moment.
We had only been in school a few days. We had no idea what was going on. We were scared. But I was the adult. I turned around with a smile on my face and stared straight into the wet eyes of those innocent little kids and tried to keep them occupied by asking what their favorite part of school had been so far.
We were evacuated to a local church where, as the music teacher, it became my responsibility to entertain 300 children by singing songs and dancing and playing games. (File under: things they don’t teach you in education classes.) In those 3 hours, I found a confidence in myself that I had lost.
I faced this fact: depression and anxiety had gotten the best of me – and that is easy to do.
Depression and anxiety are real and scary and life-altering. Depression and anxiety are not something we “just don’t talk about” and hope they improve. But when we work through them, wrestle with them, take meds to treat them, see a counselor to talk about them, or whatever coping mechanism you may decide to employ, they can give birth to something greater – newfound experience after traveling through the valley of the shadows.
At the end of the year, I attended a celebratory luncheon with fellow beginning teachers and our mentors. One of our tasks that day was to fill out a few sticky notes with words of encouragement for the next year’s first year teachers. I sat beside one of my colleagues and after writing “It does get better” on my sticky note, I explained how I used to wish I’d get in a wreck to break my arm or leg or something minor. She looked at me and, with a little smirk, said, “I did that too.”
I wish I had known sooner.
Speak up. Speak out. You are not alone when depression and anxiety seem to be your only companions.
It does get better.
Mary Kate Deal is the Parish Administrator at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer near Richmond, VA. She has a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry from McAfee School of Theology where she met and convinced a stunningly handsome man to be her husband and partner in ministry for life. She and William have twin 14-month-old girls, Adeline and Dorothy, and two dogs, Boomer and Jasper. She is passionate about writing and preaching and is thankful for any opportunity to do either.