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Notes from the ER



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Oddly enough, that’s the first feeling that floods through my body as I sit in the small, sterile room waiting for a doctor to see me.

For the first time in months, my brain feels like it can rest. Like I can slow down. Like finally someone is going to look me in the eyes and tell me, “You’re not crazy. It’s good that you’re here.” 

The year is 2015. I am 26 years old.

Earlier that afternoon, we make the decision to go to the emergency room. Two friends from the church show up at the door, sit down with my mom and me, and tell me it is probably time. We’ve exhausted all our options. The fog of depression is so thick and heavy and we don’t know what else we can do.

I’d started taking medication two weeks earlier. I thought it was supposed to make me feel better– finally– but it only makes me feel worse. No one explained to me that it can take a month for the medication to settle and adjust in your system. That sometimes it gets darker before the light starts to pour through. 

We lift our hands in desperation. We drive to the emergency room. 

When we arrive, a nurse leads me down a hallway and asks me to place my belongings into a bag. She trades with me. I am left holding a blue cotton robe and a pair of hospital socks. She escorts me to the small room where I’ll wait. She closes the door. It’s just me now. I lie on the bed in the middle of the room. The only piece of furniture apart from a chair. 

I feel safe now. That’s weird to admit. I feel like I don’t have to fight anymore. Like maybe I can stay in this room forever. Maybe the pain will be over soon.

At this point, I’ve never considered myself suicidal. But I understand. I understand on a whole new level why some people just want the pain to stop, they’ll do anything to make it stop. 

I’ve spent the last 3 months feeling like my mind doesn’t belong to me anymore. Like someone locked me out and hid the keys while I wasn’t looking. I can’t get back in. I can’t take back control. I get these brief respites every once in a while where everything feels really clear and I feel like myself again but they never last for more than a few hours. When those moments happen, I go to my computer and I write myself a note in a document I’ve been keeping since the fight began:

Hey Hannah,

You’re going to be okay. You’re going to step out of these woods one day. This is a moment of clarity and I can see to the other side. You’re going to come out of this. Keep moving.

Little love letters to myself. Tiny fight songs. Reminders to keep going for when the next fog of confusion rolls through.

My only way to track the storm. 

The doctor knocks gently on the door and then lets himself in. He sits beside me and starts asking me questions. I feel broken and unfixable. I want to curl up in his arms in the hopes that he will save me yet simultaneously scream at him and tell him that he has the wrong person. I want to tell him about who I used to be. I feel this crazy urge to explain myself, to make sure he knows I used to be someone who knew how to hold it all together. 

The only confirmed diagnosis I get that day: severe depression.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why someone can’t make my brain stop working in overdrive. Why God won’t swoop in like Ashton Kutcher and scream, “YOU’VE BEEN PUNKED” already. I am waiting to find out that this isn’t real. That I can have my old life back. Or at least enough brainpower to sit on the floor and try to piece it back together, shard by shard.

At the start of this depression, I had no idea how long it would last. It showed up so quickly– the paralysis sweeping through my entire body in a way I still don’t have words to describe. Something snapped and broke inside of me. I went from fully functioning to barely being able to string the simplest of tasks together in a sitting.

I remember crying to my friend on the phone at the very start.

“I just want to go back to normal,” I begged him as if he could make that happen somehow. “I’d do anything to go back to normal.”

His silence pierced through the other side of the phone. I could tell he was thinking.

“I hate to tell you this, babe, but…” he paused for a moment. “When a tree gets struck by lightning, it never goes back normal. You’re going to have a build a new kind of normal.”

So that is what I do as I leave the hospital (and keep the socks). I decide to forgive the lightning that struck the branches dead in me. I go to work with what is left. 

Andrew Solomon writes in Noonday Demon, “Rebuilding of the self in and after depression requires love, insight, work, and, most of all, time.”

I don’t know it yet but the hospital is the first breadcrumb in a trail of breadcrumbs that will lead me out of these woods. 

Continuing to take medication: a breadcrumb.

Moving my body: another one.

Pressing into therapy: another.

Giving myself grace for the ups and downs: one more.

And then there are the breadcrumbs you weren’t expecting but they forge a path, too:

Asking for help.

Admitting when I’m not okay.

Letting some things fall to the ground.

Learning to be okay even if all isn’t restored.


It’s right what my friend said to me– I’ll never go back to normal. It will take coming out on the other side of the depression to realize what a blessing that is, to actually be able to say “hallelujah” for how this new normal is so much more real and honest than the one before it. 

I didn’t want to admit it but there were so many elements of my old normal that weren’t working. There were things I needed to change. There were flaws in the system. There was so much desperation that I hid beneath a filtered veneer and I just remember sitting in the bathtub, a month before the depression showed up, crying out to a God I hoped could hear me, “Please, fix me. Do whatever you have to do. Please. Just do what it takes to make me your gold.” 

I know we still struggle to talk about mental illness because it’s not pretty and it doesn’t tie up in a bow but I’m not ashamed of where I’ve gone in the dark. I’m not ashamed that I had to ask for help. I am not ashamed nor do I seek to hide how God met me in the thick of depression. 

I think about that girl in the emergency room. I think about how she was so scared to just be honest with where she was on the map. 

I’d hold her if I could but I know I’d have to be careful not to mess with the story, with the work she’d still have to do to come out of the woods.

I’d crawl in close, tip her chin to the sky, and tell her the truth, “You are coming out of this. One day, all of this is going to serve a purpose. And you going through the woods? Well, one day it is going to help somebody else come out of the woods.”

And then I’d show her my scar. The mark depression left on my life. It’s one you never ask for. A perpetual scar that will always be there. 

“Life isn’t about avoiding these scars, babe,” I’d tell her. “They’re proof of the fight. You wear this scar proudly and don’t you dare accept someone making you feel less than because of it. This scar is proof you’ve been through the dark. You know what you’re made of now. You’ve gone through the fire and you’ve come out as gold.”



  1. Kathy Lentz says:

    Hoping for help

  2. Katrina Julia says:

    Beautifully and vulnerably written. I could feel the fire and coming out gold. I encountered challenges + realized where I had not let Gods love + grace + mercy abounding (Jude) in especially when I transitioned from corporate to calling, pandemic, leaving to travel 2020-22, and being back. So much fire, pruning, release, shedding to be + become who we are called to be. I experienced my huge shift with purity in 2010, a year of therapy, then again 2014 wellness + alcohol free, again a year of therapy + EMDR, 2020 – a whole sermon + shift, again being in USA + shifts end of last year that surprised me + God+ practical steps + countering brought me through.

  3. Randy says:

    Thank you for sharing

  4. Popi Lusu says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart♥️

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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