By Hollie Kemp

In early July of 2021, I called my husband from downtown and said fearfully, “Something is wrong. I need to go to urgent care.” He tried to comfort me, but my heart and head were both racing so fast I could hardly breathe. I walked into the urgent care and followed the arrows on the floor. I reached the window, stood on the circle 3 feet back, and waited for the woman to open the glass door at her desk.

“Miss, how can I help you?”

I tried to quietly say through tears, “I think something is wrong with me.”

“What?” she said. “Like what kind of wrong?”

I looked around, embarrassed, and whispered, “I think I might be depressed.”

“Can you speak up?” she said.

I said it louder and watched as people looked at me. In their defense, I looked as frazzled as I felt, and at this point, I was crying uncontrollably.

A few moments later I was called in. The medical technician took my vitals and handed me the depression questionnaire.

Do you have little or no interest in doing things? 5

Do you feel bad about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down? 5

Do you have trouble concentrating on things such as reading or watching television? 5

Do you have thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself? 5

I was shaking and sobbing as I filled out the questionnaire. A few moments later, a nurse practitioner came in and asked me a few more questions, then a social worker, and then I was sent home with a strong version of Benadryl and told maybe I should call a therapist to talk this out.

The Void

That night I sat on my bed while my husband held me. I prayed that if I had to live like this that God would just take me to my eternal home now.

A once bubbly, congenial, ambitious, and loving person, I was now left terrified, lonely, deeply sad, and thinking constantly about how dying would be so much better. This was the first time I had been there, but it wouldn’t be the last.

I have always been someone who people look to for positivity. A glass half full kind of gal. You give me a bad situation, and I can find the silver lining. I’ve had hard times throughout my life — some really hard times — but they never broke my spirit.

Then, on that July morning of 2021, I woke up and felt like someone had shut the light off inside me. A once bright and shining place now void of light.

The Stigma

Looking back, there were warning signs. Signs I avoided seeing. I was under a tremendous amount of work stress. I was raising a child, working on our homestead, running a household, starting my own business, and just generally trying to be everything for everyone in my life. I was doing all the things that the modern-day “successful woman” is expected to do, and I was crumbling under the pressure. I pushed through day after day, until one day my body and my mind just said “no more,” and the light went out.

It would take over a year to get to a place where I wasn’t just treading water. With my husband backing me up and advocating for me, insisting that this was NOT my norm and that I needed help, we found the right doctor. I tried medications of varying potencies, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, running, talk therapy, and prayer — always prayer.

During that year, I contemplated death more times than I care to count. During that year, I almost lost my husband to illness, I became very physically ill myself, and I lost my dad suddenly to cancer. It felt like the blows just kept coming. Worse, I felt like I had to hide it. I was so ashamed. There is such a stigma around mental health and depression, and I was just not up for the backlash. I withdrew. I hid.

The Light

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

— C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I share this story with you because so many people do not understand mental health conditions. We are so quick to judge. So quick to turn our backs on our friends, co-workers, employees, and family. We get angry that they aren’t showing up. We write them off, saying things like, “They used to be so good; what happened to them?”

Imagine being in the darkest place in your life, looking around for light, for hope, and watching one door after another slam in your face. That is what this feels like.

Instead, what if we showed love, compassion, and sought to understand? What if that “bad employee” needs your help? What if instead of slamming the door, you opened the window? What if you were the light? What if you told that person in your life who is hanging on by a thread, “Hey, you don’t have to be all the things.” What if you told them that they were created as they are and what they are is enough?

In full transparency, if it weren’t for my husband, I am not sure I would be here today. He helped me to push and keep pushing until I started to finally see light. Today, I still have major depressive disorder, but it is controlled. I am thriving.

Nothing you achieve or fail at can change your worth. Depression doesn’t define me and it doesn’t define you. There is hope, and light does return.