“I’ve always been a coper. Independent, in control. Having grown up in a Christian home, I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t a Christian, but I always thought I was the one in the driving seat, with God just calling out directions every now and then, which I could choose to follow – or ignore.
That all changed when I fell apart.
It began about 18 months ago. I had suffered from depression in the past – as a teenager, and again after the birth of my first child – but this time, it came out of the blue, and completely overwhelmed me. After a bit of persuasion from friends, I went to the GP and was prescribed an antidepressant.
I thought that would be the end of the story. It was only the beginning.
Over the months that followed, my life dissolved into pieces. Self-harm. Three serious suicide attempts. Hospital. Social services involvement with my children.
I don’t use the word lightly, but it was hell.
Everything came to a head on Good Friday. I went to the open air service of witness to the Co-op, and then to M&S, and then to Sainsbury’s. From those three shops, I bought enough tablets to end my life. I had tried before and failed; this time I knew what I needed to take to wipe myself out forever. I was going to get it right.
Only I didn’t. Alerted by my odd behaviour, my husband went through my handbag and found the tablets. He phoned the mental health crisis team and my best friend, who came over, scooped me up off the bathroom floor, got into bed with me and read me Bible verses.
The upshot of my breakdown was that I got an urgent appointment with a psychiatrist, who changed my medication. That was four weeks ago, and I honestly can’t believe how different I feel now.
Over the past four weeks, I have had low days, yes. But I’ve taken my children to Legoland. Met friends for coffee. Chatted to people in the school playground rather than shying away. I have smiled without feeling like my face would crack. Laughed, even. Stayed for tea and biscuits after church, hosted playdates, even counselled other people who are going through hard times.
But while it’s amazing, it also makes me feel very sad. I can’t help thinking, what if? What if the GP had prescribed me this new medication 12 months ago, rather than insisting I stayed on the old one? The past year has almost killed me, but it needn’t have, if someone had sat up and realised that I was on the wrong tablets all along. It’s decimated our family life, scarred my husband and parents, exhausted my friends. Why did I have to go through that when the answer was as simple as a different prescription?
Something sticks in my mind, though. That night, after my breakdown, I sobbed on my friend. ‘Why did I come home? Why didn’t I just sit in Sainsbury’s car park and take all the tablets there and then?’
Her words will stay with me forever.
‘Because you weren’t meant to.’
I wasn’t meant to.
All I saw at the time was my own failure, but now I see that that was not God’s plan for me. His plan was for me to go through this experience, painful and destructive and debilitating though it has been. Because it has taught me that I am not independent or in control. I am not in the driving seat. It has forced me to throw myself on the Lord in a way I never thought I would need to. It has taught me that I am not, and can never be, self-sufficient.
I used to listen to people giving their testimony at church and think that I didn’t really have one, with my nice safe Christian background of Sunday school and Girls’ Brigade and youth club and music group. But now I do. I know now that I had to go through this period of weakness and desperation to recognise my need for God.
Without this, I would never have truly known the meaning of grace. What an almighty Lord, and an amazing saviour, to take my brokenness and make it my salvation.
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ – 2 Corinthians 12:9.”