Today's guest is Shannon Stedman from Holes to Whole. She speaks about a much-neglected topic in Christian circles: mental health. Her story is one of restoration and rescue.
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In 2014, one of my worst fears came true. I found myself in a mental health hospital. It wasn’t like before when I had visited patients for my job in social work, this time I was the patient. I had come to the end of myself; anxious, depressed, feeble, weak and suicidal. I could barely care for myself, let alone care for my three young children.
Scared silly, I walked with the nurse to my room. The walls were white and drab. Two beds, a small desk and chair; that was it. No window, no TV, not even the white dry erase board with my nurse assignment written on it like you see in a typical hospital room.
Then the unthinkable happened, the nurse told me I needed to strip so she could make sure I had nothing on me to hurt myself. Out came the string from my hoodie and my bra with underwire was confiscated. The only contact I would have with people outside the hospital was via the community payphones in the hallways. I might get a few minutes on the nurses’ phone if I was truly desperate.
Satisfied that I had nothing of danger, the nurse left my room. I sat on the bed totally broken and despairing. How did I end up here? I’m a Christian, what went wrong? This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had worked so hard and spent so much time trying to get better: medication, therapy, Bible studies, 12-step recovery, healing prayer ministries. Maybe that was the problem, I had worked so hard, had I truly let God in and relied on Him?
I spent two weeks in the hospital. I went through different medications, group sessions, individual counseling and did my best to connect with God. All the while shaking like a leaf, feeling foggy and disconnected.
Upon my discharge, I was told to apply for disability because there was not a good chance that I was going to be able to work in the future. I conceded to this advice. I was grateful to no longer be suicidal but the depression and anxiety still incapacitated me. If I could take care of myself and my children I would be overjoyed. But there was no way I could hold down a job on top of it.
But God had other plans for me……. Underneath my hopeless, frail, defeated exterior, there was still one small spark inside of me that was ready to fight. And with Jesus holding me, that’s exactly what I did. I suited up in all of my spiritual armor, surrounded myself with people who would help me and put some plans in place for my physical and emotional health.
Fast forward 4.5 years later and my anthem is:
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40: 1-3
No longer do I walk around as defeated, hopeless and frail. Today, I get to live a life that I never thought possible during those bleak days in May 2014. I am actually living my life, awake to all of it: the joys, the sorrows, the peace, the stress, and the love. I see now that I was merely surviving before. No longer am I surrounded by darkness.
When I was first discharged from the hospital, I would take one of my children overnight at a time. In just a few weeks, I was back to caring for all three kids on our usual schedule and I was doing it better than I had been able to before. A year later in May 2015, I began working at my home church in a direct ministry position. God was bringing broken and struggling people to me and using my story and prayers to encourage and direct them.
In January 2016, I met my husband. The very next month, I went on a mission trip to India for 10 days to preach to Indian Christian women. In February 2017, I got married to the man I met just a year prior. Today, we parent five children together, run two businesses and find time for each other in the midst of the organized chaos.
In May of this year, I began a writing ministry, Holes to Whole, to give hope and share healing with others. I am very active at my home church, in 12-step recovery, at my children’s schools and in the community. Thank you God, I have not had to return to the hospital.
My life is far from perfect, but I’m happy to be in it most days J. I still experience Seasonal Depression each year. However, each winter the intensity seems to be decreasing as I grow in my spiritual maturity and refine my tools for fueling my physical and mental health. It’s constant daily work, but it’s absolutely worth all of the effort!
I often get very emotional when I talk about what God has done in my life since my hospital stay. There are so many people who have the same beginning to their story, but a very different ending. So many people live in complete bondage to chronic debilitating depression. Countless fellow patients lived their lives in a cycle of hospitalizations, poverty, medication and therapy.
Most of my friends from the 2nd floor had been there at least once before and seemed resolved to the fact that they would be back. Some of the patients elected to undergo some invasive and risky treatments with the hopes of improving their condition because other more conventional methods hadn’t been successful. They now have to live with the side effects of those options.
And then there are the precious souls who got weary and couldn’t bare another moment and we are only left with their memories.
There have been many times through tears that I have praised God for His work and presence in my life. Tears of gratitude and grief have flowed as I have reflected on those who have a different story. So many times I have asked God, “Why did you rescue me from the pit? Why has my journey been so much different, so much better than so many others? Why me?”
God has answered by putting a song in my heart that I want to share with others to encourage and help them as well as to proclaim the amazing God that I serve. God has answered by opening doors of opportunity to share my story to give hope. That little bitty spark that flickered way down inside me 4.5 years ago has turned into a huge forest fire, burning with passion to experience and share God with others. So here I am!
I recently wrote about depression and anxiety on my blog within a series titled Silent Killers. Check out the posts below:
Shannon Stedman is a wife and mother of five. Shannon enjoys reading, writing, hiking and the beach. She is the creator and author of Holes to Whole, where she writes about her wholeness journey in faith, health, marriage, parenting and relationships.