At Your Darkest

by Brittany Petitpas

Brittany Petitpas_Brave.jpg

Since I was 16 years old, I struggled with anxiety and panic. I would worry myself sick. I would stress about any and every little thing. When I went to college, it became worse. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and from there I was given various medications to control the worry. One day I decided that I didn’t want a pill to control my life. I quit cold turkey and the next few weeks were pure hell—trying to cope with the stress and panic that seemed to take over every day. I forced myself to believe that this was something I could control and if I couldn’t I was just weak. This struggle continued over the next few years.

Then after about 2 1/2 years I was thrown a curve ball. I uprooted my entire life and moved across the globe to Japan. This was the first time I didn’t have my family or friends to rely on. It was just me and my husband. The first few months were the hardest. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I refused to leave the base. I attributed it all to culture shock. I would talk to my mom almost every day and she would tell me you need to get out and do something. She really wanted my husband, Paxton and I to find a church home and plug in. Things sort of went from bad to worse.

Over the next two years, I felt my mind and body change. Things I once loved, became distant. Paxton continually told me to find a hobby. I couldn’t. From then on, it became harder and harder to get out bed, much less do anything else. Paxton asked me multiple times to just go talk to someone, to reach out and get help. In my mind, if I couldn’t control this then I was weak. Getting help for my “mind” or my “feelings” was weak. About 6 months ago, I was at my breaking point. I didn’t care about anything. My health, my marriage, my faith…nothing. I did not fear death and that’s scary. I hated the way I was hurting myself, my husband, and my family. I finally found the strength to reach out for help. My counselor then said the word that is so stigmatized and cold and outright scary. “Depression.” I refused to believe it. I refused to accept it. Until, one day I was curious and started to analyze this word. As I read through the endless lists and check sheets and articles, it finally hit me. I was depressed. It stung. It hurt. And it out and out terrified me. I’m my family’s sunshine, I can’t be depressed. I made the choice I would continue to seek help for this illness. Later on, I was also diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Again, a very scary realization. But, I continued to seek help. Over the next few months, I started to do better but there was still something missing. That’s when my momma asked me to seek the Lord. The hardest thing I ever had to do was to tell my mom I had completely lost my faith. That I didn’t deserve the love of the Lord. With the love of my family and husband, I started to pray. Every day my mom would send me a verse. Every Sunday, Paxton and I would go to church. I began to feel the love of the Lord and the conviction of my heart. I knew that with the support of my family and the love of God, I would make it through this darkness.

Then one Sunday morning, I ran across a verse: Romans 5:8, “I loved you at your darkest.”

I knew the Lord was speaking out to me. If I needed a wake up call this was it.

I have seen a major change in myself, in my relationships, in my life over the past few months. I am still fighting this fight and I refuse to give up. I refuse to let the darkness win.

I was very apprehensive about sharing my story, but I am not ashamed. Depression, Anxiety, and O.C.D. is not something you can control. Any mental illness is uncontrollable. You treat it and overcome it. If you are someone who fights this fight I encourage you to speak up or seek help. There is no shame. If you know someone who struggles with mental illness I encourage you to reach out to that person. Let them know you are there for them. Unlike, physical illness, you can’t see the pain of a mental illness. My pain was masked by a smile and denial.

I thank God every day for my support team. My husband. My family. And my God! Prayer is very powerful.

Let’s take the “I” in illness and change it to “we” for wellness. Let’s change the stigma on mental health.