A Journey Into Joy

As I sit down write this evening, I feel an unusual weight. And in my heart of hearts, I know that it is a weight from the spiritual battle going on around me. Because tonight I need to brag on my God. He’s worked an absolute miracle in my life over the past year and a half, and I owe Him all the glory and honor for it. And that’s what the devil doesn’t want. He fights for the dishonor of God.

But I’m here to fight for just the opposite.

I think the root of my issues has been around for a long time, so pinning down where it all started is difficult. But God began to point out my characters flaws more dramatically after Brandon and I got married. It seems that living with another human being can bring out the worst of the things we try to hide. Can I get an ‘Amen!’ from any married readers out there?

I never considered my self a particularly emotional person. But I found myself exhibiting a lot of emotional ups and downs in our first year of marriage. On top of becoming a wife, I also became a step mom. And marrying a pastor came with a whole set of perceived expectations. I didn’t regret the changes, but it was a little bit overwhelming for this girl who’d lived the last 5 years of her single I life doing what she wanted. 

I would adjust, though. It would just take some time. But I found myself not adjusting. I found myself looking at life around me with overly negative lenses, or constantly anticipating the worst case scenario. Enough of these kinds of thoughts, and my ‘down’ moods started to last a little bit longer. I started to overreact and stress over situations that hadn’t even happened yet.

Brandon and I spent some time talking to the pastor at my home church, and it was some of the most valuable counsel I could have asked for. You see, he thought like me. And he had worked through the benefits and pitfalls of being created as what he called ‘emotive thinker’. It’s not bad, it can just trip us up if we don’t understand it. He was able to put into words what I was struggling with and communicate to Brandon what I couldn’t.

Then my job took a bad turn. I dreaded Mondays. I felt that there were expectations I couldn’t meet, and that I had no support in attempting. I interviewed at half a dozen places with no luck. God chose to leave me miserable for at least a year, and coming home in tears was not an unusual occurrence. I quit trying, figuring it wouldn’t do any good anyway.

This pressure intensified my bad thinking habits. I was constantly negative towards myself. Anytime I was praised for an accomplishment, my brain automatically switched to critisism.

I’ll never forget the first big Fourth of July party we threw at our house. Both sides of our family were there, and we ate and shot fireworks to our heart’s content. As everyone left, they thanked me for the hospitality, the food and the whole experience. But the only voice I could hear in my brain was the reminder that the mashed potatoes were a total flop. I think I actually said that out loud to one of my poor guests. “Thanks for coming! If only the mashed potatoes could have been better!”. How dumb.

Not too long after that, I changed jobs at work and discovered why God kept me where I was for so long. I landed in a job I loved and could succeed at, making more money than I previously was.  God really knew what He was doing.

But my thinking didn’t automatically improve because my circumstances did. I still over-thought everything and stayed negative to the point that crying for no reason at all was a common occurrence. Sometimes I would come home from my dream job and fight every urge within me that just wanted to go to bed. I was finding excuses to leave work early, and was thankful I had an office so I could sulk without drawing too much attention.

Everything was overwhelming. Having more than one text message that needed a response made me want to shut down. Little projects like getting our passports felt like giant weights on my back. Then I’d feel like a failure because I couldn’t even ‘adult’ and get the little things done, much less anything I wanted to do- like read, exercise, write. And I did the same thing I had done at work. I felt like I just couldn’t accomplish life in general, so I quit trying.

And then there was my poor husband. It was not easy for him at all. He was loving and supportive, but eventually it got old. Coming home to a wife that didn’t care much about anything.  And he never knew which Kala he would come home too. Was I going to be in tears? Was I going to be in a good mood? Was I going to be stressed out over something I couldn’t seem to get done? A real strain was beginning to grow in our relationship.

And I think what made it worse, was that I kept a pretty decent face on to other people. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I kept up my happy act as much as I possibly could. And after holding it together in public, it was virtually impossible to hold it together at home. So Brandon is a saint, and I hope to share his perspective with you one day.

