When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome.
If you are unaware, Tourettes Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder that causes a person to “tic.” Tics can be both motor and vocal in nature. Motor tics involve sudden, brief, and repetitive movements, while vocal tics involve uttering sounds, repeating words, or giving voice to random phrases. Tethered to TS are other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.
As you can imagine, growing up with both motor and vocal tics made things like quiet mouse, hide and seek, going to the dentist, and the game “OPERATION” pretty challenging. While I have a “mild” case of TS, however, I have wrestled greatly with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember.
Over the years, people would ask me if I ever considered taking medication. Although an option, I was afraid it might dull my fun personality or turn me into a walking zombie. If I was really honest, though, my real fear was what other people would think of me—especially Christians.
Growing up in a southern conservative denomination brought with it the perceived idea that if you relied on a pill to make you feel better, you weren’t trusting Jesus as you should. You were seen as weak, needy, insecure, and needing to trust God a little more. Anti-depressants were seen as a “scarlet letter” of sorts—a badge of shame—the ultimate mark of a life of defeat and despair; a life that had hit rock bottom.
Determined not to be one of “those” people, I tucked my chin repeatedly (pun intended) and kept fighting.
What I didn’t realize is that I would be no match for the depression and anxiety associated with TS. This became crystal clear several years ago when anxiety placed a chokehold around my soul in the middle of the night. Having “squirmed” for as long as I possibly could, I was left lying on my bedroom floor with two choices before me—pass out or tap out. I chose to tap out.
So when the doctor asked if I wanted to try an anti-depressant, guess what my response was?
When I pulled up to the Rite-Aid to pick up the prescription, I opened the bottle and peered at the small yellow pills inside. A deep feeling of shame and defeat sweep over me. Hot tears flooded my eyes. I thought, “How did I get here?” “Am I really this hopeless?” “Am I embracing culture’s cure for my problems?” I felt as if I had stepped into a long, single file line of faceless, forgotten people that stretched as far as the eye could see. I was afraid I was becoming one of “them.”
The reality is, though, I am one of “them”—and have always been. I am broken, weak, needy and insecure. What I didn’t realize, however, was that taking my spot among the weak would be one of the most freeing experiences of my life.
After 4 weeks on medication, I stopped waking up in a damp sweat of anxious thoughts. I stopped throwing up in the mornings. I started to enjoy breakfast. My shoulders relaxed. My tics subsided. I started to breathe deep breaths. I started sitting with my legs crossed a little more. I was comfortable in my own skin for the first time. I was present.
Please know that I’m not trying to glorify medication or encourage you to run out and start taking anti-depressants. However, sometimes our misguided judgments can carry a lot of unneeded misery on ourselves and those we love. We are all broken people and when we embrace our brokenness, it carries with it the hope of healing, and healing can come in a variety of different ways.
This blog is about embracing your true self--the self that is scared, weak, and needy. For it's only that person that God can heal.
“To embrace one’s brokenness, whatever it looks like, whatever has caused it, carries within it the possibility that one might come to embrace one’s healing.” – Robert Benson, Living Prayer