When the Mind Hurts

I wrote this piece last year during a time when my depression and anxiety was at its height.  I wanted to re-post it again today for a couple of reasons.  1) Raising awareness about mental illness is so important, and disabusing stereotype is key to better understanding.  2)  Winter has seemed interminably long this month, cold and wind has howled and rattled windows and doors and for many, like myself, who live with depression and anxiety the winter months can be particularly harsh.  To those who read this and know that this is you?  Know this:  You are not alone.  

It was an innocuous piece of paper, small and non-descript.  I had seen countless others like it, held them in my hands, with the illegible writing scrawled in spidery script and the jagged signature of medical authority.  A cure for an ear infection, pneumonia and strep throat.   But, this one was different.   

What is the easy cure when the mind hurts?  What pill do you swallow when you can’t see the infection?  When there is no pus, no inflamed and burning hot.  What elixir is there when swabs and x-rays and magnetic resonance doesn’t translate to a specimen teeming with bacteria or an image on film?


It was written just like that, it’s block capitals looking more like a carving in stone.  A carving that belongs on a epitaph.  And that is just how it felt.  Like I had been handed a sentence.

 I reached out to take the paper from the doctor’s hand; tentatively, hesitantly.  There must have been fear in my eyes because he started in with the platitudes.  “There is no shame, no shame at all – you have a chemical imbalance that we need to correct.”

I left the office feeling numb and I hadn’t even swallowed the little yellow pill.  Maybe I could ignore it, maybe if I just stuffed this piece of paper down in the cavern that is my handbag I could ignore what was happening to me.  That somehow if I didn’t listen to what that piece of paper was screaming at me it would all just magically disappear…

I can’t tell you a specific time when things began to shift in my mind.  When I first felt the thrum of anxiety with every beat of my heart.  When worry and doubt became my natural inclinations.  I can’t tell you the first time I felt my emotions careen out of control, like I was on some wild ride that I couldn’t get off.  I can’t tell you when I felt the first tears fall for no reason, when I would be laying in bed soaking my pillow with unanswered questions and a sinking feeling that something was very wrong.

It was after a tumultuous childhood.  After the first years of marriage.  After the first and then the second baby.  After the endless feedings and the leaking breasts.  It was after the sleepless nights and the soiled and stinky diapers.   It was after the buckets of vomit and the snotty noses and the trips to the emergency room.  It was after I carted one than two children off to school. 

It was after all of that.

I drove home that day, with the paper buried deep.  Drove right past the drug store.  An act of defiance?  Perhaps.  But, I think it was more an act of fear .  What would happen when I took that pill?  Would  people know?   What would people think?

And the lies, they are always the loudest when fear begins its reign.  Taunting voices that grate and hiss on nerves that have already been rubbed raw.  And they are easy to believe, easier sometimes, than the truth. Especially when lies wear  disguises of truth. 

And my senses became hyper aware as that forgotten piece of paper burned in my purse.   Phrases that people would say as a joke became the whispered lie my ear would hear. 

 “Yes I am crazy”

That’s what  I wanted to scream back when people would laugh about being locked up or put in a straight jacket.  And I would bite the inside of my cheek to keep from blurting it out.  I would swallow my tears and the burning pain in my throat.  Just so I wouldn’t blurt it out.

It was about a week – maybe two – the memory is a little shaky here, much like my mind was at the time.  When I plucked the courage from somewhere down in my toes and took that paper to the pharmacist and had the prescription filled.

I swallowed that pill, its sunny yellow colour, contrasting that blackened mood of my mind.

I knew that this needed to be done.  I knew that I needed to find my way back to a healing place and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do this without first calming the raging chemical storm that was happening in my brain.  So I swallowed the pill.

I wish I could tell you that it was magical.  I wish I could tell you that I had found an instant cure. 

But I can’t.

I live with depression.

I live with anxiety.

Every. Single. Day.

I chose several years ago  with my doctor’s and counsellor’s help to discontinue taking Paxil.  The side effects were becoming worse for me than trying to find a way to live with my broken mind.  The deep winter of January and February and the early spring of March and April are the worst times of the year for me.   And some years it is worse than others. 

This year has been particularly difficult.


I am learning.  I am learning that I no longer have to hide this part of me.  I no longer have to live within the pretences of “everything is okay,” when it is clearly not.  I have learned and I wrote it here…

Those days when I would like to crawl out of my skin and when my mind hurts?  Those days when I have to force myself to put my feet on the floor instead of pulling the blanket over my head? 

I still feel Him. Loving me.  Pursuing me.  Weathering the storm right alongside me.


  1. Absolutely beautiful. Beautiful and brave. Love this and love that you shared. Thank you!

  2. Beautiful and love this… love you!!

  3. I am so happy that words found their way out again, sweet friend! I am so proud of how Brave you are… I am sorry that this year has been difficult… (Mr. Darcy surely helps… well – wouldn’t that be nice if he really was the answer for all that ails us? At least we know Who really IS!)

    Love you, girlie… I believe in your honest boldness – many will find themselves standing up out of the shadows of Shame… and leaning IN, finding Joy in the middle of all of it!

  4. Thank you for sharing. My husband has suffered from depression his whole life and I get it off-and-on. I am in a depressive season right now, so I understand. Thank you for being brave. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental health and the more people who share their struggles with it, the more it will be seen as any other ailment or malady.

  5. Tonya,
    I am glad I took the time to read around your blog and this post. I lived with depression for the first 27 years of my life. I know that darkness. I remember it like it was yesterday. God bless your mind and your heart – guard them well. Every second choose the protective heart of God.
    I am writing about it in my book right now and on my blog. These things need to be talked about… as we share we bless and we are blessed.

    • Oh yes friend… as we share we bless and are blessed – such truth there… thank you for taking some extra time in this space. {hugs}

  6. Dear Sister… I can feel the darkness you speak of and I know all the platitudes. But, know this… Your strength is evident in your continued struggle. You have sought answers in a field where there are more questions on every side. You have reached up and out of your personal pit and found other voices with which to surround yourself.

    Don’t devalue your strength is weakness. Thank you for sharing.


  7. Heidi, Thank you for such encouraging words. Just thank you.

  8. Laurie Nevin

    Beautiful Tonya…
    I read this out loud so that Jeff could also enjoy it. We both love your writing because it’s always from your heart and basted with emotion. Clinical depression can be silent to others but deeply loud to the mind that feels it. It’s a darkness that even the sun can’t shine away. Joy emerging within all the pain is a glorious demonstration of God’s Divine Love that is ‘all-ways’ present. Taking a pill is a ‘tool’ to correct brain chemistry, but re-membering our connection with God is the elixir that corrects our wrong-mindedness and carries us back home to LOVE. Thank God for your healing journey… as you heal; others do too! Excellent message Tonya!!! Keep sharing and be a voice for those that suffer yet cannot express half as effectively as you. LN x0x

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