Something eventually clicked in my brain, and I don’t even know what it was. But something happened, and I knew I couldn’t keep going like this. So I looked into therapy.  Told myself I was actually crazy.  I’m pretty sure I googled “therapists for dummies” or something like that. As I pulled into that first appointment, I looked around to make sure I wouldn’t be recognized. Afterward, I just cried. Was I really that weak of a person that I needed a therapist to just cope with life?

Brandon used to ask me “Was your appointment good?”. I’d just shoot him an ugly look and say “I’m not sure what part of digging into your life to find out why you can’t think straight is good.” It was not fun. But I kept going back. Once a week at first, then twice a month. And eventually I felt better equipped to recognize some faulty thinking and what to replace it with. I finally had some tools to work with.

One day I was telling the therapist about an incident that occurred while driving back home from a family trip. Something had happened on the way home, and I immediately felt like a failure and was mentally beating myself up. I was never so grateful that it was my turn to drive, and everyone else had fallen asleep. I could just drive and cry underneath my sunglasses and no one would be the wiser. I told her that I tried to remember the things she’d told me to keep control, but I just couldn’t catch my thoughts. They were like a train that was so far out of the station there was no catching it. She chuckled and said “Yep, I think some antidepressants might be good for you.”

Brandon and I were both against this idea. We felt that a ‘magic’ pill to make everything better wasn’t smart. But we prayed about it and talked to several wise people, and eventually decided to consider it. At least not rule it out completely.

As we were praying about it, God sent along someone in my path that I didn’t expect. I had switched primary care doctors. During the get-to-know-you appointment, she got to the standard questions about depression. “Funny you should mention that” I said, and highlighted my journey thus far. She asked me some more questions and determined that I was a good fit for anti-depressants. I was trying to keep the tears from welling up in my eyes, but she saw them. She hesitated for a minute, sat her clipboard down, and rolled her stool closer. She said “This I probably a little bit too much personal information, but I really feel like I need to say it.” Then she told me that she was a Christian and about her own journey with anti-depressants. She cut right through my arguments and told me that it didn’t make me a weak Christian. She gave me a hug and gently told me that she’d have the prescription ready, if I decided to use it. All I had to do was call.

And after more prayer, that’s what we decided to do. And I don’t regret that decision one bit. I don’t know if it’s a for-life kind of thing, or if I’ll use them for a season.  For right now, it’s cleared up my mind so that I could start to put in the hard work of fixing 30 years of bad thinking.

And let me tell you, it’s work. I have to actively catch my mind before it runs out the station, diligently spend time in God’s Word, filter my outside influences, and use the tools I learned in therapy. But God is so faithful, and He has shown me so much victory in the past year. So much victory and peace that it feels surreal. Every now and again, I catch myself thinking “Is this what the joy that God gives his children feels like?” My old normal was just that, it was a normal. I thought that’s how life was. God is graciously showing me otherwise, that He wants so much more for me.

 And this is a daily battle.  I have moments where I fight that negativity really hard. And sometimes it seems easier to just stew in it.  I still deal with all the emotions that God created my emotive personality to deal with. I’m just learning how to use them to His glory and not my detriment.

Not too long ago, Brandon and I were talking about some of the things I’d been working on. Things I wanted to do and was actually accomplishing. He looked at me and said “I’m proud of you. The you of 2019 was about to self-destruct, but the you of 2020 is killing it.” This time, I just smiled and graciously took the compliment.

4 thoughts on “A Journey Into Joy

  1. Thank you for sharing this Kayla, So many of us have struggled with this same issue. You have done well in seeking help and being transparent. Your experience certainly reminds me to pray for one another earnestly and seek Him. Much love to you and your little family!

    1. Thank you, Sharon! My prayer is that God can use some of what I’ve been through and learned to help someone else out along the way!

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